Oh, this is a heavy topic. So many women and girls held hostage to warped and crazed religious ideologies. I put my ruminations at the end of the short article below.
By Sam Harris
January 19, 2007
“On Faith” panelist Sam Harris is the author of the best-selling books Letter to a Christian Nation (2006) and The End of Faith (2005), which won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction and has been translated into many foreign languages.
Kajal Khidr was accused of adultery by her husband’s family and held hostage by six family members in Iraqi Kurdistan. Kajal Khidr was tortured and mutilated; family members cut off part of her nose and told her she would be killed after the birth of her child. After fleeing to Syria, two of her abusers were arrested. However, they were both released within twenty-four hours because authorities determined they had acted to safeguard the honor of the family. No charges were ever brought against them. (Amnesty International Website)
In northern Uganda, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) abducts children, forcing girls into “marriage” and institutionalized rape… The men then have total sexual control over their “wives” and “domestic helpers,” subjecting them to rape and various other forms of violence. (Amnesty International Website)
Mary Ann Kingston was pulled out of school at 13 and told to prepare for marriage. At 16, she was forced to marry her 33-year-old uncle. The order teaches that incest is a preferred practice to preserve a pure family bloodline originating from Jesus Christ. When Mary Ann ran away, her father took her to a remote ranch near the Utah-Idaho line and beat her with his leather belt. She counted 28 lashes before passing out. [The number of people in polygamous families in Utah is estimated at as many as 50,000.] (J. Nichols. “Wives suing to bring end to abuse under polygamy.” The Arizona Republic. October 15, 2003.)
For millennia the world’s great prophets and theologians have applied their collective genius to the riddle of womanhood. The result has been polygamy, sati, honor killing, punitive rape, genital mutilation, forced marriages, a cultic obsession with virginity, compulsory veiling, the persecution of unwed mothers, and other forms of physical and psychological abuse so kaleidoscopic in variety as to scarcely admit of concise description. Some of this sexist evil probably predates religion and can be ascribed to our biology, but there is no question that religion promulgates and renders sacrosanct attitudes toward women that would be unseemly in a brachiating ape.
While man was made in the image of God, the prevailing view under Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is that woman was made in the image of man. Her humanity, therefore, is derivative, contingent, ersatz (Gen: 2-21-22 Koran 4:1; 39.6; 7.189). Of all the animals, woman was the last to be made but the first to sin (Gen 3:12). The Old Testament puts the monetary value of a woman’s life at one-half to two-thirds that of a man’s (Leviticus 27). The Koran elaborates: it requires the testimony of two women to offset that of one man (2:282) and every girl deserves exactly one-half her brother¹s share of inheritance (4:11). God suggests in his tenth commandment that the woman next door is your neighbor’s material possession which, along with his house, slaves and oxen, must not be coveted (Exodus 20:17); Deuteronomy 5:21).
The God of Abraham has made it perfectly clear that a woman is expected to live in subjugation to her father until the moment she is pressed into connubial service to her husband. As St. Paul put it: “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.” (Ephesians 5:22-24). The Koran delivers the same message, and recommends that disobedient wives be whipped (4:34). The suppression of women under Islam achieved hideous precision through the writings of Al-Ghazali (1058-1111), perhaps the most influential Muslim since Muhammad:
She should stay home and get on with her spinning, she should not go out often, she must not be well-informed, nor must she be communicative with her neighbors and only visit them when absolutely necessary; she should take care of her husband and respect him in his presence and his absence and seek to satisfy him in everything; she must not leave the house without his permission and if given his permission she must leave surreptitiously. She should put on old clothes and take deserted streets and alleys, avoid markets, and make sure that a stranger does not hear her voice or recognize her; she must not speak to a friend of her husband even in need; Her sole worry should be her virtue, her home as well as her prayers and her fast. If a friend of her husband calls when the latter is absent she must not open the door nor reply to him in order to safeguard her and her husband’s honor.
She should accept what her husband gives her as sufficient sexual needs at any moment. She should be clean and ready to satisfy her husband’s sexual needs at any moment. (Cited in Ibn Warraq’s, Why I Am Not Muslim, p. 300).
Recall the blissful lives of Afghan women under the Taliban, or reflect upon how many Muslim girls throughout the world are still obliged to wear the veil, and you will understand that this type of thinking has consequences.
The net effect of religion (especially in the Abrahamic tradition) has been to demonize female sexuality and portray women as morally and intellectually inferior to men. Every woman holds the dignity of men for ransom, and is liable to tarnish it with a glance, or destroy it outright through sexual indiscretion. From this perspective, rape is a crime that one man commits against the honor of another; the woman is merely Shame’s vehicle, and often culpably acquiescent — being all blandishments and guile and winking treachery. According to God, if the victim of a rape neglects to scream loudly enough, she should be stoned to death as an accessory to her own defilement (Deuteronomy 22:24). Every man’s daughter is a potential whore liable to grow drunk on the blood of good men — a Delilah, a Jezebel, a Salome. Every girl, therefore, must be mastered and locked away before she can succumb to the evil that is her all-too-natural enthusiasm. According to God, women have been placed on earth to service men, to bear their children, to the keep their homes in order, and above all to not betray them by becoming the object of another man’s sexual enjoyment. And so it falls to every man to shield his women from the predations of his rapacious brothers and oblige them, until death or decrepitude, to fulfill their most sacred purpose — as incubators of sons.
If we ever achieve a civilization of true equity, respect, and love between the sexes, it will not be because we paid more attention to our holy books.
Katia wonders: Alot of this abuse is done in Mohammed’s name, in Allah’s name, but the only example of people still today oppressing women in Jesus’ name are the polygamists in Utah and a few other states. Or am I forgetting something? Modern Orthodox Jews are sexist and treat their women in certain restrictive ways, but they are not commiting heinous crimes against their women and daughters because their holy book or some religious authority’s writings told them to.
The author mentioned the three Abrahamic religions yet added in sati, a misogynist tragedy out of India. Based on several women born and raised in India whom I’ve met and worked with, I think women in India are still struggling with sexism and abuse, too. I don’t know that their religion sanctions it, however, so perhaps that’s why the author left them out. Probably the same reason he left out China, other Far East countries and so many African peoples who still buy and sell, or worse yet kidnap, women as brothel or bridal sex slaves and domestic helpers. He was focusing on religions that have historical writings used by these perverts today.
I wonder, is there any thing we can do? What can be done to protect the suffering women and girls of Islam?
Conquering their menfolk and making them civilize, modernize, I suppose, is our only option. Talking and reasoning with them doesn’t seem to have worked since the Ottomon Empire fell and World War 2 reshaped the country borders over there. Educating thousands of them in our western schools hasn’t helped either. Look at the movie Not Without My Daughter. The heroine married one such Western educated Iranian. Her horror story in the 1980s (or was it 70s?) only existed because of such cross-cultural contact. It seems like no amount of talking and educating them — they won’t even let our books across their borders — is going to help the women and girls of the East. Their men certainly aren’t going to voluntarily start treating the women better than they treat their dogs. Sigh. They are going to have to be forced because they refuse to change on their own. Until they are forced to change, more women will keep quietly dying while the world sits back and argues about things like Saddam’s noose and whether he was mocked or not.
I just saw a CNN program over the weekend where women Muslims in London went to each mosque trying to gain admittance to pray and worship in the building that is supposed to be their place of worship. One by one they were yelled at and doors slammed in their face. No mosque will let them even cross the threshold, yet Islam requires daily prayer and visits to the place of worship — five times a day for the pious. A men-only religion, is what it is, whether they admit it or not. Women as property, if they have minds, must focus only on what the men tell them to focus on, and if they have any spiritual inclinations have to do their praying at home and all alone. No sunday school, womens spirituality gatherings, etc. for them, dirty second class citizens that they are. So hateful. How can Islam get away with such hatred of its own, I wonder. It’s like we are all making excuses for them, “Oh it’s their culture, they can’t help it, they bomb us and murder their teenage daughters because of our materialism and greed. Yeah. It’s all our fault.” Wonder why we rationalize and make excuses like that.
Man o’ man — or I should say woman o’ woman — am I glad to be born in a Western country. THANKyou God & God-ess for sending me here, and not there. I just read several schoolgirls in Indonesia were beheaded by muslims just because they were members of the Christian minority there. And Saudi Arabia has banned the X symbol from all display and usage because it looks too much like Jesus’ cross! Well, say critics, you should ban the + sign then too, you fanatics, because it looks more like the cross than an X. Geez. Hah. Just thought of something when I said that, Geez. Geez-uz is the problem. It’s like they are afraid of him or something. like he is so seductive he’ll take away worshippers into his camp — perhaps because he is/was the most popular faith in the West and they are sure this is a war of religions, a holy war. The Jews certainly don’t care for Geez-uz, however, and we all know how the Muslims hate the Jews. I wonder why they are getting hateful toward Jesus and the Pope lately when Islam often says Jesus was a prophet, even if not on Mohammed’s level and not a divine offspring of God’s. Most perplexing, and contradicting is their worldview. If only they would naturally (but very quickly!) grow away from abuse and into equal rights for women. If not total equality, howabout at least something like the USA and UK had before women got the vote a hundred years ago. The ones holding the power — all men — just don’t want Barbie, western clothing fashions, pants for girls, drivers licenses for women(!) and even school education for girls to get into the picture because then they will lose that power.
Power. The P word which rules politics because that’s what politics is all about, said my old professor. How the heck are we gonna straighten these jerks out? Let them devour each other all the while torturing their females, or try to take over and set them on a modern political democratic path? When the USA went democratic we had a strong desire from WITHIN to do it. No outside force was going to come help us. How many examples are there in the world of democracies being brought to a country from without, as we are trying to do with Iraq and Afghanistan? Any succesful new democracies? Japan maybe? Germany after Hitler? Russia after Hitler and France after Napoleon were still internal movements albeit with outside assistance. Egypt and Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc., they do not want democracies and if they ever hold votes it’s just a sham covering a dictatorship. Will this work with Islamic countries who adore Sharia law more than their darling daughters and wives? Iraq is glad to be rid of Saddam but the vast majority of the men there do not want a secular democracy. What the women want doesn’t matter one whit, as we all know. The men (except for a tiny few) all want religious law and religious government. Even the few who are trying hard to live and run the new democracy are just not enough to stand up to the multitude of men wanting to control the gov’t, the society, EVERYthing. They each want to do things THEIR way.
What to do, what to do. Our choices are let ’em rot or try to help them. All those silent invisible women and girls hiding in their houses and huts, wishing for a chance to go to school, to high school, vocational school, to see a doctor (they don’t let women go to doctors very much in Islamic countries). Or many might want to get out and just take off the veil, take a breath as a free person, and feel like a human being. I feel for them, our sisters, so deeply, and I hope we can come up with some ideas what we can do from the outside of this horror they are living.