Monthly Archives: May 2010

The Niqab and the Islamization of Europe

By: Alexandra Kinias

European countries finally woke up from the bad dream that the Bedouin culture, represented in the niqab (face veil), is methodically growing within their societies. Parliament members met, laws were drafted and quick actions were taken to stop this growth, or at least to slow it down before the jinni escapes from inside the magic lamp and transforms the bad dream into an uncontrollable nightmare. Belgium was the first country that issued a ban on the niqab and France followed in its footsteps. Bills banning it are being prepared to be introduced in the parliaments of the Netherlands, Austria and Italy (which already had passed a law to fine women who wear it). Denmark is still debating on whether to pass a law or not and so is Switzerland that earlier in the year passed a law that banned the construction of minarets for mosques built on her soil.

It is so intriguing that this small black piece of fabric is causing so much heated debates, controversies and raising the tensions that already exist between the Islamic countries and the West.  But in spite of all the criticism that European countries have been subjected to from human rights organizations and opposition groups within their own societies, their decision is unlikely to be reversed. The issue of banning the niqab has also contributed to friction between the Europeans and the Muslim immigrants, who are physically living in the western societies but in reality they have not left home yet and are still clutching to their own cultures and traditions.

Banning the niqab in Europe and the referendum against the construction of the minarets in Switzerland have given Islamic Scholars and Clerics the opportunity to attack Europe’s intolerance of Islam. That was quite a humorous accusation giving that the accusers are ignoring the fact that foreign women in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran have to follow the religious dress code of these countries. And those who disapproved the Swiss referendum for constructing the minarets for the mosques forgot to ask themselves when was the last time that a church was built in Egypt, or when would Saudi Arabia allow churches to be build in the Kingdom.

Women in the Middle East have been governed by Bedouin laws that were drafted in the deserts of Arabia centuries ago. The inequality, discrimination and mistreatment that these women are subjected to because of these laws are dehumanizing and humiliating. The face cover they are forced to wear is a simple demonstration of how women are categorized as second class citizens denied the right even for a breath of fresh air.

And the desert storms blew from the Arabian Sahara. Together with the sand grains, these nomadic cultures and traditions landed in Europe with the Muslim immigrants. These sand storms, sponsored by the petrodollars, are exporting the radical Wahabbism creed to every corner of the globe, with the promise of eternal paradise. Its symbol became the faceless women shrouded in black, which, by the way, has no scripture in Islam to support it. These cultures and traditions are alien to the European values and beliefs especially toward their women, who their laws guarantee equality, respect and freedom.

The vast majority of immigrants who arrive to Europe, from the Islamic countries, seeking a better life hardly integrate into their new societies because they are either unwilling or unable to. And in either case, they despise the values of their adoptive countries, separate themselves from the new society, and drown in the rigorous creed preached in their neighborhood mosques, thus widening the gap that already exists between them and the European natives.

Controlling the women is always a top priority for preachers as that paves the road to the control of societies. What Europe is going through is not a separate incident. It is a reflection to what is happening in Muslim societies elsewhere. The veil and niqab are becoming more of a political symbol than a religious costume. Through it, the Islamization of the world is closely monitored.

There is no doubt that the European awakening to resist its Bedouinization has indeed started. It will spread even further and new measures will be adopted. Europe’s face—integration of the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society— cannot be completed with faceless women.

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Qasim Amin and the Liberation of Women

By: Alexandra Kinias

The emancipation of Egyptian women began in the nineteenth century under the rule of Mohamed Ali (1766- 1849), when the first school to train women to be medical assistants was opened in 1832.  Forty years later, in 1873, the first government primary school was opened to the public.  However, the real breakthrough for Egyptian women happened by  Mohamed Ali’s decedents. The policy reform which his decedents adopted included sending several intellectuals to France to be educated in key leadership positions in the government.

Qassim Amin (1863 – 1908),  at the age of nineteen, and after he graduated from law school, was among the privileged who were selected for the scholarship in France.  He stayed there for four years.

In France, Amin was exposed to different experiences than the oneس he grew up with. These experiences altered his vision about life and society and opened his eyes to the decaying status and living conditions in which the Egyptian women were living. As a true believer in the reform policies that Egypt was adopting, he concluded that neither these reforms would be attainable nor the Islamic world would ever witness development towards modernity unless the status of women in the society was improved.

Amin believed that the liberation of women was the first step for the liberation of the Egyptian society from its inferior position, after all how would a society advance if its rulers were brought up by ignorant and uneducated women. On these subjects Amin wrote two books. Using both rational Islamic arguments and emotional ones, he pleaded for a more dignified and improved social position for women:  advocating education equality, the abolition of the veil and the reformation of marriage laws, divorce, and polygamy.

He wrote his first book, The Liberation of Women in 1899.  In the book, Amin openly criticized the way men treated women in the Moslem societies and demanded that it should come to an end. He discussed her role toward her nation, her responsibility toward her family and children and recommended reforms for the practices of arranged marriages and divorce decisions. An important emphasis was put on education and the issue of  polygamy and its effect on women was also addressed.

The controversial book generated a lot of debate, but it was his view regarding the veil and the seclusion of women that really ignited the fires.  As many researchers before him, Amin wrote that the veil was not an Islamic custom and that the Moslems didn’t invent it.  He explained that the veil was adopted from other cultures and it was a custom in many other nations, but it eventually disappeared as a result of the social changes. He believed that Moslems have exaggerated the use of veil and he denounced it as a source of discrimination against women because it would never allow them to have full control over their lives. For him, the first step for women liberation was to tear off the veil and the next step would be to bring women out of their seclusion. Unlike the masses that believed that seclusion was meant to protect women’s purity and prevent immorality in the society,  Amin saw it as a shield that separated  them from the living world and deprived them from any progress.

In adopting the cause of women as his focus for reform, Amin subjected himself to severe criticism from the Palace as well as from religious leaders, journalists, and writers. Such attacks and criticism however did not intimidate him, and in response he wrote a second book on the subject.

The New Woman was written in 1901, in which he developed some of his ideas further and spoke openly in favor of women’s emancipation. Amin’s second book caused more controversy than the first one and was very poorly received by both the intellectuals and the nationalists. The reason they opposed it was because it promoted western ideas and thus, from their point of view, encouraged immorality in the society.    While others saw the removal of the veil and bringing the women out of their seclusion as a total destruction of the values of the society, Amin believed that the emancipation of women was the answer to the reform of the society. Amin fought for the women’s cause until he died in 1908.

More than a hundred years later and it seems that the women in Egypt are starting all over again. If Amin was alive today, it would all be a déjà vu for him.

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He killed his Wife for Being Pregnant With a Baby Girl

By: Alexandra Kinias

A Palestinian man in the West Bank was arrested  on May 13  for killing his 27 years old pregnant wife.  He chocked her to death after the ultra sound results showed that she was pregnant with a baby girl.  The couple already had three boys and a girl.  And the husband who apparently was ignorant that the man’s sperm decided the gender of the fetus,  admitted that he was jealous of his brother who had nine sons.

“According to police, abrasions were found on the man’s body, indicating that the wife struggled as he was choking her to death”.

The husband committed this heinous  crime to terminate his wife’s pregnancy because she didn’t comply with his demands of granting him his wish for another son.  It was like she cooked hummus for him instead of shish kebabs.

This horrific news was nothing more than another illustration of  the brutal reality  of how women are still viewed and treated in many parts of the world.  In cultures where females are  believed to be  inferior to males, having a daughter is  considered shameful. Fathers with stone age mentalities still believe that girls bring shame to their families.  They view them as nothing more than a source of disgrace and wouldn’t hesitate  to kill them in a blink of an eye if they felt that their existence would disgrace them.

The first thing that came to my mind after I read about the slain of this woman was  her surviving children.  How would the daughter who had witnessed the killing of her mother, for being pregnant with a baby girl, would feel about her gender?  And what about the message that was given to the three boys?

The woman, according to news reports, had been previously attacked and abused by her husband.  But growing up in a culture where violence against women is the norm and is encouraged by religious scholars, she accepted her fate and became submissive to her abuser.  Even her family knew about it, but no one stood up for her.  There are so much social illness in such cultures that makes it hard whom to blame.  Probably the women in her family are as abused as she was and her male relatives are no different than her husband.

What is more horrific than the crimes committed against women  is how the law deals with them.  Unfortunately, the authorities represented in law makers and police officers  in such cultures view and accept the abusive behaviors against women as normative.

Caption from the blog: The Muslim Women

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Hymenorophy: Certificate of Innocence

By: Alexandra Kinias

Twenty four years old Radwa had just graduated from college and hired as an art teacher in a private school in Cairo. For Radwa it was very important to restore her virginity before she got married to the man who proposed to her through a family friend.  She desperately needed a Hymonorophy a.k.a Hymenoplasty to re-connect the tissue of the hymen, but couldn’t afford to pay for this procedure that takes about 30 minutes under local anesthetic from her small salary. Radwa’s  lover of four years, whom she had a sexual relation with but wouldn’t marry her because she was not a virgin,  paid for the expenses. It was his wedding gift to her. Unfortunately, this is not an episode of a Mexican soap opera. It is a real story that often happens in the Middle East. And Radwa is among the lucky ones who found someone to pay for the surgery.

For many years, girls at the age of marriage who had lost their virginity to a loved one, only to be abandoned by him, lived in absolute misery. Some committed suicide. Others faked their virginity, by spilling red liquids on theirs beds, and spent fearful hours worrying that the grooms would discover the trick. The consequences would be to be returned back to their parents’ house, like defected merchandise, with a scandal that would send them to the grave. Any girl, who refused to get married, raised the suspicions of her family that she was not a virgin. There was no other logical reason for her not to want to get married except covering up the mistake of losing her honor.

Honor, that’s what it is all about. In a region where religious scholars are more respected than scientists, and where women are blamed for God’s wrath and natural disasters, the existence of women’s hymen on their wedding nights is the sole proof of their purity, chastity, innocence, and honor. It is what separates an honorable girl from a prostitute. The girl’s virginity is a natural certificate, a social declaration of good behavior and her proof of innocence from having pre-marital sex.

Hymenorophies are not only wide spread in the Middle East, but also among girls of Middle Eastern and Asian descendants who live in European countries. These immigrants still live under their own codes of ethics and traditions where a family’s pride is boiled down to nothing else, but their women’s virginity.

With these operations, women finally found a solution and with it they could bury their pasts forever.  The irony is that  rarely you find a man with no pre-marital sexual relationships. These men have lost their virginity to a woman whom they most likely abandoned to get married to a certified virgin.

Doctors started these operations out of pity for the girls, but eventually these procedures became lucrative business. In Britain, the half hour procedure costs $2400. In the Middle East, prices are not that expensive, but they are still beyond the reach of a lot of women.

But China is always there with  affordable solutions, even to supply fake hymen to women who had lost their virginity. When these new Chinese merchandises flooded the markets of the Middle East for $15, men started to lose their minds. A leading Egyptian scholar demanded that the importers of these fake hymens should face death penalties. As an engineer I have learned that every action has a reaction, equal in magnitude and opposite in direction. In a society where women are not forgiven for losing their virginity, even if they were raped, as a reaction these operations were born out of the necessity for saving their lives. I still don’t see how the magnitude of the deceit behind restoring the virginity can equate to the magnitude of taking someone’s life for losing it.

Burying the past to protect their future is the only way for these women to survive in such unforgiving societies that otherwise wouldn’t give them a second chance. Who would blame them?

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