Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Equal Before ‘God’? Not If You’re A Woman!

In another thread on’God Is For Suckers’ there was a mention that Islam was misogynistic, but naturally this viewpoint is condemned by apologists for Islam, not all of whom are men.

One highly-qualified person who does support that view, however, is Professor Riffat Hassan. Professor Hassan is a woman, a Muslim, and an outspoken critic of the way that women are treated as unequal in Muslim societies as a matter of course. Unsurprisingly, she traces the roots of the problem back to the Judaeo-Christian tradition

Here are some of the things she has had to say on the subject…

Unless and until the theological foundations of misogynistic and androcentric tendencies in the Islamic tradition are demolished, Muslim women will continue to be brutalized and discriminated against, despite statistical improvements relating to female education, employment, or social and political rights. No matter how many socio-political rights are granted to women, as long as they are conditioned to accept the myths used by theologians or religious hierarchies to shackle their bodies, hearts, minds, and souls, they will never become fully developed or whole human beings. (‘Women Living Under Muslim Laws’, Dossier 5-6, December 1988 – May 1999)
She then traces the roots of this misogyny through Muslim, Jewish and Christian theological writings, which I will not recount in detail here, but suffice to say that she comes to this conclusion…

I perceived that not only in the Islamic but also in the Jewish and Christian traditions three theological assumptions are the base of the superstructure of men’s alleged superiority to women. These three assumptions are: (1) that God’s primary creation is man, not woman, since woman is believed to have been created from man’s rib, and is therefore ontologically derivative and secondary; (2) that woman, not man, was the primary agent of what is customarily described as man’s Fall or man’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, and hence “all daughters of Eve” are to be regarded with hatred, suspicion, and contempt; (3) that woman was created not only from man but for man, which makes her existence merely instrumental and not of fundamental importance.

… If confronted with the fact that this firmly entrenched belief is derived mainly from the Bible, and contradicts the Qur’an, [the] Muslim is almost certain to be shocked. The rather curious and tragic truth is that even Western-educated Muslims have little idea of the extent to which the Muslim psyche bears the imprint of Jewish and Christian ideas and attitudes pertaining to women.(ibid)
And as for those Muslim apologists who claim that men and women are equal in the eyes of ‘god’, conveniently ignoring the restrictions which Muslim men and societies place on their women, she has this to say…

If man and woman have been created equal by God, who is believed to be the ultimate arbiter of value, then they cannot become unequal, essentially, at a subsequent time. Hence their obvious inequality in the patriarchal world is in contravention of God’s plan. On the other hand, if man and woman have been created unequal by God, then they cannot become equal, essentially, at a subsequent time. Hence any attempt to equalize them is contrary to God’s intent.
Professor Hassan concludes…

… The only way that Muslim [women] can end the history of their subjection at the hands of the [Muslim men] is by returning to the [word of the Qur’an] and challenging the authenticity of the [words of the commentaries on it] that make women derivative and secondary in creation, but primary in guilt, sinfulness, and mental and moral deficiency.
…but here I have to disagree with her, since it would be far more commendable if Muslim women to emancipate themselves completely from the whole mythological, superstitious nonsense that is religion in the first place, put their men in their proper place as de facto equals only, and consign their so-called ‘belief’ in their non-existent ‘god’ to the annals of forensic psychiatry where it belongs.

Until such time, however, women are likely to continue to be treated as second-class persons, and men will continue to enjoy their undeserved superiority over them whilst citing the spurious ‘authority’ of scripture to justify their disgraceful actions.

For those who are interested, the full text of Professor Hassan’s paper can be found here, and all of the 19,800 Google articles about and by her can be found here.

In the meantime, I'll leave you to contemplate ll Papa's views on the subject...