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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I don't really think they hate us!



I felt deeply offended and insulted by Mona Eltahawy's latest article in Foreign Policy, titled Why Do They Hate Us?   I follow Eltahawy's columns quite regularly and I accept many of her arguments, even if I do not agree with her views on Islam and veiling. But for her to claim that "they" hate Arab women is in my view complete nonsense. 


And before I go any further, I realize of course that I will be accused by some (which already happened on the FP comments sections) that I am in denial and that I refuse to air my dirty linen in public. Well, I'm NOT in denial; I am well aware that Arab women have their fair share of problems. But I refuse to be lumped into this monolithic group of oppressed, abused and hated victims. Arab women's problems are not the same across the board. Even within one country like Egypt, what I see as a problem, might not be the most pressing issue for the woman next door. So, I refuse to have Eltahawy talk on my behalf as if she is the expert who can accurately identify my plight.

In her column, Eltahawy cleverly weaves a web of torture and oppression against Arab women, with pictures of black-painted covered-up women planted throughout the article, to accentuate this image of oppression. Everything, from virginity tests, to sexual deprivation, female genital mutilation, sexual harassment and child marriage, is included in this article to produce a column that will surely be welcomed by many Western feminists and anti-Islamists, who for years have been telling us that Muslim women are weak, oppressed victims of misogyny and rigid Islamic rules that force them to hide behind their veils.

But for many Arab women (I say many based on the negative reaction Eltahawy's column has already stirred), this column is offensive and is nothing but a combination of old cultural practices and undemocratic government actions that are described in a way to represent women as the Oriental Other, weak, helpless and submissive, oppressed by Islam and the Muslim male, this ugly, barbaric monster. Yes, women everywhere face diverse challenges. Arab women have their own fair share of issues, but to claim that these are problems of hate is deceiving.  

 As a Muslim Arab woman, I therefore by no means see myself being represented fairly in Eltahawy's column, and here's why:


  • From the very start of the article, Eltahawy introduces a disturbing account by author Alifa Rifaat in her fiction book Distant View of a Minaret to tell us what goes on in a bedroom between man and wife. Yet how can Eltahawy jump to this conclusion about misogyny in the Middle East merely by reciting quotes from Rifaat's fiction book?  How would you know or how can you claim to know that many Arab women are sexually deprived? Have you interviewed Arab wives who confirm this? Are you relying on a credible study? For someone like Eltahawy, whom I truly considered to be a veteran reporter, to make such generalized sensationalist claims is very disappointing!


  • Additionally, some of the evidence Eltahawy relies on, such as virginity tests, criminal codes, etc are problems of undemocratic governing and have nothing to do with hate of women. These are problems that also impact men. There are numerous accounts of police brutality in Egypt, where men have been beaten, sexually abused or beaten to death. Have we forgotten about Khaled Said, the young Alexandrian, whose brutal death sparked the Jan25 Revolution? Or how about Essam Atta, the young man who was tortured to death in prison? Why do we always have to focus on violence against women?  And if you are going to mention unfair criminal codes, then out of fairness, let's examine Egypt's child custody laws, laws that empower mothers but are ridiculously unfair towards fathers. 

  • I find Eltahawy's discussion of sexual harassment also problematic. Eltahawy, very candidly and on more than one occasion, has described in detail her ordeal with Egyptian riot police back in November 2011. She explained how she was groped everywhere by a number of police officers while in Cairo. Yet in this Foreign Policy column, she adds a new detail; she informs her audience that she was groped earlier that day by a fellow protester in Tahrir Square! But while Eltahawy details her groping ordeal, she fails to mention the heroic Egyptian women and men who are fighting this epidemic. There is no denial that sexual harassment is a disgusting and sick problem in Egypt that needs to be eradicated. Yet, there's also no denial that there are gutsy women who are already engaged in a battle against this epidemic. Tthese include the women who created HarassMap, and women who are blogging about harassment and others who are standing up to this problem and fighting for its eradication. Eltahawy also fails to give credit to men, who have on multiple occasions created a protective circle around protesting females to protect then and NOT to harass them. Is this the hate that Eltahawy refers to? 

  • Then there is the female genital mutilation issue, which Eltahawy presents in such vagueness, mixing culture with quotes from distinguished Muslim cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, thus, confirming ignorant claims that FGM is an Islamic practice. FGM is a cultural practice that predates Islam and if it is still commonly practiced in Egypt today, this is mainly in rural areas and traditional parts of the country, where it is in fact practiced by both Muslims and Christians alike. It is a problem of ignorance and reflects the prevalence of old cultural habits and beliefs that are hard to eliminate. While the Egyptian government banned FGM, it has done little to raise public awareness and educate people via health awareness campaigns. What is also problematic here is how Eltahawy quotes from Qaradawi's book to prove that he was all for FGM. Yet in that same paragraph, she mentions that he has since issued a fatwa to ban FGM! So why mention it in the first place? Wouldn't you at least give Al-Qaradawi credit for revising his opinion? Doesn't this action by a prominent Sheikh disprove your "hate" claim?

  • As for Eltahawy's argument on child marriage in Yemen, and how Muslim clerics support the practice, I ask you to kindly refer to the Pulitzer article Too Young to Wed: The Secret World of Child Brides. It did not take the reporter too long to accurately clarify to her readers that child marriage is a cultural practice that relates to no religion. A practice that is widespread in India, Yemen, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Nepal and is deeply rooted in cultural traditions and not Islam! I have to ask then, why does Eltahawy fail to offer this simple fact to her audience, rather than leading them to believe that child marriage is welcomed by Muslim clerics?

   It's pretty annoying for some of us Arab women when we read Western feminist declarations about our so-called plight. But it's worse when we read the same claims from a woman of Muslim and/or Arab descent. Eltahawy's column, similar to the works of Ayan Hirsi Ali and Irshad Manji, does more harm than good to Arab women. It does not, in my opinion, support these women, but it helps confirm the long held stereotypes of their oppression and victimization. 

Not surprisingly, these columns are embraced by many Western readers and feminists, because this is in line with their beliefs about Islam and Muslim women. In fact, it is taken as a credible confirmation of Arab women's plight, given that the author herself is a Muslim Egyptian American. Take one look at the comments below Eltahawy's Foreign Policy article, and you'll see what I mean.

It's really sad that Eltahawy's column hardly mentions the empowered Arab women of the Arab Spring. These are women who have forced the world to take them seriously and not look down upon them as the oppressed Other. These heroines include Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karman, Syria's Razan Ghazzawi, and Egypt's female protesters, from Asmaa Mahfouz, Gigi Ibrahim, Nawara Negm, Samira Ibrahim, to Set el Banat, or Blue Bra girl (although I hate this term) and many others, who have once and for all proved to the world that Arab woman are not weak and cannot be silenced.

When I look at these Arab heroines, who have made their people proud, I don't see hate. I see love, compassion and understanding between young men and women who are wiling to work together to create better lives, more freedoms and more just governments for everyone.             

So, to Eltahawy, I say that your column does not represent me as I don't feel hated. I do have concerns, which might be similar or different to my sisters in Egypt. But I'm confident that whatever social, cultural, political and economic problems I personally face, these are challenges that can be fought instead of simply blaming them on misogyny. 

And so, I ask you to kindly stop talking on the behalf of all Arab women, because I’m not sure we all share your views on being hated.

107 comments:

  1. blocked the woman on twitter in feb 2011 ... not worth paying attention to

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    1. Me too .. followed her for 2 days then realised the mistake .. Unfollowed her straight away... My verdict : attention seeking wannabe..

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  2. Nahed this is a legitimate response to the article. There's just a point though, you might want to look up a bit more about child custody law in Egypt. In most cases the law greatly favors men. Just because ten guys protest, as in the link you pointed to, that doesn't mean the law is actually in favor of women. In regards to custody depending on the age of the child, such rulings relate to the responsibilities of the mother and father in Islam, in which the mother is responsible for the early years of children.
    You will find that many men do not want to care for the children in a divorce, leaving women to be single mothers. This is hardly "empowerment."

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    1. Thanks Andrew for your response & clarification on this. Actually I am not basing my claim just on this one article. There have been talk shows on this issue and I have family friends, who are single fathers who go through this. Yes, the law seems to favor men as the child gets older but it deprives many fathers from regular visitation rights when children are young. By the time the child reaches the age where custody can be transferred to the father, in many cases the children feel alien or even dislike the father. And yes, some men fail to care for children after a divorce but it would be unfair to assume that all men are like that. Again, I watched two talk shows over the past two years where men, women & children were interviewed and it's shocking, how in extreme cases, some mothers poison their child's mind with negative comments about the father
      So what I'm trying to say is, while custody laws might not 'empower' women, they do give them the power, if they chose to retaliate against an ex-husband, to control visitation.

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  3. WOW, I guess Mona touched a nerve! But I am struggling to find something solid in your reaction. You ask, "Why do we always have to focus on violence against women?" Who says we always have to? And at the same time, what's wrong with focusing on it for a change? IN my opinion, it's never given enough focus! And how can that possibly diminish violence in general or violence against men? That's a very flawed argument! It's like saying that gay marriage diminishes heterosexual marriage.
    Similarly, I wonder why you feel Mona is somehow obliged to mention the people working against the very problems she herself is also working against - as if failing to mention them renders her critiques invalid? That's just silly. It's great that there are "heroic" men protecting women from being groped. I'm sure Mona would gladly praise those people. But the threat of these attacks remains. There is only so much space in an article, after all, and it's unfair to interpret omission as evidence of uncaring or failing to acknowledge people working against the problems. Would you make the same accusation of articles about world poverty or war? I kind of doubt it.
    As for the practices you mention, many religious practices pre-date the religion itself. So what? That doesn't absolve the religion from using the practice currently. That includes child marriage, FGM, and others.
    Finally, I strongly doubt Mona believes herself to be speaking on behalf of ALL Arab women. That's your reading, and again, an unfair accusation.
    So I am hard pressed to find a criticism of substance here. What is it that really irks you? Maybe it was the title of her article that got you going?? I can understand that; nobody likes to think somebody hates them. But don't take it out on Mona if that's the way she sees it,

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    1. Well said. Exactly my thoughts.

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  4. Also - Mona E is the last person on earth who would characterize Arab women as weak. Women are not oppressed because they are weak. That would be tantamount to blaming the victim.

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    1. Mona E would not characterize Arab women as weak, I agree, but she has said many times that a veil makes women weak. If she cannot respect women for the choices they make then who is she to blame "them" for not respecting women".

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  5. FR thanks for taking the time to read my post & leave a comment. I disagree with you completely on your take that this is a "flawed" argument. Having worked as a journalist and given the fact that I currently teach journalism, no single journalist can deny that there are basics he/she should do to guarantee fair and objective coverage of your chosen topic. While we all know there's no such thing as absolute objectivity, we still strive as journalists to do our best. This means you should make sure to include proper context, background information and cite credible sources to back your arguments. I did not see all that in Mona's article and that was disappointing, given how many of us, including myself, consider her to be a veteran reporter.
    So to answer your question on omission in an article about poverty or war, I would have to say, if this article is about a country, region or topic I am quite familiar with, then yes, of course I will react the same way. But if I am not familiar with this topic/region and I tend to value Eltahawy's opinion as credible, then I will take what she says for granted. And that is my problem here! It is so dangerous when we omit facts/context that can clarify truths for audiences, because that is how we create or recycle stereotypes. In Mona's case, her absence of specific context has in fact confirmed stereotypes of Arab women as weak victims!
    Finally, you say you "strongly doubt" that Mona is talking on behalf of all Arab women. Well, good for you then! I'm glad you took no offense and you embraced the article. But for me, the article clearly states in the headline and after the first paragraph, they hate "us" and goes on to list various problems of women in Egypt, Yemen, Saudi, etc. So it doesn't take a genius to conclude that it is about Arab women in general, even if Mona didn't spell it out. If she wasn't talking about all Arab women, then someone with Mona's experience would know to include even one word, like "many" or "some" Arab women are hated. But she didn't did she?
    So does this explain what is it that really "irks" me about the article? And by the way, what "irks" me apparently irks many other Arab women who've read and reacted to the article, in case you haven't noticed. And again, good for you if you liked it. But I did not and I made that clear in my post, which you seem to have missed the point of, since you claim it has no substance.
    Thanks again for your comment and hope this clarifies my side.

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    1. Good response. Regardless of which side of the issue one is on (and as far as I am concerned, there is only one: Women have it rough, there is no question about that), I am surprised that someone would view Mona's article as good journalism. It reads like, as one friend put it, "a staccato of hysterical, slightly-high-pitched, barely coherent stream of consciousness". This post, in my opinion, offers better articulation without the sensationalist presentation. I find it funny that Mona starts her piece by dismissing the post-Sep 11 "they hate us" attitude as cliche and then basically proceed through the same over-simplified line of reasoning to conclude that they, ummm, hate us.

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  6. Great arguments you make. I would add one more thing: why didn't Mona talk about Palestinian women suffering in Israeli prisons? Palestinian women at check points? Palestinian mothers who live under poverty line!

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  7. Good points Samar. Thank you for your comment :)

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  8. Andrew, the entire array of personal status laws in Egypt is a joke. While demeaning of mothers, it is equally harsh on fathers, and more importantly, catastrophic for children. (Fathers, for example, are guardian number 14 aproximately, with all females in both families having precedence over him when it comes to his children!) The law is joke

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  9. Well, just because there is other injustice in the society doesn't mean the injustice in the article is any less true. You may not think they hate you, but they sure don't seem to love you, not if they deprive you of your freedom and treat you that way.

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  10. Dear Nahed, I think comparing Mona elTahawy with self serving writers like Irshad is very unfair and really wish you'd take that back. Mona has been speaking out and taking unpopular stance in USA and middle east and expressing her views well. She has also been major source of encouragement and inspiration for many women, my own daughter included.

    We always hate to have our dirty laundry aired in public, ultimately this public airing helps all of us but respect your view that it may contribute to validate racist or similar views, Ayman

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    1. AA I have deep respect for Eltahawy and I started out saying I used to be a big fan of hers and I truly viewed her as an inspiration. But this column really got to me. And to clarify, I said and please take a second look, I said that this specific column of Eltahawy is similar to Hirsi and Manji and I did not say that Mona herself is. But this article is just too extreme and generalized and the US vs. Them, combined with the hate, victimization, etc. it just all looks too familiar to Manji and Hirsi's work.
      Thanks AA.

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  11. Dear Nahed, I enjoyed every piece of your article. As well as Mona's essay too! I think your argument is a typical Islam apologists rhetoric. However, I wish if you could elaborate more about this point "Eltahawy's column, similar to the works of Ayan Hirsi Ali and Irshad Manji, does more harm than good to Arab women". I'm more concern about Ayan Hirsi Ali and Irshad Manji though. Why exactly do you think they harm more than they do good?!

    Thanks
    Bin

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    1. Bin if you know anything at all about Islam and compare the teachings of Islam to articles, videos, books, lectures of Hirsi and Manji, then you will get the point! They clearly attack Islam in a violent and unfair way. This is something you can only verify if you wish to educate yourself about Islam and compare your findings to Hirsi and Manji's work; I can't do that for you!

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    2. I don't need to learn more about Islam as I'm a former muslim. Apparently you're religiously biased. I don't think that Hirsi and Manji are unfairly attacking Islam, therefore I think they're exposing a lot of truth about islam.

      Thanks for your response.

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    3. I disagree completely. Hirsi and Manji are clearly making a lot of money and gaining a lot of support demonizing the religion of Islam for the behavior of certain Muslims. Their books are very poorly supported and academically weak. Basically they portray a vision of Islam that Islamophobes salivate over.

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  12. Interesting response! And thank you for not criticizing the author but the points/ideas made in the article.

    My response to your response to Mona's! LOL

    For the record I am from Middle East, and have spent 24 years in Iran under a theocracy.Not recommended to anyone! :-)

    1) U are unfortunately limiting Mona's essay to Egypt. Egypt is one of the greatest countries in Middle East and Africa, but it is not all of the Middle East. That's why the narrative of Mona in describing the tragedies of being female in Middle East is vital. She did not mention anything about Iran but her essay could be as well about Iran as much as it is about Egypt or Saudi. Women are not respected in Iran as well as any other place in the Middle East.

    Don't take me wrong! Iran has Shirin Ebadi,a noble peace prize winner, and many courageous female political prisoners in Tehran, but women are not respected in Iran.Things are changing but things has gotten much worse for women since 33 years that Ayatollah took power in Iran and forced Iranians to practice the narrow Islam of Ayatollah.

    The point is Mona's essay was not only about Egypt, it was also about Iraq, Iran and many other places!

    2) U write: "And so, I ask you to kindly stop talking on the behalf of all Arab women"

    Where in the article did Mona claim she is the speaking for you? Where in the essay did Mona claim she is the pioneer of women rights in Egypt,or Middle East, or ANYWHERE on earth?

    Your observation is wrong.U are assuming too much apparently.

    3)You object to the opening of the her article because she is quoting some "fiction." A "fiction" that is followed by many examples of injustice and inhumane actions toward women! Fiction is the soul and emotion of an author.Great fictions are the soul and mind of a generation. A good fiction is as good as gold: precious, and lasting.

    A fiction or any other literary form is simply some expression from the author. What is wrong with showing what an Egyptian felt via her art?! Nothing.


    4) There is not a single LIE or misinformation in Mona's essay. Not one. She backed up her article, as NPR also checked it on their own before interviewing her today morning. If u can find one single lie, or misinformation in her account of the tragedy of being a woman in Middle East, I will be most grateful. She tweeted several times the official data of female genital mutilation in Egypt.

    5) Who talks for the besieged women of Middle East? Who cares about them? How many organizations are there? Is it enough?
    Is it bad that another woman is expressing herself? What is wrong with being honest and asking men to be responsible?
    What is wrong with asking men to be humane toward their companions? Is it a sin to ask men to behave with compassion and dignity?

    AMin

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    1. Thanks AMin!

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    2. I feel you are right on, Amin. I have to wonder if Nahed's life experiences have been different from that of many Arab women? I can't help but wonder whether men forced her to write her response? Nahed and other Arab females are no more than slaves. Perhaps Nahed is very lucky to have been respected and treated decently? However, luck is not enough. There has to be a guarantee that all Arab women are treated as equals with men and have the power of self determination. I see no one able to stop this movement at this point. As a westerner, I have long been deeply dismayed by the plight of women in the Middle East. I hope and pray that they will experience the exponential joy of personal freedom and self determination. Without it, I would rather shrivel up and die.

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    3. I can't help but laugh at this narrow-minded response, which is exactly the whole point of my response to Eltahawy's article. Well, dear Westerner, if it makes you feel happy, keep on living in your imaginary world of Arab women being forced to write blog posts and where the plight of women is just horrible! LOL!

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    4. AMin,
      thanks for your detailed comments :) I appreciate you taking the time. While I know that Mona's article was on Arab women in general, I can safely speak about Egypt, because I am Egyptian and I can identify or NOT with what Mona writes about Egypt specifically.
      I never said there were LIES in this article, so please don't put words in my mouth. It's one thing to make up stories, which I could never see a talented and veteran reporter like Mona ever doing. but its a different thing to make generalized claims with no concrete evidence.
      As a former reporter and current journalism professor, let me tell you that you are wrong Amin. If Mona wants to make a claim that Arab husbands sexually deprive their wives, she's going to need concrete evidence if she wants to sound credible.
      I agree with you that all these problems exist in Arab countries, but I do not like how they are lumped together and how we are vaguely told they are do to men hating us, which by the way is where I came to the conclusion that Mona refers to Arab women in general. She never once clarified who US is, but she refers to Arab women throughout. Don't need to be a genius to reach that same conclusion :)
      Anyways, hope this clarifies some of my points and thanks again for taking the time!!
      N.

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    5. Thank you, AMin, really the best comment I've read in response to this article. Couldn't agree with you more.

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  13. I appreciate your critique. I agree that there are misrepresentations in Tahawi's oped and I am not usually a huge fan of hers. However; i am so frustrated by the fact that there is little to no breathing room for us as Arab and/or Muslim women to discuss what I believe to be legitimate greivances and very seriosu systemic problems with the treatment of women, especially in the public sphere. Do we have to throw out the whole article and everything she said simply because she is shrill?
    I would like there to be a discussion of the hateful ways women are often treated (yes absolutely hateful, violent, angry, disrespectful, and dehumanizing -- many of which I have seen with my own eyes as an Arab Muslim woman who has lived in several Arab coutnries).
    Our problems range from flawed traditions practiced or imposed under the guise of religion, or men simply being able to control so many aspects of women's lives, using whatever convenient excuse is handy, and the excuse is often religion, because few are willing to stand up and say: "NO, that's not part of our faith" where women are involved.
    This is a discussion worth having, even if Tahawi's style is obnoxious. I don't think most of what she brings up is invalid. I don't find her as horrific and Manji and Hirsi Ali -- Those two are simply part of a bash-islam-all-day-long industry. She does lump a lot of things together, but many of those "things" are real issues for real women. For example, I think Tahawi's point about turning a blind eye to sexual harassment, "virginity tests", and other appalling state practices in Egypt, whose repeal is the priority of precious few brave men and women, is important. She's not the messenger I'd choose for this message, but it's still important to air this and to find away for us, Arabs and Muslims, Men and Women, to move forward towards a better more just future for our daughters.

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    1. Thank you for your comment. I completely agree with you and please take a second look at my blog post, as I never denied we have problems and I never said we should shut up and not vent or do anything about them. Clearly that was not my goal. I was merely responding to the way this article represented me as an Arab woman and to the way it included huge generalizations, lack of evidence and negative and unfair references to Islam.
      I too have seen and heard of many problems and issues that Arab women face, but I would never make this generalized claim that we should blame it all on hate. You mention maybe certain incidents of hate, maybe like a man abusing his wife? OK, that's fine, but can you truthfully claim that all Arab men hate Arab women? That just sounds a bit over the top.
      I do hope we engage in discussions of our diverse problems as Arab women. But when we do, I hope it is done with the aim of actually helping to solve and not just write about what we claim is the plight of Arab women in a sensationalist way. If you look at one of my older posts, I discuss sexual harassment in Egypt, but I tried to break it down into concrete solutions; what can be done about it. Look at Eltahawy's article on the other hand, her solutions/what can be done section is one paragraph.
      I hope this clarifies :)
      Thanks again!

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  14. I appreciate your thoughtful critique, but when you say something like "why do we always have to focus on violence against women," you de-legitimate yourself in my eyes. Of course there are other problems in the world and in Arab states. Of course men get beaten and tortured. That is in no way relevant to systematic denial of agency that is encoded in the law, the social mores, the institutions, the schools, the media, the entirety of public life for women!

    I live in a Western country, one where there are millions of terrible things happening to men and women daily, hourly. That doesn't mean that there aren't human rights abuses that occur just because the person involved is a woman! I'm a feminist but I do not think Muslim women are weak or a monolithic group who all have the same issues. Seeing institutional misogyny and its blanket oppression isn't to say anything much about the oppressed themselves.

    The author of the article uses fiction as a storytelling device, as far as I can tell none of her arguments rest on it.

    Finally, it is wonderful that there are people who stand up for the rights of women, but that again is not relevant to the discussion of institutional hate.

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    1. Ericka, thanks for your comments. First of all, I didn't quite get this "de-legitimate" bit, but I clearly mention Arab men here because as an Arab woman I am so tired of everyone focusing on us as victims! In this specific article, it was important to mention men, to clarify that the kind of disgusting abuse that Eltahawy mentions, and I agree it does exist, is not a tool used by men on women they hate! These are brutal abuses by a regime that fails to treat its women and men as human beings.
      Now this talk of "fiction storytelling" works quite well in novels, but I am a former journalist and a current journalism instructor, and to give you a small but important lesson: when you want to make such a shocking claim, like women who are sexually deprived by their hateful husbands, you need more than artistic tools to convince me. You need credible evidence, which I did not see here.
      You mention institutional hate, which I might be able to swallow, because it is hate that impacts society as a whole. But Eltahawy's article claims the hate is by men who hate women, which is such a ridiculous claim. I'm glad it convinced you, but it will not convince a lot of Arab women who interact with Arab men on a daily basis. These women, I hope, are aware that the hatred and mistreatment and abuses are forced upon them due to a combination of factors like lack of democracy, poor economy and deeply-rooted ignorant practices and NOT hatred by men.
      Thanks again!

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  15. I'd like to make a couple of comments. Your disdain at Eltahawy beginning with a reference to a fictional book gives me the impression that you are offering up a mostly emotional reaction to something you don't want to hear. It's quite clear that Eltahawy is using the reference to the book as simply an artistic device, and does not jump to any conclusions based upon it. The arguments would still be as strong, were the references to the book removed.

    You seem to be making both the argument that infringements on women's rights are less so because of infringements on others' rights, and that there isn't hatred for women in the culture because some people in the culture don't hate women. I think if you step back, you won't agree with either of these.

    Some things in your response have nothing to do with whether or not women are hated in Islamic culture (the bit about women who are blogging and who created HarassMap, for example). Again, it seems an emotional response more than anything.

    Lastly, I would like to leave you with a thought, that I, as a Westerner, do not perceive any weakness in Arab women because of any of this. You seem to be pushing back (quite hard) against the idea that being oppressed means Arab women are weak-- but I, as an outsider, do not see that.

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    1. Thanks Jason. First of all, given that this is an article in Foreign Policy, you can't just use "artistic devices." You need concrete credible evidence to convince your readers. That is my problem here. It is this claim that Arab women have this common problem, yet I see no evidence from a veteran reporter like Eltahawy.

      Second, the bit about Harassmap, blogging, etc. was mentioned to clarify that yes, sexual harassment is a problem in Egypt, as Eltahawy clearly explains, but there are women and men out there who are fighting it.

      Thirdly, I am glad that you don't see Arab women as weak after reading this. I have many American friends who share your open mindedness too and I am grateful for that. Bit Jason, kindly visit the Foreign Policy page and examine some of the comments on the article that comment on how it is not surprising that Arab women are treated like that, or Islam oppresses women, etc. Please take a look at these comments and you will understand why I expect this article to have such a negative outcome. Maybe not on yourself or others who might know a little about the Middle East. But let's not forget that there are many Americans who get there information on Arabs and Muslims from FOX TV and there are many Westerners who know nothing about Arab women except what they see or read in sensationalist yellow media.
      I know my response sounded harsh, but as an Arab woman, it really did affect me that way and maybe that is hard for others to relate to or understand.
      Hope this clarifies some points and thanks again for your response.

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  16. Excellent job, Nahed.... U said it all :)
    I am really impressed... U covered a lot and I am glad u mentioned our Female Revolutioanries In your article as they are a great example for egytian women who play an important role in freeing the country... They are respected among women and men...

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  17. I Perfectly agree Nahed

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  18. Excellnet Job Nahed!!You said it all, and I agree with each single word in your response to Eltahawy's article!

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  19. so far best blog i have found that is against mona's article , straight to the point , confirming the actually fact. again thank you for pointing out the problems we should face

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  20. Great response. Though the root cause is the framing. The Arab/Muslim side is constantly on the defensive. Few ever point out in detail the full extent of degradation of women and their treatment as sexual objects in the West.

    Showing half (or fully) naked women everywhere to sell everything from soap to vacations is the norm. Legalized prostitution. Not to mention the absolutely disgusting multibillion dollar pornography industry, which is perfectly legal, and is based on degrading women. It is past simply "normal" sexual images, now it has gone to extents that literally treat a woman like an animal, but it is "ok", since these adult actresses are paid and "consenting adults".

    Add to this the lowly status accorded to mothers, even if it is unspoken, most feel that a mother who chooses to stay at home and raise the kids is somehow much less accomplished than a career woman, even if she has family problems.

    And though I am no supporter of child marriage, I find it fascinating that Western legal systems and morality frown upon a 14 year old getting married, but find it perfectly ok and "part of growing up" for one to have promiscuous sexual relations with classmates, which often do lead to pregnancy. (And what's the big deal anyway, the secular Westerner views humans as animals with overgrown brains, animals "marry" at puberty right?)

    The Muslim Arab world has huge problems relating to women, but it is time the Western Feminists got off their high horse and looked closer to home.

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  21. I would like to stand beside Naheds site. I will not allow anybody to speak on behalf of me or any Egyptian woman as what was mentioned through Altahawy was mostly a lie,specially the genital mutilation part, that was an old culture and its only done through a minority in the far country side and mostly they are uneducated , and I think that Altahway was one of these girls whose her family practiced that with her, I don't think she should generalize that among the Egyptian women.I have never seen or heard about any of my families , friends or Ansestors done that before and I would like to add that this practice actually is forbidden in Islam.

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  22. Thank you for saying something about the pictures Mona had. Those were very demeaning and were clearly playing out on the stereotype that Arab women are hypersexual and Arab men suppress them with the veil. Absolutely not true.

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  23. What is the empirical - ground reality - of the situation in the wider ME with respect to women? That is what the FP article is seeking to do: speak to the reality of those without a voice....and of course, a broad overview or any one article cannot represent the region or 100% of the women..in an individual manner. It necessarily makes some generalization and speaks to the observable in a general sense. However, to be deeply offended - you are entitled - but to label and reject it as something which will be applauded by those "others" who seek to vilify the men in the region is equally outrageous. No one in their mind would think that such a vast region is monolithic or that the experiences, identical. However - there are statements that can be made on what is observable and what people speak to informally.

    Are there sensational aspects to her title and imagery - yes;but it does not detract from the essential aspects of what she is saying.

    I am not sure what kind of debate or commentary can be had if every piece written or idea debated somehow have to represent everyone's perspective. Change necessarily demands the right to "offend." Otherwise - you speak to the status quo!

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  24. I appreciate that you added your voice to the conversation. I, too, share some of the same concerns as others but will refrain from rehashing that which you have already taken the time to respond to.

    I resonate with the impulse behind your frustrations with victimizing narratives and framings. I strongly believe that victimization does not empower people; instead, it is disempowering. No matter who is being victimized. And thus it is understandable for those who have been continuously victimized to rise up and challenge the disempowerment felt in reaction to this.

    But I only resonate with the IMPULSE behind this, not the actions you take in response. It's incredibly important to appreciate each voice in every conversation. If you don't agree with it, that is okay. It is okay to be offended. In fact, offense and provocation can be the best "motivators" when it comes to life-long learning and inquiry, given that the listener is humble. I don't find the accusation of "offense" a legitimate addition to ANY response -no matter the position. Certainly, we all take offense, give offense, and feel offended. But dialogue moves past this.

    You speak of your personal experience as a journalist and an Egyptian. Can you make room, even just a little, in your "defense" of Arabs and women for the reality that some DO feel hated? Even if it just, one small tiny voice -it is still legitimate and needs to be recognized and appreciated. You say yourself that any "category" that we manufacture is not a monolith. And as such, neither her NOR your voice is entirely representative of the ENTIRE population. But is that the point? I believe we live in a day and age where the MAJORITY of people recognize that what they read is just that, one voice. One story. No matter where it is published. I believe that most people know that reporting, news, stories, media, is one voice. It may be a loud voice. But it is just ONE voice. You are angered (understandably) by the (hurtful and offensive) comments on FP but to think this is representative of ALL westerners is doing exactly to them what you accuse them of doing to "us".

    Orientalism is a salient force and wonderful tool in understanding and analyzing relations. But what about the "other's" "other"? What about US occident-alizing them? When we are fighting against various narratives in which we are the "other", we must be careful, cautious, and humble not to "other" in return. Each comment posted on FP is one voice. Just as is Eltahawy is one voice.

    Rather than take "defense" when "offended", why not sit humbly, listen to one another, and continue the discussion, no matter how provocative the position? I understand and acknowledge (and somewhat share!) the fears that some people will take the one story as absolute fact and take it as representative of the entire picture. But I think maybe we underestimate people. I think we underestimate the degree to which people all across the world (for better or worse) are becoming more critical. Precisely because there is no longer just one voice (for example, that of state TV or whatever) but a billion voices for each story, individuals are developing the capacity required to navigate and mediate conversations to a better extent. Yes this will take time. And yes more hurt can come from ignorance. But don't underestimate the human capacity for critical inquiry. Yes, even the "westerners" capacity for critical inquiry. Let's not occident-alize OUR other.

    I hear your heart and I hurt with you. But we must be patient and cautious -not reactionary. Narratives take time to change. And the best steward of change is someone with grace and humility. Not someone acting in "defense".

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    1. Thank you for your post, which in all fairness is the post that has helped me the most to calm down and feel that I do need to take a breath and become less defensive. Your observations are very fair and I hate that I would come off as generalizing too. I did admit that we as Arab women have problems, and so it is fair to say that some women, as you point out, might feel such hatred. My problem was with presenting this argument to claim that all Arab women feel hated. So if that did not come across as clear, then you are absolutely right; as I am probably guilty of some generalizing myself :)
      Your reflection of how I might be underestimating Western audiences makes me a bit ashamed of my reaction, especially in many of the comments I have been writing on FP or other articles on this issue. But what made me jump into this defensive mode was the flood of anti-Islam, anti-Arab men that I saw on FP page. It made me so depressed as I felt that many Western readers continue to see what they want to see or what they have grown accustomed to see about the Middle East. I felt like whatever Muslim and Arab feminists were trying to do to correct stereotypes, and whatever good the Arab Spring did in showing us to the world in a different light, it all came down crashing by a single article in FP. But you are quite right and I realize I should not judge all Western readers by the harsh comments I see on my blog or elsewhere.
      And you know, as much as I felt angry and offended by Eltahawy's article, I do appreciate her voice. I just wish she would use it in a less generalized way though. But at least it sparked a conversation that is indeed healthy and it has gotten many women and men to talk about these problems & really think of the reasons behind our diverse problems.
      Thanks again for your truly calming & reflective post :)

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  25. So just because she doesn't represent you she can't speak for Arab women? I am an Arab woman who has suffered and seen MANY suffer from the treatment of women in the Arab world. She is not speaking for you, she is speaking for us. Arab women who would rather see the change happen now rather than 50 years from now. She speaks for women who are not afraid to say that the treatment of women is actually worse in the Arab world than almost any other region. Yes change is happening but it is not going to happen fast enough for my cousin who was forced to marry a rapist or for my grandmother who lives on pennies because her son is her guardian and therefore in control of my grandfather's inheritance. Why do we have to wait and be careful not to offend. Offend who?? You are happy for your life well good for you, why don't you leave the fight for Arab women to others then.

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    1. Sara, I'm sorry for whatever suffering you have experienced in your life. I just would have appreciated a more accurate reading of my post as I never said we should not "fight" to fix things. My main issues with the article are clearly stated and to sum it up in one sentence: I do not appreciate the "Us" and "them" talk and the claim that Arab women, as in all Arab women, suffer the same exact hatred that is in the form of FGM, sexual harassment, child marriage, etc. I was trying to point out (and I did so multiple times throughout, so not sure why you missed that) that we have many problems as Arab women, yet we don't all suffer from the exact same dilemmas and we cannot blame everything simply on hatred by men. There are multiple other reasons that contribute to suffering: For example, your grandmother's situation, is that just due to hatred? What about lack of a proper legal system? When a woman loses her arm in a factory accident and she is not compensated and cannot work anymore, that is suffering from injustice; when a woman dies or watches her children shrivel from hunger, that is suffering caused by poverty which plagues many of our Arab countries, etc. So you see, I understand the suffering and don't deny it; I just cannot pretend it's all caused by men who hate me personally because I realize that many Arab men join women in this suffering, be it poverty, corruption, injustice, political restrictions or maybe hatred.

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    2. Just as you never claimed that all women in the Arab world are happy, Mona's article didn't say all Arab women suffer from all injustices. Yes, Mona's article is provocative and I don't agree with all of her points. However, the treatment of women as second class citizens (at best) is endemic in the Arab world and as you so rightly point out it is supported by law. If it was as easy as JUST suggesting we reform the legal system then we would all be in a better place. It took decades for women to get the right to seek a divorce in Egypt without having to go through years of abuse and possibly losing their children - that now might all be reversed. Do you think that is because there was a hitch in the legal reform?? No, that is because there are many men in power, and women, who would like to see that right be taken away. I think the voices of those that are suffering should be heard before any others and that includes Arab women. Fighting for the rights of Arab women is not mutually exclusive from fighting for the rights for children, the poor, and the disabled. The argument that there are other injustices is not really an argument, especially to a women who is not only poor and cannot feed her child but is not allowed to leave the home to work and feed her child.

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    3. It's funny because everything you just said here does not contradict with what I'm trying to say, so I'm not sure if you are just disagreeing to disagree or what. You clearly pointed out that there are men in POWER!!! It's all about power, who has it and what they do with it. So you are contradicting yourself by agreeing with Mona's hate argument and then telling me here it's a power issue. If you want to support Mona, then by all means do so. But I am entitled to write my own opinion and VOICE what I as an Arab woman see as my problem. Clearly from this last response of yours you identify other reasons besides hate. So I'll stop here, no need to add more back and forth arguments on this.

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    4. There are obviously other reasons besides hate but even though the men in power are the ones that make the decision they rely primarily on the support of a lot of men and women that use hateful arguments - in the guise of protection, culture, etc. I'm not sure you're hearing your own arguments clearly but I will not stand in the way of your voice. I do wish your voice and the voices of many that were so offended by Mona's article would rise up in a cry for those Arab women that are oppressed and suffer. Yes you acknowledge they exist but the hurt at what you take to be a personal offense is the voice I hear louder.

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  26. Also please stop the Western apologizing. Everyone, Western, Eastern, Southern or Martian should call hate and injustice for what it is. The fact that other countries can have the same or other injustices happening in their countries doesn't mean it's not happening in ours.

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  27. Saying that Mona forgot to mention the heroic men and women that are fighting sexual harrasment and that took part in the revolution is incorrect. She does mention them, one way or another. She spoke about the women who drove in Saudi Arabia, the women who spoke out against the so called "virginity tests" and so on, she even calls them our heros our Bouzazis.
    It is irrelevant that she doesn't speak of the male individuals that are supporting Arab women's rights.Even though I agree they do exists, my brother, father and fiance are 3 of them. But none of us are offended at the article, she is mearly stating what the majority of men and women are allowing in the middle east.

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    1. Well said! Finally someone who acknowledges that the men and women who stand up for Arab women's rights would actually rather see someone fight for those rights instead of take offense because their courage is not mentioned in detail and explicitly every single time the topic is raised.

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  28. Dear Nahed and readers,

    I read your post but couldn't read all the following responses. As a Muslim feminist scholar, like yourself Nahed, I thank you for writing this post, and I am not sure if Mona Tahawi deserves a response or not!! She wouldn't have made it to Foreign Policy had she been one of us Muslim women who are strong proud ones or Muslim female scholars who spent long years in studying issues pertaining to Arab and Muslim women issues. Western media would welcome any voice that would affirm their colonial oriental stereotypical image of the Muslim "other", and Mona made herself a tool in the hands of the hegemonic machine that keeps on producing and reproducing these images and stereotypes. That machine could not be separated from the imperialist and colonialist ambitions of the West. For the respected readers of your blog, a more balanced and realistic view of the so called "Arab" or "Muslim" woman would be found in abundant literature researched and published by women who live the experience as well as research it and not from a journalist seeking fame at the expense of truth (well I shouldn't be surprised about the state of journalism in this country). I am saying "so called Arab or Muslim" because one problem with Mona's post, as well as some of the responses I managed to read, is that they speak of one Arab or Muslim woman as if they all shared the same experience and life style (they all look alike). Edward Said in his seminal work "Orientalism" of course explains it much better than anyone would even try, but let me give one example. As a Muslim Arab Palestinian woman, I've never heard of female circumcision until my sister read one of Nawal Sa'dawi's book and told me about it. We were both teenagers and it caused me a huge shock because all I've known back then was male circumcision. Female circumcision is an African tradition and therefore, most non-African Muslim countries don't practice it. Dr. Ameera Sonbol of Georgetown University, does a great job at deconstructing and tracing the historical origins of most of family laws in Egypt, and guess what guys, most of them are the remnants of antiquated French and English laws from the days of colonialism. That explains why again, bayt al-ta3ah in Egyptian law (and I don't know if it is still a law or not) which forces a woman to go back to her husband if she decides to leave him was alien to me and other Palestinian, Lebanese, etc women because we simply don't have it in our countries and have never heard of it. I attended a lecture by Dr. Sonbol once and she said that that was an old French law from the days of Napoleon!!

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  29. Continued...
    The danger of Mona's writings could be summed in two main issues: 1. Sweeping generalizations of any type are a dangerous slippery slop to stereotyping that is simplistic, limiting, and reductionist. These range from stereotyping Muslim/Arab males as hating to stereotyping Muslim/Arab females as weak, etc. 2. By focusing only on issues of oppression, another form of generalization indeed, a long history of women empowerment, activism and feminism is erased, which does not help brave activist women on the ground at all. For example, how many of the readers of this post, or Mona's article, know anything about the history of the Egyptian women suffrage? Probably they don't have a clue. The Egyptian women suffrage probably predates that of American women suffrage with three different types of women rights groups; Western-styled, Islamic, and nationalist. I teach a class on Muslim women in media and society and one week is usually devoted to Egyptian women, and it is fascinating to read about their great history and movement that dates to the 18th century. So, for Mona to use personal experience and opinions as representative of the different and diverse experiences of Muslim and Arab women is not only ignorant and arrogant, but simplistic and reductionist. And, oh yeah she presented her article as generalizable to the whole region for those of you who deny that.

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    1. Well said Ahlam. You point to the main weaknesses that make this article problematic and generalized.

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  30. The Global Gender Gap Report 2011: Rankings and Scores gives some clarifying perspective on the treatment of women under Islam:
    22 out of the 31 countries (67.7%) that oppress women and girls the most are Muslim majority countries (50% or more of the population is Muslim).
    But Muslims make up 23% of the world population (or alternatively, 49 Muslim-majority countries out of 231, which makes 21%). So, Muslim majority countries are over-represented as oppressors by a factor of about 3.
    According to the report, the difference in scores between the worst and best countries is quite large.
    Why is this? Those 31 span different continents, different races, different tribal cultures, different histories, different economic conditions...what they do have in common, 68% of those, is "Muslim majority" and that has got to mean something. Convince yourself: just run a linear regression of the percentage of Muslims for each country against the gender gap index and you will see that the higher the percentage of Muslim population the worse the index (the condition of women) gets.

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  31. But given the Global Gender Gap Report (see above comment) two questions arise: 1. Is the Islamic Establishment (the schools of jurisprudence, the clergy, the "Mosque") contributing to this or is it the result of savage ignorance? 2. Should the West be concerned? The answer to question 1 can be found in the OIC Fatwa on Domestic Violence and the Rights of Women in Islam
    (read here: http://markdurie.blogspot.ca/search/label/Fatwas) clearly sanctioning wife beating for the world's Islamic community. The OIC is the highest interpretative body of Islamic Law in the world today, so the answer to question 1 is, YES, the Islamic Establishment is at fault. The answer to question 2 can be found in the recommendation of the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA), an important mainstream group of Islamic jurists that is warning Muslim immigrants against doing anything (e.g. working in law enforcement) that "might cause Muslims to gain love and respect for secular laws" of their new homelands (e.g. the U.S. Constitution safeguarding essential human rights for women, among others) since such a legal system does not come from Allah (read here: http://www.translatingjihad.com/2012/04/mainstream-american-muslim-group-warns.html). Couple this recommendation, which is not unusual within the Islamic Establishment, with significant Muslim immigration in Europe and America and you see that the West does have a duty to become concerned for the safety and well being of its female citizens especially for the future, given demographic trends. I do not mean to imply that all Muslims are bad citizens, but there is a well documented correlation between Muslim perpetrators and certain types of actions against women in the West, especially in Europe, where Muslim immigrant communities are now very large (rape-attacks against native women and girls, gang-rapes against native women and girls, child-abduction-followed-by-rape-followed-by-induction-into-prostitution against native girls, honor killings against Muslim women and girls, bigamy against Muslim women and the welfare state, genital mutilation against Muslim girls, discriminatory Sharia judgments against Muslim women and girls). I will not go into the European statistics here as they are too inflammatory but, does the West have to be concerned about this? I think, as a Western woman, I can only say ABSOLUTELY YES, EVEN IF Muslim women in Muslim majority countries or in the West are willing to put up with their legal, social, political and economic oppression because of whatever conditioning or other offsetting positive results of the Islamic systems, the West has to be concerned about this. Western women could not accept an extension of similar treatment to them (via Sharia courts as in England for example, or the application of Sharia law in US Courts) without great loss. In reality, what Muslim women think about Mona Eltahawy's article is beside the point, really. Mona Eltahawy's article is written in English, for the West, for women in the West, as a dire warning of what could happen to Western women if Islam continues to expand its influence in the West. As such, it is absolutely valid and merits great attention.

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    1. Although you rely on some interesting figures here, what you do not mention is the fact that the majority of these Muslim countries do not apply Islamic Shari'a! If we had an Islamic government, and I mean one that is true to Islamic shari'a in it's fairness and openness to shura (opinion/advice/parliament) and openness in decision-making, would this really be the status of the Muslim world? Many Muslim countries today are ruled by a bunch of corrupt male dictatorships that occasionally rely on singled-out verses from the Quran to claim that what they do is Islamic, when it has no relation to Islam.
      Here are some general responses to some of the information, or misinformation, that you include in your post, so please bear with me:

      1) I encourage you to take a look at the post right above yours by Professor Ahlam Mohtaseb, who accurately points to the origins of many of the unfair family laws in Egypt, which NOT SURPRISINGLY, where put in place by British and French colonialists.

      2) you include a link to prove your claim that Islam is to blame for the figures on Muslim women rights, but you do realize of course that your link takes the reader to the website of Dr Mark Durie a theologian, human rights activist and pastor of an Anglican church??? Is that the best source you can get on Islam and Islamic laws????? Come on, please be fair here. When you want to INFORM people on Islam, it's best that you go to the source and not to someone who is not a MUSLIM, does not practice it, does not speak Arabic and so cannot read the Quran or the Prophet's sayings and give an accurate interpretation.

      So to help you receive more informed and accurate facts about Islam, I added these links:

      https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/bitstream/handle/1887/17045/ISIM_17_If_only_there_was_khul.pdf?sequence=1

      This link is a short article explaining how Egypt's judiciary system gives women the right to leave the husband without giving any reason. The law, called khul'u, is based on a story where a woman approached the Prophet (PBUH) and told him she wanted to leave her husband. She said that her husband was a very good man, but she just did not want to stay married to him.

      The prophet asked her if she would be willing to return her dowry, and she agreed. After that the prophet asked the man to divorce the wife. PLEASE keep in mind here that this refutes the saying included in your link that claims the prophet to have said a woman who asks for divorce without reason has no place in paradise!!!
      An entire law in Egypt was built on the Prophet's support for women's rights to a divorce, with or without reason. So, once again, it is essential to check your facts.

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    2. 3) you mention crimes by Muslim men against Muslim women in Muslim countries as well as in Europe and once again, you inaccurately mix facts with opinion with assumption. Genital mutilation has NO BASIS in Islam. It is an African tribal practice and today, Muslim and Christian families of tribal decent often practice it but not because of ISLAM!!!!
      It seems you just read whatever sensationalist media offer without any critical judgement, which is quite sad, given that you have proven your skills at research.

      http://islamonline.net/en/761

      This link here is to show you that I am not making this up when I claim that some western media are stereotypical and quite biased on anything related to Islam or Muslims.

      It's interesting that you claim that crimes by Muslim male immigrants against women (including women of native country) are harsher than those by other men. Can you please then explain to me how come we have never heard of a Muslim serial killer? Can you also confirm how many Muslim men are to blame for the sexual assault on women in college campuses, which impacts 1 in every 4 women? Are Muslim men to blame for the sex trafficking problem in Wales? http://www.amnesty.org.uk/content.asp?CategoryID=10459

      What I' trying to point out here is that you are making a very biased claim without any statistical or scientific evidence, whereas these links and examples I provided all have statistics that confirm that horrible crimes against Western women are common and are mostly inflicted upon them by Western men, so let's stop this Orientalist look-down upon Muslim men as barbaric monsters, just because you've read one or two negative stories!

      4) Your information on Shari'a is quite limited and inaccurate. It amuses me so much when I hear a westerner talk of sharia' as if it's this plague that will spread out through the west. What is it that gives you this humorous fear?? What do you know about Sharia' aside from the limited, biased link you added??? Why would it every impact you, a western woman??

      Here's a link to inform you what is sharia' http://muslimvoices.org/shariah/

      Now for your ridiculous fear on having it reach western women, let me explain this: there are many sides to shari'a and the only part that can ever reach the USA or a Western democratic country, would be family law, which in other words, allows a MUslim priest to conduct an Islamic ceremony, the same right given to Christians and Jews. This family law also allows Muslims to divorce the same way and also to distribute inheritance according to Islam.

      As for any other SCARY part of Sharia' that is making you panic as a "western female" please relax, as you are protected by a constitution and laws that will not change to incorporate whatever it is that freaks you out.

      As a final note, please try to examine the authenticity and credibility of your sources because when you don't, you contribute to the spread of bias and hate that is dangerous and just outright wrong.

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  32. Dear Mr.Nahed Eltantawy. Thank you for commenting on my points but I am disappointed in that you seem to base your critique against Dr. Mark Durie's analysis of the "IOC's Fatwa on Domestic Violence and the Rights of Women in Islam" simply on an Ad hominem attack saying he is "a theologian, human rights activist and pastor of an Anglican church" therefore his analysis must be invalid? Please have the courtesy of addressing Dr. Durie's points in his well argued analysis of the fatwa. By the way, Dr. Durie is not just some Anglican theologian, he is a respected linguist, expert in a number of languages, has lived among Muslims for a number of years, knows Arabic well, including classical Arabic, and is well versed in the history of Sharia, in fact has written books on the subject. His website is very scholarly and the tone of his writing very respectful and well meaning. But then again, do I really need to defend Dr. Durie against an ad-hominem attack in this website or are we going to argue rationally?

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  33. With regard to Islam's role in the promotion of female genital mutilation I understand that the Shafa'i school of Islam is the only one of the four Sunni schools which makes circumcizing females a compulsory religious obligation. Other Sunni schools of sharia regard female circumcision as recommended or preferred (sunnat). Please read another opinion on the subject by Association of Muslim Jurists of America: http://www.translatingjihad.com/. I understand that the Shafa'i school is the prevailing one in a number of non-Arab Muslim communities that span a number of continents and are not limited to Africa. For example, many Kurds in Iraq persist in mutilating their daughters, as do the Egyptians in large numbers and even in Asia one finds some communities that follow the Shafa'i, e.g. the Maldives. So is Islam to blame? I would certainly not remove all blame on that account. The fact is the Islamic prophet Mohammed encountered this practice during his lifetime and found a place for it in Islam, though the exact place varies from school to school, the custom was not recognized and rejected as an act of barbarity as it should have been by an enlightened prophet.

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  34. Regarding your comment that the existing implementation of Sharia in Muslim majority countries that oppress women (among the 31 worst referred to above) is imperfect, you must concede that this argument is similar to the one given by Communists today in many countries to the effect that pure Communism failed and resulted in genocide in the USSR, Cambodia, even China (which is no longer Communist) because its implementation was not truthful to the principles embodied in the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin etc. That if Communism had been implemented perfectly, it would have been a GREAT success. Saudi Arabia and Iran claim to be implementing Sharia to 99% perfection but this has resulted in regimes that perpetrate the worst abuses against women. Why should I believe in a non-existent perfect implementation of a "benign" Sharia which nobody in the received Islamic schools of jurisprudence seems to accept? For where is this "benign" Sharia collected and legitimized? In the mind of a few well meaning Muslims only, it seems...

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  35. Regarding my fear of having Sharia imposed upon me as a non-Muslim, please look at these two decisions:
    http://www.greeleygazette.com/press/?p=14348
    http://hotair.com/archives/2012/02/24/judge-tosses-charge-against-muslim-who-allegedly-attacked-atheist-for-mocking-mohammed/
    which deny non-muslims rights regarding access to non-halal food and free speech in the US.

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    1. With all do respect to Dr.Durie, I still insist that when I am researching a topic, it's best to go to the source. That is not to belittle his work, but it just does not make sense to me. To simplify, let me give you an example: if I want to research what the Bible says on stonning adulterers. I can do some academic research and come back with two sources: one would be a Theologian and researcher on Bible scriptures, whereas the second source is a Muslim academic with a PhD in religion, who has publications on the Bible. So, which source would you go to first? One that practices as well as studies the Bible or one who just studies the Bible?

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    2. No you choose to ignore and ridicule my observation about shari'a not being practiced in the countries you mention and that is fine. But think of this, if these Western-funded and supported Arab dictators were really following Islam, then why would Muslim Arabs launch a wave of revolutions across the Arab world, with a large bulk of those protesting calling for an Islamic democracy that follows Islamic shari'a? Tunisians succeeded in conducting their first ever democratic elections in 2011, and who dominates parliament? The long-banned Islamist Party, because people want an Islamic democracy, because despite what you have been shown on FOX TV, Islam is in fact democratic in its nature. But our brutal dictators like Mubarak have convinced the world that Islamists are all crazy extremists who must be tortured and locked behind bars, which is what he and his Tunisian counterpart did for years. There's no denial that there are extremists, but these exist in all cultures and all religions. But of course when the extremist is not Muslim, no body generalizes and calls a whole faith or all followers of this specific faith as extremists.
      I will also leave you with this segment from Professor Daniel Martin Varisco's latest article: "Historically Islam as a moral system was no more sexist than any of the other major religions; indeed there is a strong basis for promoting women’s rights based on the Quran and the many traditions related by Aisha. But the cultures shaping religious interpretation in the Middle East have been stymied by Western colonialism and economic hegemony swept along by an Islamophobic current. The dictators that have fallen over the past year were not put in power by clerics, nor were they religious moralists. The political tyranny of men like Mubarak or Qaddafi only encouraged extremist religious views. The sexism we see, from draconian Saudi fatwas to the ideology of wives as totally submissive, is as much a product of modernity as an assumed uninterrupted continuum of past custom."
      http://www.hnn.us/node/145958#disqus_thread

      Delete
    3. Once again, FGM is NOT an Islamic practice and the multiple sayings that you relate back to prophet Mohamed (PBUH) have been questioned for their authenticity (please see article link below). Muslims follow first and foremost the Quran and there are no references to this in the Quran. The Quran does not talk about this and as I have pointed out and as was pointed in the USAID study, which I assume you dismissed, it is a practice very common in African countries and in the Nubian parts of Egypt. This practice is illegal in Egypt!
      This outrageous 90% statistic is outrageous and I checked online to see how the UN came up with this figure and all it said was that a "sample" of women were surveyed!! Now we don't know the level of education, the geographical location, etc. But what I do know as a Muslim, an Arab and Egyptian that the hundreds of women I know and have closely encountered in my life, starting with my grandmother's generation to my teenaged cousins and family friends, this practice was and still is unheard of!
      I know women from Cairo, from rural Egypt, I know women with PhDs as well as women with an elementary education. Now I am not disputing the fact that some Muslims practice it, but it is not an ISLAMIC practice, and once again the Quran is the best evidence here. Those who do it in Egypt or Sudan or elsewhere include CHRISTIANS as well. So even if the father or mother claim it's religious, then it's ignorance because it is not.
      I also added this link and you will note that the majority of countries cited are African. I am not sure where you got the fact that Asians practice this as well as I have not seen this.
      http://www.islamicpluralism.org/1867/female-genital-mutilation-an-obligation-according

      Delete
    4. Finally, the two examples you provide to justify your fear of Shari'a are unconvincing to me. The prison ruling, looks like an economic decision more than anything: this prison cannot afford to provide beef and pork so they have to choose one and so they chose the one that all can eat. As ridiculous as it sounds, it was not an "Islamic" decision in any way.
      Now as for the Muslim man who attacks a guy making fun of Prophet Mohamed, here is my response. Please examine the limitations to Article 10 on Freedom of Expression:
      http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/human-rights/human-rights/the-human-rights-act/what-the-rights-mean/article-10-freedom-of-expression.php

      "Article 10 is a qualified right and as such the right to freedom of expression may be limited. Article 10 provides that the exercise of this freedom “since it carries with it duties and responsibilities” may be limited as long as the limitation:

      is prescribed by law;
      is necessary and proportionate; and
      pursues a legitimate aim, namely:
      o the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety;

      o the prevention of disorder or crime;

      o the protection of health or morals;

      o the protection of the reputation or rights of others;

      o preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence; or

      o maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary."

      Now let me ask you, in all fairness, this man who made fun of the Prophet, does his act (and similar acts like it) harm the reputation and rights of the 5 million or so American Muslims?
      I would say yes!

      Does his act and others like it prevent or encourage disorder or crime?? Just look at the Iraqi American woman who was slain a month ago with a note saying "Go back to your country" and you have your answer to that.

      Was the judge fair in not punishing the attacker? No, he deserved to be punished too for attacking the man.

      But is this evidence that sharia is invading? Absolutely not, because your consititution protects you, even if you have limits and responsibilities as an American. As a journalism professor, I discuss Article 10 a lot with students and what people need to realize, you have a right to freedom of expression as long as you do so responsibly and as long as you realize that there are duties and limitations that were inserted wisely for a reason. These were inserted by our Founding Fathers to ensure respect for one another and unity for our communities and to make sure that people showed respect and appreciation for one another.
      Just put yourself in the place of that Muslim man for one single second. How does that feel? to be walking with your wife and young kids and see the person you have most respect for in your religion being ridiculed and mocked in such a humiliating insensitive way? Of course it tarnishes reputaions and it can create violence and crime from both sides, from the Muslim guy, who clearly had a violent reaction, and from the other side, people who will take it to the extreme and sadly take it out on innocent American Muslims.
      The same can be applied to people of other religions, origins or sexual orientation. So it's not sharia, it's your constitution protecting the rights of others around you because we do not live in isolation.

      Delete
  36. http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/apr/29/tp-in-turkey-fears-of-a-retreat-on-womens-rights/
    http://www.denverpost.com/nationworld/ci_20505217/turkey-slipping-womens-rights-groups-say
    http://www.ansamed.info/ansamed/en/news/sections/generalnews/2011/12/29/visualizza_new.html_19204055.html
    from these sources it appears that when "democratic islamists" take over the government women pay for it.
    Mr. Nahed Eltantawy I am sure you are one of the millions of well meaning Muslims out there, but hopes and intentions are not enough, the implementation of islamization and its results appears to be bad for women, independently of whether it is democratic or not, independently of outside interference... In Turkey islamization is supposedly democratic, with full self determination and little outside interference and look at the results. The same may be said for Iran, under their definition of democracy...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LT
      By now I thought you'd realize I'm a Mrs not Mr :)
      And I am sure you are one of many Westerners who actually conduct research in search of the truth. But unfortunately you are so adamant on believing Islam is bad for women and at this point I think there's nothing I can do to change that.

      I just hope that you continue to do research on your own and read more about the rise of Islam and the role of women all the way back from Prophet Mohamed's days. You might understand why and how the state of women reached what is today and how it is not really Islam.

      Best of luck & take care.

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