Friday, September 29, 2006

On women of sand and Myrrh II

"There is a tradition in Islam of women’s equality, and the life of the Prophet Muhammad is often offered as proof of this; it is said that Muhammad washed his own clothes and darned his own socks, and often served meals to his youngest wife Ai’sha, who later led his army into battle and was regarded as an important and respected interpreter of Islamic laws. The Qur’an leveled the social balances for women: in Islam, women had the right to inherit property, own and operate businesses, and be educated. It banned several misogynist practices, such as the infanticide of newborn baby girls, who were often unwanted by parents who preferred male children.
"I understood—and not for the first time—the astounding disconnection between the lives of Arab women, and the lives of Arab women as represented by the American media and entertainment industries, thus as perceived by Americans themselves.

The statements made by my ponytailed student smacked of an underlying assumption that I have heard many times before: we American women have finally succeeded in moving the feminist movement to the top of our nation’s list of priorities; now it’s time to help our less fortunate sisters. Of course, over the years, American feminism has opened its gates (after much pounding) to other versions of feminism, such as black feminism and other non-white, non-upper-middle-class feminisms. Therefore, the focus on Arab women’s issues illustrates the good intentions of American feminism; however, my concern is with the “big sister” manner in which those intentions are manifested. Often, Arab women’s voices are excluded from discussions concerning their own lives, and they are to be “informed” about feminism, as if it is an ideology exclusive to American women alone."
"Not only do the struggles of Arab feminists have a long history, but over the 1980s and 1990s, as Val Moghadam observes in the same book, “women’s NGOs [in the Middle East and North Africa] have grown exponentially and are taking on increasingly important responsibilities in the context of state withdrawal from the provision of social services and in the context of a global trend in the expansion of civil society.” Organizations explicitly devoted to women are growing rapidly in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco, while more informal service-oriented organizations led by women play some of the same roles in many other Middle Eastern nations. Some of the leading organizations in Egypt include: the New Woman’s Group; Arab Women’s Publishing House; the Alliance of Arab Women; the Association for the Development and Enhancement of Women; Together; Progressive Women’s Union; the group of women who published The Legal Rights of the Egyptian Woman in Theory and Practice; and The Society for the Daughter of the Earth. (See the chapter by Nadje Sadig al-Ali in Organizing Women.) Taken as a whole, it is a movement that, if allied with U.S. and other feminisms, could improve the lives of women around the world."
"The media’s popular portrayal of Muslim women as universally helpless and dominated by the patriarchy that continues to exist in Arab culture (as if any society is free of it) has reinforced American perceptions that Arabs and Muslims are degenerate and twisted, thus worthy of domination and bombing.
And yet, if Americans, especially American women, understood the long and enduring history of Arab feminism, then perhaps my students would be able to formulate comments on Arab and Muslim women that were more informed and sensitive. Such commentaries would recognize the complexity of historical struggles, rather than making those waging these struggles invisible under a pervasive stereotype. It is not up to Western women to diagnose inequality in Arab society—it has been diagnosed. Rather, American women should recognize that Arab women themselves—and even some Arab men—have grappled with gender inequality for over a century. This is the message that American feminists have largely not heard, although it must be heard and Arab women’s voices included in the discussion of building bridges and confronting women’s issues on a global scale.”

Selections from an essay by Susan Muaddi Darraj (a student at Johns Hopkins University) on Arab feminism.


Haider Droubi said...

Nice article,

Since the middle east is the hottest file among all nowadays in the west, I think a more detailed view should be considered.

the image of the Arabic women in the west is not accurate, they tend to reflect the image of the weak women living in the çounrty side or in the undeveloped areas, women who had been imprisoned by the old cultural and social chains(and not purely religious ones)...which is so different than the women living in the city or more liberal communities ,this difference applies-in a way- in many other areas,(women in New York / some villages or small towns in Virginia, or in Rome/ villages in the south of Italy)

It should be known now that Taliban example is not in the Middle East and doesn’t speak for Islam, and women in the middle east are not the ones presented in the paintings of Orientals one century ago.

Women in the middle east should be more active and stand up for the weak ones in their area, meanwhile the women in the west should stand up against the blurring of the image of their sisters in the middle east, and against the high percentage of women and children being bombed and killed just months ago.
And yes, the eastern media should address this subject and host more feminists. but unfortunately they r busy with the war news

Anonymous said...

"There is a tradition in Islam of women’s equality, and the life of the Prophet Muhammad is often offered as proof of this; ..."
That is indeed tough to swallow Mirvat!
According to the Quran, men are superior to woman in that they "are a degree above them" (Sura 2:228). Aside from a woman being oblidged to wear a veil, or at least a head scarf, while a man has no such obligation, she may not marry more than one man at a time, though a man may (Sura 4:3) marry up to four woman. Even in present day Europe a woman can only divorce her husband with his permission, wherelse the husband can simply state:"I divorce you!"
In a mosque, men are in the front, then the boys ... and finally the woman. Thus, according to the Shariah (Reliance of the traveller, f12.32) a wife may not pray beside her husband in a mosque. Now this rule stemms from Muhammad himself.
I could go on and on - but I will not.
What I find positive and remarkable, is that you bring this topic up at all Mirvat. I suppose one should distinguish also between Arabic and Islamic traditions - they are not one and the same as far as I understand it.
Woman have come a long way from where it all started from. But it seems that there is still a long way ahead, in particular in countries like Saudi Arabia, Yemen and a whole bunch of others.
I think the passage towards liberation lies not in any kind of justification of past religious traditions, the road will only open once state and religion become to seperate and independent entities.Until that day, struggle will be unavoidable.

Anonymous said...

Religion and State, TWO independent entities!

Ha Ana Za said...

A nice post Mirvat. It is important to recognise that the Middle East still has some way to go on women's rights and not does that include changing laws but also attitudes. Where these attitudes spring from I'm not quite sure because as you quite rightly mention Islam did empower women considerabley- taken in context of the time.
However, I do feel that somehow the Middle East has taken a step backwards on this issue in the last 30 years - having enjoyed a time of relative freedom and suffrage which was intiated by Huda Al-Sh3rawi- whether this was ignited by the Islamic reawakening or the political/ economic climate of the moment is debatable but I do believe it is starting to get better especially in the cities and this difference is most discernable in the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia: where women previously had no rights to education or work and are now becoming important bussiness women in their own rights.
Things can only get better.

Anonymous said...

In case you are curious Mirvat, I base my pessimism not solely on the scriptures of the Qur'an. What is written in there is mostly my private struggle and headache.
My skepticism is founded on reports like this one:

psamtani said...

@ZEE: I think it's a question of interpretation. At that point in time, it would have been unacceptable to propose equality of the sexes. I think the right way to look at how Islam treats women is to look at the context in which the rules were put down - and to continue along the same trajectory, which was empowerment. For its time, the laws were remarkably progressive, the problem lies in a literal interpretation as opposed to a real understanding of the intention behind the law. The same goes for topics such as slavery, while it wasn't banned, emanicipation was looked at as a good deed, and conquered peoples were not allowed to be taken as slaves. These were huge steps toward equality, and it's important to recognize the contribution.

@mirvat: This whole topic reminds me of a conversation I had with a taxi driver while in Dubai. We're driving along, when the driver spots a couple of women in miniskirts - thinking it was his duty to educate me (I was 16), he turns around and says, "Kya isko libaas bulaate hain?" (Is this what you call freedom?). I thought he was an idiot then, but I'm beginning to understand the his point. To clarify, I'm not in defence of a dress code, but I've come to realize that my interpretation of feminism (and equality, and freedom) were derived from western values, which aren't necessarily universal. It's worth noting that societies where women are "repressed" (India and Pakistan) have had female heads of state, while America has not. In a lot of ways, our women (referring to Asia as a whole) are a lot more independent and progressive than Westerners, but that's something I only realized after living in LA. Its the fundamental belief in the universality of Western values that has caused America to behave in the way it has, and to represent the world as it does. For more on this topic, I'd recommend "THE CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS" by Samuel Huntington - great book.

Anonymous said...

PSAMTANI - I don't know if you checked out my link, which describes the status quo of equality between woman and man in about 17 Mediterranean countries. It's pretty dry cut, not much leeway for interpretation there.
In my mind the problem is that quite a bunch of countries still follow Islamic rule for their governance or else adopted major portions of it to rule their people. No good.

Anonymous said...

intersting post miravt

zee i see u u r doing the same mistake that most westners do ,the one mistake that this post is talking about,falling for the sterotype interpretations of islam towards women and adopting the views saying that they need to be liberated based on western values
u r talking about position of women in many islamic mediterranean countries (where most of the laws and goverments r secular by the way)it's a part of corruption in this whole region that's reflected on women just as the rest of the population
your attitude is the classic western reaction one gets once the words women and islam are
the facts about the many rights given to women after islam ,including the financial empowerment and the right of education ,the roles of women through out islamic history and the attitude of the prophet towards his daughters for example is always disregareded .such things have to be taken into consideration when you judge the issue and they always stick to the classical points of the veil and the 4 wives stuff
well nobody forces a woman to wear a veil she chooses it ,a different choice , but it's her choice the same way an american woman chooses to wear a bikini
and as for the four wives issue it's not that open if a man has the right to marry another woman his wife has the right to refuse and even to forbade her man from doing it in the marriage contract
i can talk and talk about the regulations and the exaplantions of the points you brought up, but i don't feel it's the place. all you have to do is dig harder
well i guess muslims have wasted too much time arguing with the west about their religion and trying to remove the prejuidces westeners have towards it rather than focusing on their real problems .it's always been a distraction from the hanging political issues that urgently need to be solved .
but still the talks between intellectuals and politicans goes about religious issues and changing specific cultural conditions in the arab world as the urgent topics which is no more than a manuver to aviod doing something about the real stuff( occupation and corruption for example)
well smart people like you know better than that and even me i couldn't resist the temptation of getting into the argeument with you rather than focusing on the point miravt is trying to show here, the role of arab feminsim movements in standing up for the problems outside
sorry miravt and no hard feelings zee :)

inmotion said...

What I keep asking myself is : what would equality for men and women in the middle east look like?

psamtani said...

@zee: I don't need proof that men and women are treated differently in the mideast - I've lived there and I ain't no fool. What I claim, and that claim is substantiated by your comments, is that empowerment for women under Islam is fundamentally different from Western concepts of empowerment.

You believe that men and women should be treated equally, but not everyone does.

What do you base this on? Science. I think not.

You believe in the concept of gender equality because it appeals to you. You cannot expect the world to adopt a view simply because you believe in it. Change can only come from within, your responsibility is to provide a convincing argument for equality. Whether Muslim countries adopt your view or not is their decision. If you can't live with the fact that women will continue to be held as inferior to men in a large part of the world, that's too bad. It's not your choice to make.

The same goes for other Western values, secularism, separation of church and state, equal opportunity. These are beautiful ideas, but they aren't universal - and some of them (e.g. that all people are born equal) are simply not true, they are ideals. The forced imposition of these ideas is unacceptable.

For example, look at secularism in America and India. The implementation of secularism is fundamentally different in the two countries. America protects religons by avoiding affiliation with a particular church. India on the other hand, recognizes multiple religions as fundamental to her identity. This is why America permits speech that criticizes religion on the basis that preventing criticism of a religion would be equivalent to endorsement of that religion. India's approach is to censor speech that criticizes any religion, on the basis that allowing criticism of a religon would be equivalent to denouncement of that religion. Now you can whine all you want about the importance of the freedom of speech, but you need to acknowledge that the American approach simply wouldn't work in a country where religion is a fundamental part of life. The cup of communal tension would runneth over, and heads would roll.

It's not all black and white - achieving female empowerment in the Western sense of gender equality, is both unlikely and undesirable in the Muslim world.

Mirvat said...

zee.. this is how this essay begins

"One evening, shortly after September 11, I was conducting a college English class when one of my students asked a question about the accumulating body of information on women and Islam. It was one of many questions about the Middle East asked of me in the days after the tragedies; this one was about the veil, and why women in the Middle East “had to wear it.” I explained that not all women in the Middle East were Muslim (I myself am a Palestinian Christian), but that even many Muslim women did not veil. However, many did, and for myriad reasons: mostly for personal and religious reasons and, for some, upon compulsion.

The student shook her head sadly, her long ponytail swinging in the air, and offered a comment that made it clear she hadn’t really digested what I’d said: “I feel so bad for them all. At least Christian women don’t have to walk three steps behind their husbands.” She added, “That’s so insulting.”

you're right that posting this now and the fact that i'm even ready to venture into topics that would allow even more criticism to islam or the arabic world might be a positive thing at this time but i think a problem should be solved in full. the world's opinion is shaping against islam mainly on a social level and that's why bush and blair need to go out of their ways to call it a clash of civilization in order to fix the idea in people's heads. people like us should be busy trying to cure some of the misrepresentation and social clash. i did my part by coming here and being able to see through your eyes and your media how you see us and i understand where you come from. i feel what you did in asking your questions is not much different from what that student did..
i know we talked about women and islam before and i have expressed my own reservations on some practices towards women as well. i always start with the veil but i know it goes beyond that today. i will address your immediate points when the time is right for me to be openly critical of our heritage. that will take trying to restore trust in a culture that criticizes and misunderstands mine based on a superiority position. meanwhile please try to understand the same point that the post makes.
as anon and psamtani explained, conformity is not the answer. one has to be critical keeping in mind traditions that people value and willingly would like to keep.

babykaos, i think lebanon is a good start except for some residuals attitudes of course but we're getting there..

psamtani said...

i will address your immediate points when the time is right for me to be openly critical of our heritage. that will take trying to restore trust in a culture that criticizes and misunderstands mine based on a superiority position

Exactly, which is why I can accept criticism from people who take ownership of a culture, but not from those who are clearly outsiders.

And FYI, I think your blog is pretty amazing...

Andrey said...

Hi Mirvat, I think you would like to watch this.

Anonymous said...

" What I claim, and that claim is substantiated by your comments, is that empowerment for women under Islam is fundamentally different from Western concepts of empowerment.
You believe that men and women should be treated equally, but not everyone does...."

Thanks, you just confirmed my "prodigious western view". But I am by no means "western" as you would like it to be, not at all actually. I am strictly against imposing values onto people, may it be from the east or west.
That's my view. And my point is not open to interpretation either, it's just my point. The cultural difference between the East and the West are obvious to me, I'm maybe stubborn but not stupid. I also condemn the notion that the West "knows better" - it is not so.
But I find it startling and frustrating that the "East" condemns the "West" flat out while adopting multiple values that make life more convenient while at the same token denies equal rights to woman.
Beats me, so I'll give in ... or up!
There is no ground of conversation between us if I spell out critical issues from the Qur'an and there is never an argument or objection besides the one "you don't know because you are not from there!"
Well fellows, such an argumentation doesn't cut it for me anymore. Either you have something critical or substantial to reply which is a bit more specific, or else let me just live on ... in my fog of my own reality.
Mirvat started this post "on the wrong foot" though her intentions were brilliant. That's why I got so hissy.
So, I appreciate your comments Psamtani, but they surely don't put me at ease.

Anonymous said...

You don't know me Mirvat - I am neither "western" or "eastern" - I am god damn independent (excuse my outburst and foul language)!
I don't give a shit if girls or woman chose to wear veils or miniskirts; both can be sexy - I really don't care: as long as it is the woman's choice!!!
Look Mirvat, the Muslim faith has a lot of explaining to do, and I don't mean towards me, a so called "westerner" (which I am not), but towards their own hierarchy of belief system. Certain things are so antiquated that it makes me feel nauseated and I can't believe that pivotal principles of the traditional Qur'an are still upheld in the rulings of the majority of Arab countries and their statehood. And this observation is not simply a 'westerners" view, it's just a fact.
You know my aggravation I have with Israel, it's a demon of a similar kind. Unless religion and statehood can be separated, there will be no "salvation" - and I mean it, civilization will go to "hell", wherever that is.
What I find amusing but also deeply disturbing by the Muslim brethren on this blog, is that they have no foresight whatsoever. Mohammedanism as a social and political structure, has outlived it's mission. Face that fact once and for all! (Christianity as an example bares the same fate).
And again, this is not a point of view of a "westerner" or an other "non middle eastern" or "non Arab" --- it is just bloody self me!

Anonymous said...

Andrey, I watched your "tube link" even though my internet-connection is slow. Thanks for the depressing truth! -:)

FZ said...

mirvat-- so great to finally meet you! surreal but very cool. did you make it to the film/photos yesterday? when we arrived at the place (late, of course, unfortunately) we were told nothing was happening and the bldg was about to close... & others had also asked... it felt like being on a parralel track in a strange sci-fi world... :)

Mirvat said...

hey fz,
it was great to meet you too.. we should definitely get together again. i didn't go yeaterday, we were about to leave for the movie when mazen called me to tell me he looked for the link and thought the movie was sept 20! i wasn't sure but i just stayed in.. i couldn't take it 2 days in a row :)
i was supposed to go see the veiled monologues today at the bleecker theater but i also missed it. i'll see if there's another show soon.. tell me if you would be interested to see it.. i get cheap tickets through play by play
i also marked october 17.. i'll definitely make it to that..

Mirvat said...

zee check your own post here..

Anonymous said...

Oh Mirvat, isn't she and her kid astonishingly beautiful (in her rage...)? ((the link))
In all my efforts to make a distinguished separation between religion and state and my endless attempt to promote such, I should get even more specific and also start to distinguish between culture, country and their traditions.
The Arab world is not only about Islam, that is probably a "western" misconception. The ways of life, the culture, the traditions there ... all of them have a value by their own, something the "westerner" finds hard to conceive.

Mirvat said...

zee i think i passively got through this time :)
i'm trying to be relaxed about this topic for now.. i see your frustration and i completely understand where you're coming from. we'll talk some more but calm down.. things don't change overnight and we have to be patient and wise.. half of our struggle is in knowing which battles to fight..

Anonymous said...

OK Mirvat, I'll calm down - promise!

_z. said...

good post mirvat...
I have my own views on feminism... and all "extreme" movements for that matter. however I commend the discussion it generated.

zee allow me to say that I am impressed and fascinated with your knowledge (please accept the compliment and don't go modest on me now)... I totally agree with what you had to say with regards to the subject.
and I know that deep down, mirvat agrees also :p
n'est ce pas sitt mirvat?

Mirvat said...

i don't understand what you ask me _z. zee raised several points. throughout our discussions we had agreed on many points and disagreed on others.
what i express as an opinion tends to be what i believe in deep down..

i am opposed to generalizations and to culture globalization and that's the point of this post.. i didn't really go into the validity of feminism as a movemment or into islam on women as opposed to other religions.

again i would love to answer you but i'm not sure what you mean..

_z. said...

oh you don't have to!
I didn't have the right to speak for you... nor to claim that I knew what you thought for that matter. so there... I take it back! :)

psamtani said...

@zee: Maybe the problem is that you DO attempt to treat religion and state as separate entities, which is presumptuous, especially in the Arab world. The separation of religion and state (secularism) is a Western concept.

And how do you justify your claim that you are not a Westerner? What country did you grow up in? What schooling system did you attend? Who influenced your thoughts?

Mirvat said...

_z i know what you mean of course :) it was such a lebanese thing of you to say mish heik? ..

_z. said...

akeed... i am 100% lebanese.

Mirvat said...


Anonymous said...

I am a citizen of this globe Psamtani - that is how far I commit.
And ... I do not have any problems. The separation of state and religion is a must. That is truly NOT a western concept, it is a concept of necessity within human evolution of consciousness, and therefore also in the year 2006 ... everything else is backward.
Salamaat, Lukas.

psamtani said...

I don't give a fuck about what you commit to - you can't change who you are. Assuming the universality of your ideas is the only prerequisite to misunderstanding other cultures. I believe in the separation of church and state, but I don't expect everyone else to agree with me. I understand that for some people, religion is a fundamental part of life. Khalas.

And I've got no problem with you personally, but I've got beef with the idea that any one set of values is universal. How is your thinking so different from religious fanatics if you believe your way is the only way?

Ingrid said...

I was reminded of Fatima Mernissi who, depending on who you talk I guess, is either admired or reviled. My ME poli sci professor was pretty 'advanced' in that, aside from different political science books, he made us read one of Fatima Mernissi's (title escapes me right now). She is/was (?) pretty courageous and I liked her book, it was very fascinating and smart. Just talking about the history before Islam and the change of the position of women pre and post Islam , it was an eye opener.

Anonymous said...

I also don't give a fuck about your western sportswear Psamtani, your western sports car, your western education in CA, your western pose or your adoption of "western" values. That's not my business - but I do take note!
What I do give a fuck about, is that you might start to use your brain in your path of argumentation and that you accept the principle that people actually can change, change from the path of their imbedded inheritance.
And I never argued that peoples life can't, shouldn't or shall not be religious.
I argued that the present interpretation of Islam, as derived from the Qur'an, leaves the majority of woman underprivileged in countries who adopted Islam as their "state-religion". It's firstly just a cold cut observation, and only secondarily a condemnation.
Yes, and I am a fanatic - you are right about that. I am a fanatic of people being free, may it be man ... or woman!

Anonymous said...

Pandoras box Mirvat ... can't help it - sorry!!!!!!!!!!

Mirvat said...

zee, i didn't disagree with you..
feel free ;)

psamtani said...

I also don't give a fuck about your western sportswear Psamtani, your western sports car, your western education in CA, your western pose or your adoption of "western" values. That's not my business - but I do take note!
Never denied it, and I never used 'Western' as an insult... what I'm attacking is that your denial of the fact that you are a product of Western civilization and thought.

I argued that the present interpretation of Islam, as derived from the Qur'an, leaves the majority of woman underprivileged in countries who adopted Islam as their "state-religion"
I don't disagree. All I said was that at the time of release the Quran was an advancement for women and the underprivileged, and if people understood the philosophy instead of following the rulebook, Islam would not be incompatible with progress.

I am a fanatic of people being free, may it be man ... or woman!
The definition of freedom itself is culture-dependent. Even in a free society, there are actions that are prohibited. Generally, they are actions that hurt others, but in many cases they are actions that hurt the offender (suicide, drug use, euthanasia?). Now, if a society believes certain behaviors are contrary to the word of God, and in effect hurt the society as a whole, wouldn't they attempt to prevent individuals from committing those acts? Thereby limiting their freedom for what they believe is a perfectly good reason, even if you and I don't agree.

I'm not claiming that I have the answers - and I'm not claiming lack of bias. I've still got a little bit of resentment toward whitey because of certain personal experiences and awareness of my people's past, but its something I'm trying to get rid of. All I'm asking for is that you accept that you have a bias as well, formed by your own experience.

BTW, the car's Japanese ;)

Mirvat said...

psamtani saying:
"Now, if a society believes certain behaviors are contrary to the word of God, and in effect hurt the society as a whole, wouldn't they attempt to prevent individuals from committing those acts? Thereby limiting their freedom for what they believe is a perfectly good reason, even if you and I don't agree" is the same reason why zee and myself are advocate the seperation of religion and state. you seem to use a country (ruled by a government) and a society (that has a specific culture) interchangebly..i think society should follow secular rules. traditions should be respected of course and this is why i say that we should achieve our development as women irrespective of western values and within our traditions which is a point you made before. this doesn't mean that we blindly follow what the religion, as interpreted by the men in turbans and the men in suits, tells us to do.

zee was still fair enough to say that when it comes to islam, it is the wrong or misleading interpretation that leads to the inequality and to the abuse of religion to serve political needs..
i do admit that some aspects of teachings in islam do not speak to my ego as a woman but i do not like to blow it out of proportion like the western representation of islam does especially when this could be similarly found in all religions which is why i brought this up.

nevertheless the misleading and politically oriented application of islam in our societies has taken advantage of some weak points in order to marginalize women in ME societies, some more than others, which is something that could only be undone through secularism and the seperation between religion and state. i always say lebanon is a good place to start when it comes to that. feminism is an old concept for me. sadly it still applies in our countries.

Mirvat said...

also freedom should be absolute. the limits we put on our freedom really should be individually determined.

psamtani said...

I advocate the separation of religion and state, but I don't believe that the concept of a religious state is completely horrendous, especially in relatively homogenous countries where religion is at the centre of life. Also, as far as separating countries and societies, I don't believe that it is that easy to tease apart the two. The laws of a country generally reflect the values of the society that holds the majority (especially in a democracy).

zee was still fair enough to say that when it comes to islam, it is the wrong or misleading interpretation that leads to the inequality and to the abuse of religion to serve political needs..
My perception was different. I saw him as making the statement that an Islamic government has a bias against women which comes out of the correct interpretation of the Qur'an. Maybe zee can clarify what he really meant.

also freedom should be absolute. the limits we put on our freedom really should be individually determined.
This one's real nice, but can you define social responsibility without social contract? I don't know, maybe you can elaborate on what you mean.

Mirvat said...

it's at the definition of society. the human relationships and interactions and benefits are the fiber of this society. the purpose of an organized society should be to organize human limits only concerning the rights of others. this is where laws come in the picture. as long as i am not hurting others as the laws of this society entail, i am being socially responsible. this is as far as a government should interfere in a person's life and impose on a person's freedom. we're free only with ourselves and our lives. we're not when this freedom surpasses our bodies but within ourselves this freedom should not be dictated by our society. traditions might add another level of social responsibilities that would not necessarily constitute laws. in that sense, we should be absolutely free in determining the extent of our following these traditions and this is individually determined.

back to your statement

"if a society believes certain behaviors are contrary to the word of God, and in effect hurt the society as a whole, wouldn't they attempt to prevent individuals from committing those acts?"

no. an individual is to be subject to laws. these laws should be secular. if you believe in the separation of state and religion you wouldn't say this. an individual should only be prevented from acts that would harm a society as a whole or even one person in particular based on secular laws. these, other than the obvious laws condemning aggression and the invasion of the physical rights of others, also include a set of laws that are based on common decency and morality that are universal, obvious and agreed on.

your statement again would allow a society to limit the freedom of expression and speech in the name of protecting the society against insults committing against god or religion.. it is also a statement that give religious clerics, all men, the power of determining social restrictions, take the court of shari3a for once, the same restrictions that had women exactly where wanted them to be in islamic countries.

since we believe in freedom, we have to respect the freedom of choice. for that i condemn a superior western attitude that disregards the choice of women in islam concerning some practices. i do aknoweledge though the absence of the freedom of choice of these women when it comes to a lot of other practices at the same time. as far as that is concerned, these women should be absolutely free within their societies and traditions in decisions about their bodies and their lives but socially responsible as far as laws go.

a women, based on the prophet's teachings, should be able to get an automatic divorce just by saying she doesn't like her man anymore. this is a perfect example where religious laws that are man made and that are based on misinterpretations of religion are unfair to women and it's done in the name of traditions and it's wrong.

Anonymous said...

Liberté, égalité, fraternité, ... (ou la mort).
The three coins of the French revolution - a valid concept to aspire (perhaps leave the "death part" alone).
The problem only is how to toss these coins, it seems that they often land in the wrong corner or most often on top of each other.
My ideal would be:
Freedom - speech, religions, arts, cultural life
Equality - rights, civil societal structures, government, (equality of woman vs. men)
Liberty - economics (grow your own corn and sell it without interference of government)
It's a triad working together without searching dominance or control of the other.
Impossible? I don't know - but for me worth striving for!