Having read the previous offering by impishlaugh, I felt that as a muslim I ought to respond. Fortunately though, I have had time to cool down a bit and this will not be flame: I intend to node this carefully.

There are a number of things being confused in the portrayal of people in the middle east by the writeup. Notably:

1. Islamic values and laws.
2. Saudi Customs and national laws.
3. Cultural patterns of the middle east.

When quoting from the Quran or any other Islamic reference it is perhaps wise to note the difference in authority between various sources otherwise the reader may assume that each is equally valid, and presuppose a contradiction where there is none. For example the Quran is the word of God and therefore Absolute; but Sassoon, Bukhari, and Doi are just men, and therefore not. See the difference? It is crucial to understanding the Islamic mind, which has very clear idea of what is Right and Wrong, and Good and Evil, and this doesn't change by mere social convention like it does elsewhere. The word of God is law and anyone disagreeing with it and disobeying it who calls himself a muslim is destined to hell. The other blokes are just advisors, or commentators and while some people put a lot of stock in them, most muslims don't really care for them very much and try to be good according to the Quran. It's just safer that way.

It may also be worth noting at this point that despite the highly negative image of Islam in virtually the whole media, it is by far the fastest growing religion on the planet, and most of its converts are educated western women. I have met a few and not one of them feels regretful of their change to Islam, and a few of these live now in Saudi Arabia.

A second point to make is that the Saudi Arabia is a country with its own laws and customs, many of which have little if anything to do with Islam; for example, I don't recall any chapters in the Quran on Parking Fines and how to administer them. So bearing that in mind, you mustn't start to judge Islam (the system of moral and religious rules and principles that forms a way of life that is meant to lead to Gods blessing and Paradise) from Saudi Arabia (a country that just happens to be on the Arabian peninsula). The Saudis are free to pass any laws they wish, and neither you or I have the right to question their authority in their own country; it is THEIRS, not ours. How would you like it if someone said you weren't allowed to express your rights in America? I doubt that you would be pleased, and I imagine that they are similarly displeased with people take pot shots at their way of life when they clearly don't understand it. Even I as muslim, wouldn't claim to understand Saudis though I have met many Saudi men and women, and I have to say that they all seem very pleased to be from there.

The third point is one of the middle east. The attitudes of men and women towards each other is varied across the whole world. In many places women are simply property, and they are also happy to be so because that is they way they were brought up. In the middle east, and Saudi Arabia particularly, this is not the case. The reason that this poor little country gets singled out is that people here feel some sort of outrage that someone with so alien a lifestyle can apparently do so well in the world. Saudi Arabia accepts almost none of the values of the west, and yet is richer than most European countries, and with a higher standard of living. People like to think there is a relation between their values and the success they meet in the world and it rankles to come across people who disagree with almost everything they believe and yet are happy and rich and free. And Yes I did mean to write Free.

In conclusion, are you (the people reading this node) really concerned over the welfare of people you have never met nor are ever likely to meet, or ever have a hope of understanding? Or are you just venting your spleen because you secretly want everyone to be like you or at least want to be like you, and the Saudis, and many others... DON'T.

Think about it, the answer isn't always as clear as you hoped it to be.


I suppose baffo deserves a response as well...

1. You can never exist in their moral universe though, can you? So your points of reference are all drawn from your personal moral universe which do not correlate with theirs; otherwise you two wouldn't differ would you? I like the way you can generalize to a conception of consistency when it is clear that the issues of personal objectivity still elusive, and unresolved. 2. Muslims don't believe in human rights, we believe in justice. No revolution ever created justice or ever will, and so the idea of taking a rough guess at it, and legislating other countries in response to what you think it should be seems at best premature and at worst totalitarian/tyrannical.

Or to put it another way, hypocritical when you accuse a country of behaving that way towards its own subjects. Achieve perfect justice in your own country and I am sure the rest of the world will follow, until then they are allowed to try out their own laws until they get them right.

"Westernised enough for you?"

Not really, first point, who doesn't? It's a shallow criterion, and one that isn't unique to any culture. The same is for the second point as well, I won't even dignify them by getting more involved. The third one piques slight interest as Racism is endemic in every nation in the world, so I don't see how the "west" or anyone else can claim a monopoly over it. Though, it may be worthy of a node in itself at later date if one doesn't exist yet. The fourth? Well, it has to be said that some people are just immoral, in any society, and you cannot judge a whole people by the exceptions. If one did, then all Germans are as bad as Hitler, and should be made to suffer, all Iraqis are as bad as Saddam, and should be made to suffer, and I am responsible for a bucketful of sins that were never touched by either my intent or actions. I hope this satisfies. I am somewhat heartened by the fact that baffo didn't attack Islam, so perhaps my response did a little good. ;-)

"The Saudi's are free to pass any laws they wish, and neither you or I have the right to question their authority in their own country, it is THEIRS, not ours.". I would say here that there are two points to be made:

  1. Their authority is undisputed (by force majeure at the very least). Having conceded the raw authority point, I feel perfectly entitled to question their consistency, within their own moral universe - namely, the consistency of their laws with the Koran, just like I would question the consistency of any State's behaviour in comparison to its Constitution.
  2. human rights. Universal human rights, a concept born of the French Revolution do not stop at borders. Humanitarian interference is certainly a debatable point, but there is a growing feeling that you can't just turn your country into a little hellhole and tell the world "it is our own internal affairs".
    Of course, countries with nuclear weapons and/or important resources get away with it.

"Saudi Arabia accepts none of the values of the West". What ? do we share the same planet ? Wealthy Saudi Arabians appear to share with the West:

  1. A passion for very visible material goods: cars, yachts, helicopters. And also some invisible ones, like Swiss bank accounts.
  2. A taste for blondes.
  3. Racism. Just try to be an Indian worker in Saudi Arabia.
  4. A passion for fucking their maids, who are not in a position to say no. Go to Sri Lanka, and listen to the stories.

Westernized enough for you ?

Due to the western media's portrayal of everything that could possibly hurt profits many people have deep misconceptions of Islam. I write here concerning just one of them, which is the treatment of women.

As in every other religion, what the religion says and what the people who claim to follow it do can be completely different things. Islam teaches the fair and equal treatment of women. In the days of Muhammed women were completely equal, they were partners in trade and fellow soldiers in battle. They had fully equal rights. Prophet Muhammed met his first wife when she hired him into her trading firm.

The practices of countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and other supposedly Muslim countries are not based on Islam, but are based on the beliefs of those who run those countries these days. The US government may promise tax cuts, but do they PRACTICE tax cuts? It is the same in the East, leaders say the words they need to get into office, then they're set for a few years, and say "Screw the populace."

The very idea of a monarchy as in Saudi Arabia is specifically banned under Islamic law as under Islam there can only be one form of government, the Calipha who is elected by the people. Unlike the west, in Islam there is no "Separation of Church and State" as Allah (God) created man and the rules we should follow as well. And it is not up to a person, who suffers from defects and wants to try and design the perfect judicial system as God is perfect, and has done it perfectly, and we are not perfect, as shown by the myriad stupid problems our own "laws" get us into.

The barbaric practice of "female circumcision" practiced in some parts of Africa also has no basis in Islam. The people who did it before they were Muslim continue to do it after they claim to have become Muslim, and what can we do to stop them?

People who have the wrong idea about Islam have this problem because they have been give false information, to see the truth just visit any Mosque near you, or visit an Islamic website. But don't believe everything you see or hear, as their are many dis-information websites started by God knows who that spread false information, and the same people make flyers, or start rumors, or pretend to be Muslim to tell lies to people who are already basing their opinions off false information.

If someone doesnt have the information but seeks it, you are simply uninformed. If someone has the information but refuse to read it then they are ignorant.

Note: I temporarily removed this writeup because I didn't feel safe posting it and my mailing address on e2. But it's back now, and nothing has been changed.

Warning: This was true according to my sources, and my research concentrated on Saudi Arabia and only Saudi Arabia. I'm not saying that every muslim woman lives this way or that every muslim man has four 12 year old wives. This essay pertains to a small part of the globe.

“If any of your women are guilty of lewdness, take the evidence from four witnesses amongst you against them; and if they testify Confine them the guilty women to houses until Death do claim them (Koran 4:15).”

While studying abroad in London, Sameera, a young Saudi Arabian woman, fell in love with an American. Knowing that her family would object to their union, Sameera left London with her lover at the end of the term and they went together to his home in California. Once the newness of their relationship wore off, he quickly grew weary of Sameera and refused to marry her.

Fearful of her male relatives’ reactions but penniless, Sameera turned to her family, who promised to treat her kindly if she returned. Wary of their promises but with no one else to go to, she returned home to Saudi Arabia. Her uncle, the head of her family, arranged a marriage for her against her consent upon her return. Within one month she became the third wife of a man in his mid-fifties. On their wedding night she fought him off so fiercely that he could not tell whose blood it was in their bed, and he didn’t question her virginity. However, in the following months he grew tired of his new bride. When she taunted him about his sexual performance and bragged that she had known the love of a “real man,” he immediately divorced her and left her in her uncle’s care.

Infuriated, Sameera’s uncle consulted the Koran to find a suitable punishment. Sameera was sentenced to death—without the four testimonies required by the Koran—for lewdness. An insulated, padded cell with a trap door that opened from the ceiling to deliver food, an open hole in the floor for bodily wastes, and concrete blocks placed over the windows was built into the top floor of her uncle’s palace. Sameera was locked into her cell and never saw the light of day again. (Sassoon, 183-193)

Sameera was a beautiful and brilliant 22 year old woman who committed a “crime” not uncommon among young people in our country today—a religious crime that cost Sameera and thousands of other young Saudi Arabian women their lives.

“And for women are rights over men similar to those of men over women. (Koran, 2:226).”

This may be true, yet women are forced to cover all of their bodies, except for hands and face, with the veil and abaaya, while men are allowed to wear almost anything they would like (Koran 24:31). According to the Institute of Islamic Information and Education, this actually aids women by preventing them from becoming sex objects. The Institute states that women “…will then be evaluated for intelligence and skills instead of looks and sexuality (III&E Brochure Series)." It seems that the opposite is occurring, however. According to Princess Sultana, a member of the Saudi royal family, “Arab men barely glance at a child as she enters the (women’s clothing) store, but once she dons the veil and abaaya, discreet glances come her way. Men attempt to catch a glimpse of a forbidden, suddenly erotic ankle. With the veil, women become overwhelmingly tantalizing and desirable to Arab men (Sassoon, 59).” These glances seem no different than the ones women in western dress get on the street every day. If the veil and abaaya have the opposite effect than the one intended, should they still be used?

If and men have similar rights, why may men take up to four wives (Koran, 3:3) when women are allowed only one husband, who is usually shared with up to three other women? The Koran later states that the only acceptable reason to practice polygamy is to provide fathers for the children of widows (Koran 4:3). However, in Saudi Arabia, the traditional number of wives is four, and in almost all cases the brides are virgins. The Koran states a man should take only as many wives as he can afford to support equally (Koran, 3:3). Royalty and the rich can afford to keep numerous wives and children and can pay for them all to live in equal splendor. Most other Saudi Arabians are nomadic tent-dwellers. They rationalize polygamy by saying that they will live in poverty no matter how many wives and children they have (Sassoon 87). It is true that the Koran allows polygamy, but its intended use has been ignored.

If women’s rights are anywhere near similar to men’s rights, why do fathers sell their pubescent daughters to men three times the child’s age? There can be no love in such a marriage, and one might argue that love can not exist at all when a man can go to another wife if his first wife displeases him.

If women’s rights are similar to men’s rights, why is a son’s inheritance twice that of a daughter’s inheritance by religious law? The Koran states that, “God directs you as regards to you children: The male shall receive a portion equal to that of two females (Koran 4:11).” Is this to say that men and women have similar rights—but men have twice as many rights or are entitled to twice as many benefits from their rights?

If men and women have similar rights, why are the laws of the Koran that would limit freedom of choice used only against women, while men are allowed to ignore them? Concerning marriage of Muslims to nonbelievers, the Koran states, “Do not marry women who do not believe until they believe. A slave woman who believes is better than one who does not believe. Do not marry your daughters to unbelievers until they believe. A man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever (Koran, 2:221).” However, Princess Sultana reveals that many Muslim Saudi Arabian men marry Christians, but Saudi women are strictly forbidden from marrying non-Muslims (Sassoon, 243). This was why Sameera ran away to be with her lover. If men and women have similar rights, why aren't the rules that are plainly spelled out in the Koran followed by both sexes?

In my research I found many, many conflicting essays and accounts concerning the treatment of Muslim women. One essay contrasted especially sharply with other sources. The picture it painted was so cheery that it would have been hard to believe even without comparison with the other sources. During the course of my research, I found many conflicting passages in the Koran and modern essays that strongly clashed with traditional doctrine. One essay says that, “Unlike other religions, which regarded women as being possessed of inherent sin and wickedness and men as being possessed of inherent virtue and nobility, Islam regards men and women as being of the same essence created from a single soul (Doi, 1).” Hadith, preferred over the Koran by traditional Muslims, states that, “Women are naturally, morally, and religiously defective (Bukhary).” Hadithists should remember that while they call women “morally defective,” the majority of individuals jailed for murder, rape, child molestation, etc. are men (Doi, 2).

The Women’s Liberation Through Islam brochure states that a woman has the freedom to choose her husband. However, Princess Sultana reveals that she and her sisters were forced by their father to marry their husbands. When they protested, their pleas were ignored. One of her sisters resisted so strongly that she was drugged for three days before her wedding and during the ceremony (Sassoon, 30-32).

The same brochure stated that a Muslim woman’s testimony is valid in legal disputes. However, women’s testimony is not valid in Saudi courts. This is justified because:
1. Women are much more emotional than men and will, as a result of their emotions, distort their testimony.
2. Women do not participate in public life, so they will not be capable of understanding what they observe.
3. Women are dominated completely by men, who by the grace of God are deemed superior; therefore, women will give testimony according to what the last man told them.
4. Women are forgetful and their testimony cannot be considered reliable (Sassoon, 257).

In conclusion, I believe that at its beginning, Islam had good intentions. Most of the Koran’s teachings are honorable, even if they do seem a little backwards fourteen centuries later. I believe that Islam was perverted by a very patriarchal society. As other societies progress, Muslim society regresses even further because of their fear. I do not doubt that women are repressed because Muslim men know that women are strong—and that in many situations women are stronger than men.

1. Doi, Prof. Abdur Rahman I. Women in the Quran and the Sunna. Internet.
2. Hijab. III&E Brochure Series, Institute if Islamic Information and Education. Internet.
3. Princess. Sassoon, Jean P. Avon Books, New York, NY. 1992.

This essay was bought to you by the Node Your Homework Society.

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