Thursday, March 10, 2005

Celebrate Women!

Jude Nagurney Camwell, at Iddybud, posts a very interesting poem by Rachel Raza, a Muslim woman. She takes up the cause of Muslim women throughout the Middle-East in a powerful fashion. I heartily commend it to you. Please read it. My comments are somewhat colored by my recent comment conversations with Ms. Camwell about the relative merits of the military action in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I am all for lifting up and equalizing the position of women regardless of where in the world they live or in what culture. Muslim women, especially in the less developed countries and where politics and religion join to suppress any aspiration other than servitude, are in a similar situation as Japanese women, although the situation for women in Japan are, I believe improving. They are in a similar situation as women in this country were prior to such advances as the opening of institutions of higher learning to women, the franchise, the opening of professions to women and the loosening of sexual mores. I celebrate them altogether. I would not be me, however, if I found nothing within this poem with which to take exception.

The first stanza, while not mourning the Taliban's removal, certainly takes exception to the way in which women's oppressors were removed. Perhaps she has some alternate method of their removal that, well, a poem did not seem the proper vehical for proposing or which did not find a place within the poem's topic. The poet closes the first stanza with the demand, EDUCATE ME. Reading this made me think, "Educate her, indeed!" Interesting that, under the Taliban, the mere suggestion by a woman, the mere request to become educated, would have gotten her a public beating and no token beating at that. It would have been the last request of that sort that she made. Does this woman really not understand that those bombs are the only reason that she may now demand to be educated? I am not surprised that Muslim women might see the Burqa as protection. Going without the Burqa, under the Taliban, would have gotten her dead. Apparently some Muslim men have such poor self-control that the mere glimps of female flesh inflames their passions so much that they are forced either to beat the woman or rape her--no oppression there, none at all.

It may be objected that my blaming the Taliban for these things is misleading. It is true that many of the things that Ms. Raza protests about the mistreatment of Muslim women are endemic, not only to Afghanistan under the Taliban, but to many Muslim cultures. This is certainly true. However, what made the Taliban particularly egregious is that they would enforce these rules absolutely. For example, if a woman's husband were a particularly progressive sort, permitting his wife to be educated, if the Taliban found out about this, BOTH the woman AND her husband would be punished. They simply would force the oppression of women to be, well, enforced.

It may be suggested, as an alternative to bombs, that the Ghandi method might have been employed from within the Muslim culture of Afghanistan. Women might have risen up and demanded their rights and taken whatever punishment came their way for what the Taliban and male Muslims in general would surely have seen as impudence or worse. It is questionable, of course, whether such a tactic would have worked under such an oppressive regime. The image that comes to my mind is of women peacefully and silently marching on schools to be educated only to be beaten with rods, even as the natives of India were beaten by British troops in the movie, Ghandi, for peacefully and unarmed approaching the salt factory to take what was so obviously their right: Salt. Would the Taliban and misogynistic Muslim men really beat bloody and to death hundreds of thousands of Muslim women for the crime of wanting to learn? Both the law and the culture, of course, would not only permit such barbarity, it would demand it but would such brutality continue to every last woman in Afghanistan? I profess ignorance.

According to the movie, Ghandi, that one occurence was the straw that broke the camel's back. As the Sheen journalist character called in to his News outlet, "Whatever moral ascendency the West may have once had has been lost." So, judging from the movie, one might have reason for hope for such a tactic carried out by Muslim women, even under the Taliban. However, there are distinct differences between Imperial Britain and the Muslim culture that call such hope into question. The reason that the tactic worked in India is that Britain, for all of her racism and prejudice, knew that brutally murdering unarmed citizens that they were there, presumably, to protect and help, was morally wrong.

They did what they did in the misbegotten attempt to protect their economic monopoly and thus, their control over India. I suspect that, even had word of the atrocity not reached the general population back in England, the occupation was over at that point. Those committing the atrocities knew that they were committing atrocities. The sort of culture that spawns Governments such as the Taliban have no such awareness. To them, beating and even killing uppity women is not only permitted but demanded by their culture and Law. If hundreds of thousands, or even millions of women had risen up in peaceful protest within Taliban era Afghanistan, it is quite possible that there would be no compunction whatsoever about beating every last one to death.

What such action would have done, however, assuming that word of it got out to the general world population, is to so inflame public opinion that much of the world would have risen up and, threatened to bomb the country back to well before the stone-age unless the Taliban immediately stepped down. In this way, it may be that the Taliban might have been deposed without dropping a bomb. The cost to life, in Afghanistan, might easily have been as high, or higher than during the war to depose the Taliban.

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