Is the Arab World backward because of their Women?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 6th, 2011

Europe Pulls ahead of the Middle East in 1200 and never Looks Back

What’s the deal with the Islamic world?  While Western Civilization has reached staggering heights of prosperity and freedom, much of the Islamic world lives as they did during the Middle Ages (see Is Islam the Problem? by Nicholas Kristof posted 3/5/2011 on The New York Times).

A wise visitor from outer space who dropped in on Earth a millennium ago might have assumed that the Americas would eventually be colonized not by primitive Europeans but by the more advanced Arab civilization — and that as a result we Americans would all be speaking Arabic today.

Yet after about 1200, the Middle East took a long break: it stagnated economically, and today it is marked by high levels of illiteracy and autocracy. So as the region erupts in protests seeking democracy, a basic question arises: What took so long? And, a politically incorrect question: Could the reason for the Middle East’s backwardness be Islam?

That great city in Egypt founded by Alexander the Great, Alexandria, held a treasure trove of old Greek texts.  When the Christian Crusaders crusaded into the region, they took some of these books back home with them.  As well as some Arab science and math.  It’s what made Europe dominant coming out of the Middle Ages.  At the time of the Crusades, the Arab world was more dominant than Europe.  More learned.  More advanced.  So it’s a good question.  What happened?  Why did the Europeans pass them by?

Yet one challenge is psychological. Many Arabs blame outsiders for their backwardness, and cope by rejecting modernity and the outside world. It’s a disgrace that an area that once produced outstanding science and culture (giving us words like algebra) now is an educational underachiever, especially for girls.

Perhaps there is a clue here.  Perhaps it’s the human capital of Western women.  It’s just a thought.  When you exclude women from anything reserved for men it basically cuts your human capital in half.  The greater your human capital, the greater your advancement.  If the split between men and women is 50-50, then the Western Civilization has been working with a 100% advantage in human capital.  Perhaps that is a factor.  I don’t know.  It’s just a thought.

The Great Cultural Divide: Bikinis or Veils

Little has changed in the Muslim world.  Education and custom is little changed from what it was back when the Arab world was dominant.  And those who try to change things are not received well by their brethren (see London imam subjected to death threats for supporting evolution by Rowenna Davis posted 3/6/2011 on the UK’s Guardian).

An imam of an east London mosque has been subject to death threats and intimidation for expressing his views on evolution and women’s right to refuse the veil…

A statement from the secretary of the mosque, Mohammad Sethi, that was leaked to extremist websites, said Hasan had been suspended after his lecture resulted in “considerable antagonism” from the community and for his “belief that Muslim women are allowed to uncover their hair in public”.

It is not uncommon to see magazines at the checkout lane in American sores with bikini-clad women on the covers.  You see them so often you don’t give them a second thought.  Compare that to the ferocious outrage directed against someone who said Muslim women should be able to show their hair in public.  That is quite a cultural divide.  And perhaps a reason for the men in the Arab world to hate the West.  Because we let these uppity women to do whatever they please.  Why, we even let them believe in evolution.

Harun Yahya, a popular Islamic creationist scholar from Turkey, begins a UK tour in London on Monday, adding to the debate. Last December Salir al-Sadlan, a senior Saudi-based scholar Salir al-Sadlan, said Muslims shouldn’t pray behind someone who believed in evolution in a speech at Green Lanes mosque in Birmingham.

Inayat Bunglawala, chair of Muslims4UK, a group promoting Muslim engagement in British society, said there was “widespread ignorance” about evolution among the Muslim community. “Many traditional imams are grounded in ancient books in Arabic but have very little grounding in science. I find it staggering how they can be so strongly opposed to evolution without reading about it. That seems to be opposite of the very first commandment of the Qur’an, which is to read,” Bunglawala said.

It was interesting to hear the American left argue for that Muslim community center (that included a mosque inside of it) near Ground Zero.  They fought for and defended the Muslim religion.  Even though they attack Christianity tooth and nail over their ‘oppression’ of women and God-clinging rejection of evolution.  Incidentally, a lot of those bikini-clad women on the magazine covers in American stores?  A lot of them are Christians.  And why do Christian women do this in the West?  Pose half-naked?  Because they can.

The Left makes absolutely no logical sense to support a stringent religion (Islam) while attacking a less stringent one (Christianity).  Then again, a lot the Left does defies logical sense.  But I digress. 

Protestant Germany have an Islamic Past?

There’s a lot of Christian history in Germany.  Martin Luther was a German monk who started the Protestant Reformation.  That’s a pretty big movement in the Christian world.  And Germany was smack dab in the middle of the Christian world.  But others would beg to differ (see German Minister’s Comments on Islam Stir Debate by Judy Dempsey posted 3/6/2011 on The New York Times).

Germany’s new interior minister, appointed just last week, has already managed to upset politicians, church leaders and representatives of the Muslim community by saying that Islam is not a part of the German way of life.

“Islam in Germany is not something substantiated by history at any point,” the interior minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich, said at his first news conference in his new job, adding that Islam did not play a major role in German culture…

Lamya Kaddor, chairwoman of the Liberal-Islamic Union in Germany, said that Mr. Friedrich’s remarks were a “slap in the face of Muslims.”

“Such statements are not only politically and historically wrong, I think they are dangerous,” Ms. Kaddor said. She added that Mr. Friedrich’s position would undermine progress between Muslims and Christians that previous interior ministers had encouraged.

I don’t know.  I think the German guy is kinda right here.  It was a Germanic people that conquered Rome and renamed it the Holy Roman Empire.  And the empire moved north.  It became German.  And it was Germanic kings that sent crusaders to the Holy Land.  To fight the Muslims.  To return the Holy Land to Christian rule.  That’s why Muslims hate Christians.  The European crusaders.  Western Civilization.  And Americans.  They say we’re all still crusading against Islam.  And that’s why Muslim immigrant communities don’t want to assimilate into their new countries.  Including Germany.

Germany has been grappling with how best to integrate its four million Muslims into the society at large. The government is pushing for the children of non-German-speaking parents to develop better German language skills.

But in a recent visit to Germany, the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, urged Turkish parents who are living in Germany to teach their children the Turkish language before German.

Mr. Erdogan told a crowd of more than 11,000 people in Düsseldorf that the Turks in Germany should not assimilate, but integrate.

“I say yes to integration,” Mr. Erdogan said. “You should definitely integrate with the German society, but we are against assimilation. No one should be able to rip us away from our culture and civilization. Our children must learn German, but first they must learn Turkish.”

I wonder how many Christian Germans are living in Muslim countries maintaining their culture and civilization.  Or is that a one way street?  I mean, if you want to retain your culture and civilization, why leave the country where your culture and civilization is?  And why expect another country to lose their culture and civilization by refusing to assimilate into your new adoptive country?  It doesn’t seem fair.  And appears that something else is at play here.  The expansion of Islamic fundamentalism?  Perhaps.

Americans Attacked in Germany

So, is there any radical Islamic fundamentalism happening in Germany?  Well, there’s this (see Jihad in Frankfurt posted on 3/7/2011 in The Wall Street Journal).

On Wednesday two American soldiers were shot dead on a military bus at Frankfurt Airport. Arid Uka, a 21-year-old Kosovo native, has confessed to the murders of Senior Airman Nicholas Alden, 25, and Airman First Class Zachary Cuddeback, 21.

German officials say Uka approached the airmen boarding the bus, asked for a cigarette, and struck up a conversation. After one of the soldiers confirmed they were headed for Afghanistan, Uka followed them onto the bus, cried “Allahu akbar,” and began shooting.

Hmmm.  A young man from a predominantly Muslim country shouting ‘God is Great’ before killing two Americans on their way to Afghanistan where Islamic Fundamentalism is fighting to throw the Westerners out.  Why, one could say this young Muslim is simpatico with his Muslim brethren in Afghanistan.  So, yes, one could call this an act of radical Islamic Fundamentalism against Americans on German soil.

No Room for Oprah in the Middle East

I once worked with a guy that proudly told me he didn’t leave the house in the morning unless his wife put on his socks for him.  He was the boss in his house and she did what he told her to.  I sometimes get the feeling that this is what’s going on with radical Islam.  It’s all about the women.  They don’t like the freedom of women in the West.  For Islam is a male-dominated society.  And to maintain this culture and civilization, it is best to keep your country like it was in the old days.  Backwards.  For Muslim women watching Oprah may get ideas.  The wrong kind of ideas.  So it’s best not to have the modern conveniences of life that could bring Oprah into the Muslim living room.  For the sake of that male-dominated society. 

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Can Feminism Survive in the Islamic Middle East?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 19th, 2011

The Iranian Revolution and Feminism

The Shah of Iran modernized Iran.  And advanced women’s rights.  Did away with child marriage.  And outlawed having multiple wives.  Women may not have been fully equal but they were more equal than they had ever been before.  Or since.  And they had access to education.  In fact, they were so well educated that when they came out of college some could find no jobs.  At least none that called for such a higher education.  So there was a lot of unemployment during the 1970s.  A lot of highly educated people without jobs.  Both men and women.  And they protested.  Both men and women.  They overthrew the Shah.  Both men and women.  And how did that go?  Well, better for the men than it did for the women.

The Iranian Revolution in 1979 kind of came out of nowhere.  Stunned most of the world.  But many quickly welcomed this ‘democratic’ revolution.  Some people even welcomed that kindly, moderate, old man returning from exile.  Ayatollah Khomeini.  Even The New York Times said at last we will see a humane government in a third world country.  Of course, that didn’t happen.  The ‘democratic’ revolution soon became a theocratic revolution.  Khomeini ushered in Sharia law.  And a rather oppressive interpretation at that.  Everything the women gained under the Shah was gone.  Women were property again.  Second class citizens.  Not the kind of hope and change they were protesting about.  In fact, a lot of their daughters say today, “Thanks, Mom.”  And, “What were you thinking about!?!”  Under their breath, of course.

The Iranian Revolution started out as a democratic movement upset about rampant unemployment and abject poverty.  And they were angry at the Shah’s oppressive regime that exercised dictatorial power.  That shut down all opposition voices.  A lot like in Egypt.  But underneath this there was another element lurking in the background.  An Islamic element.  Angry at the Shah’s Westernization of Iran.  And eager to restore the old, Islamic ways.  And while the first revolutionaries talked about democratic reform, these other revolutionaries planned their theocracy.  Then they installed it.  And the rest is history.  A sad one for those women who had achieved so much under the Shah’s rule.

As in Iran, Men and Women Stood side by side during the Egyptian Revolution.  Will they after the Revolution?

So another revolution comes and goes in the Arab world.  It took only 18 days.  Things were pretty good in Egypt for women before the revolution.  But what will life be like after the revolution (see Egypt women stand for equality in the square by Kathy Lally posted 2/18/2011 on The Washington Post)?

Women are far better off in Egypt than some parts of the Arab world. There are no religious police enforcing dress codes as in Iran, or prohibitions against driving as in Saudi Arabia. But Egyptian women are greatly underrepresented in public life and inferior to men before the law. They hold cabinet posts, but no judgeships. They are members of parliament, but have few seats. They occupy many professions, but not all.

Divorces are difficult to obtain and favor men, as do property rights. Women are encouraged to marry and have children early: The legal age of marriage was only recently raised from 16 to 18.

And, every day as they walk down the street, they are reminded of their low status – until Tahrir Square. Egyptian women are sexually harassed to an astonishing degree, groped, ogled, followed by catcalls, behavior that no law forbids. In a 2008 survey, the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights in Cairo found that 83 percent of Egyptian women and 98 percent of foreign women had been harassed at some point.

And this in a ‘far better off’ country in the Arab world.  Makes one wonder what happened in the not so better off countries.  The question is, will this be the high water mark for feminism in Egypt?  Will they now retreat on the advancements made in women’s rights?

“We were equal partners in this revolution,” she said, “and we are respected as such. Now we have to use the moment effectively, to make sure women participate in daily political life, to make sure they are involved in the development of political parties and labor movements.”

That’s kind of what the women said in Iran.  Of course, once that theocracy took hold, all hopes for women being involved in political parties and movements were over.  Will this be Egypt’s fate?  Or the Middle East’s?  A common enemy can unite a people.  Even the sexes.  But what about tradition and culture?  And religion?  How heavily will they weigh on the new governments borne of revolution?

Tunisia and Egypt – Oppressors of the People but Defenders of Feminism

What do Tunisia and Egypt have in common?  They both just disposed hated dictators.  And they were both bastions of women’s rights (see Are the Mideast revolutions bad for women’s rights? by Isobel Coleman posted 2/20/2011 on The Washington Post).

Tunisia, in particular, has been a bastion of women’s rights in a region known for the opposite. Shortly after independence in 1956, President Habib Bourguiba, the country’s secular authoritarian leader, pushed through a Personal Status Code which was remarkably liberal for its time. It granted women equal divorce rights to men, abolished polygamy, set minimum marriage ages, allowed access to birth control and even some access to abortion. Bourguiba modeled himself on Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey’s founder who force-marched his country into the modern age through a painful process of secularization – “for the people, despite the people,” as he once quipped.

The result is that Tunisian women today enjoy relatively high literacy and have achieved broad gains in law, medicine, business, academia and media.

But things got bad.  And the Tunisians protested about the same things the Iranians and the Egyptians did.  And the big question is this.  Now that there is a power vacuum, who will fill it?  A modern, democratic power?  Or an old school, theocratic power?  Like, say, the Muslim Brotherhood?

In Egypt, democracy will also create important openings for Islamist groups, especially the Muslim Brotherhood. In a 2007 Gallup survey, 64 percent of Egyptians polled said that sharia should be the only source of law in the country; an additional 24 percent said it should be a source of legislation. (There was little variation by gender.)

Still, Egyptians’ desire for sharia is balanced by a strong demand for modernization and a distaste for theocracy. Women’s rights will be a litmus test for the new government – a sign of where the country is headed. The Muslim Brotherhood unleashed a sea of controversy in 2007 when it released its party platform excluding women (and non-Muslims) from the presidency, and calling for a group of Islamic scholars to review and veto legislation that does not conform to religious rules. These conservative positions confirmed critics’ worst fears of the Brotherhood, and led to some soul-searching within the organization itself, especially among younger members who disagreed with the hard-line positions of their elders.

Those younger members should read a page from the Iranian Revolution history.  The young in Iran today are not all happy with their parent’s revolution.  Especially the women.  And the girls.

The rise of Salafism, a particularly conservative form of the faith propagated by Saudi Arabia, should worry Egyptian women’s groups. In recent years, tensions between secularists and Salafis have been rising, with Salafis calling for full veiling of women and gender segregation in universities. The Salafis’ following is evident in the rising number of Egyptian women wearing the niqab, the face-covering veil, long black abayas and even gloves on their hands to avoid physical contact with men.

Wearing the veil has become popular in Tunisia and Egypt for a variety of reasons, including as an expression of religious identity, conforming to social pressures and as a statement against the secular authoritarianism of the government. (The irony is that Egypt is the birthplace of Arab feminism, which in the first half of the 20th century put much energy into unveiling women.)

With Hosni Mubarak gone, activists will now have to contend with hard-core politics in a way that has been missing from Egypt’s Potemkin parliament. Controversial legislation, like the equal right to divorce that was passed in 2000, will come under pressure from Islamist lawmakers who fiercely opposed the bill. (Tunisia is the only other Arab country that grants women the right.) Women’s groups can no longer fall back upon a sympathetic Mubarak regime, which often sided with their cause.

Ah, yes, the hated Hosni Mubarak.  Champion of feminism.  Who they ran out of the country.  Much like the Shah of Iran.  One can only hope that the women of Egypt don’t end up like the women of Iran.

Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan – Still not Bastions of Women’s Rights

Of course, being a woman in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan was no picnic.  Under their law, the sentence for many offences was death.  Even for not wearing the proper traditional garb.  But that was then.  We toppled the Taliban from power in Afghanistan.  And the Saudi’s are a stalwart ally.  So how are things there now (see Why American troops in Afghanistan shouldn’t have to wear headscarves by Martha McSally posted 2/18/2011 in The Washington Post)?

In 2001, I was an Air Force lieutenant colonel and A-10 fighter pilot stationed in Saudi Arabia, in charge of rescue operations for no-fly enforcement in Iraq and then in Afghanistan. Every time I went off base, I had to follow orders and put on a black Muslim abaya and head scarf. Military officials said this would show “cultural sensitivity” toward conservative Saudi leaders and guarantee “force protection” – this in a nation where women couldn’t drive, vote or dress as they pleased…

In Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001, the world saw the hallmark of Taliban oppression – women who failed to cover up risked death. Now, nine years after the fall of the Taliban government, Afghan women are still required to cover themselves and have hardly moved toward the equal rights and liberties we envisioned. In conjunction, U.S. military women are simply submitting to Muslim practices that symbolize the plight of Afghan women when they put on the scarf themselves.

American servicewomen will continue to be viewed as second-class warriors if leaders push them to take up the customs of countries where women are second-class citizens.

It’s pretty bad when they make your liberators adopt the custom of the previously oppressed women.  There’s a mixed message here.  Rise up and enjoy your freedom.  But be obedient.  They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  And as tradition, culture and religion go, they don’t come much older.  Talk about democratic movements all you want.  But there is a heavy undertow of Islamic Fundamentalism in the Middle East.  And it’s going to take an extraordinary effort to resist it.  

Will the women make it to shore and enjoy democracy?  Or will they be dragged back and disappear beneath the surface of theocracy?  Like in that democratic revolution in Iran?  Let’s pray that feminism wins the day.  For if theocracy does, it won’t be only the women in the Middle East that suffer.  We all will.

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Egypt Drifting away from Israel and towards Iran?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 16th, 2011

Islamic Fundamentalists Hated Hosni Mubarak

Egypt had problems.  High unemployment.  Some bad poverty.  And a pretty oppressive police state.  That said, one thing Egypt didn’t have was extreme Islamic Fundamentalism.  Partly because of that oppressive police state.  So this Middle Eastern nation was relatively safe for westerners.  And they flocked there to see the treasures of ancient Egyptian culture. 

Islamic Fundamentalist elements throughout the Middle East did not like this Western intrusion into their lands.  And they did not like Hosni Mubarak for letting it happen.  Or for being too Western.  Or for maintaining peace with their archenemy.  Israel.  No, that part of the Middle East, the Islamic Fundamentalist part, hated Mubarak and his policies that were far too Western.  Too U.S. friendly.  And, especially, too ‘Jew’ friendly. 

So there is some trepidation over who will take over power in Egypt.  The Muslim Brotherhood?  Who wants to right all these past wrongs?  It’s a possibility.  And if they do and Egypt falls under Islamic Fundamentalism, the region may never be the same.  Especially for Israel.  Who will be surrounded further still.  Syria to the north.  Hezbollah on its borders in the north and along the Gaza Strip.  And, of course, Iran.  What do all of these powers have in common?  They all seek the destruction of Israel.  And anything Jewish.  Including the United States.

Islamic Fundamentalists Hate Israel and Jews

Most of American media is portraying the Egyptian revolt as a democratic movement.  They’re crediting Barak Obama for getting peace there after only 18 days.  And they’re quick to dismiss any concerns about the Muslim Brotherhood.  It’s a bit puzzling to say the least.  Few, if any, revolutions start and end in 18 days.  Democracy just doesn’t work like that.  Not when there are mobs on the street.  Mobs can unite to oppose a common enemy.  But there is rarely anything else that a mob can agree on.

Islamic Fundamentalists hated Mubarak.  Because Mubarak oppressed them.  Now that Mubarak is no longer oppressing them, it is likely that they will become active.  And they’re not really ‘democracy’ people.  They’re more ‘Sharia law‘ people.  With a lot of friends in nearby places (Iran, Syria, Gaza Strip, etc.) who think like they do.  Have weapons.  And hate Jews as much as they do.

Which brings us to this story in The Daily Caller about the horrible sexual assault on CBS Reporter Lara Logan.  We haven’t seen other reports on this and it is difficult to verify.  So bear that in mind.  However, we quote it here because it’s a story that doesn’t fit the media template for this ‘democratic’ movement in Egypt (see Egyptian attackers shouted ‘Jew! Jew!’ while sexually assaulting CBS reporter Lara Logan by Laura Donovan posted 2/16/2011 on The Daily Caller).

CBS and other sources said Tuesday that the network’s chief foreign correspondent, Lara Logan was repeatedly sexually assaulted by thugs yelling, “Jew! Jew!” in Egypt, according to the New York Post.

As we noted above, Israel is not a popular nation in the Middle East.  And Mubarak was hated for being too ‘Jew’ friendly.  Because a lot of people in the Middle East hate Israel.  And Jews.  Next to Israel itself, the United States is number 2 on their hate list.  For its support of Israel.  And the ‘American Jewish bankers’ that are supposedly running the world.  So it is not unbelievable that they would attack and rape an American woman and call her a Jew.  Because rape is a tactic used in conflict (see Video of the Week: Stop Rape in Conflict (UN Women)).  Incidentally, it was the army that saved Logan.  Which appears to be the stabilizing force in Egypt.  So far.

Is Iran Exploiting or Inciting the Egyptian Unrest?

This may have just been an angry mob.  As a percentage of the population, this one event was statistically insignificant.  Except to Logan, of course.  But if the mob did shout ‘Jew’ at this CBS news reporter during the attack, that should concern a lot of people.  Because that’s pretty inflammatory.  And you don’t shout that out unless you feel most of the people around you won’t attack you for it.  You only do something like that when you feel safe.  When you feel the people around you feel the same way.

So should Israel be worried?  Are there powers exploiting the political unrest in Egypt?  Perhaps (see Iran warships ‘sailing into Mediterranean’ posted 2/17/2011 in The Telegraph).

Two Iranian warships planned to sail through the Suez Canal en route to Syria on Wednesday, Israel’s foreign minister said, describing the move as a “provocation” by Tehran…

Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper described the Iranian ships as a MK-5 frigate and a supply vessel.

And how often to Iranian warships pass through the Suez Canal?

According to the daily, no Iranian naval vessels have passed through Suez since the Islamic Republic was established in 1979, causing a bitter rift between Tehran and Cairo.

“Tonight, two Iranian warships are meant to pass through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea and reach Syria, something that has not happened in many years,” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a Jerusalem speech distributed by his office.

Mubarak would have not allowed the Iranians to move a warship through the Suez Canal.  Now that Mubarak is gone, the Iranians are wasting no time in testing the waters.  Will the Egyptian military permit this?  Or will they block the Iranians?  Can they block the Iranians?  Or are there already too many pro-Iranian elements within Egypt?  If so, it would appear the Egyptian Revolution was less of a democracy movement and more of an Islamic revolution.  Despite what our media and our administration are saying.  So what’s next?

“To my regret, the international community is not showing readiness to deal with the recurring Iranian provocations. The international community must understand that Israel cannot forever ignore these provocations.”

Israel sees a major threat in Iran’s nuclear programme and calls for its elimination, but the countries’ geographical distance has kept them from open confrontation. Syria is one of Israel’s neighbouring foes and an ally of Tehran.

An Iran working towards a nuclear weapon that wants to remove Israel from the map.  An Israel that wants to remain on that map.  And now an Egypt that has some elements that are friendlier to Iran than Israel.  What does this mean? 

It’s a tinderbox.  Should Iran attack Israel it will pull the Western World into war.  A world war.  Because if Iran controls the area, they will shut off the oil supply to the West.  Cripple us in a recession worse than the Great Depression.  While they establish a new Caliphate.  Impose Shari a law.  And bring back the glory days when they stepped into the void of the Roman Empire and controlled most of the civilized world.

Or it could really be a democratic movement.  Time will tell. 

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