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To get a far better understanding of the role of women in Arab Muslim
culture, see, e.g. Elizabeth Fernea GUESTS OF THE SHEIK. Fernea has also
written IN SEARCH OF ISLAMIC FEMINISM. Both of these books are readily
available and easy enough to read.
The description of the role of women in Islam given below is quite wrong,
and, among other things, deeply confuses Islamic and Aran practices with
Taliban and repressive Pushtanwali practices.
Best of all would be a personal visit to the Middle East, and actual
interaction with real Muslim women. Or are scholarly and human decency
standards to be reserved for only for white people?
> >But who is it that arranges the marriages? Is it not both parents?
> >And from what I've seen of Arabic cultures, women are the principle
> >enforcers of such traditions. It seems to me that their men are too
> >busy providing for their families, to devote much attention to this
> >aspect of life.
> I am not an expert on Muslim culture, but I have read some accounts
> of women's lives, and the sense I get is that women are used as pawns
> to cement political and economic ties (as in Bin Laden's case). That
> more powerful men (read taliban) can demand to marry a woman, forcing
> her family to surrender her or flee the country (this has happened
> alot.) Rape is not uncommon, and if the men are powerful there is no
> recourse for the women or their families. In many ways the burqa
> serves the same role that stripes on zebras do - it allows women to
> merge safely into the herd and not draw unwanted attention to
> >Secondly... if it were even remotely possible for a culture to
> >approach a condition so extraordinarily out of balance that men not
> >only provided for their families but also manipulated the family
> >relationships and the behavioral trajectories of their sons and
> >daughters, what might we make of the women of such an out-of-whack
> That they are powerless. Again, the little I have read suggests that
> the man is the head of the household, and all give way before him.
> He sets the laws, enforces them, settles conflicts, controls the
> money, chooses favorites etc. The political maneuvering in the
> household usually centers around competing for the husband's ear.
> Coalitions form to advance the causes of favored children against
> other wives, mothers-in-law etc. Your life and the life of your
> children depends quite literally on securing your husband's favor.
> >Is it conceivable that any mother-as-primary-nurturer could
> >willingly surrender Woman's Power at so wholesale a level as what
> >such a scenario might seem to imply? At issue here is the fact that
> >there is no aspect of a culture that acts independently of any other
> >aspect... that is, if men are "powerful", then it is because women
> >have permitted it, and because women have exercised their own power,
> >for example, over their sons in training them to become the sorts of
> >adolescents that finally get initiated into the culture's manhood.
> Most cultures do not smile on a "mama's boy". Often the very
> definition of manhood turns on the rejection of women and women's
> values. How can you suggest that women have "permitted" the men to
> be powerful? This is like saying that African Americans permitted
> slavery. Permission implies choice and there is no choice.
> >Incidentally, such imbalances (if one accepts that Taliban culture
> >does indeed approach such a condition - for example, Taliban
> >fundamentalism as a reaction to Western globalization) are not
> >sustainable and will invariably result in corrections, whether from
> >within or from without. For this reason, we cannot look to them to
> >provide generalizations about "all" men or "all" women.
> Muslim culture has been patriarchal for a l-o-n-g time. But you are
> right, I don't think that you can generalize from one man to the
> next, much less one culture to the next.
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