Women, Islam and Syria.

I had wanted to write about this, but Jill at Feministe beat me to it. The New York Times discusses the revival of Islamic teachings in the secular state of Syria predominantly led by women. Naturally, this is a complicated issue between the growth of religious conservatism and clear empowerment of women through learning, reading and spreading the teachings. Do we have a handful of empowered young women or a serious *threat* to secularism?
Jill says,

Emracing religion is one thing; the regressive religious politics that we’ve seen sprouting up from Idaho to Istanbul are troubling, whether their Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, or whatever else. Religious conservatism is certainly nothing new, but it does seem to be taking hold in countries that were previously more moderate. And it seems directly related to U.S. foreign policy — as we invade Muslim countries, and set our sights on others, Muslims in the Middle East feel threatened. When we position all Muslims as the enemy, we aid in establishing a collective religious identity that trumps nationalism.

The issue no one wants to talk about. How is US foreign policy DIRECTLY linked to the growth of Islamic conservatism in countries vulnerable to US invasion imperial overthrow? Plus I am pretty sick of Islam being discussed as a threat period and especially a threat to nationalism, as if nationalism is some picnic to women’s rights or international foreign policy.
via NYT.

Join the Conversation

  • grad03

    Another issue no one wishes to discuss: what do secular feminists do when educated, empowered young women freely choose to participate in conservative religious practices? What issues or positions does religious practice satisfy for these women where secularism fails them?

  • freewmnrobinhd

    But is there any excuse as to why someone would embrace such woman demeaning ways? If you call yourself a feminist, cook dinner, let your man command you, submit to negative religious teachings, are you really a feminist? I also don’t think it’s as much America’s doing, as their immans (religious leader in muslim religion) spout exagerations about the west, they use it to build fear in the less knowledgable in order to stunt their liberation.

  • http://www.progressiveislam.org/blog/fashion_mujahid Nakia

    In terms of what to do when encountering empowered women who decide to become conservatives, I think the question erroneously suggests that something should be done with them. Feminism is about women’s ability to make choices, including the ability to make choices that others may disagree with. That includes the right to be conservative, to adhere to sex roles, as well as being progressive or liberal, and defying traditional sex roles. If we are trying to coerce women into a certain political persuasion “for their own good”, it’s merely another kind of repression, and I will have no part in it. If we are trying to make it possible for all women to make the choices they need or desire, then that is a movement that I want to be part of.
    I say this as a progressive Muslim women, who has had to leave conservative Muslim women to their own choices.

  • nonwhiteperson

    OK, I’ll bite.
    John Tirman, executive director of MIT’s Center for International Studies, says America created Islamic militancy. In the Cold War, we used right-wing militaristic thugs to fend off the USSR. During WWI, Britain changed the way it powered its navy from coal to oil and since oil and security were linked. The US protected traditional, repressive regimes of Gulf monarchies. Iran became increasingly repressive. The CIA staged a coup against the democratically elected government of Mossadegh in 1953 because he threatened to nationalize its oil industry, a common aspiration in the Middle East at the time, accomplished peaceably by Saudi Arabia. It only meant that Iran would need the technical and marketing capabilities of the same oil companies it intended to buy out. It was too much for the US and Mossadegh was thrown out along with a liberal and leftist opposition to the ruthless shah the Americans put into power. The US supported the shah lavishly throughout his reign overlooking human rights violations. Nixon and Kissinger were sycophants to the shah’s despotism, his increasingly corrupt military officers, oil tycoons, his foreign courtiers and bloodthirsty intelligence service. Invisibly to Western observers, this fueled the religiously based opposition at the same time. The shah weakened by his excesses left the country and ushered in an interim government that couldn’t handle the demands from the “streetâ€? which filled with militants inspired by Koranic fervor and a new hero, Ayatollah Khomeini, who lead the Islamic revolution. By 1978, political Islam came of age. Moderate Muslims opposed these regimes and the domination of their countries by the US and foreign countries. Humiliating the US was intoxicating and militants attempted takeovers elsewhere such as in Egypt (murdering Sadat), Algeria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Lebanon and building confidence and momentum along the way. A similar dynamic afflicted Israel, where religious Hamas challenged the secular government of the Palestinians and the Jewish state. The US supported the mujahideen to oust the USSR from Afghanistan. In the Iran-Iraq War, the US supported Soviet-backed Saddam against Khomeini. When permitted a vote a number of Muslim countries support the Islamicists oftentimes in reaction to US policies in Israel, Iraq, Saudi princes and other missteps. Expediency trumped principles in US foreign policy and political pluralism was suppressed in favor or American rent-o-cops. The result has been a worldwide movement of hatred against the US and its hypocrisies called militant Islam.

  • nonwhiteperson

    Long story short. We never learn, it’s deja-vu all over again and there’s no chance in spreading Western-style democracy in the Middle East. We lost our chance and should give it up. I was browsing a pretty good book at Barnes and Noble that connects free-market capitalism, militarism, authoritarianisn, racism and imperialism called Democracy Matters by Cornel West. It goes into more detail about the Palestinian situation and other important matters I don’t know alot about.

  • sojourner

    “women were not allowed to travel unaccompanied …� I don’t know how you came up with that. It depends on whose Islam you’re talking about. Taliban’s Islam is different than Shirin Ebadi’s (Iranian Nobel Peace Laureate).
    “I don’t even think the muslim ‘religion’ would exist without female oppressionâ€?. Well, clearly Muslim feminists (one of whom has commented on this thread) would very much disagree with you. “It seems to be a manual on nothing but.â€? I wouldn’t comment about what Islam is a manual on before having read at least some of the Koran. I am not a big fan of Islam or any other religion for that matter, but I find it appalling how people find it easy to start off on an Islam –bashing rant without knowing anything about it. As if the Bible is such feast for feminists. Yes it’s true most of the Muslim world is grappling with fundamentalism at the moment, that in itself is not a testimony to what Islam is truly about. Islam, like Christianity is about whatever you interpret it to be. As for the routes of Islamic fundamentalism, I am not going to repeat nonewhiteperson’s comment.
    Even if you did ever bother to read the Koran, it is true you would find certain verses and rulings that are clearly based on women’s inferiority. But you can find many many more such statements in the Old Testament. After all, these books were written a couple thousand years ago. We’re supposed to have progressed.

  • david thompson

    John Tirman, executive director of MIT’s Center for International Studies, says America created Islamic militancy.
    Tirman’s a dingleberry. There is a case to be made that US foreign policy nurtured Islamic militancy as a mostly unintentional consequence of pursuing its own self-interest, but that’s nowhere close to the above declaration. Andrew Mellon did not organize the Ikhwan.

  • nonwhiteperson

    US foreign policy nurtured Islamic militancy as a mostly unintentional consequence of pursuing its own self-interest.
    That’s exactly what Tirman said.

  • sojourner

    Here is another book on the subject.
    Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam (American Empire Project) , Robert Dreyfuss
    Being form the middle east I know very well that in the 70s and early eighties the US and Israel Supported or condoned Religious movements like Hamas because those groups opposed Nationalist and Leftist movements (the PLO vs. Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood vs. Nasser). The case of Afghanistan is pretty well-known, the Mujahedeen were supported by the US because they were fighting the soviets. And re Iran, just scroll up. For secular people from the region, this is a matter of course, we need no Tirman or Dreyfuss or nobody to make a case for it.

  • http://abstractnonsense.wordpress.com/ Alon Levy

    Even if you did ever bother to read the Koran, it is true you would find certain verses and rulings that are clearly based on women’s inferiority. But you can find many many more such statements in the Old Testament. After all, these books were written a couple thousand years ago. We’re supposed to have progressed.

    Right, we’re supposed to progress. So let’s progress and agree that the Bible and the Qur’an are both full of shit, and that basing any ethical system on these pernicious books is deeply immoral.

  • nonwhiteperson

    From Booklist:
    In an effort to thwart the spread of communism, the U.S. has supported–even organized and funded–Islamic fundamentalist groups, a policy that has come back to haunt post-cold war geopolitics. Drawing on archival sources and interviews with policymakers and foreign-service officials, Dreyfuss traces this ultimately misguided approach from support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in the 1950s, the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran, the ultraorthodox Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia, and Hamas and Hezbollah to jihads in Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden. Fearful of the appeal of communism, the U.S. saw the rise of a religious Right as a counterbalance. Despite the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the declared U.S. war on terrorism in Iraq, Dreyfuss notes continued U.S. support for Iraq’s Islamic Right. He cites parallels between the cultural forces that have promoted the religious Right in the U.S and the Middle East and notes that support from wealthy donors, the emergence of powerful figures, and politically convenient alliances have contributed to Middle Eastern hostilities toward the U.S. A well-researched and insightful book.
    A funny review:
    Read this book and GET READY to STOP the Bush/Limbaughians from tearing down what’s left of America by dragging the country into an even more dangerous war in Iran! For all the trouble our troops were forced into an ILLEGAL war with Iraq just for the NAZI GEE OH PEE’s lies on bringing “democracy” to Iraq and supposedly “winning” the war on “terrorism”, look what happened to Iraq! More fundamentalism along with out of control insurgency and this book is out to unleash the details in layman’s terms. Read this book and help take back America from the rightwing fascists before it finishes falling like the fallen Roman empire!