Iimagine not having the simple freedom to leave your house, to walk down the street, to visit a friend, not having the freedom to get in your car and drive across town to see your mother, or go to a movie or the mall?.
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Dirty Words (Rating-R)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Nested Frames
A Few of My Favorite Things

Hating Islam

Change the situation a little, change the protagonist but not the repression. How would you describe a society that did not allow black people to leave their homes unless accompanied by a white person? Would that be cultural?




The more I read about Islam, its history, its practice and its influence, the more appalled I am. I'm not going to pretend that I can tolerate a religion that advocates enslaving half the human race. My half.

This is America and religious intolerance is taboo, even more despised than racism. I call myself leftist and I know that religious intolerance can cause enormous suffering, yet the more I read about Islamic cultures, cultures where the repression, the subjugation of women is the norm, the more intolerant I feel. In Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to drive cars. They are not even allowed to leave their homes unless accompanied by a male relative. Can you imagine not having the simple freedom to leave your house, to walk down the street, to visit a friend, not having the freedom to get in your car and drive across town to see your mother, or go to a movie or the mall? Imagine that to leave your house you had to, not only, get someone's permission, you had to get them to go with you, to guard and supervise you like a child, or, more accurately, like a prisoner briefly let out of a cell. Imagine living in a country where the temperature reaches 120 degrees F and you are forced to wear a black shroud covering your entire body except your hands and feet and if you so much as expose an arm to the breeze you can be hit with a stick by a stranger whose purpose in life, whose job it is, is to hit lewd women like you with that stick.

Imagine yourself a woman in a society where men and women are not allowed to associate. Imagine that you are not allowed to meet different men, fall in love, and marry whom you choose. Your family, your father, will choose your husband and you may not even be allowed to say "no." You will not be allowed to decide who will touch you, penetrate you, father your children, rule your life. Imagine that if you ever did meet someone, fall in love, and express that love, you could be killed like a mad dog. Imagine you are a man in such a society and will never be allowed to get to know different women, fall in love and marry. Imagine that you are not well off and so it is unlikely you will ever be able to marry at all since many richer men have more than one wife and that means that many poorer men can never marry and must spend their lives celibate and alone, living and dying virgin males.

A few years ago, on PBS, there was a program called Death of a Princess, apparently a true story. The daughter of a Saudi Prince managed to get herself a boyfriend, no mean feat in itself. They ran off together but since a woman can't leave Saudi Arabia without the permission of the father or brother or husband who rules her, they couldn't get far. They were caught within a few days and slaughtered in a public square (actually a parking lot). The program outraged the Saudis. The newspaper reports revealed that that they weren't troubled by the deaths but were infuriated by the revelation that a Saudi girl had probably managed to have sex with someone she wanted to have sex with (as opposed to with someone her father had picked for her and coerced her into marrying). The program's implication that other Saudi women might be looking at men with lust in their hearts and occasionally managing to do something about it enraged them even more. Better dead than free seems to be the Saudi attitude, the Muslim attitude toward women.

Don't tell me it's just cultural, some tribal tradition. Whether you eat fried chicken or fried squid is cultural. Whether you sleep in a bed or sleep on a mat on the floor is cultural. But whether you get to make the simplest and most basic choices in your life, that's a matter of human rights.

Change the situation a little, change the protagonist but not the repression. How would you describe a society that did not allow black people to leave their homes unless accompanied by a white person? Would that be "cultural"? How about a society where black people were not allowed to choose their own spouse? Would that be cultural? Where black people were not allowed to work and make their own living and achieve any independence from their oppressors? Where white people could send a black person away at any time and keep their children whether or not it was in the best interest of the child? If 80 million black people had been genitally mutilated to assure that sex would be unpleasant or even painful (as 80 million women, mostly in Moslem Africa have been mutilated) would that be merely cultural? Wouldn't you consider such societies monstrous beyond belief? Isn't it still monstrous when the class of victims is chosen not by race but by gender? And those conditions occur again and again throughout the Muslim world. Don't tell me these women, never having known anything different, do not feel their chains. By that rationale slaves didn't yearn for freedom, blacks in the Jim Crow South didn't year for equality.

Some Americans think that if repression has a religious basis it cannot be criticized or opposed, forgetting that religion has been used to justify many atrocities. Christianity quite comfortably accommodated slavery for most of its history and in some sects it is still used to justify the repression of women. If Nazism had called itself a religion would that have made its goals acceptable? If there were a religion that believed in feeding twelve year old virgins to volcanoes and if those girls were raised and brainwashed so they didn't object, would you preach tolerance for that religion? I think not. I would rather have lived in Stalinist Russia, I would rather have been black in South Africa under apartheid than be a woman in most Muslim countries. In some of these societies, the average Muslim woman is less free and more damaged than the average slave in the pre-Civil War South. I don't think you can expect a woman to view Islam as just another religion anymore than you can expect a black person to view apartheid as just another political system.

I will not pretend that we don't need a reliable supply of oil, now and in the future. I will not pretend that anyone can wave a magic wand and come up with an alternative energy source or that even conservation is any solution. But neither will I pretend that there is much difference between those Muslim nations we defend and those we may soon be fighting in the Middle East. I look at Muslim countries around the world and again and again what I see are cultures still in the Dark Ages, cultures that make the old dictatorships of Central and South America seem mild in comparison, countries where religion is used as a justification for a full range of brutality.

I don't know much about Islam beyond what is in my encyclopedia, and what has appeared in the popular press and on the internet but what I read reveals a religion so cruel it's frightening. Of course medieval Catholicism was pretty frightening too and it didn't start softening up until people started having other alternatives they could choose. People in Muslim countries do not have alternatives, conversion usually being a crime, often a capital crime. When I read, not just about the enslavement of women, but about what is done in the name of Islamic Law, I'm appalled. The Saudis have said that if they caught a terrorist in Saudi Arabia, he'd either be executed or, according to Islamic law, have an arm or leg cut off. Are these people supposed to be civilized? Forget "Little Jesus Meek and Mild", forget the idea of love and sacrifice and ending up nailed to a tree. Islam has a warrior prophet. A man who lived to be old, who had 14 wives, led his followers into battle and achieved many of his goals during his lifetime and achieved them through violence and assassination, or so says my Encyclopedia Britannica. Even the Pope complains that in Muslim countries Christians are legally forbidden to proselytize. I sound kind of religious myself, don't I? But I'm not. I spent most of my life as an atheist and am just becoming a sort of semi-pseudo-Christian with a bit of Buddhist thrown in. I'm repelled by all organized religions but Islam seems far and away the worst, the most repressive, the most violent set of beliefs in the world today. Maybe the real difference is that, in most places, Islam has not been domesticated by a secular society. They don't just preach their repressive dogma, (unlike the American religious right), they get to force everyone else to conform to it - or die.

As angry as the religious right makes me, I have never heard an American fundie advocate that I be forced to wear a black shroud, be denied an education, be forced to marry someone I never met, be genitally mutilated to make sure I don't enjoy sex, be forbidden to drive, be forbidden to leave my house without a male relative, be forbidden to travel without the permission of my closest male relative, be stoned alive if I have an affair, be beaten if I so much talk to a nonrelated male. I can't imagine the worst member of the religious right spraying acid in my face because I wasn't veiled or forcing me back into a burning building because I wasn't wearing a black shroud, or preventing firefighters from saving women in a burning building because men cannot approach women.

Yeah. I'm intolerant of Islam.

But you can go on being tolerant. If evil does not repel you.



Here are some links to the behaviors I've mentioned:

Punishment For Women

Pakistani Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy

Jordanian Parliament Supports Impunity For Honor Killings

Patrols against Kashmir acid attacks

Egypt Tries 52 Men Suspected of Being Gay

Pakistan fails to condemn 'honour' killings

Malaysia debates Islam after beauty contest row

Nigerian woman sentenced to 100 lashes

You must register to get the New York Times articles but can lie about everything but your email but then it's free.

The repressive and exploitative treatment of women in Islam started with Mohammed. (Marriage and Divorce ) Women were captured, raped and enslaved from the beginning of the Islamic movement. A captive woman had no right to refuse sex. She was merely part of the spoils of war.

Non-Muslims in India believe that the Islamic Invasions of India produced the greatest genocide in history. The opinion of the victims seems more credible than the any justifications by the conquerors.

I'm less concerned with what the Koran says (because it often says contradictory things) than the kind of societies that grow up in countries that are Islamic. I think that is a truer reflection of Islam than anything else.

I think the repression of women is such a central part of Islamic cultures because Islam allows certain behaviors that are anathema to women: that a man can have 4 wives; that he can divorce merely by saying "I divorce you" three times; and that a man can also have sex with as many other women as he can capture, enslave or buy. How do you make women accept those things when even Mohammed's wives had a problem with them? How do you make women acquiesces instead of running away, keep them faithful to men they don't want instead of putting out for the next attractive man they encounter? How do you MAKE them stand it? To MAKE them endure such practices, it is necessary to be incredibly brutal with them, and so Islamic cultures are. It is very similar to how pre-communist China treated women. They had no rights, could be sold into slavery or prostitution by their fathers, men who could afford it had multiple wives and concubines, and women had no real power, not even the power to make a living. In China, to prevent women from effectively resisting such practices, foot binding became the norm. First it was a practical matter to keep women from running away, then the feet were sexualized. It also became a status symbol because a man who could afford to keep a woman or women who could not work to help support the family was clearly a more affluent man than one who's women worked in the fields. Eventually foot binding became the norm for much of China's women.

Cruel measures are necessary to keep women in such cultures compliant. In China foot binding and beating were part of it. In Islam genital mutilation and stoning and abandonment are part of it. But they both represent cruelties necessary to control women when cultural or religious practices produce societies that are hateful and brutal to them and against their own best interests.

So it was with slavery. There is nothing that says that a slave owner had to beat his slaves but how else could he make them work? Put me in the middle of a field in the middle of the summer in the middle of Mississippi and you're going to have to beat me, and more than once, before I hoe any cotton for you. Slavery had to be brutal to get slaves to work and obey in a system that was against their own best interests. So in Islam and old China there had to be cruel measures to keep women in line. Not because the Koran mandated it but because only cruelty would make women acquiesce to a system that was so detrimental to them.

So cruel and repressive measures grew up in Islamic cultures because what Islam is at its core makes them necessary and so they are retained today.


Copyright Alllie 2002

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