I was recently introduced to the idea of ‘masculinism’. It’s an odd little term to me; sort of like those who demand a ‘white history month’ or a ‘straight pride’ celebration. A way to show the World that you do not understand the progression of Western history by those who have always controlled it (white, straight, men). The rules were devised by the very groups whose offspring now insist are the ones oppressed by it.
Masculinism, whilst woefully uninformed, seems to be an attempt to break down Patriarchal structures that have become a hindrance to men also. Perhaps when Patriarchal religious societies begin to notice that men too are damaged by Patriarchy, they may start to fight it. But as of yet, religious societies seek the opposite; to uphold the Patriarchal order by any means necessary. This article will focus on Islam, whilst the next will focus on Christianity.
Earlier this year, the Muslim Brotherhood declared that a UN declaration calling for an end to violence against women, would lead to the end of civilised society as we know it. It was of course a predictable response from a group obsessed with controlling women, but also a rather ironic statement from a group whose Islamist tendencies tend to destroy everything it touches. The Brotherhood said:
“This declaration, if ratified, would lead to complete disintegration of society, and would certainly be the final step in the intellectual and cultural invasion of Muslim countries, eliminating the moral specificity that helps preserve cohesion of Islamic societies.”
– Of course, seeking to reduce every conflict – including those that seek to promote the rights of those oppressed by male dominated Islamic regimes – down to Western imperialism has been a rhetorical tactic for centuries, in trying to induce post-colonial guilt upon the West in the hope that they might back off and allow regressive Islamist regimes to flourish. It transfers the argument from the misdeeds and the misogyny of a group like the Muslim Brotherhood (who are apparently convinced that society is held together by some sort of natural male dominance), and attempts to ensure we’re all focused on ‘Western imperialism’. It’s a cow they just wont stop milking. And yet, ironically, Patriarchal religions in the 21st century, are the most imperial and dictatorial of them all. They seek to have full control, both physically and mentally, over women.
– An interesting statement on many levels. A thinly veiled declaration of his in-built desire to control women. If one uses faith as an excuse, individual tendencies toward Patriarchy are excused as cultural. He believes that he gets to define the term ‘modest’ and apply it to every woman on the planet. To this misogynist, it is impossible for a woman to be at modest, without being covered from head to toe. If you are not covered from head to toe, you lack all decency. What an insult to billions of women across the World.
On a second level, the idea extends only to the appearance of women. The character, personality, nature of an individual woman is irrelevant to Islamists. You could have the most wonderful character, but if you ever have the nerve to sunbathe with a bikini on a beach, you’re indecent and deserve to be told so, by those “modest” few who ironically, feel the need to tell everyone how modest they are, at every given opportunity. Feel free to look over this guy’s tweets. His obsession with controlling women is incredibly unnerving.
On a third level, his comment only applies to women. Humility and decency apparently do not apply to the covering up of men. Only women. Men are judged by deeds. Women are judged by what they choose to wear.
On a fourth level, the usual reason given to women covering up, is to protect them from the sex-obsessed glare of men. The implication being that men are inherently prone to viewing women as an object, unable to control our sexual desires, and that it is women who need to change their behaviour in order for men to cope. This reflects badly on the self restraint of Muslim men, apparently unable to contain their sexual rage unless a woman is fully covered (you should be in prison, not lecturing people on how to dress). Islamists believe it is women who must change their behaviour to stop men treating women like sexualised objects, rather than educating men away from the objectification of women (which would naturally require the abandoning of Holy texts altogether). This is protecting a few sex crazed men, not women. And secondly, by forcing women into this mode of ‘modesty’ it simply solidifies the notion that women are naturally sex objects, unless they are covered.
This does not mean that I think women shouldn’t wear the hijab. A person should be free to wear whatever they feel most comfortable wearing. I do not claim that the hijab oppresses the individual who chooses to wear it. But the symbol of ‘modesty’ and the victim-blaming mentality toward those who don’t wear it along with the idea that women are simply sex-objects without it, is oppressive to both men and women. It simply means the values that the hijab represent, repulses me. It is the symbol of misogynistic indoctrination on so many levels.
The Qur’an and the words and deeds of the Prophet are not an attack on Patriarchy. Much the opposite. They uphold and promote Patriarchy.
This blatant repression of gender equality, and sexual expression, is reflected in the very fact that Islamic countries tend to have the highest percentage of people searching for sex terms on the internet. Pakistan is number one in the World for searching “rape videos”, and “teen anal sex”. Sexual repression, rather than sexual education and the breaking down of Patriarchal barriers, does more to uphold Patriarchal, female-objectification, than any other. It fails to identify the root of the problem; archaic faiths made by men, for men.
One cannot fail to note the irony in a faith claiming to protect women, when its leader sold women as sex slaves, invented a Holy Book full of promises of women for himself, and married a young child. Though, Islamic denial tends to be rather strong on this. Hakeem Muhammad is under the particularly odd impression that:
“Far from being a “tool of patriarchal oppression,” the Qu’ran quite simply is a book that is a critique of tyranny and oppression.”
– Denial is the key to upholding much of society’s inequalities. White supremacists refuse to accept that they have been the beneficiary of white privilege. Heterosexual, homophobic men are convinced that withholding a gay couple’s right to marry is not a “rights issue”. Similarly, Patriarchal religious folk are under the rather odd delusion that their faith is in fact, a beacon of equality and progress. The argument from Hakeem, seems to be that Muhammad improved upon the terrible conditions facing women in pre-Islamic Arabia. Great. That’s great. But it’s also flawed. The Qur’an is supposed to transcend the context of time, and so it has no room itself to be improved upon when it comes to women’s rights. Women must be, as the Qur’an deems, for the rest of history. It isn’t claiming progress. It is claiming an end to history when it comes to women’s rights. All progress toward gender equality, must end at the Qur’an. Therefore, we must focus purely on that end claim, rather than anything that came before it, or Europe dealt with women’s rights at the time (shockingly, but then, Europe was under the power of another horrifically Patriarchal faith).
The Qur’an institutionalises inequality, for all time, between the sexes in many passages, including when it comes to law. Sura 2:228:
“And let two men from among you bear witness to all such documents [contracts of loans without interest]. But if two men be not available, there should be one man and two women to bear witness so that if one of the women forgets (anything), the other may remind her.”
– If we are in any doubt exactly what this means, the Prophet Muhammad gives us this little gem of unsupported, completely unscientific, regressive explanation:
“The Prophet said, ‘Isn’t the witness of a woman equal to half of that of a man?’ The women said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘This is because of the deficiency of a woman’s mind.'”
– What deficiency is this? What deficiency affects a woman so much so that she is less reliable in a court, than a man? Well, the Prophet doesn’t elaborate. Patriarchal religious rules tend not to have a rational base.
We of course, shouldn’t be surprised, given that the Qur’an – which could spend time telling us about the wonders of the universe, the event horizon, the beauty of time, the extraordinary tale of evolution – spends an incredibly suspicious amount of time discussing how many women the Prophet is allowed to control:
“O Prophet, We have made lawful to you those of your wives, whose dowers you have paid, and those women who come into your possession out of the slave—girls granted by Allah, and the daughters of your paternal uncles and aunts, and of your maternal uncles and aunts, who have migrated with you, and the believing woman who gives herself to the Prophet, if the Prophet may desire her. This privilege is for you only, not for the other believers .”
– The women of course, have no choice in this. Hakeem, is insistent. This is a book that critiques Patriarchy and oppression. Seriously.
Female children don’t fare much better either. This passage gives instruction on how a Muslim man is to go about divorcing his young bride:
“65:1 O Prophet, when you divorce women, divorce them for their prescribed waiting—period and count the waiting—period accurately . . . 4 And if you are in doubt about those of your women who have despaired of menstruation, (you should know that) their waiting period is three months, and the same applies to those who have not menstruated as yet.”
– Now, if we are in any doubt as to what this means, Abul A’la Maududi explains:
“Therefore, making mention of the waiting—period for girls who have not yet menstruated, clearly proves that it is not only permissible to give away the girl at this age but it is permissible for the husband to consummate marriage with her. Now, obviously no Muslim has the right to forbid a thing which the Qur’an has held as permissible.”
– Here we see tacit acknowledgement, that precedents given in the Qur’an (universal rules, remember) are naturally used to oppress and develop and maintain Patriarchal structures in which women and children are objects (the hijab doesn’t protect them at all), that lead to situations that we currently see shaping Muslim countries in response to the Syrian female refugee crises. Abu Sanad, a father in the Za’artari refugee camp in north Jordan, said:
“People from Jordan, from Saudi Arabia, from Qatar, they come and ask: ‘Do you want to give your daughters for marriage? What do they see us as? A market place for selling? Like selling sheep.They see we don’t have money. They want to exploit us. Give me your daughter for 200,000 lira or 100,000 lira. ”
– If Allah didn’t realise that condoning child marriage isn’t only abuse in itself, but may also foster horrific abuse of children in the future, he is woefully inadequate. But even if that’s not enough, then we have the delightful Sheikh Mohammad Al-Arefe to expand on why children are to blame for their fathers sexually abusing them:
“Oh, people, some girls are youthful and have beautiful figures, and decide to wear tight clothing, or tight trousers, and short tops and wear them in front of their fathers. She needs to realise that her father is also a youth! He may feel sexually attracted to his daughter, we seek refuge in God, and when he shakes her hand or kisses her or hugs her, the devil might push him to act upon his desires. So I urge this girl and other girls, if they are young, not to wear bad clothes in front of her father, or reveal her chest or anything like that, just because he’s her father, fact is that father is still a man.”
– Sheikh Mohammad Al-Arefe has attempted to justify paedophilia as well as incest. Sheikh Mohammad Al-Arefe should not be allowed near children.
To solidify this notion of dominance/subordination, the Qur’an forever institutionalises the male natural right, to his wife sexually. He is in control of their sexual relationship:
“Your wives are a place of sowing of seed for you, so come to your place of cultivation however you wish and put forth [righteousness] for yourselves”
– If she refuses to be used as a “place of sowing seed” for her domineering husband demanding sex, according to Muhammad, expressed through Bukhari, she is cursed:
“If a man invites his wife to sleep with him and she refuses to come to him, then the angels send their curses on her till morning.”
– If this isn’t evidence of Islam created by men, for men, I’m not sure what is.
In case women still aren’t sure of their place, Sura An-Nisa 4:34 clarifies:
“Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.”
– Women, if you don’t obey your husband, he has the right to beat you. Because, you know, he’s “in charge” of you.
The point is, by suggesting that the Qur’an, and the Prophet progressed women’s rights is meaningless if that which replaced it claims to be universal, and yet still contains passages upholding, and institutionalising Patriarchy. Getting rid of some forms of oppression, but maintaining or expanding on others, is not good enough for a universal, time-transcending Holy book. Which is exactly what the Qur’an, and the words of Muhammad do. If your universal guide for humanity includes passages on how to treat female slaves, rather than calling for the complete abolition of slavery; if it includes passages on how to sexually dominate your wife rather than calling for sexual equality; if it contains passages on when is the right time to beat your wife, rather than insisting that there is never a right time to beat your wife; If it includes passages on marrying female children rather than protecting them from sexual abuse; if it includes passages on covering women from head to toe, but not men….. then it isn’t a book dedicated to fighting Patriarchy and oppression. It isn’t a mistranslation. Islam was created by men, for power, and for the sexual benefit of men. Islam, is Patriarchy.