"The world's attention may have wandered from Iran, but recent reports from the country reveal a government that is as willing as ever to suppress dissent and a judiciary that still plans to execute a woman saved from a stoning sentence last month."
Islam and Women
Over the last few decades, Americans and Western Europeans have had increasing interaction with followers of Islam both domestically and internationally. As a result of these interactions, much has been seen and learned about Islam and women. To many Westerners, both secular and non-secular, the apparent treatment of women under Islam is unacceptable.
But is this critique fair? Yes and no.
How women are treated in Islam depends greatly upon the country in which the women reside. Many Muslim women in America, as well as Western Europe, report that they are not oppressed or treated poorly in any way. They are not subject to beatings or treated like second-class citizens. They argue that the reason they dress modestly and wear a headscarf is because they believe they are being virtuous. The United States certainly has had a long tradition of women dressing modestly (men, too, for that matter). Furthermore, these Muslim women argue that they are just as free to act and do what they want, but because of their beliefs they choose to restrict their lifestyles. Many Christians and Jews in the United States do the same.
On the other hand, women's attire in Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Afghanistan is restricted by the state. Beyond simply restricting clothing attire, in certain Islamic countries women have been beaten, stoned, or killed by agents of the state for violating Sharia (Islamic law). Additionally, husbands and men are often given great leeway in how they can treat women. Worse still, honor killings, as well as forced female genital mutilation, occur with far too much frequency in Islamic societies.
Apologists for Islam often contend that much of the maltreatment of women is a result of culture or society, and not because of the religion of Islam. Because many Islamic countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, actually enshrine the religion of Islam into their legal codes, this defense of Islam doesn't necessarily stand. Additionally, the argument still admits that in cultures or societies dominated by Islam, women are not treated well. To be fair, apologists also contend that the numbers of women oppressed or harmed aren't nearly as high as what people they label as "Islamophobes" would have Westerners believe. This point, though, is also up for debate.
As more Muslims immigrate to America and Western Europe, many of the practices listed above also are being imported, including honor killings and female genital mutilations. To protect the individual rights of women, "secular" Muslims and the West will need to shake off the multicultural mindset and forge a culture that demands that all women are treated with respect and dignity. As for the treatment of women in other cultures and countries, it will likely take organic, cultural reform to protect women's individual rights, something that is increasingly likely as more Muslim women become well-educated and enter the workforce.
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