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Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Religious Tolerance? Why?

I try to be understanding and non-judgmental about Islam, I really do. The Islamo-fascist terrorists are a minority, I keep telling myself, and other Muslims shouldn't be vilified because of them. Islam is a religion of peace and equality, I keep hearing, and I want to believe it.

Then I read about yet another travesty of justice and trampling of rights in yet another Islamic country. This time, it's the physical abuse of women in Egypt at the hands of their husbands (hat tip: Andrew):

Violent husbands can generally avoid prosecution on religious grounds, because the Egyptian penal code excludes acts committed "in good faith, pursuant to a right determined by virtue of the Shari'a" (Islamic law).

Egyptian law also allows men – literally – to get away with murder. If a husband kills his wife in the act of committing adultery, it's only a misdemeanour but if a wife kills her husband for the same reason, then of course that's murder.

Adultery, incidentally, is defined in Egyptian law to the husband's advantage. For a man, it doesn't count as adultery unless he does it in the marital home. For a woman, it's adultery no matter where she does it.

A stunning few Egyptian women actually object to such repression, if in fact they responded truthfully to the survey conducted by the Egyptian government:

Almost 86% of the women surveyed thought husbands were justified in hitting their wives sometimes, and a large majority said a refusal to have sex was sufficient grounds for beating.

The survey also showed the percentage of women aged 20-29 who thought beating was justified for a range of other domestic "offences":
"Talking back" to a husband: 70%
Talking to another man: 65%
Spending too much money: 42%
Burning the dinner: 26%

The fault, of course, lies in the religious and governmental (for in most Muslim countries, they are one and the same) mysogyny has become a hallmark of Islam in spite of legislation to the contrary:

The Egyptian legal system – like others in the Arab world – is designed by men, for the benefit of men, and almost entirely operated by men.

"Regardless of which type of divorce a woman chooses, male officials largely still control every step of the process. Egypt has only one female judge on the bench, and the prosecutors who provide advisory opinions in divorce cases are overwhelmingly male. In divorce cases, women themselves are left with little decision-making power," the report says.

There is nothing in the law (religious or secular) to say that women can't become judges and, indeed, the constitution guarantees "equality of opportunity to all Egyptians", but the supreme council of judges continues to reject applications from women. With some failed applications it has explicitly stated that the person's gender was the reason for the rejection.

It is mind-boggling that such attitudes remain prevalent, not to mention legal, in the 21st century—until you consider that today's middle eastern Muslim leaders want to move back in time, not forward. Now if Muslim women in the United States chose to observe their faith's teaching about modest dress by wearing head coverings, that's fine (as it should be in France, by the way, but that's another topic). But to be believe that they deserve to be treated as property or worse is an indictment of the worst sort against Islam the religion as it has come to be widely practiced and preached. Whether it should be so practiced is irrelevant; Islam is what it has become, not what its practitioners want us to believe it is.

Since September 11, President Bush has repeatedly said that the war on terror is not a war against Islam. That, too, I have wanted to believe. But more and more, I find myself thinking that a war against Islam is exactly what's necessary for a just world.

2 comments:

Sage said...

"Since September 11, President Bush has repeatedly said that the war on terror is not a war against Islam. That, too, I have wanted to believe. But more and more, I find myself thinking that a war against Islam is exactly what's necessary for a just world."

Why is it so important to believe this? It is a war against Islam.

The Den Mother said...

I'm not saying it's important to believe this. I'm saying that a war against Islam is necessary, or to be more precise war against Islam as it is more and more frequently defined by its own adherents (i.e. jihad for its own sake). Radical Islamism is today much less a religion that a political ideology, analogous to fascism and Nazism were in the 1930s and 1940s. We should respond to it as such. Whether we do that militarily or otherwise is a topic for debate. But let's stop tip-toeing around it.