Yvonne Ridley, the woman who was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan and ultimately converted to Islam (one’s mind does immediately jump to “Stockholm Syndrome,”) waxes poetic—and untruthfully—about the equality of women under Islam. Here’s my favorite part:
A careful reading of the Koran shows that just about everything that Western feminists fought for in the 1970s was available to Muslim women 1,400 years ago. Women in Islam are considered equal to men in spirituality, education and worth, and a woman’s gift for childbirth and child-rearing is regarded as a positive attribute.
So, let’s see. In the 1970s, women fought for equal employment opportunities, equal pay for equal work, changes in the rape and sexual harassment laws, Title IX laws that enabled girls to play high school sports without having to put out a begging bowl, the ability for a girl to take Auto Shop (as well as a boy to take Home Economics, neither of which were permitted while I was in high school), equal opportunity in banking, credit, marriage, and divorce laws (married women were unable to get their own credit cards).
Now comes the disingenuous part. Ridley is clever enough to use the phrase “in the Koran” over and over again in this article, thus enabling her to argue that the Koran treats women with great respect, but that some Muslims screw it up. Let’s take a look at the above in context:
Having been on both sides of the veil, I can tell you that most Western male politicians and journalists who lament the oppression of women in the Islamic world have no idea what they are talking about. They go on about veils, child brides, female circumcision, honor killings and forced marriages, and they wrongly blame Islam for all this — their arrogance surpassed only by their ignorance.
These cultural issues and customs have nothing to do with Islam. A careful reading of the Koran shows that just about everything that Western feminists fought for in the 1970s was available to Muslim women 1,400 years ago. Women in Islam are considered equal to men in spirituality, education and worth, and a woman’s gift for childbirth and child-rearing is regarded as a positive attribute.
Again, I’ll let others argue the Koranic interpretations, though I keep on reading that a woman’s testimony in court is worth only half that of a man’s. I’m not getting how that makes women equal to men in Islam, but I’m sure Yvonne Ridley could straighten that out for me as a cultural issue. However, you have to look at the effect of the Koran on Islamic law in various Islamic nations, like, say, Saudi Arabia.
Who May Testify in Criminal Proceedings
The witness must be deemed sane, the age of an adult, and a Muslim. Non-Muslims may not testify in criminal court. Women may not testify unless it is a personal matter that did not occur in the sight of men. Actually, the testimony of a woman is not regarded as fact but rather as presumption. The court may decide whether the testimony is valid according to the circumstances.
And you simply have to love the reasons behind these Islamic scholars’ interpretations:
Why Women Are Forbidden to Testify in Criminal Proceedings
There are four reasons given why women’s testimony is not valid in a Saudi court:
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.
Ridley can go on for pages about how the Saudis are not following the Koran, but they are far from the only nation to have such restrictive laws on women. As Ridley knows first-hand, the Taliban did it in Afghanistan, and Muslim nations throughout the world are using the Koran to oppress and subjugate women. In fact, Somalia has just forbidden women to swim in public, even fully clothed in those nineteenth-century swimsuits they’re forced to wear:
MOGADISHU, Somalia — An Islamic court has banned women from swimming at the main beach in Somalia’s capital, the latest step to impose strict religious rule that has sparked fears of an emerging, Taliban-style regime.
Sheikh Farah Ali Hussein, chair of a northern Mogadishu Islamic court, said Friday that the ban applies only to the northern Mogadishu Leedo beach, where families usually go on weekends to play and relax.
“We stopped women from swimming because it is against the teaching of Islam for women to mingle with men, especially while they are swimming,” Hussein said.
Ridley also uses the old saw of how “oppressed” Western women are because they have to wear short skirts and skimpy bathings suits. What she neglects to note, as do all who use that argument, is that I am not bound by law to wear a bikini on the beach. I am not bound by law to wear my skirts a certain length or suffer beatings by the religious police. I can pretty much wear anything I like, at any length I like, as long as I’m not breaking any indecency laws. Custom isn’t law. Tradition isn’t law. And peer pressure isn’t law. However, I wouldn’t want to be a Saudi woman who walks out of her house without her veil.
Now watch Ridley use some sleight-of-hand:
Some young Muslim feminists consider the hijab and the nikab political symbols, too, a way of rejecting Western excesses such as binge drinking, casual sex and drug use. What is more liberating: being judged on the length of your skirt and the size of your surgically enhanced breasts, or being judged on your character and intelligence? In Islam, superiority is achieved through piety — not beauty, wealth, power, position or sex.
None of the arguments she raises here have anything to do with feminism. In fact, she is making good use of a few logical fallacies here in her inept attempt to conflate Western feminism with wearing the veil. Ridley has built a straw man argument and uses it to bash Western society and feminism. I don’t believe we’ve ever heard any of the major feminist spokeswomen urging Western women to get breast enhancements as a mark of liberation. Ridley is using false arguments to distract from the point. The point, of course, is that the Koran most assuredly does not give women the same rights that modern feminists fought for in the 1970s. The point is almost exactly the opposite of that: The Koran today is being used by millions of Muslims to take away women’s rights—the right to education, to work outside the home, to wear what she chooses to wear when she chooses to wear it, to be around men who are not members of her family, to choose her own husband (or none at all!), to divorce her husband if she so desires, to seek redress in a court of law—all of these rights have been or are being taken away from millions of Muslim women.
The new Muslim government of Somalia is showing exactly how liberated Muslim women can be. They’ve instituted a whole bunch of liberating practices since taking power.
Since sweeping to power over much of southern Somalia in June, the Islamists have banned movie viewing, publicly lashed drug users and broke up a wedding celebration because a band was playing and women and men were socializing together. They also have introduced public executions.
Can the stoning of adulterers be far behind?.
But hey, Yvonne Ridley feels totally liberated and unoppressed, and that’s what’s imporant. How she feels—not how her fellow Muslims act. Because words speak louder than actions, right?