Thursday, July 20, 2006

Muslim Stockholm Syndrome

Broadsheet posts on Syrian-born writer Wafa Sultan, the woman who told that sheik on al-Jazeera to shut up because it was her turn to speak (BTW, if you didn't see the video at the time, it's pretty cool):
Sultan, 48, was named one of Time's 100 Most Influential People this May and is one of the most high-profile critics of Islam's treatment of women. "The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions or a class of civilizations. It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras," Sultan told eNews. "It is a clash between a mentality that belongs in the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century … It is a clash between those who treat women like beasts, and those who treat them like human beings." Sultan sees Muslim oppression of women dating back 1,500 years, and believes that it is time for women to stand up and demand change.

Wow! You'd think Muslim women around the world would be applauding this woman, right? I mean, the ones that aren't busy walking 10 paces behind their man while trying to see through a 2 inch mesh hole in their body shroud, that is.

Think again:
Still, not all Muslim women are heeding her call. As Sabiha Khan, a former spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Los Angeles, told eNews, "I don't believe I am less than a man. I am not a slave. I am a very educated Muslim who believes in her religion with all her heart." Khan suggests that Sultan's pro-Western approach naturally appeals to Western media, but "many Muslim women consider her mistaken and irrelevant to their community."

You know, that reminds me of my days on the boards. See, there's a term in theatre called a "king role." It's not necessarily the literal king character in the play, but it frequently is. To have the king role means that your words and your actions are so important to the other characters, that whenever you are on stage, they are in dire anticipation of the next step you take, or word you utter. The bastard about having the king role was summed up pretty nicely by fellow actor friend of mine once:

"Honey, you can look like the king, you can talk like the king, you can walk like the king all damn day. But if the other actors don't treat you like the king -- you ain't the king."

Similarly, while I think it's nice that Sabiha Khan has managed to convince her family that she is worthy of an education, and it's great that she is espousing a healthy self-esteem, it matters not one whit whether or not she feels herself less than, or slave to, a man.

Because she is.

Because she is a Muslim woman and she therefore endorses and tolerates her religion's view of her, which is that she is, well, not to put too fine a point on it - inferior.

And no, it's not just those who practice Islam who are subjugators of women. It's in the book, folks. It's a bona fide tenet of the faith and everything.

But back to Sultan and her critics:
Other members of the community question Sultan's cred, since she was once a Muslim but now considers herself a "secular human being." Sources in the eNews profile suggested that "real leadership is provided by Muslim women who seek social change according to Islam within their communities," like Iranian human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi or Canadian Shahina Siddiqi, "who has published a booklet on making mosques friendlier to women."

Oh, and I suppose those same sources would have questioned Frederick Douglas's right to question the practices of slavery, because he had escaped from it.

And they would have said that it is the role of the house negroes to critique slavery, because they are the ones attempting to reform it from within.

Look, until one of you meek little Muslim bitches stops writing booklets about building a friendlier mosque and starts burning down the mosques as nests of treachery where the oppressors plan their methods of enslavement, I am going to call this Sultan gal my own personal glittering star of Islam.


Porter said...

This topic finds a strange intersection between human rights and cultural imperialism. It's easy for Westerners to say that Islam treats women poorly, but there are plenty of Muslim women who would be quick to say the same thing about our culture.

Likewise is the case for democracy versus theocracy. Of course we think democracy is a better's the one we've been using for 230 years.

The West should have asylum programs for Muslim women and men who want to escape that culture for ours. We did as much for communist dissidents during the Cold War. To pressure Muslim cultures to bring their values in line with ours, however, is the equivalent of a Crusade.

And who knows, perhaps satellite TV and the Internet can succeed where tanks and rhetoric have failed.

vikkitikkitavi said...

I'm not in favor of them adopting our values per se, just that they stop opressing women. Surely we can agree that that's a world-wide value we all should strive toward, not merely a western one.

Geez, people felt pretty free to criticize the "culture" of South Africa under apartheid. And yet, the culture of Islam gets a pass time and time again.

Oh yeah. I forgot. It's a religion, and is therefore immune from such criticism. The Afrikaners should have thought of that.