A modern day male misogyny: Not an Arab males’ monopoly
A modern day male misogyny: Not an Arab males’ monopoly
First, let me declare my interest. I am a man, originally of a country part of the Arab league (thought I do describe myself not as an Arab but a Somali), I am a Muslim and can identify with the state of affairs Mona has described. As an individual raised and a product of this social environment, where the alleged misconducts have been taking place, I feel I have a right to a say too. However, obviously some bias might creep-in within my understanding of the issues raised but I assure you not an intended or deliberate act of subjugating the serious issues at hand. That said, Mona’s passion, enthusiasm, and the will to change for better the status quo of the subjugated so called Arab women is something to be admired. It is indeed a matter of fact the state of Arab or African women at times is in dire state of male dominance. It’s also in Mona’s God given right and an absolute religious obligation to voice her outrage and anger on the despicable state of those women. Thought to be clear, this description may not apply to the majority of the Arab or African women for that matter. Never the less, it exists and that doesn’t warrant a lesser attention or outrage than if it were to apply to the majority.
However, a few point of contention that I would like to point, not as a misogynistic male opposition-st, but out of love for her erup-tious genuine active participation in correcting an erroneous social trajectory in a community she so loves. Firstly, there is an absolute need to separate a religious and a traditional causal. It is my belief that this two are almost definitely always the victim of each other, one more so than the other especially when it comes to the matters of Muslim women hailing from different cultural background. This confusion masks important issues facing women; from the suffocating tribal/traditional rules of Taliban of ‘no school for girls’ to the Somalis barbaric acts of female genital mutilation to the perverted actions of so called ‘honor killings’. There are two common denominators in all of these confusioninst-animalistic acts. Firstly, it is completely categorically –unjustifiably-hellish and an absolute Haram acts committed against a human being which will warrant a severe punishment. Secondly, often these perverted cruelties are carried out under the banner of ‘religious duties’, and Islamic religion for that matter.
Now, what Mona did not categorically decant especially to the greater public is the role played by the two in these horrific acts (tradition and religion). This has created unhealthy defensive atmosphere that leads to the discussion of Nikhab and a horrific acts such as the deprivation of education and FGM in the same breath. This could be due to (and I could be wrong here) Mona’s personal limited knowledge in Islam which could have led her to believe this two tradition play equal part in the status-quo. As an above average educated (mostly self educated) Islamic student, I have never seen a speck of justification for the misogynistic attitude of men described in your article in the teachings of Islam. Rather, Islam is a teaching that humbles a man to kiss his mother’s feet as a condition for his salvation (paradise). Therefore, whoever truly practices Islam can only be a true plain feminist, who upholds women’s rights above his own and never a misogynist maverick.
A Muslim will never advocate for a woman to not get educated when clearly education is a matter of an absolute (not a choice) in both genders. The prophets says for both genders ‘Go in quest of knowledge even unto China-roughly translate. We can certainly be flexible in how this education is facilitated which is where less informed critics of Islam jump into the band-wagon whenever they hear of gender separation at school. Western world have different laws affecting women differently than men all the time! For example ‘a women cannot take their tops off in a celebration for her team scoring or in scoring herself, otherwise she will be breaking the law and will be arrested on a public nudity order act, but you cannot say the same for males. Western world have segregated lavatories but it will be nonsensical if feminist argued this was discriminatory! So why up in arms when western feminist hear Muslim women have to pray separately? Don’t you respect the privacy of the same women you claim to fight for? Let’s get issues into perspective here, we are not teaching each other absolute morals, because none of us can claim that, all morals are subjective and contextual-and almost certainly western world would probably hold the tail when it comes to the moral high ground queue.
Of course there are those who would shout till the cows come home and will always have a contentious view on others, a simple fact is, it will be inconsiderate of them to expect all things to conform to their tune-and that sadly will never happen-even in a perfect world. However, this is beside the point, going back to the issue, the separation of this two social institutions (religion and tradition) is paramount for this debate to have a productive end. After all, that is the goal of the debate-clear rules of engagement. The second litigious issue here is the direction of the change you are advocating for. It is all well to cry for to tidal change, and the attitudes of Arab men maybe needs to change but not necessary to the western latitude, and maybe towards the Islamic teaching which might have a better luck and far reaching consequences than seeming to peddle a western connotation of freedom from male misogyny. Personally, I think there has never lived a male misogynistic society than the present day western world. Where the highest circulated printed press involves a new commodity (women) disguised as ‘successful models’. There is almost not commercial product sold or advertised without these accessories. You pop-in to a car show and there you have it, a woman scantily dressed aimlessly standing next to a Ferrari! What she doing there? There reason a human would stand next to a commodity to be sold I personally fail to comprehend but they say its sells the car.
In my healthcare professional, I am privileged to work with among the most future potential age group of the western society (young adolescent) who had the misfortune to suffer mental illness. I wish Mona or the members of the public (male or female, Arab or non Arab) had the privilege to visit one of their local mental health units, then maybe they will better understand the ‘real’ human cost of ‘real’ misogynistic society. The number of teenage girls slashing their wrist and faces, self starvation (anorexia, bulimia, etc) just because they think they are not ‘good looking enough’ to the standards of the women on the press is quite frankly astonishingly scandalous. I am not implying all mental health or all this cases are as a result of the portrayal of women on media but only a plain foolish will ignore their influence in these young people. When you create a society where women are put on the pedestal purely on their appearance, then to point a finger on another society where women can have dignity and acceptance through speech is frankly a hypocrisy of the highest order.
And maybe we ought to excuse Mona for not viewing this as a problem due to her inexperience working with the product of western portrait of women. However, if the debate is on how or the effect of man’s view of women to the wider society, then maybe she ought to understand the depth of what she is advocating for the Arab men. Just because you live in a world where you are free to scantly dress (am not implying a problem here) doesn’t mean you are not implicitly driven to please a misogynistic male society. Otherwise who are you on display for? On the other hand, if Mona is respecting the right of a woman to be naked in public (which is illegal in most of the so called civilized nations), then surely the same right should be reserved for those who want to cover fully.
Lastly, I would like to challenge Mona to produce one single law or provision in Islam which if implemented would not fundamentally improve the condition of women, socially, economically and politically. Just one. Hence, the issue here is not Islam, and its very well for those who have above average understanding of Islamic teachings and can differentiate your mix-up of religion and culture. However, for a non Muslims or even less informed Muslims who are already confused and can barely differentiate Arabs from Muslims, it is these very people you might want to educate on your course. But this piece does no one favor to anyone at all. It creates and fuels farther miss informed stereotypical misunderstanding that fans the already Islama-phobic western population with little knowledge of anything.
As for that part of traditional Arab culture that is misogynistic, I totally agree, but is not a traditional that is monopolized by Arab culture only. Just as I mentioned, western male misogyny is rife with instances where woman are pure commodity. Where the phrase ‘you might as well use your body-get naked- while you can’ can be a common advice to young female by their parents, nothing short of maximizing return on a new product or technology that will quickly lose its market share as it becomes yesterday inventions. A product with an expiry date, so to speak. The selling of girls to rich Saudis is first of all rare, fundamentally wrong even in the eyes of the majority of Arab men, and is mainly influenced by economical misfortunes; and far from been fundamentally Arab men’s phenomenon collectively socially endorsed. That is where again the article fails to consider issues in context (economical, and social-political) of the wider social drivers.
Overall, the issue here is, those who are trying to exert changes (silently) are the really champions who will suffer the repercussions of these sweeping generalization and blurring the lines for those who were already gazing at the mist of Islam with suspicion and prejudicial eyes. This approach will create more conflict and confusion that tire down the delicate walls built over many years to bridge the world communities (including males and females). There is one major thing we have learned from this article and maybe a lesson for us all, even the best intentions can creates the worst out-come if execution is lousy. Now, the way forward is to regain the reins of these run-away horse and steer into a more informed, less volatile path, and I hope Mona doesn’t see this is a harsh criticism, but a genuine fine tuning effort to the clarify this important piece. #arabmalemasogny