I was married to a Muslim so perhaps I know something about the role of a man in family life. The man is in complete control of his household. It is men (not imans) who decree that women's faces and hair are covered so that other men cannot look upon them and desire them Women are thought to be weak-willed creatures with a predisposition to liking sex therefore the women must be controlled and safe-guarded from themselves. Only a man may gaze upon his wife. Even the man's brothers cannot see her face. Sometimes a woman never even unveils herself for her husband. In this case she would be wearing a leather-type mask over her features and she would wear it 24/7. The burka has been put in place by men in order to control women; it's as simple as that. A woman's role in the house is in the kitchen and the bedroom - to give a man sons.
Not nice is it?
This is beyond my comprehension as a western woman. However, if you have been raised in the Muslim culture, I suppose you take it as a given and do not question. Much as I seldom question the culture of 'the individual' that was my birthright and was reinforced by my mother, my friends...and throughout my life, almost everything and everyone that surrounds me. I have questioned it, though. This thread brings many thoughts to my mind. It is difficult, if not impossible to truly move out of your culture and look at it with a semblance of objectivity. I have tried with travel, with reading and films, and with conversations with people who have totally different philosophies of existence. You cannot experience two realities at the same time, just momentary hints. I find these glimpses humbling. We really do have to 'walk a mile in another man's moccasins', before we presume to judge. And, I feel, we can never 'judge', at best, try to understand.
To move into Muslim culture, through your marriage, must have been an incredible experience, Spindrift. I wonder how devout your husband was and if he had these expectations of you.
And yet some women defend this, just like I heard an African woman defend sexual mutilation once. She said that it empowers women, because when they no longer have any access to sexual pleasure, the men cannot control them with sex anymore.
This is a horrifying, chilling defense. It makes me want to cry for these women.
The marriage to my Muslim husband lasted for only 2 years. I lived with him in Nairobi; we did not have any friends whose wives had to wear a veil. My husband was the eldest son of three. I therefore became Wife Number One and his brothers' wives were expected to look to me for guidance and advice. I found this very disconcerting. I had no idea how to behave like a muslim woman. I was fresh out of England and new to Africa as well. We had married in England in a registry office so when we arrived in Nairobi he wanted me to repeat certain Arabic sentences and become a convert. I refused point blank to do this and he did not make a big fuss about it. I noticed that his mother was very subservient to his father and, indeed, to her sons. Within days of arriving in Nairobi I was taught the lesson of how to obey my husband. Whatever he told me to do I had to do it at once. If I hesitated or answered back I was beaten to the ground. When I fled to my mother-in-law she would let me into her house but when dusk started to fall she would take me to her front door and tell me to go home to my husband and I had no option but to obey her.
In short, this was my life for quite some time until I could extricate myself from my intolerable marriage. On the plus side I entered into the muslim way of home life wholeheartedly, learning to cook and manage a house beside my MIL and I became part of an extended family of 40 people who, until the previous generation, had all lived together in large houses. I was taught how to wear a sari and how to entertain my muslim family and friends.
My husband never went to the mosque. He dressed in western clothes, seemed to be an alcoholic and was a gambler. Many years later I heard that he, and many of his friends, had been excommunicated from the mosque.
Because I was married to a Kenyan citizen I was presumed to be the possession of my husband and I was unable to leave Kenya unless I had his written permission. For a long time I was stuck in my frightful marriage with no hope of escape until circumstances, in the shape of thieves, gave me an excuse to return to England to buy some clothes to wear. A lorryload of thieves had come to our house at night and stripped every single thing out of it even including the contents of the fridge and the washing off the line.
Once I got back to London I didn't return to Nairobi. The story didn't end there but that's enough for now!
I am still trying to absorb your post, Spindrift, at #93. Years ago, I saw the film, 'Not Without my Daughter' that Kerouac mentioned. I think that you were innocent, fascinated by another culture and willing to explore, and didn't quite understand what it all could mean.
I also wonder whether it is conscious lying, or reverting to cultural patterns.
And YOU, who weren't Muslim at all, had to be a good Muslim, while his gambling and abusing alcohol (actually, drinking at all, but there has been leniency about that in many Muslim societies) are definitely not proper behaviour in that faith.
Wow Spindrift, that is scary. Very scary. It isn't anywhere like that bad here, but we still get a lot of odd stuff in the south. I know women who have to keep their husband's tea glass full and keep the place spotless even though he will tromp in with his muddy hunting boots on. My first husband was of that persuasion. He divorced me because I was not "submissive" enough. Really, he was kinda dense considering the first story my mother told him of me as a kid involved the comment "I raised her to be independent and succeeded beyond my wildest dreams". LOL Oh well, live and learn.
also wonder whether it is conscious lying, or reverting to cultural patterns.
LaGatta, you took the words right out of my mouth! That was my thought, too. That the westernized men don't even realize that they are going to fall right back into those age-old patterns once they return home.
While stories like these always shock I'm pretty surer that many more interfaith marriages work. I think it's not necessarily the religion itself that causes culture shock (or worse), it's more the complete change of social environment that causes a lot more problems.
There are many marriages between Buddhists and Muslims in Southeast Asia, you don't hear of many problems, certainly none that arise from religious differences. Many more problems can be found in marriages between foreign men and local women who decide to go to the husband's country, be it Korea or Australia.
The struggle continues in other parts of the world.
From the Indo Asian News Service
Dhaka, April 9 (IANS) Muslim women cannot be forced to wear the veil while at work or in public, the Dhaka High Court has ruled while stating that it should be their personal choice.
It said in a ruling Thursday that no one could force women, working at public and private educational institutions, to wear the veil or cover their heads against their will.
The court directed the education ministry to ensure the execution of its order.
It asked the education secretary to ensure that women were not harassed by their superiors at educational institutions.
Bangladesh is a largely-Muslim nation where women, active in political and public life, move without veils.
The verdict came in response to a writ petition filed to seek a directive following a newspaper report that a sub-district education officer of Kurigram insulted a female teacher for not wearing the veil in June last year.
The high court bench of woman judge Justice Syeda Afsar Jahan and Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain also asked the education secretary to carry out the directives given by this court in May last year on sexual harassment of women at the institutions.
The court May 14 last year directed the authorities concerned to form a five-member harassment complaint committee headed by a woman at every workplace and institution to investigate allegations of harassment of women.
The bench Thursday asked the secretary to transfer the official, Arif Ahmed, who passed the remark on Sultana Arjuman Huq, headmistress of Atmaram Bishweshwar Government Primary School.
Earlier in January this year, Ahmed apologised to Arjuman before the high court and the court acquitted him of the charge after Arjuman pardoned him.
Bengali language daily Shamokal June 26 last year reported that Arif Ahmed had called Sultana Arjuman Huq 'Beshya' (prostitute) at a meeting June 25.
Anjuman felt insulted and became sick after the incident, the report said.
I'm glad to see women standing up against this stuff. HP as you say it is not interfaith marriage or Islam per say, but the problem of women living in their husband's culture and country, in his (usually patriarchal) social support network. I sure as hell don't think I'd be happy living in a remote village in Central America (or certain South American countries) or even in Sicily or Andalusia, though we are nominally the same religion. There is a specific problem in Muslim societies now though, which many Muslims would be the last to deny - the phenomenal growth of a very reactionary form of religious practice and its enforcement throughout society, despite Koranic admonitions against compulsion in matters of faith. I don't think it is entirely accurate to call this Islamofascism, though there are certainly parallels with very repressive movements in Western and other societies. Women of Muslim backgrounds are among the principal victims of this - whether young women living in Western countries who are urged to find a suitable boy back home, or women who have simply developed more independence in predominantly Muslim societies.
Many more problems can be found in marriages between foreign men and local women who decide to go to the husband's country, be it Korea or Australia.
I think this is a very important point. No matter how well you speak a language or even if you've married into a family in the foreign country, it's still a foreign country. Obviously, the longer one lives in another country, the more complete ones understanding of the culture will be. But a foreigner will retain his or her "otherness" within and that, added to the stresses of being in a new family, can be overwhelming, particularly if the husband is not understanding about the wife's difficulties.
There is a specific problem in Muslim societies now though, which many Muslims would be the last to deny - the phenomenal growth of a very reactionary form of religious practice and its enforcement throughout society, despite Koranic admonitions against compulsion in matters of faith.
LaGatta, you always add balance and objectivity to this kind of discussion! As an international forum, I think we need these reminders not to look at other cultures or their people too broadly, but to acknowledge that there are as many variations within them as there are in our own. This kind of forum benefits from more members and more different kinds of input. A climate of disapproval of any one culture is hardly going to help us grow.
I would like to state I have no trouble with any culture, in and of itself. My comment on the deep south rednecks was meant to imply there are men of this ilk in many cultures, even right here in the good ol' USA. I am categorically against the dehumanization and abasement of women, of mistreatment of them in any way. And of men, children, and animals.
Now, if someone decided all men in a culture should wear burkas and be nothing more than property, I would just as much be against that. I like to hope the banning of the burka would be the first in at least small steps toward ending the particular abuses of woman prevalent in Muslim society, so I applaud any movement in that direction. I am probably being naive and overly-hopeful, I know, but certainly ending the abuse of women worldwide is not something that is going to be fixed in one giant leap.
That's a good quote. I was born in a village that was run on superstition. I actually saw black magic and voodoo being practised. And many of the traditional stories that are handed down from generation to generation always had a lot of superstition in them too.
In a discussion about this sort of thing in the Globe and Mail recently, I read this fantastic (I think) quote in a letter to the editor:
"traditional cultures are repositories of ignorance, superstition, repression, cruelty and injustice. I for one, will be happy when they exist only in our history books."
Seems awfully broad a statement. While I can certainly agree on some of what this person may be referring to,to say that "traditional cultures" in general, represent all of these negative attributes, seems terribly closed minded. Perhaps,worded differently, I could accept the message he/she may be trying to convey.
Indeed. In my totally blown-off comment in #104, I tried to make the point that a judgmental and disapproving tone will pretty much guarantee that we'll never get a participant in this forum from one of those cultures. This is supposed to be an international forum, one that would feel welcoming to people from all over.
I do not welcome everybody. I have been mortified by some of the customs that I have seen in my travels, and the 'modern' people of the same countries were just as mortified as I was. I would be completely mortified if somebody came to this forum to explain why the Ku Klux Klan is a traditional culture to be respected. The line must be drawn from time to time.
There is a seemingly ever present nostalgic romantic compulsion to gloss over and even glorify the barbarism, ignorance and superstition of the past.
Dickens had bookshelves in his famous Gads Hill Place lined with dummy book spines (as was the fashion of the day), some of which employed his own vicious ironic humor. One apt example was titled The Wisdom of Our Ancestors: I Ignorance, II Superstition, III The Block, IV The Stake, V The Rack, VI Dirt, and VII Disease. Alongside these was placed a very narrow dummy volume entitled The Virtues of Our Ancestors.
I should think that most people haven't got the brain-power or the wish to try and figure out why tradition dictates what they do. They just go along with it (and they have to or be punished).
Spindrift, you've been through so much, you should write a book about it, really. I have read the book 'not without my daughter', it's scary that so many western women will fall for Muslim men and then only afterwards truly understand what it means to be a woman in that culture.
I've only just seen that video linked earlier on (where that poor Muslim woman is trying to eat with her face covered up). I can't help feeling angry that someone out there might think that it's okay for a human being to eat like that, and even encourage it.
I've talked about this particular case before on another forum. The Muslim father killed his two daughters. The mother was American. When away the mother would give the girls a bit more freedom then he allowed. One of the girls was dating a boy. In the end he found out and shot them to death:
It seems to me if they base a ban on security and stipulate people may not cover more than a certain percent of their face in public, it would be ok. I do not know exactly what percentage is necessary for facial recognition software to work, but it seems a lesser percent than that would be a great idea.