“How much does Saudi Arabia hate women? So much so that 15 girls died in a school fire in Mecca in 2002, after “morality police” barred them from fleeing the burning building — and kept firefighters from rescuing them — because the girls were not wearing headscarves and cloaks required in public. And nothing happened. No one was put on trial. Parents were silenced. The only concession to the horror was that girls’ education was quietly taken away by then-Crown Prince Abdullah from the Salafi zealots, who have nonetheless managed to retain their vise-like grip on the kingdom’s education system writ large.
This, however, is no mere Saudi phenomenon, no hateful curiosity in the rich, isolated desert. The Islamist hatred of women burns brightly across the region — now more than ever.”
Back in my undergraduate days, when I waffled about my future even more than I do now, I went through a brief phase of wanting to understand Islam. The immediate rush into Quran classes post-9/11 had faded; but Dr. Caesar Farah’s Introduction to Islam course was nevertheless packed with students from all walks of life. It was, without a doubt, one of the most difficult classes of my life.
I called home several times to whine about having to learn yet another difficult language in addition to my Chinese and Russian studies, as studying Islam required more than a smattering of Arabic, and Dr. Farah’s midterm and final exams were heavy in our new vocabulary. The words are still with me, though they have long since lost their meaning. And I suppose if I had attacked Chinese and Russian with the same desperation that had me pacing my shitty student apartment until three in the morning, flipping through index cards and reciting paragraphs of information relating to these foreign terms, I would be fluent by now.
I’m not sure why I was so impassioned to not only learn about Islam, but to excel in this course, when I am admittedly of the lazy intellectual variety of student — one who has never needed to know how to study, who was never given a challenge in high school, and coasted along until encountering … well. Dr. Caesar Farah.
And like just about everyone else who has ever studied Islam, I walked out of that class inspired by the precepts of egalitarianism in this reformist religion, depressed that those concepts failed to transition into modernity, and somewhat horrified by the orientalism so prevalent in Western media’s depiction of the Middle East, even when it’s in the throes of revolution. I wonder if there is a model that can effectively incorporate democracy, religious freedom, and egalitarianism for Middle Eastern states. And I wonder if religion should play a role in post-revolution political parties, and to what extent religion might affect women’s lives.
But this Foreign Policy article, despite its sensationalism and pictures of oppressed women in headscarves, is still an excellent introduction into the violence Middle Eastern women face today, and may still face even after the political revolutions are over.
Article: Why Do They Hate Us? The real war on women is in the Middle East. (Foreign Policy)