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Sexism May Be Islam’s Biggest Problem

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Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris think so, and fear it may be a huge impediment to democracy:

    A comparison of the data yielded by these surveys in Muslim and non-Muslim societies around the globe confirms the first claim in Huntington’s thesis: Culture does matter—indeed, it matters a lot. Historical religious traditions have left an enduring imprint on contemporary values. However, Huntington is mistaken in assuming that the core clash between the West and Islam is over political values. At this point in history, societies throughout the world (Muslim and Judeo-Christian alike) see democracy as the best form of government. Instead, the real fault line between the West and Islam, which Huntington’s theory completely overlooks, concerns gender equality and sexual liberalization. In other words, the values separating the two cultures have much more to do with eros than demos. As younger generations in the West have gradually become more liberal on these issues, Muslim nations have remained the most traditional societies in the world.

    This gap in values mirrors the widening economic divide between the West and the Muslim world. Commenting on the disenfranchisement of women throughout the Middle East, the United Nations Development Programme observed last summer that “no society can achieve the desired state of well-being and human development, or compete in a globalizing world, if half its people remain marginalized and disempowered.” But this “sexual clash of civilizations” taps into far deeper issues than how Muslim countries treat women. A society’s commitment to gender equality and sexual liberalization proves time and again to be the most reliable indicator of how strongly that society supports principles of tolerance and egalitarianism. Thus, the people of the Muslim world overwhelmingly want democracy, but democracy may not be sustainable in their societies. [Foreign Policy]

Interestingly, this may make Iraq an excellent place to start, with its RELATIVE secularity, modernity, and gender equality.

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About Eric Olsen

  • waziri

    iread some part of it its very interest .please sent to me via my email thanks.

  • http://wazirigodwoli@yahoo.co.uk waziri

    i read some part of it its very interest. please sent to me via my email thanks.

  • http://murasaki.blog-city.com Purple Tigress

    I haven’t read the books reviewed, however, I feel defining democracy like defining the so-called West is not an easy task.

    Societies, even democratic ones, throughout the world cannot be simply divided up into Judeo-Christian and Muslim. There are also Asian democracies: Taiwan, Thailand, Japan and South Korea for example. The West and Muslim cultures are not two diverse cultures, but many diverse cultures that differ in their treatment of women.

    Western nations are predominately Christian, but even then, some are predominately Catholic.

    The question of gender equality and sexism is difficult to measure as is the divide between culture and religion. If we look at concrete measures, the unified front of the so-called West crumbles.

    The United States has never had a female president. Yet Pakistan (95 percent Muslim, 75 percent Sunni) and India (80 percent Hindu) have had a female prime minister. Japan (Buddhist) had a major party lead by a woman (Takako Doi) at one time.

    There are predominately Muslim countries (Turkey 1930 and Turkmenistan 1927) that gave women the vote before Switzerland (a predominately Catholic country). France and Japan gave women the vote in the same year (1945). Switzerland gave women the vote at state level in 1958, but it wasn’t until 1971 that they had the vote at the federal level. Portugal lifted restrictions in 1976 for women. Liechtenstein gave women the vote in 1984, four years after Iran. Lebanon gave women the vote in 1952, but requires proof of education.

    Belgium gave women the vote in 1958, two years after Pakistan.

    Currently, Bhutan (75 percent Buddhist), Kuwait (85 percent Muslim), Vatican City and Oman do not give women the vote.

    And yet, I don’t think one can say that giving women the vote means sexism is not a problem in that society.

    Even years after American women had the vote, sexism remains an issue here.

    But, perhaps we think American women are better off because they aren’t veiled. Yet will Muslim women be more liberated if they are unveiled or will they become as enslaved by the male perception of beauty and resort to plastic surgery to aid their pursuit of perfection as women in the United States seem to be? Is this true liberation or trading one cage for another?

    Does modernization really mean following Christian nations? Western art changed via influence from African and Asian arts and certainly technology is not just a Western innovation. The problem with equating modernization with Westernization is that it implies that the culture must not just be adapted, but abandonned.

    Consider that Christianity was not the basis for democracy. Historically, pagan city state of Athens is credited with being the first democracy and having created the word to define their political system.

    If Muslim nations are to modernize and Western countries are to accept them, first both countries must stop slicing up the world into Christian and Muslim for the world is much more diverse than that and democracy and modernization doesn’t spring solely from Christians and Christianity. More importantly, sexism is still deeply entrenched in Christian and Catholic societies despite democracy.

    Since it effects half the population regardless of race, perhaps sexism is the greatest problem of all nations.

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    The problem here stems from using “sexism” to mean oppression of women, and not simply the supression of their rights and abilities to participate fully in society. (I will not deign to address the equation of that oppression with the failure to elect a woman to office.)

    It’s a common error that drives much of the feminist rhetoric.

    What happens to women as a result of Islamic fundamentalism as a national philosophy is more accurately termed “oppression” – in fact, women are equally oppressed with Christians, Buddhists, etc. in some Islamic nations.

    You are right that there are non-oppressive countries that are primarily Muslim. And that is what we hope to promote in Iraq.

  • Ali G

    Dr. Younus has claimed at various instances and in different places to be holding PhD’s in sociology, history, anthropology, Islamic studies etc. As a sociologist he doesn’t apply the empirical methods to study Muslim social activity. Proper Islamic code of behavior would be more than sufficient. As a historian he believes that the rise of the West is due to the 19th century industrial revolution but not due to the great ideas of thinkers and philosophers who reasoned over centuries for the long-term human welfare. As an anthropologist he argues against the theory of evolution and he thinks that human cultural development is due to the Jewish prophets in the Middle East and only that part of the World alone! Consequently, no human society, however primitive, has ever been capable to know that stealing was a bad strategy for short-term gain, rape had unpleasant social effects and killing other human beings wasn’t such a good idea after all but thank God to the Jews we now know what to do. And finally, as an Islamic scholar he can interpret the Holy Koran according to his whims and depending in what mood his excellency is that day to pick and chose whatever he likes from that religious buffet. He strongly adheres to the notion of the Islamization of all knowledge whatever that ‘knowledge’ means to him. If we were to run a Muslim society according to him; life on Earth would begin a few thousand years ago and all the living creatures we see today would be the descendants of whatever survived Noah’s arch; earthquakes would be due to the indecency of women; disease would be due to the wrath of God; economic problems would be elevated by giving alms to the poor; and finally political and social issues would be solved by ‘knowledgeable Muslim scholars’ like him who must be in the power structure of Muslim governments and rescue those societies from further demise. As a young Afghan, I’m really at loss to see that so many people are just drooling when they talk about him and his extend of ‘knowledge’. My advice for them would be to go to the closest library they can find and read some original sources and seek the truth for its own sake. They will really be delighted at the beauty they would find within those pages and then they’ll see how childish some of Dr. Younus’ assumptions are.

    Tashakor