When Women Fight, Only Men Benefit

Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, by Mona Eltahawy – I first heard of Mona when she appeared on Bill Maher several years ago, and I found her quite charismatic. I have to wonder if she’d ever do his show again now that he’s been branded as anti-Islamic. Anyway, the book is a quite disturbing look at the deplorable state of women’s rights in the Middle East, but with a certain hint of optimism that things could potentially change. Subjects covered include veiling, the Saudi Arabian driving ban, the inability of women to participate in sporting events, women being blamed for being sexually assaulted, child marriage, female genital mutilation, and the freakish obsession with virginity. Mona relates these topics to her own personal development as someone who has lived in Egypt, Scotland, Saudi Arabia, and the United States; and who took a while to come to terms with her own sexuality and why she thinks veiling is a bad idea. She includes accounts of how she was sexually assaulted by police at a pilgrimage to Mecca and later in Egypt. According to the book, part of the problem is the cultural relativism that leads Americans and other Westerners not to condemn the treatment of Middle Eastern women. There’s also the tendency of people in the Middle East to claim that any feminist ideas are Western and anti-Islamic, even though many of the ways of keeping women down don’t particularly have anything to do with Islam and even go against some interpretations of the Quran. Veiling of women was practiced before Muhammad’s time, and female genital mutilation (sometimes called “female circumcision” by people who want to make it sound less terrible) has very little support in the Hadith and is practiced by Egyptian Christians as well. According to tradition, Muhammad’s first wife Khadija, the first person after the Prophet himself to convert to Islam, was a successful business owner who had been married three times before and was about fifteen years older than him. He also didn’t start practicing polygamy until after she died. Interesting how so many Islamic nations today likely wouldn’t allow someone like Khadija to exist, but it’s not like Islam has a monopoly on glossing over women’s accomplishments. Just look at how many female leaders are mentioned in the Bible.

This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Current Events, Feminism, Islam, Prejudice, Religion and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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