Monday, June 12, 2006

Pot, Kettle. Kettle, Pot.

Back in 70's, my father stuck a bright red poster up on our fridge for my mother in honour of the International Year of Women (1975). That poster stayed there for quite some time, only to be replaced by a Hang in There Baby poster; it was less politically charged but pleased our Siamese cat a great deal. My mother was a pretty cool role model for my girlfriends and me: she was a working mother who juggled her many roles every day, somehow managing to keep all of her balls in the air. She also successfully brought a sexual discrimination complaint against her employers and after she won, she told them to sod off and she left for greener pastures. It was the closest I came to having Mary Tyler Moore as a mother.

So, some 30 years later, it aggrieves me to come across this article in the Morocco Times. Yes, I know that polls mean nothing - that pollsters can pretty much obtain any result they want, but even if the results are inaccurate, this publication of this survey lends it legitimacy. Among 8,000 Muslim women who were surveyed from the Middle East

The majority ... including Moroccans, regard western culture as morally corrupt and obsessed with sex and drugs.

Yikes! Among their complaints is the way women are treated in the west and (they) dislike the sexual "promiscuity, pornography and public indecency." I find this statement particularly curious since I have only experienced sexual harrassment while travelling through Islamic countries. Of course, any unwanted attention I receive is my fault because my culture and I invite it. I first came in contact with such harrassment to lesser degree in Egypt & Sudan - but deal with it daily in Morocco. This in spite of the fact that if I wanted to dress any more conservatively, I'd be wearing a kaftan & headscarf. Truth be told, when I read that Muslim women resent "the disrespect of women by men" in the West, I want to spit. Spit long and hard. It seems to me that the tarring of western values as immoral is just as dangerous, obscene and unjust as painting Islam as violent and oppressive, as portraying Muslim women as victims.

So what are these women concerned with?

Inequality between sexes did not seem to be among their worries. Only 2% of women in Egypt and Morocco said it was a problem. Their main concerns were, according to the poll, the right to vote, work outside the home and hold high ranking government positions.

Personally, I cannot imagine a world in which the right to vote and work is not predicated on equality with bearers of the y-chromosome. In my facile little worldview, I thought they went hand in hand, otherwise, all we're doing in the workplace is making coffee and ordering flowers for the wife and/or mistress. The women surveyed admired their society's adherence to Islamic values, pointing out that ‘Sharia' (Islamic law) should be the source of political legislation. Wow, can't wait to see honour killing codified.

If advances in the rights of women are to be developed and ratified within the context of Sharia, then Muslim feminists have their work cut out for them. I wish them all the luck in the world. In the meantime, perhaps our respective pots & kettles can keep their comments to themselves.

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