I find it both ironic and fascinating that the anti-Muslim forces often cite the oppression of women as a cause for resisting Islam. Ironic because many branches of Christianity and the Orthodox branches of Judaism could be accused of the same thing. Fascinating because it suggests that the truth-value of any religion is linked to its treatment of women, something no biblical or Qur’anic text would suggest.
For example, the Catholic Church has just issued new rules that declare the ordination of women priests as a “grave crime,” and the Episcopal Church is caught up in an internal battle over whether or not to have women bishops. Should we resist Catholicism and Episcopalianism because of their treatment of women?
You can find similar issues of control in other Protestant denominations, some of which seek to control women’s dress, their position within the home and church, and their God-ordained submission to their husbands. So for Christians to decry Islam because it restricts women’s freedom is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
In Israel the government has instituted a religious bus service that forces woman to ride in the back of the bus, so as to not entice Orthodox men to sexual thoughts (or worse) between stops. And then there is the ruling that prohibits women from becoming rabbis. And let us not forget the extreme Orthodox insistence that married women cover or better yet cut their hair short and wear wigs so as not to entice men. So if we are going to oppose Islam on feminist grounds lets take on Christianity and Judaism as well.
Buddhism and Hinduism fair no better, with many Buddhist nuns being forced to play second fiddle to monks, and some Hindu women being sold into virtual slavery to their in-laws, and Hindu female fetuses being aborted to avoid the expense of having to marry the fetus off when she comes of age.
Yes, you can argue that these are cultural problems not intrinsic to the religions themselves, but this is no less true of Islam. Nowhere does the Qur’an demand that women wear the same protective gear as beekeepers, and yet so many do.
But let’s not restrict our concern to religion. Western democratic secular societies are not exactly bastions of women’s freedom. So the more you look the more appealing the idea that women are the canaries in the religious/political/cultural mine. I think the status of women, i.e. the degree to which they are denied the same rights and privileges and status as men in their respective faiths, countries, ethnicities, etc. is an excellent barometer for gauging the morality of those faiths, countries, etc. And I would go even further and hold these religions and countries up to the standard of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
So if you are among those who pretend to some moral high ground by pointing out the oppression and exploitation of women in Islam, please broaden your gaze. Let all of us agree to reject any ideology that denies women the same freedoms it grants to men, and any that denies Universal Human Right to either gender or both.
Whew, I think I just freed myself from every ideology on the frigging planet.