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Tag Archive | "women’s rights"

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Over the Rainbow in Kansas: Anti-Sharia Legislation Passes Undercover of ‘Women’s Rights’ Rhetoric

Posted on 13 May 2012 by Emperor

Dorothy…we’re still in Kansas?:

Kansas Legislature Passes Discriminatory Anti-Muslim Bill By Calling It A ‘Women’s Rights’ Issue

by Faiz Shakir (ThinkProgress)

Last week, the Kansas Senate became the latest state to enact a discriminatory measure against Muslims in America by passing a so-called Sharia ban. The bill goes before Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS), who has not indicated whethere he will sign or veto it.

Oklahoma passed a Sharia ban by ballot in 2010, but that measure has been deemed facially unconstitutional by the courts because it specifically targets Muslims for discrimination. Because of Oklahoma’s experience, state legislatures are moving bills that are more oblique about their discriminatory intent. South Dakota, Louisiana, Arizona, and Tennessee have all passed laws that ban “foreign law in American courts” and don’t mention Muslims or Sharia by name.

Kansas’ proposed anti-Muslim law also similarly asserts it is about promoting “American law for American courts.” (Note: the Constitution already establishes this in its Supremacy Clause.) Kansas Republican state Sen. Chris Steineger noted, the measure was “presented” to him as a billspecifically targeting Muslims:

But Sen. Chris Steineger, R-Kansas City, said a marketing campaign by supporters of the bill inundated him with materials that “explain why sharia law is coming and Muslims are trying to take over America.”

“I thought that was quite ludicrous at the time, and I still do,” Steineger said. “I pointed this out, because this was not presented as protecting the Kansas Constitution. The proponents of this measure, clearly by the literature they gave me and by the video link they directed me to, they presented this as protecting us against sharia law. Despite the fact that this doesn’t mention sharia, that’s how this whole issue was presented.”

Indeed, Kansas was bombarded by anti-Sharia emails and letters from out-of-staters. The bill’s sponsors and advocates proclaimed that it was really about protecting “women’s rights.” The bill helps “women know the rights they have in America,” said sate Rep. Peggy Mast (R). “To me, this is a women’s rights issue,” said Sen. Susan Wagle (R). Nevermind that these same legislators have been engaged in a war against women’s healthPlanned Parenthoodthe right to choose, and so many other far more relevant “women’s rights” causes.

Right-wing legislators have been pushing Sharia bans across the country; roughly 20 other states are also considering similar legislation. The anti-Sharia legislative movement was spawned by David Yerushalmi, an influential Islamophobic lawyer who we profiled last year in Fear, Inc.

The anti-Sharia movement continues despite the fact that no evidence has been provided that there is any threat that a Sharia takeover is occurring. Kansas Republican state Sen. John Vratil “said he quizzed the bill’s supporters on when a Kansas court had ever based a decision on sharia law and had yet to be provided with an example.” As Vratil asserted, “Ladies and gentleman, this isa solution in search of a problem.” True, unless you are someone who views the increasing presence of Muslims in America as the problem.

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Why Do They Hate Us? They Don’t.

Posted on 26 April 2012 by Danios

Mona Eltahawy, an Arab-American journalist, created a firestorm when Foreign Policy Magazine published her article “Why Do They Hate Us?”.  If you thought the they and us refers to Muslims and Americans, you’d be wrong.  In fact, they is Arab men, and us is women.  Her article is a stabbing critique of Arab culture, which she finds to be heavily misogynistic.

If that wasn’t provocative enough, she goes further: according to her, these Arab men hate women.  ”Yes: They hate us. It must be said.”  To prove her argument, she issues a challenge: “Name me an Arab country, and I’ll recite a litany of abuses [against women] fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion.”  The rest of the article is a recitation of that litany, interspersed with jazzy catchphrases such as “[w]e are more than our headscarves and our hymens” and “poke the hatred in its eye.”

There is no way to deny the basic premise that the status of women’s rights in the Arab world is abysmal.  Why then did Mona Eltahawy evoke such a hostile reaction from even the Arab women whose rights she seeks to protect?  The easy answer, one that Eltahawy and her supporters might argue, is that these women are simply brainwashed.  Too much “Islamism” in their little brains.  The problem with this argument is that it’s sexist.  It’s basically saying Arab women are too stupid to think for themselves.

The real reason that Arab women recoil after reading Eltahawy’s article is that, while she tries to connect to them based on their gender, she attacks other aspects of their core identity: their race, nationality, religion, and culture.  In fact, her racist (and somewhat babbling) screed is nothing short of a vicious attack on their entire civilization.

Eltahawy cites “a toxic mix of culture and religion” as the source of the abuses against women.  Oddly, she later says, “You — the outside world — will be told that it’s our ‘culture’ and ‘religion’ to do X, Y, or Z to women.”  Yet, it is Mona Eltahawy herself who is arguing precisely that.

By attacking their core identity, Eltahawy has succeeded in alienating her own audience.  Imagine, for instance, an American feminist arguing for greater rights for African women, while at the same time assailing the black race, African culture, and traditional tribal religion.  How receptive or thankful do you think these African women would be?  How pleased would the black or African community be if someone was writing articles about how backwards their culture is?

Mona Eltahawy’s article engages in trite, racial stereotypes.  Legitimate problems in the Arab world are sensationalized.  They hate women.  What an absurd exaggeration!  They have mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters–and it is reasonable to assume that, like other human beings on earth, they love them.

A man can love his wife and still abuse her.  He can have undying affection for his daughter but still wrong her in horrible ways.  But, by going so far as to say they hate women, Eltahawy has dehumanized them.  One recalls similar invective against Palestinian parents: they don’t love their children.  The message being sent is: they are worse than animals.

Women’s rights is an area of concern in many parts of the developing world, not just the Arab world.  Why single out Arabs?  Women face major obstacles in India.  Should we demonize the Hindu religion and the great Indian civilization?

Eltahawy lists off “a litany of abuses”, bringing up extreme cases to make her point.  By citing isolated cases and stacking them all up together, she ends up portraying an imbalanced and biased picture of the Arab world.

Racists don’t see nuance.  They lump all people of a certain group altogether.  That’s exactly what Mona Eltahawy does in her article.  She paints the entire people of that region–or at least its men–with one broad bush.  They hate women.  All 170 million of them.

In fact, not all Arabs are alike.  During my travels in the Muslim world, I saw all sorts of people, with a broad diversity of views.  I met conservative Muslims, liberal Muslims, atheists, Christians, Communists, hippies, you name it.  No sweeping generalization could be made about them (aside for, perhaps, their disgust of American foreign policy).

It is true that I was deeply disturbed by the mistreatment of women, religious and ethnic minorities, poor people, servants, and animals.  But, I also met people there–men, no less–who were also deeply disturbed by these things and would have no part in it.

Just as the viral Kony 2012 video drew criticism for reinforcing the idea of White Man’s Burden, so too does Mona Eltahawy’s article tap into historically racist Orientalist attitudes towards the Arab world.

By firmly pegging abuses against women to the Arab culture and Muslim religion, Mona Eltahawy’s article was nothing short of bigotry.  Indeed, one could hardly tell the difference between Eltahawy’s article and what could normally be found sprawled on numerous Islamophobic websites, such as Robert Spencer’s JihadWatch and Pamela Geller’s Atlas Shrugs.  It is almost a surety that her article will be approvingly cited on such sites, which pit “our civilized, freedom-loving civilization” against “those barbaric, women-hating peoples.”

Had Mona Eltahawy been just any ole’ Islamophobe hacking away at the keyboard–had she been a Robert Spencer or a Pamela Geller–her article would hardly have made headlines.  It would have been just one of thousands and thousands of such hateful rants on the internet by anti-Muslim trolls.  But, like Irshad Manji and Asra Nomani, Mona Eltahawy has an official “I’m a Muslim” card.  That’s even better than the official “I’m an ex-Muslim” card that bigots like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Nonie Darwish proudly carry.  It’s probably even a step above the “I’m a former jihadi terrorist” gold card.  Eltahawy holds the platinum card and gets extra points for being a woman.

As other pundits have noted, Mona Eltahawy is–along with Irshad Manji, Asra Nomani, Tarek Fatah, Zuhdi Jasser, etc.–acting in the role of the “native informant.”  Monica L. Marks writes on the Huffington Post:

Why Do They Hate Us?” asks the latest cover of Foreign Policy magazine. Beneath the title stands a cowering woman wearing nothing but black body paint resembling the niqab, or full Islamic face veil.

Egyptian feminist Mona Eltahawy authored the article. Her central contention — that Arab Muslim culture “hates” women — resurrects a raft of powerful stereotypes regarding Islam and misogyny. It also situates Ms. Eltahawy’s work within a growing trend of “native informants” whose personal testimonies of oppression under Islam have generated significant support for military aggression against Muslim-majority countries in recent years.

Books by these “native voices” — including Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s “Infidel,” Azar Nafisi’s “Reading Lolita” in Tehran, and Irshad Mandji’s “Faith Without Fear” — have flown off the shelves in post-9/11 America despite being roundly rebuffed by leading feminist academics such as Columbia University’s Lila Abu-Lughod and Yale’s Leila Ahmed. Saba Mahmood, another respected scholar, noted that native informants helped “manufacture consent” for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by serving up fear-inducing portrayals of Islam in “an authentic Muslim woman’s voice.”

Although such depictions have proven largely inaccurate and guilty of extreme generalizations, they have become immensely popular. Why? Because these native “testimonials” tell us what we in the West already know — that there’s something inherently misogynistic about Muslims and Arabs.

By stirring up our sympathies and reinforcing our prejudices, individuals like Ms. Hirsi Ali and Ms. Eltahawy have climbed to the top of the media ladder. Their voices are drowning out the messages of more nuanced, well-respected scholars.

Marks goes on to say:

Her fault lies in extrapolating broad cultural judgments from context-specific abuses, implying that Islam and Arab culture writ large are have toxically combined to create a hopelessly backward region that “treats half of humanity like animals.”

These native informants just tell us what we want to hear.  Their job is to increase hatred of Arabs and Muslims, something that is needed in order to sustain our multiple wars of aggression in that part of the world.

Native informants do not help fix the problems they point to.  Why, for example, did Mona Eltahawy choose to publish her article in Foreign Policy, an American magazine?  Why didn’t she write it for an Arab/Arabic publication, with a primarily Arab readership?

Instead she chose Foreign Policy Magazine, which was founded by none other than Samuel P. Huntington.  His famous Clash of Civilizations theory pit the Judeo-Christian West against the Muslim world.  How very fitting that Mona Eltahawy’s us vs. them article was published in the magazine he founded.

Eltahawy’s audience is clear:

You — the outside world — will be told that it’s our ‘culture’ and ‘religion’ to do X, Y, or Z to women.

Monica Marks writes:

 It is important for her readers, however, to understand the dangers of sensationalist coverage that over-simplify complex matters of gender, politics, and religious observance in Muslim-majority countries.

History is rife with examples of seemingly women-friendly arguments hijacked in the service of imperialistic and aggressive ends. While emotional and sensationalist portrayals such as this most recent Foreign Policy cover will sell copies, they do little to deepen our understanding of the contexts and conditions shaping women’s oppression in Arab countries today.

Indeed, the issue of human rights was routinely used by the colonial powers to justify the conquest and expropriation of land.  The Americas, including the land that is now the United States, was brutally conquered and stolen by Europeans on this very basis.  The indigenous peoples were portrayed as savages needing civilizing.  The white man would bring them “democracy”, “freedom”, and “civilization” (Operation Iraqi Freedom?).

In her article, Mona Eltahawi enumerates numerous abuses Arab women face.  However, none of these inhumanities–not even female genital mutilation–can be considered as problematic as the cannibalism and human sacrifice that the indigenous peoples of the Americas sometimes engaged in.  And yet, whatever failings the indigenous peoples had in their culture and civilization, it is now widely understood who the real savage was.

We can continue to pat ourselves on the back for how civilized we are, how free our women are, how we are so much better than them.  But, none of that will change the fact that we are the ones waging wars of aggression and occupation in the Muslim world.  We are the ones killing hundreds of thousands of their innocent men, women, and children.

It was in another article, also published in Foreign Policy with almost the exact same title–Why They Hate Us?–that Prof. Stephen Walt calculated the number of Muslim lives the U.S. has extinguished:  “a reasonable upper bound for Muslim fatalities…is well over one million, equivalent to over 100 Muslim fatalities for every American lost.”  To use a jazzy catchphrase of my own: mutilating a baby girl’s genitals is horrible, but dropping a bomb on her head is much worse.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

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Reuters: European push to ban burqas appalls Afghan women

Posted on 02 May 2010 by Danios

niqab

(hat tip: MuslimMatters.org)

(Reuters) – A firm believer in women’s rights, the only thing Afghan lawmaker Shinkai Karokhail finds as appalling as being forced to wear a burqa is a law banning it.

Karokhail is one of many Afghan women who see a double standard in efforts by some European nations to outlaw face veils and burqas — a move they say restricts a Muslim woman’s choice in countries that otherwise make a fuss about personal rights.

“Democratic countries should not become dictatorships and Muslim women should not be deprived from all kinds of opportunities. It should be their choice,” said Karokhail.

“Otherwise, what is the difference between forcing women to wear a burqa and forcing them not to? It is discrimination.”

France, which has the largest Muslim population in Europe, as well as Italy and Belgium are considering proposals to ban all-enveloping burqas and face veils called niqabs. Many in the West see them as a symbol of the subjugation of women.

In France, government and opposition lawmakers call burqas an affront to the country’s secular traditions, though an advisory board has said a banning them may be unlawful.

In deeply conservative Afghanistan, the Taliban made wearing a burqa mandatory for all women during their five-year rule that ended with the U.S-led invasion in 2001. It is still widely worn in the Muslim country, especially in rural areas and the south.

Shukriya Ahmadi, a 35-year-old Afghan government employee, has ditched the burqa since the days of being forced to wear it during Taliban rule. Still, she has only scorn for Western governments seeking to outlaw them.

“This shows they use democracy, freedom of religion and human rights issues only when it suits their purposes,” Ahmadi said.

PUNISH THE MEN

She suspects burqa legislation will only help a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan gain support from outraged Muslims and win recruits for their insurgency campaign against the Afghan government and U.S.-led NATO forces.

University student Farida, 20, is another Afghan woman who says the move smacks of a double standard.

“I have never worn a burqa and do not like it,” she said. “But why would the West, which calls itself a supporter of democracy take such a decision? I am perplexed and sad.”

Even one of Afghanistan’s most outspoken and controversial women, former lawmaker Malalai Joya, is a staunch opponent of efforts to ban burqas or tight headscarves called hijabs.

She dislikes burqas, but wears it anyways as a cloak of protection from warlords she has been critical of in the past.

“As much as I am against imposing the hijab on women, I am also against its total ban. It should be regarded a personal matter of every human being and it should be up to women if they prefer to wear it or not,” she told Reuters by email.

“It is against the very basic element of democracy to restrict a human being from wearing the clothes of his/her choice. These governments better punish those men who force women to wear hijab, but if any woman wears it out of her own wish, there should be no ban on it.”

source

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