Gender Jihad


by guest
21st November, 2010 at 11:30 am    

A guest post by Wood Turtle

This October the Fourth International Congress on Islamic Feminism was held in Madrid, Spain.

The conference hosted over 1,500 globally represented attendees and lecturers who discussed topics on Islamic Feminism, including: problematics in defining Islamic Feminism, Qur’anic hermeneutics and feminist readings of the Qur’an, gender equality in the Middle East and Feminist Activism, and gender rights justice in the construction of male superiority over women in Islam.

One of the goals of these continued conferences is to validate Islamic Feminism as a growing phenomenon by providing a forum for intellectual discourse.  Aiming to celebrate and support women’s rights groups and organizations around the world as they work toward reinterpreting scripture, giving women an educated voice and challenging patriarchal systems that use religion to subjugate women.

Two weeks after the conference closed, Saudi Arabia was voted onto the executive board of UN Women.

Saudi Arabia. Where women cannot drive, vote or leave the house without a niqaab. Saudi Arabia. Where women cannot visit a doctor, travel, go to university, work or leave their homes without the expressed consent of their male guardian. Saudi Arabia.  Ranking 130th out of 134 countries for gender parity.  Saudi Arabia. Where Saudi UN officials defend polygamy by saying it’s required to help satisfy the sexual urges of men. Saudi Arabia. Where there are no laws protecting against child marriage and where rape victims are routinely punished for being alone with a man and charged as adulterers. Saudi Arabia. Home to Islam’s most holiest sites, the birthplace of the Prophet, and the main source of petrol-funded, political Islam.

The Goals of the UN Entity on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women includes advancing global gender equality by helping inter-governmental bodies formulate global policies and standards and helping Member States implement these standards.  The controversy over Saudi Arabia joining this executive board is clear: how on Earth does the UN expect to enforce these global standards on a Member State who clearly has a horrendous record of violating women’s rights, and who falls back on a politicized religious interpretation to bypass any Western global standard of equality? As activist and liberal Muslim Mona Eltahawy so aptly points out in her special to the Toronto Star:

In 2000, Saudi Arabia ratified an international bill of rights for women but stipulated that the country’s interpretation of Islamic law (Sharia) would prevail if there were conflicts with the bill’s provisions. So why sign in the first place? Especially as that interpretation is where so much discrimination against women originates — polygamy, half inheritance allotted to a man, little access to divorce and child marriage among them.

Talk about completely undermining the Islamic Feminist movement.

What many Islamic (and some Muslim) Feminists will argue is that the Qur’an and teachings of the Prophet are filled with proofs supporting women’s rights and social justice.  The society that the Qur’an was revealed to regarded women as little less than chattel, and it was changes to this patriarchal system that the Prophet attempted to bring about.

The Qur’an prohibits violence toward women and expressively condemns female infanticide; it provides women with inheritance rights, the right to testify, to divorce, to own property and assets; and requires both women and men to equally fulfill religious duties.  Historically, women were teachers of some of Islam’s most treasured male and female scholars, passed down prophetic traditions required in the formation of Islamic law, were key translators, led armies on the battlefield and ruled kingdoms. Women are afforded the right to be active participants in all aspects of religious and social spheres.

Part of the problem that we face today is in the interpretation of these sacred sources, and a complete revisionist history of women’s roles and rights in society.  Islamist parties have interpreted the Qur’an and prophetic traditions according to their cultural worldview of women existing as second class citizens (or worse). This culture of female subjugation and constructed male authority has become so ingrained in people’s daily life and traditional expressions, that divine religious authority becomes conflated with the human constructed state. So speaking out against misogynist state policies is like speaking out against Islam.

According to Mona Eltahawy, the fact that Saudi Arabia has been voted onto the UN Women is less about truly effecting change in the country and more about the power of “generous contributions” and the benefits that “membership on a powerful agency” could one day bring the Kingdom.  Like Eltahawy, I really can’t see how Saudi Arabia will do anything but rubber stamp and possibly gain a few extra points on the gender parity scale.

Some believe that their membership will put Saudi Arabia on the spot and that increased international attention will actually help women’s rights organizations gain more ground. I’m not holding my breath. While they won’t exactly have the power to shape global standards on women’s rights according to a politicized Islamic worldview, they will donate. And the money going to help promote women’s rights will come from one of the world’s worst offenders of these rights.

I really don’t know how to feel about that.

Unless of course, in some brilliant irony, the money coming from Saudi will go toward empowering Muslim women in their objective to reinterpret scripture, and God willing, help them challenge patriarchal systems that use religion to subjugate women.



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  1. h — on 21st November, 2010 at 2:16 pm  

    Part of the problem that we face today is in the interpretation of these sacred sources, and a complete revisionist history of women’s roles and rights in society. Islamist parties have interpreted the Qur’an and prophetic traditions according to their cultural worldview of women existing as second class citizens (or worse). This culture of female subjugation and constructed male authority has become so ingrained in people’s daily life and traditional expressions, that divine religious authority becomes conflated with the human constructed state. So speaking out against misogynist state policies is like speaking out against Islam.

    Really? Many “Islamist” groups are lead by women and indeed get alot of female votes (much like women tend to vote Conservative more than men in the UK)

    Saudi women are not allowed to drive; they also are not allowed to do housework as they invariably have a legion of foreign maids doing it for them and the percentage of Saudi women getting a University degree is very high. Because of oil wealth Saudi women lead a life millions of women (and men) around the world would envy. So the issue is more complex than the author makes out

  2. Rumbold — on 21st November, 2010 at 3:08 pm  

    Good piece. The Qur’an was in many ways progressive for its time, but it is dishonest when people both praise this and then apply the standards of 7th century Arabia to the modern day.

    It also shows how morally bankrupt the UN has become.

  3. alternative view — on 21st November, 2010 at 4:27 pm  

    Part of the problem that we face today is in the interpretation of these sacred sources, and a complete revisionist history of women’s roles and rights in society. Islamist parties have interpreted the Qur’an and prophetic traditions according to their cultural worldview of women existing as second class citizens (or worse). This culture of female subjugation and constructed male authority has become so ingrained in people’s daily life and traditional expressions, that divine religious authority becomes conflated with the human constructed state. So speaking out against misogynist state policies is like speaking out against Islam.

    Really? Many “Islamist” groups are lead by women and indeed get alot of female votes (much like women tend to vote Conservative more than men in the UK)

    Saudi women are not allowed to drive; they also are not allowed to do housework as they invariably have a legion of foreign maids doing it for them and the percentage of Saudi women getting a University degree is very high. Because of oil wealth Saudi women lead a life millions of women (and men) around the world would envy. So the issue is more complex than the author makes out

  4. Sarah AB — on 21st November, 2010 at 5:03 pm  

    I completely agree about Saudi Arabia.

    I wondered what was the difference between Islamic and Muslim in the context of this point you make?

    “What many Islamic (and some Muslim) Feminists will argue is that the Qur’an and teachings of the Prophet are filled with proofs supporting women’s rights …”

  5. Arif — on 21st November, 2010 at 5:03 pm  

    Is it the UN which is morally bankrupt or do you mean Saudi Arabia, Rumbold?

    Because of the UN, Saudi Arabia is putting money into womens´ rights. Would it have done so in the absence of the UN? It has been voted onto the executive as one of the contributors to the organisation. In return managed to be one of 41 countries in the executive, so hardly likely to be in a position to push anyone into sharing its ideosyncratic views on the place of women. Maybe their representatives will learn something themselves.

    In a similar way, the International Congress of Islamic Feminism is supported by the Iranian Government (through its embassy), despite speakers being extremely critical of the betrayal of women’s hopes for liberation following the 1979 revolution in Iran.

    At first sight, yes, I’d be suspicious of anything funded by either government, but dig a bit deeper and there is some genuine reason for hope and confusion to temper our necessary cynicism.

    I’m glad for UN Women and for the Congress of Islamic Feminism, and if Iran and Saudi Arabia help make them possible then at least it means my opinions of their Governments need to become a bit more complex. Even if, as Wood Turtle and Mona Eltahawy suggest, it just shows they want some good PR.

  6. Rumbold — on 21st November, 2010 at 5:17 pm  

    Arif:

    Actually, that’s the one but I like- that Saudi Arabia will be forced to spend money on something it hates (women’s development).

    I suspect it is all about PR- only when there are some advancements for women in Saudi Arabia and Iran will I believe that they are serious.

    I think that the UN is morally bankrupt. Perhaps this is inevitable- when the world body contains so many undemocratic countries/human rights abusers it is bound to be.

  7. Arif — on 21st November, 2010 at 5:38 pm  

    Rumbold, what is your assertion of the moral bankruptcy of the UN based on?

    I see many possible good reasons you can give, but are their any which could not be an example either of its weakness or its corruption in standing up for its ideals?

    And if that is the case, surely it should be strengthened and reformed rather than condemned (which makes it sound as if you believe it would be better to have no UN at all).

  8. Rumbold — on 21st November, 2010 at 5:47 pm  

    Arif:

    I would like to see the UN split into two divisions. One focused on humanitarian goals (e.g. famine relief), the other on international political/military issues (such as terrorism). I don’t see any point about such a body talking about human rights when there are so many human rights abusers on the various panels. The UN needs to press for more human rights, but only countries with reasonable human rights records should be allowed to sit on such panels- otherwise the abusers simply slow the work down and de-legitimise any actions.

  9. WoodTurtle — on 21st November, 2010 at 5:50 pm  

    @Sarah AB, this is from my page on Islam and Feminism:
    “Islamic feminism is rooted in the textual scriptures of the religion: the Quran, sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, and the legal history. Some of the aims of Islamic feminism is to provide positive discourse on women from within the religion, to offer female readings of the scripture and to strive for equality between the sexes. All from within an Islamic framework.

    Muslim feminism also works within an Islamic framework, noting for example, that violence against women is not accepted in the faith, but is nuanced because of exposure to the larger feminist movement, is expressively and culturally varied, and contextualizes scripture to promote equality.”

    But even this distinction isn’t entirely appropriate. There are difficulties in defining Islamic/Muslim Feminism, especially with all of the media baggage associated with the term “Islamic” and the socio-political trappings of “Muslim”. But the distinction I tend to make, for example, is that you could be an atheist Muslim feminist or a ‘traditional’ Islamic feminist and argue that niqab is not a religious requirement. One from
    a secular viewpoint of freedom of expression and one from a particular understanding of the religious text.

  10. Niaz — on 21st November, 2010 at 5:55 pm  

    Rumbold countries with reasonable human rights records ?

    Like who? The US and UK who engage in illegal invasions of other countries ? France which dictates what it’s citizens can wear? The other two permanent members of the security council China and Russia which are dictatorship responsible for slaughter in Tibet and Chechyna?

    The world largest democracy India which denies Kashmiris their right to self determination and launches pogroms against minorities ?

    How many countries had Saudi Arabia invaded recently ?

  11. Rumbold — on 21st November, 2010 at 6:37 pm  

    Niaz:

    Indeed. All these countries have problems with human rights, especially Russia and China. I would look at a country’s overall human rights record to assess its suitability (and the legality of the Iraq war has never been settled, though that is a moot point compared to the impact). Who gets to do that though is another problem.

  12. africana — on 21st November, 2010 at 7:03 pm  

    “leave the house without a niqaab”
    I’m sorry if this sounds like nit-picking but niqab is not actually enforced by the state in KSA, although there is often strong social pressure to wear one.

  13. Sarah AB — on 21st November, 2010 at 7:04 pm  

    Thanks wood turtle – I did have a look at your blog but missed that bit!

  14. Tory — on 21st November, 2010 at 7:43 pm  

    Niaz, get back to us when France starts stoning people and threatening gays with execution. Its your ‘brothers’ who bear the brunt of these abuses so I have no idea why you are so defensive.

    ‘How many countries had Saudi Arabia invaded recently ?’

    Zero. Unlike Iraq of course, but this is another matter.

  15. WoodTurtle — on 21st November, 2010 at 7:45 pm  

    @africana, you’re right — something that’s been pointed out to me by a couple of people. It wasn’t an oversight, just exaggeration for that particular paragraph. Thanks for pointing it out.

  16. Niaz — on 21st November, 2010 at 9:26 pm  

    Tory so now you’re against Saddam’s invasion of Iran , a country that stones people to death ( the US and UK of course prefer bombs)

    Must kill a muslim hater like you that one of my sisters, Sayeeda Hussein Warsi is chairwoman of your party !!!!

  17. Naadir Jeewa — on 21st November, 2010 at 10:23 pm  

    The use of “side-payments” (the technical term for bribes) is well known in the UN System when it comes to committee memberships or treaty negotiations. Saudi Arabia is particularly good at this – for years it led the G77 in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, despite it working against many of the members interests.

    But Rumbold’s proposal at 6 isn’t the UN anymore. It’s Daalder & Kagan’s Concert of Democracies. Although for Kagan, the Concert would be little more than a programme to expand the “Exceptional America’s” interventionism.
    The more idealist me would argue more in favour of the proposals by Held, Archibugi and Beck for a democratisation of the UN itself – i.e. for the UN to be supplemented by a global assembly.

    Also, although Saudi Arabia may have killed off UN Women before it’s even started, taking the new body seriously might actually help progressive aims. The body will serve to further legitimate women’s rights activism within the UN System from NGOs and other observer status agencies.
    Eventually, this could have a socialising effect on the autocratic members of the body. Saudi Arabia, for example, eventually toned down it’s anti climate change rhetoric, and its science ministries even started supplying supporting data to IPCC.

  18. Naadir Jeewa — on 21st November, 2010 at 10:30 pm  

    Also, without repeating the “democratic peace” (Immanuel Kant et al.) debate ad nauseum, this:

    “The joy of the democratic concert for neocons is the multilateral legitimation of warmaking; for liberal internationalists, the joy is the multilateral legitimation of lawmaking…in both cases the goal is to multilaterally legitimize the domestic penetration and coercion of sovereign states by war or by law.

    As a matter of pure politics, most anything a democratic council could do would involve polarizing itself against non-democracies. On all the other big issues of the day — immigration, the environment, security, sovereingty — the economic disparity of interest among democracies overwhelms whatever political overlap might (and mostly doesn’t) exist. This is probably why Daadler and Kagan want to restrict a democratic council to democracies that happen also to be great or near-great powers (and they’re still unclear about India’s status).

    So. It seems to me that a council of democracies is a somewhat disingenuous attempt at hyping an Anglophone commonwealth that Europe and Japan can join.”

    http://pomoco.typepad.com/postmodern_conservative/2007/08/mongolia-oasis-.html

  19. Otto — on 22nd November, 2010 at 12:03 am  

    The Qur’an prohibits violence toward women

    That is utter nonsense. I suggest you read the bloody thing.

    How on earth are these islamic feminists going to get anything going if they cannot even fess up to the blatant misogyny in their faith’s core texts? The koran sanctions violence against women, ( read Yosuf Qaradawi, presently one of the most respected ‘scholars’ in the Muslim world) just as it sanctions violence against Christians, Jews, atheists and apostates. If one is not honest enough to admit to the truth, then how can anything change?

    I would also help if they’d…like… hold the conference in the heart of the Muslim world for the impact that would have, rather than far away is some safe Christian country.

    The whole thing sounds like a move to whitewash Islam’s horrific, often stone-age treatment of women.

  20. Niaz — on 22nd November, 2010 at 12:58 am  

    Otto I want to thank you. it’s people like you who despise Muslims and Islam utterly who will show the progressive Muslim idiots trying to change the religion to please Islam haters , how pointless and destined to failure their efforts are.

  21. WoodTurtle — on 22nd November, 2010 at 3:17 am  

    Otto, failing to recognize that a religion is capable of organic and fluid reform from within, is just as unfortunate as interpreting the religion from the stone age.  

  22. Rumbold — on 22nd November, 2010 at 9:18 am  

    Naadir:

    I think the UN should be viewed in two ways. Either it is a body which cares about human rights etc. in which case it needs to apply standards to its membership, or it doesn’t, and is purely a global assembly. Either position is defensible, but we can’t have it both ways.

  23. joe90 — on 22nd November, 2010 at 10:44 am  

    post #19

    yes lets generalize 2 billion people and their religion why not it’s very easy.

    with the uk having over 8000 refuge places for battered women should i make a generalized statement regarding the treatment of women in the uk?

  24. Naadir Jeewa — on 22nd November, 2010 at 12:54 pm  

    Rumbold:

    “I think the UN should be viewed in two ways. [1] Either it is a body which cares about human rights etc. in which case it needs to apply standards to its membership, [2] or it doesn’t, and is purely a global assembly. Either position is defensible, but we can’t have it both ways.”

    I don’t understand that position. The UN is a bunch of international organisations which are relatively autonomous in what they do, but which are legitimated by the power politics games. Both of these constrain and mold the other. Option 1 would make it a global government of sorts – which was never in the UN’s foundational remit, and Option 2 doesn’t match reality.

    What I might be interested in hearing is moving away from unanimity votes to qualified majority votes (ala the European Union).

    Anyway, two points from UN Dispatch:
    [1]

    So, if the UN Women Executive Board were a single country, how would it rank on the Gender Inequality Index? The average score of the board is 62, which is a spot currently held by Azerbaijan. Interestingly, even if you left off Saudi Arabia (which ranks a dismal 128), the average score only improves by two points. In this case, excluding Saudi Arabia would make the cumulative average the equivalent of Argentina.

    A rank of 62 is squarely in the middle of the pack. The executive board scores as a whole better than Mexico (68) but not quite as well as Malaysia (50). It turns out that the seemingly deleterious effect of Saudi Arabia or DRC is balanced by countries like Denmark (2) and Sweden (3).

    So what conclusions can we draw? Well, it seems that it is not terribly useful to focus on the inclusion of Saudi Arabia on the executive board to draw a conclusion about the board as a whole; Saudi Arabia and the DRC are balanced by countries with strong records on gender equality. In any event, the board will have to contend with a very strong director of UN Women in Michelle Bachalet. One of the advantages of appointing a popular former head of state to run the new agency is that she will have an easy time throwing her weight around should any conflicts arise with individual members of the board.

    [2]

    So, does having Saudi Arabia on the executive board of UN Women spell its demise? I would think not. Saudi Arabia is not nearly as regressive on women’s issues in global forums as it is domestically. In fact, one of the UN’s strongest female leaders was Thoraya Obaid, a Saudi woman who ran the UN Population Fund for nearly ten years until her retirement this year.

    Also, even though Saudi Arabia’s is not exactly a paragon of women’s rights, one country cannot undermine the work of UN Women — and I don’t think that Saudi Arabia even has that intention. One bad apple on the Executive Board–or even two–will not spoil the whole batch.

    PS: Above, by a global assembly previously, I meant a popularly elected assembly, rather than nation-state representatives.

  25. Arif — on 22nd November, 2010 at 1:29 pm  

    Adding to Naadir Jeewa’s points, Rumbold, which I mostly agree with, I must emphasis that I see human rights as a construction, and a very important, useful one. It needs to be expressed institutionally if it is to have any relevance. If the UN, which framed the Declaration on Human Rights, were to have no role in developing and improving our understandings and opportunities for achieving human rights, then I believe human rights as a construct would be weakened.

    If human rights were to be defined and promoted only by some groups or individuals who define themselves and one another as paragons on human rights, then the concept would lose appeal as an expression of universal principles.

    If Saudi Arabia is invited to the discussion, and has a part in the construction of human rights, I think the concept actually gains in legitimacy – in the sense of being a more universal construct and basis for setting global norms for justice.

    What little credibilty human rights NGOs have in denying their frameworks are imperialist impositions or foreign-influenced subversion would be lost if its framers were pre-selected on a basis of meeting their own criteria of what human rights mean. Okay, it might gain credibility among people who feel they gain in status from such a settlement, but I don’t think it actually helps the cause of promoting human rights.

    I know my argument is a bit paradoxical and can be reduced to absurdity at an extreme, but I think in the real world it marginally helps human rights in Saudi Arabia for Saudi Arabia to be involved, and it would greatly harm the promotion of human rights in Saudi Arabia if the country were excluded from involvement.

  26. boyo — on 22nd November, 2010 at 5:09 pm  

    “What little credibilty human rights NGOs have in denying their frameworks are imperialist impositions or foreign-influenced subversion would be lost if its framers were pre-selected on a basis of meeting their own criteria of what human rights mean.”

    I haven’t followed the detail of this discussion but it seems to me clear that:

    - the concept of “human rights” is largely understood to mean very precise values that have emerged from Abrahamic – and particularly Western Christian/ Enlightenment thought, eg equality, “freedom” (what’s that if not a construct?) of expression, etc.

    - the UN is an out-moded institution. Not that it’s a bad idea, but again it was formed by the victors of WW2 and under certain, very Western, assumptions, not least Western “leadership”.

    Denying this don’t mean it ain’t so… ;-)

  27. Niels Christensen — on 22nd November, 2010 at 6:57 pm  

    “that divine religious authority becomes conflated with the human constructed state”
    Hopefully the divine religious authority is being interpreted by a ‘correct’ cultural worldview.
    But what about us, who enjoy living in a human constructed state.

  28. Corey Macy — on 22nd November, 2010 at 8:20 pm  

    My friend,

    I generally agree with 95 percent of your posts, but you simply don’t know what you are talking about regarding Saudi Arabia. Consider this often repeated tripe:

    “Saudi Arabia. Where women cannot drive, vote or leave the house without a niqaab. Saudi Arabia. Where women cannot visit a doctor, travel, go to university, work or leave their homes without the expressed consent of their male guardian. Saudi Arabia. Ranking 130th out of 134 countries for gender parity. Saudi Arabia. Where Saudi UN officials defend polygamy by saying it’s required to help satisfy the sexual urges of men. Saudi Arabia. Where there are no laws protecting against child marriage and where rape victims are routinely punished for being alone with a man and charged as adulterers…”

    These sweeping generalisations do nothing but reinforce stereotypes. There is a fraction of truth in some of your comments, but most of it is garbage. Women do indeed drive in some parts of Saudi Arabia. Rural areas are full of Saudi women drivers. So to say that women cannot drive in Saudi Arabia is misleading. There is not a grain a truth that women can’t leave the house without a niqab. I know, I’m sitting at the Jeddah Red Sea Mall on my laptop looking at a good 50 percent of the young women shoppers without the niqab. My Saudi wife went to the doctor today without my permission, nor did I feel the need to give it. She travels freely, attends university and leaves our home any time she pleases. It’s not true for all women, but for many they enjoy the freedoms you so passionately claim they are denied. You can do a better job at understanding and stating the nuances of Arab/Muslim culture. I’ve seen you do. So cut out the sweeping generalisations,outright fabrications and lazy writing. Unless you’ve lived in this country, you are in no position to repeat the crap you read in the Daily Mail and the Sun.

    In regards to Saudi Arabia’s appointment to the UN Women’s board, I agree that Mona Eltahawy has some very good points. But also read this sensible and factual look at the issue:

    http://saudiwoman.wordpress.com/2010/11/11/saudi-arabia-elected-as-a-board-member-of-un-women/

  29. earwicga — on 22nd November, 2010 at 9:37 pm  

    Corey Macy:

    Rural areas are full of Saudi women drivers. So to say that women cannot drive in Saudi Arabia is misleading.

    But approx. 75% of the population live in non-rural areas. Of those 25% of women who live in rural areas, they are driving against the 1990 legislation and as they have no driving licences are driving illegally anyway and subject to arrest.

    And I doubt Wood Turtle is in a position to repeat ‘the crap you read in the Daily Mail and the Sun’. Do try to check out who you are talking to before dragging out the generalisations.

  30. expat — on 22nd November, 2010 at 9:40 pm  

    The Saudi attitude to women is highly paternalistic which has some obvious well documented drawbacks but also some advantages

    For example if a woman is in a queue at some official place (eg an airport) she will be called to the front and served first. Likewise on public transport women are given seats and men expected to stand when there is a shortage.

    Ive actually lived in Saudi something i doubt many people commenting on here have done.

  31. Arif — on 22nd November, 2010 at 10:18 pm  

    Boyo, I am not qualified to go into an arcane discussion into the roots of the concepts which went into the various conventions on rights.

    I agree that western governments had a powerful role in the 20th century, and that their concepts most likely derived largely from the sources you suggest. Similarly organisations like Amnest International.

    However other communities and cultures have their own influences to understand the rights of sentient beings or the rule of law (Hammurabi’s code, ahimsa, satyagraha, the constitution of Medina, come to mind at the moment) and developed their own concepts of justice with varying degrees of influence to and from the “West”. If non-western concepts of justice are not incorporated, I think they should be. And if that means slowly changing the language of rights to something else more inclusive, I’m okay with that.

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drawn up by a widely based international Commission on Human Rights and invited submissions from everyone at a time when decolonised countries may have had a high level of consciousness of indigenous concepts of justice and some cynicism of those professed by colonial powers.

    As a starting point and basis for further treaties and human rights agreements it is pretty good, and I think the main criticism I would raise is that cultural and economic rights may be given too little consideration in comparison to civil and formal political rights in the priorities of western countries and NGOs compared to those of the global south.

  32. WoodTurtle — on 23rd November, 2010 at 12:13 am  

    Niels Christensen, thanks for commenting. I’m not saying that one system is preferred over another. I was attempting to say that it becomes problematic when a religious state uses misogynic cultural norms or authority (that are formed outside the religion, and can run contrary to the religion itself) to help guide the construction of the state, and then claim that those norms are a part of the religion.

  33. WoodTurtle — on 23rd November, 2010 at 12:23 am  

    Corey Macy, please read the comments, I’ve already explained my use of exaggeration. Your wife is lucky to have that relationship with you. But is she really a norm? There is indeed poverty and unemployment in the KSA, and the realities for women in these areas are absolutely oppressive.

    My cousin lives in a rural area and is not permitted to drive. When the family goes to a restaurant she sits in the car outside in 50 degree heat, because women simply are not permitted in the restaurant. She’s a teacher who is unable to teach. She is trapped by a monthly allowance and has no control over her passport. For every positive example, there will always be a negative one.

    I’m a new guest here, so unless you’re a regular over @ my place, I don’t think you have read any of my work on PP.

  34. Corey Macy — on 23rd November, 2010 at 4:44 am  

    Wood Turtle, of course I read your stuff and enjoy it thoroughly. Otherwise, I wouldn’t comment. And yes, Saudi women face oppression and Saudi Arabia has many, many problems. But explaining away your exaggerations doesn’t absolve you from generalising Saudis and contributing to stereotyping. I’d say your admission of exaggeration is also an admission that you engaged in stereotyping. As one reader noted, 75 percent of the population doesn’t live rural areas and those rural women drive illegally. But the fact remains they do drive. And while they may not have a driver’s license, the police do nothing because they know the family’s livelihood depends on women driving water and food trucks. As I pointed out previously, you simply can’t say women “cannot drive” without qualifying it. It’s one thing to call Saudi Arabia on its human rights record, but your post essentially condemns all Saudis. You know as well as I do that it doesn’t work that way. We both provided examples proving it’s not a black and white issue. I’m only asking that you ease up on your exaggerations to make point and respect the fact that many Saudis don’t fall within the generalisations you have applied to them.

  35. Rumbold — on 23rd November, 2010 at 12:02 pm  

    Naadir:

    The UN is a bunch of international organisations which are relatively autonomous in what they do, but which are legitimated by the power politics games. Both of these constrain and mold the other. Option 1 would make it a global government of sorts – which was never in the UN’s foundational remit, and Option 2 doesn’t match reality.

    Qualified majority voting- that would be even worse. Then all the undeomcratic countries could easily outvote the democracti ones. Your description of the UN is a reasonable one, but I think that they are less autonmous then they appear, which that it is ultimately the countries on the committees which hold the whip hand.

    Arif:

    I am a pragmatist, that is to say if I felt that the UN’s inclusion of Saudi Arabia and others on the committee would advance the cause of women I would support it. However, I just worry that membership with give the Saudi Arabians an unwarrented legitimacy- a bit like inviting an unrepetant serial abuser onto a council which tackles doemstic violence.

  36. Niels Christensen — on 23rd November, 2010 at 6:41 pm  

    #Woodturtle
    My problem is that from a hermeneutical point of view every interpretation
    is anchored in time and space. And the interpreter is obliged to try and declare his/hers position.
    What I miss from time to time in intra muslim discussion is a more precise analysis and discussion of different interpretations connection to the wider society, and in the communities where it is situated.
    Of curse the right wing ( or how you characterize it) interpretation in Saudi is very special, because they never wonder how come, that they are the only place where where the separation between the sexes are uphold in such a strict way, and never think about the problems it causes.

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