You gonna believe Mona Eltahawy or the grand mufti?
Nahed Eltantawy responds to Mona Eltahawy’s article on woman-hating in the Middle East. She hates it.
I felt deeply offended and insulted by Mona Eltahawy’s latest article in Foreign Policy, titled Why Do They Hate Us? I follow Eltahawy’s columns quite regularly and I accept many of her arguments, even if I do not agree with her views on Islam and veiling. But for her to claim that “they” hate Arab women is in my view complete nonsense…Everything, from virginity tests, to sexual deprivation, female genital mutilation, sexual harassment and child marriage, is included in this article to produce a column that will surely be welcomed by many Western feminists and anti-Islamists, who for years have been telling us that Muslim women are weak, oppressed victims of misogyny and rigid Islamic rules that force them to hide behind their veils.
Meaning what? We shouldn’t worry about women stoned to death, girls taken out of school and forced into marriage, girls who are held down while their genitals are sliced off, women whipped for not wearing a burqa? We should just say “that’s their culture, it’s none of our business” and go on our way rejoicing? We should be insular and selfish and indifferent?
But for many Arab women (I say many based on the negative reaction Eltahawy’s column has already stirred), this column is offensive and is nothing but a combination of old cultural practices and undemocratic government actions that are described in a way to represent women as the Oriental Other, weak, helpless and submissive, oppressed by Islam and the Muslim male, this ugly, barbaric monster.
Ah yes, naughty Orientalist Mona Eltahawy, representing Arab women as the Other. How does that work, exactly?
…some of the evidence Eltahawy relies on, such as virginity tests, criminal codes, etc are problems of undemocratic governing and have nothing to do with hate of women. These are problems that also impact men. There are numerous accounts of police brutality in Egypt, where men have been beaten, sexually abused or beaten to death. Have we forgotten about Khaled Said, the young Alexandrian, whose brutal death sparked the Jan25 Revolution? Or how about Essam Atta, the young man who was tortured to death in prison? Why do we always have to focus on violence against women?
“Virginity tests” in which cops shove fingers up women have nothing to do with hate of women? Really? As for that final question – words fail me.
I find Eltahawy’s discussion of sexual harassment also problematic. Eltahawy, very candidly and on more than one occasion, has described in detail her ordeal with Egyptian riot police back in November 2011. She explained how she was groped everywhere by a number of police officers while in Cairo. Yet in this Foreign Policy column, she adds a new detail; she informs her audience that she was groped earlier that day by a fellow protester in Tahrir Square! But while Eltahawy details her groping ordeal, she fails to mention the heroic Egyptian women and men who are fighting this epidemic. There is no denial that sexual harassment is a disgusting and sick problem in Egypt that needs to be eradicated. Yet, there’s also no denial that there are gutsy women who are already engaged in a battle against this epidemic.
Boy, that’s a devastating rejoinder. Yes, sexual harassment is a disgusting and sick problem in Egypt, but somehow Mona is naughty for saying so. Why?
Meanwhile, in woman-loving Saudi Arabia, the grand mufti says girls are ready for marriage at age ten. Yes, ten.
A girl is ready to marry at 10 or 12 years of age according to Islam, London-based Al Hayat reported Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al Sheikh as saying, adding that Islamic law is not repressive to women.
“Those who call for raising the age of marriage to 25 are absolutely mistaken,”Al Sheikh said in a lecture at the faculty of Imam Mohamed bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh.
He added: “Our mothers and grandmothers got married when they were barely 12. Good upbringing makes a girl ready to perform all marital duties at that age.”
Oh yeah? Can good upbringing make her wide enough to bear children without getting a fistula? No, it can’t, so enormous numbers of women have ruined lives because they leak piss or shit or both and everybody shuns them.
And then there’s the little matter of education, and being able to choose something to do with her life other than or in addition to domestic work. “Good upbringing” may make it possible for her to do all the housework at age ten, but it doesn’t make it desirable.
And then there’s the fact that few ten-year-old girls want to have sex, especially with grown men.
But the grand mufti’s indifference to the well-being and flourishing of girls and women has nothing to do with hatred – oh heavens no. It would be Orientalist to say that.