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I didn't know whether to scream or laugh when Italy's Prodi joined the debate last week by declaring that it is "common sense" not to wear the nikab because it makes social relations "more difficult." Nonsense. If this is the case, then why are cellphones, landlines, e-mail, text messaging and fax machines in daily use? And no one switches off the radio because they can't see the presenter's face. |
Under Islam, I am respected. It tells me that I have a right to an education and that it is my duty to seek out knowledge, regardless of whether I am single or married. Nowhere in the framework of Islam are we told that women must wash, clean or cook for men. As for how Muslim men are allowed to beat their wives -- it's simply not true. Critics of Islam will quote random Koranic verses or hadith, but usually out of context. If a man does raise a finger against his wife, he is not allowed to leave a mark on her body, which is the Koran's way of saying, "Don't beat your wife, stupid."
It is not just Muslim men who must reevaluate the place and treatment of women. According to a recent National Domestic Violence Hotline survey, 4 million American women experience a serious assault by a partner during an average 12-month period. More than three women are killed by their husbands and boyfriends every day -- that is nearly 5,500 since 9/11.
Violent men don't come from any particular religious or cultural category; one in three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime, according to the hotline survey. This is a global problem that transcends religion, wealth, class, race and culture.
But it is also true that in the West, men still believe that they are superior to women, despite protests to the contrary. They still receive better pay for equal work -- whether in the mailroom or the boardroom -- and women are still treated as sexualized commodities whose power and influence flow directly from their appearance.
And for those who are still trying to claim that Islam oppresses women, recall this 1992 statement from the Rev. Pat Robertson, offering his views on empowered women: Feminism is a "socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."
Now you tell me who is civilized and who is not.
Yvonne Ridley is political editor of Islam Channel TV in London and coauthor of "In the Hands of the Taliban: Her Extraordinary Story" (Robson Books).