September 18, 2006

Getting the bigger picture

The both women have something in common. Taslima Nasrin was exiled from Bangladesh because of her critical views of the treatment of women under Islamic society. Ayaan Hirsi Ali also criticized the treatment of women in Islamic society. They both are born Muslims.

Taslima Nasrin writes an interesting review of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's 'The Caged Virgin', which has been published in the Outlook India magazine (subscription required).

Quotes from her review showing Ayaan's rage on Islam where its not due:

* Ayaan’s problem is that she puts the burden of all traditional and patriarchal repression of women squarely on Islam. For her, Islam is responsible for child marriage, incest, purdah, the insistence on chastity, female foeticide, genital mutilation, honour killing and everything else. This, even according to a rabid anti-Islamist like me, is too much.

* Ayaan believes these evils can be wiped out by getting rid of Islam. But what has religion got to do with it? All male-dominant societies, irrespective of their religion, torture women equally. Christian societies burned thousands of women alive before they built secular nations and introduced equal rights for men and women. Hindus have thrown young widows on their husbands’ pyres. Ayaan attacks Islamic societies for not being as liberal about pre-marital sex as Christian and Jewish ones. But surely conservative Christian, Jewish, Buddhist or Hindu societies are equally rigid on it.

And she also blames Islamophobia:

* While the Muslim people’s ignorance, lack of education, power play and dictatorial behaviour are behind the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, the Islamophobia of the Western world is no less responsible. America’s long-standing terrorism against Palestine and Iraq has now pushed Muslim youth into fundamentalism. There were once secular movements like the pan-nationalist movement in West Asia, led by atheist or secular Muslims, but they have all been crushed by Western conspiracies. While I do believe that Islam alone is not responsible for women’s problems,

Her eye openers on issues like genital mutilation and honour killing that these are not Islam's problem as mentioned by Ayaan but cultural practices:

* Female genital mutilation is a practice prevalent among the tribals of Africa. It is not a religious practice required by the Islamic faith. In Peru from 1200 BC to 1532 AD, alleged adulterers were punished by having their hands and feet tied to a wall. In ancient Roman times, the pater familias retained the right to kill an unmarried but sexually active daughter or adulterous wife.

In many regions, communities live and grow for generations on local mores and rules, irrespective of the religion. The Bengali Muslims have more in common with the culture of the Bengali Hindus and not of the Arab Muslims. Religion and culture are two different things. Some religions have subsumed local cultures but the two are essentially different. It is not the fault of that religion to have adopted ancient, outdated customs but of the people to not have protested against that adoption and instead abide by anti-women traditions. Ayaan has very unreasonably put the blame of all the atrocities against women on Islam; her arguments are one-sided and adamant in many cases.

Taslima is basically anti-Muslim but against all male dominant societies:

* I also maintain that there is no need for Islam to live on. A secular nation and a secular education system will help build rational human beings in a scientific, taboo-free and healthy environment. To demolish anti-women beliefs and rituals, it’s important to shake the foundation of male-dominant societies.

And she congratulates Ayaan for her protests:

* I say three cheers for Ayaan. For her courage to criticise Islam despite being born in a Muslim family. Women are so repressed and benumbed in an Islamic society that a fellow protester fills my heart with hope.

Her thoughts on way forward:

* Muslims must take the responsibility to enlighten the rest of their community and create a rational, scientific and secular society. The change has to come from within. Nobody can impose democracy from outside.

An army of women?

* Male reformers are useless. To break the rigidity of Muslim society, and to reject Islam, we need thousands of angry women presently in the grip of the venomous snake of Islam. Once they hit back, how long can it sting?

Taslima Nasrin has certainly more depth on the issue of repression of women:

'Humankind is facing an uncertain future. The probability of new kinds of rivalry and conflict looms large. In particular, the conflict is between two different ideas, secularism and fundamentalism. I don't agree with those who think the conflict is between two religions, namely Christianity and Islam, or Judaism and Islam. After all there are fundamentalists in every religious community. I don't agree with those people who think that the crusades of the Middle Ages are going to be repeated soon. Nor do I think that this is a conflict between the East and the West. To me, this conflict is basically between modern, rational, logical thinking and irrational, blind faith. To me, this is a conflict between modernity and anti-modernism. While some strive to go forward, others strive to go backward. It is a conflict between the future and the past, between innovation and tradition, between those who value freedom and those who do not.' - From her personal pages.

Via Tasneem Khalil.


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