Over at the London Times ”Articles of Faith” section, there is an article by Sahar Khan about women in Islam. She goes on a bit about how Muhammad liberated women (tell me the old, old story!), and then this:
It is the Qur’an’s differing treatments of men and women in relation to inheritance, testimony and marriage that are viewed as inequalities; some of these teachings have been misinterpreted to justify Islam’s unjust treatment of women. It is myopic to assume that being treated differently is being treated unequally. Where the Qur’an does make a distinction; it does not mean that men are favoured over women. On the contrary, the Islamic law seeks to protect the interests of the woman. For example, the disparity in inheritance is consistent with variations in the financial responsibilities designated to a man and woman. A woman has no financial responsibilities even if she possesses wealth of her own; whereas a man is required to provide maintenance for the wife, children and close female relatives. Based on this, a man will receive twice the portion of a woman. This is not absolute in all cases though, in some situations men and women are allocated exactly the same shares.
In my opinion, women’s liberation should not be about competing with men and wanting to ape them, gender differences should [be] accepted; women should cherish their femininity as distinct and unique to them.
Think about the misogyny so clearly expressed in that, and then continue to the rest of the post. You probably see more wrong with it than I do, but I was horrified! And Sahar Khan thinks it’s Western stereotyping!
Well, of course, that’s what they all say! The truth is, though, that Islam is inimical to women practically everywhere it has been practiced. Notice that our friend Khan does not say anything about polygamy, and by enforcing the kinds of differences that the Qu’ran does impose it separates women into a category all by themselves, where they can and will be disadvantaged. And this is not just Western stereotyping. Different but equal does not work out in practice. Ask women in the Roman Catholic Church, or many Anglican Churches, the Orthodox Churches, or many Protestant churches. The “In my opinion, women’s liberation should not be about ….” is already to have disadvantaged women, is already to have separated them into a separate sphere — a separatism enforced by men, and by women like Khan who love their chains. So, of course, the title, “Muslim Women — Salient Emblems of Islam,” is true. Women are indeed salient emblems of Islam’s refusal to grant women equal rights. It’s not really possible that Muhammad should be thought now to be a liberator of women, even if we suppose that he did accomplish something like this for his own time and place, which was too long ago to be relevant now, and the evidence is not strong. And in any event, as Edmund Standing pointed out some time ago over at Butterflies and Wheels (see his essays “Women’s Rights. Inspired by Muhammad?“, or “On the Validity and Necessity of the Atheist Critique of Islam ”), the Qu’ran was written by and for men, and they are the ones who define who and what women are, and why they should be kept that way. Sahar Khan accepts it all withour demur, as if it makes sense to say that
A woman has no financial responsibilities even if she possesses wealth of her own; whereas a man is required to provide maintenance for the wife, children and close female relatives.
Who is she trying to kid? If women don’t have financial responsibilities, it’s often because they are socially disadvantaged, because they are excluded from social roles reserved for men. Khan has evidently fooled herself, but can this reasonably be thought convincing to anyone else? Heaven forfend! The article is behind a paywall, but this will take you to Sahar Khan’s contemptible bit of Qu’ranic rehabilitation, and it does not become less contemptible by having been written by a woman – if anything, more contemptible. An invitation to women to kiss the hand the strikes them, and to wear their chains with pride, with scarcely a thought for those who are victimised by the myopic Qu’ranic separation imposed on women — all to be resolved by women cherishing their femininity! The injustice that women suffer in the Muslim world is not only cultural. It’s built into the religious system, and there’s no way keep them apart. Sahar Khan’s article makes that very clear. It’s myopic, she says, to think that the Qu’ran stipulations regarding women are unjust, because being treated differently and unequally are not the same. Of course they’re not, not equal in meaning at all, but they almost always, in practice, lead to the same injustice. Someone always ends up with the short end of the stick. But never the men! The Times should be ashamed to pander so easily to misogyny.