Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Seems Legit...

Sometimes, you just can't make this stuff up.

Here's the gist - a Saudi self-help author says that in order to protect women from the corruption of the world outside the walls of their homes, that men should commit sexual assault on women who work outside of their homes, in order to convince them that the outside world is so unsafe that they should remain indoors. Forever. Because, supposedly, even without this guy telling men that it's okay to molest women when they are out of doors, men simply can't help molesting women when they are out of doors.

This is one of the things that has always struck me as odd about this particular worldview of conservative Islam. In the modern United States, making the claim that the sight of a fully-clothed (or even half-naked, for that matter) woman completely short-circuits you sense of self-control would earn you a label of weak-willed in the extreme or an unscrupulous liar. Even suggesting that women take modest precautions against sexual assault can lead to criticism for absolving men of an absolute responsibility to respect women. For most conservative Moslems, however, "keep your hands to yourself" is viewed as unreasonable to the point of bordering on the impossible.

It's a strange dynamic that reminds me of what I've heard about the United States of the past, up to the 1940s or 50s, when, apparently, being anything less than absolutely modestly dressed was considered nearly an open invitation to a sexual assault. As long as the assailant was of the proper ethnicity and social class. Poor and African-American men faced a sentence of death in the court of public opinion for even being accused of whistling at a woman that a wealthy White man could likely have his way with. And given the fact that reporting being raped is considered a grave dishonor in parts of the Moslem world, I wonder if I'm not looking into a funhouse mirror that's reflecting a warped image of the past back at me. Are the wives of the wealthy and respected off-limits to public humiliation in the name of preserving modesty and religious observance, and are the poor and marginalized expected to exhibit much higher levels of self-control that their social "betters?"

Oddly, perhaps, I think that it would be a hopeful sign if that's the case, because that opens the door to the possibility that Islam, like Christianity, will evolve to a place where majority opinion considers Dawood's suggestion as bizarre and reprehensible as much of the West does. While it's important to keep in mind that there are reactionary Christian elements that would support a similar policy here in the United States, they're considered marginal at best - mainstream thought sees them as hopelessly backwards, even as people complain about Western "Rape Culture." While it will be a shame if Islamic thought, rather than learning from the mistakes of others, has to muddle through such openly self-serving hypocrisy on the path to enlightenment, if this is what it takes, we should hope that they at least get there quickly.

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