April 28, 2005

Women and Islam - Part II

Quite by accident, I found the original essay by Yasmin Mogahed that I had quoted in the last post. I'd like to post another excerpt:

"On March 18, 2005 Amina Wadud led the first female-led Jumuah prayer. On that day women took a huge step towards being more like men. But, did we come closer to actualizing our God-given liberation?

"I don't think so.

"What we so often forget is that God has honored the woman by giving her value in relation to God-not in relation to men. But as western feminism erases God from the scene, there is no standard left-but men. As a result the western feminist is forced to find her value in relation to a man. And in so doing she has accepted a faulty assumption. She has accepted that man is the standard, and thus a woman can never be a full human being until she becomes just like a man-the standard.

"When a man cut his hair short, she wanted to cut her hair short. When a man joined the army, she wanted to join the army. She wanted these things for no other reason than because the "standard" had it.

"What she didn't recognize was that God dignifies both men and women in their distinctiveness--not their sameness. And on March 18, Muslim women made the very same mistake.

"For 1400 years there has been a consensus of the scholars (both men and women) that men are to lead prayer. As a Muslim woman, why should this matter? The one who leads prayer is in no way spiritually superior. Something is not better just because a man does it. And leading prayer is not better, just because it's leading.

"Had it been the role of women or had it been more divine, why wouldn't the Prophet have asked Ayesha, Khadija, or Fatima-the greatest women of all time-to lead? These women were promised heaven-and yet they never lead prayer.

"But now for the first time in 1400 years, we look at a man leading prayer and we think, "That's not fair." We think so although God has given no special privilege to the one who leads. The imam is no higher in the eyes of God than the one who prays behind.

"On the other hand, only a woman can be a mother. And God has given special privilege to a mother. The Prophet taught us that heaven lies at the feet of mothers. But no matter what a man does he can never be a mother. So why is that not unfair?

"When asked who is most deserving of our kind treatment? The Prophet replied 'your mother' three times before saying 'your father' only once. Isn't that sexist? No matter what a man does he will never be able to have the status of a mother.

"And yet even when God honors us with something uniquely feminine, we are too busy trying to find our worth in reference to men, to value it-or even notice. We too have accepted men as the standard; so anything uniquely feminine is, by definition, inferior. Being sensitive is an insult, becoming a mother-a degradation. In the battle between stoic rationality (considered masculine) and self-less compassion (considered feminine), rationality reigns supreme.

"As soon as we accept that everything a man has and does is better, all that follows is just a knee jerk reaction: if men have it-we want it too. If men pray in the front rows, we assume this is better, so we want to pray in the front rows too. If men lead prayer, we assume the imam is closer to God, so we want to lead prayer too. Somewhere along the line we've accepted the notion that having a position of worldly leadership is some indication of one's position with God.

"A Muslim woman does not need to degrade herself in this way. She has God as a standard. She has God to give her value; she doesn't need a man."

April 25, 2005

Women and Islam

I haven't read through this entire essay yet, but I found this passage of interest. I may post more excerpts and make other comments soon, insha'allah.

"There is a innate wholesomeness, beauty and dignity in the Muslim woman which is exclusive to her and not found in any other woman. This wholesomeness is the result of her identification with and submission to God. Unlike many non-Muslim woman, the Muslimah does not equate her identity (or her worth) with her similarity or her proximity to men. Indeed her gauge of measurement is dependent upon her closeness to the ideals, directives and decrees made known to her through the Light of God as revealed in the Qur’an. Since she has submitted her will to God in Islam, and because she is God’s servant, all servitude to anyone or anything other than God is rendered inoperable and void. Even her husband, her father, her mother, or the Imam, is only to be obeyed in reference to how consistent their instructions are to those provided by God. And if their suggestions or directives are contrary to those of God and His Messenger, than they must not be followed. Also, she should never be passive in the face of brutality and exploitation, whether it is directed against herself or others.

"Muslim women in the West face a unique set of difficulties and distractions. They are surrounded and systematically bombarded with information and influences which are un-Islamic in content and effect. Those who do not live in stable Muslim communities or who do not have strong ties with Muslim family members or friends, are particularly vulnerable of being overwhelmed by a tide of dangerous concepts and inappropriate behaviors. They may even be persuaded that the so-called Western lifestyle is superior to the Islamic one and consequently a strange kind of inversion of reality takes place whereby that which is ugly becomes desirable and that which is beautiful becomes unattractive.

"She may also (like the Western women in her midst) believe that her freedom is based upon her ability to become involved in activities that have been traditionally designated for men. Yasmin Mogadesh writes:

"'Fifty years ago, society told us that men were superior because they left home to work in factories. We were mothers, and yet we were told that it was women’s liberation to abandon the raising of another human being in order to work on a machine. We accepted that working in a factory was superior to raising the foundation of society-just because a man did it.

"'Then after working, we were expected to be superhuman-the perfect mother, the perfect wife, the perfect homemaker-and have the perfect career. We soon came to realize what we had sacrificed by blindly mimicking men. We watched as our children became strangers and soon recognized the privilege we’d given up.'"

April 19, 2005

So Typical!

Bush administration eliminating 19-year-old international terrorism report
By Jonathan S. Landay
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Posted on Fri, Apr. 15, 2005

WASHINGTON - The State Department decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered.

Several U.S. officials defended the abrupt decision, saying the methodology the National Counterterrorism Center used to generate statistics for the report may have been faulty, such as the inclusion of incidents that may not have been terrorism.

Last year, the number of incidents in 2003 was undercounted, forcing a revision of the report, "Patterns of Global Terrorism."

But other current and former officials charged that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's office ordered "Patterns of Global Terrorism" eliminated several weeks ago because the 2004 statistics raised disturbing questions about the Bush's administration's frequent claims of progress in the war against terrorism.

"Instead of dealing with the facts and dealing with them in an intelligent fashion, they try to hide their facts from the American public," charged Larry C. Johnson, a former CIA analyst and State Department terrorism expert who first disclosed the decision to eliminate the report in The Counterterrorism Blog, an online journal.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who was among the leading critics of last year's mix-up, reacted angrily to the decision.

"This is the definitive report on the incidence of terrorism around the world. It should be unthinkable that there would be an effort to withhold it - or any of the key data - from the public. The Bush administration should stop playing politics with this critical report."

A senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, confirmed that the publication was being eliminated, but said the allegation that it was being done for political reasons was "categorically untrue."

According to Johnson and U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the issue, statistics that the National Counterterrorism Center provided to the State Department reported 625 "significant" terrorist attacks in 2004.

[This makes me wonder just what constitutes a "significant terrorist attack?" This number would be about two per day, but most of these must not be hitting the media...or so one would think.]

That compared with 175 such incidents in 2003, the highest number in two decades.

The statistics didn't include attacks on American troops in Iraq, which President Bush as recently as Tuesday called "a central front in the war on terror."

The intelligence officials requested anonymity because the information is classified and because, they said, they feared White House retribution. Johnson declined to say how he obtained the figures.

Another U.S. official, who also requested anonymity, said analysts from the counterterrorism center were especially careful in amassing and reviewing the data because of the political turmoil created by last year's errors.

Last June, the administration was forced to issue a revised version of the report for 2003 that showed a higher number of significant terrorist attacks and more than twice the number of fatalities than had been presented in the original report two months earlier.

The snafu was embarrassing for the White House, which had used the original version to bolster President Bush's election-campaign claim that the war in Iraq had advanced the fight against terrorism.

U.S. officials blamed last year's mix-up on bureaucratic mistakes involving the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, the forerunner of the National Counterterrorism Center.


The State Department published "Patterns of Global Terrorism" under a law that requires it to submit to the House of Representatives and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a country-by-country terrorism assessment by April 30 each year.


The senior State Department official said a report on global terrorism would be sent this year to lawmakers and made available to the public in place of "Patterns of Global Terrorism," but that it wouldn't contain statistical data.

[Oh, that'll make the report real helpful. "Let's remove any meaningful data." Yeah, right.]


But the U.S. intelligence officials said Rice's office decided to eliminate "Patterns of Global Terrorism" when the counterterrorism center declined to use alternative methodology that would have reported fewer significant attacks.

The officials said they interpreted Rice's action as an attempt to avoid releasing statistics that would contradict the administration's claims that it's winning the war against terrorism.

(My emphasis.)

Can we say, "Cover up?"

April 18, 2005

An Open Letter to Zai

Zai had written: "I hope I am not one of those desafinado..."


Salaam 'alaikum.

No, I don't consider you to be among the "desafinado" Muslims (and never have). To me, the desafinado are the "progressives" except that, to me, their rhetoric isn't "progressive," but confused. After a few years away from the US, living in a Muslim community in SE Asia, and seeing the American Muslim community from afar, I've come to the conclusion that the desafinados:

* are poorly educated in Islam
* lack the educational resources (facilities, teachers, books, you name it)
* overly rely upon the Qur'an (a bad habit from their Christian upbringing) and barely rely upon the Sunnah
* don't have the community support or history to help guide them (it takes a village, ya know ;) )
* are guided by certain elements of Western culture (or worse, their nafs) in interpreting Islam

And this problem isn't limited to Islam. Just this evening, I came across the following quotation by Cardinal Ratzinger, one of the current frontrunners to become Pope: "We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires." I'm not sure Ratzinger's "dictatorship of relativism" is relevant here, but I think the latter part of the sentence ("...which has as its highest goal...") is completely relevant. (I've been impressed by Ratzinger in the past few days, but I'm not sure I want him to become Pope - Islamic-Catholic relations might go backwards if he does.)

Anyway, I digress... :)

April 17, 2005

Dragon's Kin

I've been so busy recently, especially with work, but I had the chance to read Anne & Todd McCaffrey's "Dragon's Kin" last week. Unfortunately, it's not very good. The story takes place about 15 years prior to the third pass (this is from memory, and so may not be accurate), and is "ancient history" (not only pre-Lessa, but pre-Moreta as well). Kindan is a young boy who's orphaned when his father and brothers are killed in a mining accident (the entire story takes place at a coal mine settlement). He becomes the ward of Master Zist, a harper who's been newly assigned to the settlement. Kindan becomes Zist's apprentice and is looking forward to becoming a Harper when he grows up. However, the settlement leader wants Kindan to raise a watch-wehr (the w-w being trained to work with and protect men in the mine). Kindan gives up his dream of being a Harper, but becomes friends with the blind Nuella. Nuella becomes heavily involved in the training of Kisk, the w-w, and ultimately bonds with Kisk, freeing up Kindan to become a Harper after all.

Anne, whom I've been reading since around 1980, is a hit-and-miss writer, usually hitting but occasionally missing (e.g., Dolphins of Pern). Whether this "miss" is due to son Todd (Anne's heir apparent to the Pern empire) is difficult to say. The story reads like one of Anne's work (the good news), but is also very formulaic (one of Anne's occasional bad habits) and the outcome was too easy to predict. Overall, I'd rather read one of Anne's other works.

April 13, 2005

"What is Acceptable to You is Not Acceptable to Us"

Shatha al-Musawi ... has become one of the Shiite alliance's more visible members. A divorced mother of three, she worked for a decade selling clothes in a market while raising her children in Baghdad as a single mother and putting herself through college.

"To tell you the truth, I am not a feminist," Ms. Musawi said in a recent interview, speaking in English, and dressed in a black abaya. "I don't want to commit the same mistakes Western women have committed. I like that family should be the major principle for women here."

Some liberal assembly members say women who talk like that are just taking orders from the assembly's Shiite clerics.

But that hardly explains the passion and eloquence with which Ms. Musawi, 37, speaks of the need to bring Iraq's laws into line with its Islamic traditions. She is not timid: during the first meeting of the National Assembly she delivered an angry speech demanding that the politicians who were holding up the formation of the new government be held to account.

Asked about her belief that men should be allowed to have four wives, she shot back, "Have you heard of Nasreen Barwari?"

Nasreen Barwari, the Harvard-educated minister of public works in Ayad Allawi's interim government, led the delegation of secular women to Dr. Jaafari's office last week. She is also the third wife of Ghazi al-Yawar, the assembly member and former interim president.

Ms. Musawi can defend her views about Shariah in terms the secular can understand. She points out that after three recent wars, Iraq's women account for more than 55 percent of the population by some estimates. In a culture where relationships outside wedlock are frowned on, many women are living lives of lonely misery, she said.

In the same way, Ms. Musawi explains that Iraqi men - not women - are expected to help support their poorer relatives. So, she argues, it is fair to grant women a smaller share of inheritance by law.

"We have different traditions," Ms. Musawi said. "What is acceptable to you is not acceptable to us."

-- The New York Times (Registration required.)