One of the things that many non-Muslims have trouble reconciling with their notions of multiculturalism when it comes to Islam is the attitudes expressed in the religion and the culture towards women and female sexuality. To many non-Muslims, attitudes expressed by a significant portion of Muslim society towards women can easily be viewed as the Muslim version of fear and loathing.
Things like horrific abuse and even honor killings over matters that seem utterly trivial to non-Muslims abound. The Qu’ran itself permits wife beating and mandates inferior status for women in important matters like marriage, divorce, inheritance and the right to testify in a court of law. Clitorectomies are common in the Islamic world, as is enforced segregation of women, dependence on male permission for many everyday activities and mandatory head to toe covering.
These attitudes are so deeply ingrained in many Muslim societies that in one infamous instance, when faced with a choice of letting young schoolgirls out of a burning building insufficiently covered or forcing them back inside to die, Saudi Mutawateen (religious police) chose to let the girls burn to death without hesitation.
To find a real ‘war on women,look no further.
Are these and other instances an integral part of Islam, or are they merely cultural?
That’s an important question the West needs to ask itself, and soon. If these attitudes are cultural, well, culture can be changed to a degree. A Japanese or a Jamaican growing up in say, Britain will maintain certain ties to those cultures but will almost always assimilate to British culture to a large degree, because that’s all he knows and the milieu in which he or she lives, and the same should be true of an Arab or a Pakistani. However, if these practices are an integral part of an ongoing belief system like Islam, the problem is much deeper and unlikely to be eradicated by any amount of cultural assimilation.
And if that’s the case, we in the West are going to have to start asking ourselves some very hard questions.
To come up with some answers, I think it’s important to look at Islam’s formation,its beginnings and its interaction with the existing tribal cultures where it originated, in 7th century Arabia.Perhaps a good place to start is with Islam’s founder, Mohammed.
Mohammed grew up as an orphan and was raised in his uncle’s house in Mecca, his parents having died when he was an infant.In other words, he never experienced what we might consider a normal level of maternal love or approval.
While Mohammed was a blood relative of his uncle, he may or may not have been a particularly favored one. We do know that his uncle, as part of the Quraysh clan made his living from two sources,trade caravans and his share of income from the pagan shrine to the Arab deity, the moon god Lah(in Arabic al-Lah) known as the Ka’aba, which then as now was sacred to the Arabs and attracted pilgrims due to a meteorite within the Ka’aba known as the Sacred Black Stone.
We also know that Mohammed was unlettered and that at a fairly young age Mohammed was working as a camel drover in his uncle’s caravans where he traveled as far as Damascus and came into contact with Jewish and Christian monotheism.
When Mohammed was twenty five, he caught the eye of Kadija, a well-to-do 40 year-old widow with property who married him.This also leads me to believe that Mohammed may not have been a particularly favored relative in his uncle’s house, since he obviously had no wealth of his own at the time to pay a bride-price, his uncle obviously had made little or no effort to find him a bride of child-bearing age or to help with the financial outlay and a match with a 40 year-old widow in those days could hardly be expected to produce offspring.
Did Mohammed marry Kadija as a way out of his uncle’s house? Did he, deep down, resent having to marry someone who was an elderly woman by the standards of that time and place? We have no way of knowing, but it provides some interesting food for thought, especially in light of how it may have affected Mohammed’s attitudes towards women.
The couple remained married for twenty five years until Kadija’s death at age 65, when Mohammed was 50.He thus spent the years of what could be called his sexual prime tied to a much older woman, and undoubtedly experienced a sexual drought during the last 5 to 10 years of the marriage . The hadiths, which chronicle the life, sayings and times of Mohammed uniformly agree that Mohammed was a faithful husband to Kadija while she lived and had no other women, something that’s fairly plausible considering that the family wealth remained in her hands until her death and Mohammed’s sole source of income and support came through her.
During that time, of course, Mohammed had his famous revelation in the cave and Islam was created.
With that in mind, we can examine the connections between Islam as it emerged and the existing tribal culture at the time.
To Muslims, the Qu’ran and what it contains are not merely divinely inspired, but the unadulterated word of Allah himself..G-d 3.0,if you will, direct from the source. It is always a wasted, futile effort to quarrel with items of faith. However, the hadiths again agree that Mohammed, who was familiar with Judaism and Christianity prayed for a third divine revelation specifically for the Arabs, rather than for mankind as a whole, and it is also a fact that Islam was uniquely formulated for the Arab tribal cultures at the time. Mohammed himself refers to the Arabs as `the best of peoples’ and even today the Qu’ran is primarily studied in Arabic and has, in general what we might call an Arab-centric bias.
In terms of Islam’s view of women and female sexuality, it seems obvious to me that part of it came from the existing Arab tribal culture and a great deal of it from Mohammed’s personal view of women, based on his experiences.
It’s not at all hard to imagine a fifty-year-old man,who had spent all of his young manhood married to a much older woman who held the purse strings would picture a paradise peopled by young, eternally virgin houris,or that a significant part of the Qu’ran would deal with the subject of women as booty.
Of course, that was then and this is now, but based on the examples I’ve given above, not much has changed in a significant part of the Muslim world.
Part of the reason, of course is the example of Mohammed, who Muslims consider the human paradigm, the perfect man and someone whom many Muslims seek to emulate.
If Mohammed reacted unconsciously to his early history by relegating women to the status of chattel controlled by men, if he gleefully partook of those female captives his right hand possessed, if he felt perfectly free to consummate a marriage with a nine-year-old girl at the ripe age of 55, if he said the beating of a disobedient wife was acceptable behavior, there are a significant number of Muslims today that regard this as perfectly acceptable.
The question that remains is how much of these attitudes came from Mohammed’s own psyche and his feelings about his marriage and how much came from the ancient Arab tribal cultures.
My own feeling is that the two attitudes fed on each other, as Islam and the primitive tribal culture combined back in the day to sustain each other.
And because of that, they can’t be separated by their very nature…even though some valiant attempts have been made in the past, and are being made today by some Muslims who understand the need for a change.
The psychodrama inherent in Islam’s attitudes towards women and fear of female sexuality is something that’s going to have to be worked out, one way or the other, by Muslims themselves and they are certainly welcome to it. But from the West’s point of view, it offers a unique tool in eliminating the problems with Islam here at home. To put it bluntly, Islam does not and never has played well with others.
For our own societies, we can help the process along by curtailing immigration from countries where these attitudes are common and avoiding even the slightest recognition of sharia law as an acceptable legal system. And when it comes to those Muslims already here, monitoring and if need be intervening to make sure that what’s being taught in all those Saudi-funded madrassahs and Islamic schools does nothing to contradict or undermine our western laws and standards.
Aside from these steps freeing Muslim women, it will protect our own women and girls. The horrendous rape epidemic in Europe perpetrated almost exclusively by Muslim men against non-Muslim women is a warning of what happens when Islam is imported without some very stringent guidelines. It should never have happened anywhere and it should not be repeated, no matter what steps it takes and how ‘politically incorrect’ it seems.
And the example set could end up changing the entire dynamic, as it did in Post-WWII Japan. Or to put it another way, free the women and the rest will follow.That strategy is as old as Eve and the Apple.
– selah –