Women’s Rights-Iranian or Muslim

Sheda Vasseghi wrote a post on the World Tribune about how she believes feminism and the idea of women’s rights won’t be achieved in Iran through Islam, but through its rejection and instead, the reclamation of Iranian culture.

She called out Mahmoud Ahmedinejad for saying feminism is “a cry of protest from crushed women in a capitalistic system” and  all “Muslim” women to restore their rights in social, economic, cultural and political realms.

I hate to agree with the president (really do) but Muslim women do need to restore their right so the idea of feminism wouldn’t be needed.

Vasseghi writes from a very bitter and presumptuous viewpoint, mixing up her distaste for the Iranian government and Islamic beliefs. As we all know, or should know, there are no true Islamic countries, so I understand her desire to criticize the hypocrisy and corruption of so-called Islamic regimes, especially Iran’s.

However I have to disagree with her thesis that Islam is not respective of women’s rights and Muslim women must fight the religion to be treated like humans.

In adherence to Islamic rules, the regime in Teheran supports and promotes temporary marriages or legalized prostitution. Women must obtain their husbands’ permission to attend college, travel or work. Female prisoners are raped in accordance with government-sanctioned religious beliefs. Capital punishment for women includes stoning. Mullahs in their twisted obsession with sexuality and sexual conduct openly discuss vulgar and personal matters with the male audience as a confirmation of their dominance in society.

Just as Vessaghi critiques Ahmedinajad’s assumption that the majority of Iranian women relate and identify to Islam, she herself is making the assumption that the Islam enforced in Iran is actually the correct form of Islam and that the actions of the Iranian government are representative of the correct form.

Rattling off those details I quote above, Vessaghi thinks she’s making attacks on Islamic law, when she’s only pointing out the flaws of the Iranian regime. Prostitution, biased capital punishments, prevention of education and work for women, and debasement of women is in no way accepted in Islam. Where is her textual evidence to support this? Sure that’s the reality, but that’s the government’s bad, not Islam’s.

I wouldn’t accept or believe in Iran’s theological doctrine considering their society chooses its mullahs in a strange, dynasty-like fashion as if proper leadership and knowledge are divine rights. This elitist, narrow-minded system ensures corruption and control of power, not pious, religious leadership.

I’m a Muslim, feminist and I wear the hijab. I believe Islam is feminist naturally in that it believes in equality of all people under the eyes of God, except in the level of their faith. So why do I identify as feminist then? Many people argue that feminism is a Western concept like Ahmedinijad and that Islam already gives women their rights.

While that’s true, not everyone agrees with what those rights are and not everyone believes in treating women fairly in social, economic and political matters. If people aren’t putting those teachings into place, then do they exist? Can we argue that they are there?

I’m all for holding “Islamic” countries accountable for the way they treat women. I’m all for stopping those who frighten and intimidate women from gaining an education, driving and holding office in the name of religion. There is no Quranic evidence that any of these discriminatory actions are accepted. Islam actually stresses the importance of all Muslims to be educated and active in bettering their society.

To me, feminism is just a reassertion of what I know my religion already believes in, so I feel no problem in identifying with it. Women’s rights is not a cultural thing. It’s certainly not an Iranian thing as Vessaghi argues.

Iranian women have manipulated the enforced hijab degradation by wearing colorful clothes and thin headscarves.

Excuse me, but degradation? Fighting hijab is not fighting for feminism as she proudly mentions Iranian women do. I certainly have a problem with forced wearing of the hijab because it loses the whole meaning of it and it’s honestly insulting for anyone to judge the way you follow your religion. We are all individuals who only answer to God, not to humans. Plus Muslim women can wear whatever color they want, sheesh.

So if Vessaghi has an issue with hijab, then she needs to evaluate her relationship with her religion. There are plenty of women that don’t wear hijab and are still faithful Muslims. It’s not an either-or situation.

I also find it quite juvenile that all of this women’s rights struggle is possessed with dress. Women are dying from giving birth, fistulas, abuse and Vessaghi and her Iranian women want to show off their highlights and nail polish when they go out? Is that what being a true woman is? If I had to wear a polka dot bag, but get to work, go to college and run for office and be respected for my intelligence and character, I’d be happy.

Stop falling into the tiring stereotype that modesty means oppression.  Look at the hypocrisy of how Turkey punished hijab-wearing women who want to attend university or go into government buildings. Sorry, but that’s not the aim of feminism. We, women in the West wear whatever we want and we still have issues with inequality, discrimination and harassment. The respect for women is not conditional to clothing; it must be comprehensive and nonnegotiable, sincere and thorough.

Then again, I’m not sure what Vessaghi’s relationship is the religion, since she constantly uses the term “Islamist” and is more infatuated with jingoist, nationalistic superiority.

Islam by its foundation is anti-culture, because Islamic doctrine does not recognize any belief or culture prior to Islam.  Nor does it recognize nationality.  Nothing is considered more valuable than the Koran, and records prior to the Koran or in opposition to the Sharia Laws are violently rejected.

In Islam, it doesn’t matter what culture is. It doesn’t define you or make you any better than anyone. Islam doesn’t eradicate your culture. Your culture is part of who you are, but it’s not the most important thing in the world. It accepts the good in culture and rejects the bad. After all, if we’re talking religion here, flip through the Quran and consider this:

“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” (49:13)

Obviously any religion values its sacred laws over others, because they believe it is the truth. How is that unique to Islam? It doesn’t mean Muslims don’t respect or follow the laws of whatever country they are in or the minorities in their lands.

Sidenote, it’s interesting how sharia is treated like the bogeyman, but all it means is “guide.” It’s just like the Ten Commandments. How you pray, fast, pay charity is all part of Sharia but for some reason punishments are all people focus on so I question Vessaghi’s real understanding of it.

Being modern and moderate and egalitarian is not inherently Iranian; it’s inherently human. Nowhere does Islam contradict that.

The only explanation is that their culture as a whole is supportive of this 7th century mentality, and help their oppressive regimes in holding back half the population based on their gender.  This is clearly due to lack of sufficient education and desire to progress socially.

Nothing better than the us-versus them mentality.

The only reason I have an issue with a religious government is because I don’t feel there are any knowledgeable, qualified, uncorrupted leaders to enforce it and ensure justice, fairness and peace. Speaking for God comes with, to borrow from Spiderman, great power and great responsibility. Note, the current failed state  of global affairs. I think democracy is perfectly acceptable and in line with Islamic teaching. It’s the only way Muslims-or anyone for that matter- can progress and exist in the modern world with so many different religions and backgrounds.

I’d like to see Vessaghi look at Islamic history and the status of women like Muhammad’s first wife, Khadija, a businesswoman. Islam brought them humanity and respect compared to lawless Arabia where girls used to be buried alive and treated like property to be inherited by the men in the family.

Muslim women are proud of their faith and don’t consider it to be holding them back. They are advancing in business, law, politics, medicine and more and their gender doesn’t make a difference. We all need to learn of that lost, illustrious history of extraordinary Muslim women.

How do we stop the oppression of Iranian women? Do them a favor and 1) stop generalizing, 2) understand the historical and scriptural evidence of women’s rights in Islam, 3) acknowledge the flaws in Iran’s religious and political leadership and work against it 4) encourage and promote the global achievements of Muslim women.

The fact that Iran has had a particularly difficult and miserable experience with a corrupt regime isn’t an excuse to make Islam a scapegoat for their inability to achieve the moderation and freedom that the religion believes in anyway.Women are oppressed all over the world, not just in Muslim countries. It’s a global problem that will exist with or without Islam, because humans are flawed and self interested.We have to fight this together, men and women, united to address the unique obstacles in the United States, China, Bangladesh, India, Afghanistan, Romania and elsewhere. No lipstick jihad necessary.

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