I recognize the Muslims’ rhetoric about fixed gender roles from my time in the sect Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Iran is on fire – women are burning their headscarves and protesting in the streets in hopes of freedoms Western Muslims take for granted.
On September 16, Masha Amini, a young 22-year-old Iranian woman, was arrested by the morality police. A few hours later, she died in their costidy.
Across Iran, women are protesting against the hard line the country’s leaders are increasingly implementing. More than 76 protesters have been killed, over 1,300 have been arrested.
“Sometimes you have to listen for what is not being said and pay attention to what is implied.
What do these women who put their lives on the line have to lose? Nothing. They see no future for themselves or their fellow sisters – that´s why they are willing to put their lives on the line. As a side note, this is a stark contrast to the hundreds of thousands of Russian men who are leaving Russia in droves these days instead of fighting a system that suppresses basic human rights.
In tiny Denmark, a group of Western, privileged Muslims discuss gender and equality on a radio podcast. “Patriarchy and matriarchy: Do they apply in Islam?”, is the theme of the program.
Sometimes you have to listen for what is not being said and pay attention to what is implied.
In the studio, are two guests; a woman and a man. Hamid and Kasper. The male radio host consistently lets Kasper answer first throughout the broadcast. Kasper has a smooth voice, but his words are as dangerous as snake venom.
“Patriarchy and matriarchy are words used in a gender discourse that is dangerous and that you have to be very careful with as a Muslim,” Kasper says. As the most natural thing, he draws up a view of gender that I recognize with a chill from Jehovah’s Witnesses. He would like to avoid concepts of gender, but that is “unfortunately” not necessary in society, i.e. the Danish one, in which he lives.
It is clear that one can easily be called Kasper and be brought up in Denmark without becoming a democratically minded citizen. In his soft voice, he continues with an argument that the two sexes have strict, God-given roles. The world is determined by Allah, the relationship between women and men is not up for debate.
His arguments are full of sardonic juice frosted with academic terms. He even refers to the feminist Simone de Beauvoir’s book “The Second Sex”, and pronounces the title in beautiful French. I wonder if the French feminist would turn in her grave if she heard how her words are being twisted in the mouth of a misogynist?
“Men and women are created as one body. If one part hurts, the other parts will hurt. If one part … makes a power takeover, the body becomes in conflict with itself.” The monologue elicits an approving murmur from the other two present in the radio studio. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to listen to such incoherent, illogical nonsense. Would they be able to see beyond their indoctrinated gender views if I with a twinkle in my eye asked them how the analogy makes any sense given that men’s health is statistically so much worse than women’s?
The woman in the studio, Hamid, personifies women at their worst – arguing against gender equality. She is skeptical of the terminology examining power structures between the sexes. And then she says something that sends a chill down my spine: “It’s part of the reality we’re part of right now.”
That term was widely used within Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Right now” suggests that it will not always be like this. It is an encouragement or a warning depending on ones temperament.
There are no critical questions asked about the views presented, there is only a tunnel-vision conversation about how different a Muslim mindset is from the Western one based on gender equality. “We have a different approach to life… we fundamentally do not share the same outlook on life with this way of thinking.”
“This way of thinking.”
You mean the Danish, Western and extremely well-functioning one with a focus on gender equality? My thoughts drifted to the debate about integration and to the fact that the Danes are regularly criticized for using a them-and-us rhetoric. Ditches can be dug on both sides of the value frontline.
Iranian women and Afghan schoolgirls will probably disagree with Danish Kasper, who says: “The roles of men and women must not be challenged. This is a violent trend in the West.” He continues: ‘In Muslim environments there is a difference between the sexes. It is a man who is an imam … a man who teaches. The women are at the back of the room … that’s how it is.’
No matter how many academic phrases like “gender discourse,” “power structures,” and “post-structuralist” Kasper and Hamid use, the pot is full of the same dirty scum. I came to think of an expression we use here in the US, which reads: “to put lipstick on a pig.” No matter how hard you try to make something unpleasant sound or look nice, there will always be a stinking pig underneath.
Words are powerful, words can be twisted, and words can create prisons for those who are not allowed to speak freely. That premise is what Iranian women are rebelling against these days. They pay with their lives when they try to question the order their gender has been forced into.
It leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth when I hear Danish Muslims comfortably sitting in a radio studio in Denmark and pseudo-talk about how it is not important, yes indeed, downright ungodly to question the place, role and rights of the sexes. Western, privileged Muslims should stand shoulder to shoulder with their co-religionists in Iran and Afghanistan and fight for women’s right to be independent individuals who are not subordinate to men.
Mens kvinder i Iran brænder deres tørklæder, sidder danske muslimer og taler om en fastlagt orden for mænd og kvinder
Muslimers retorik om faste kønsroller genkender jeg fra Jehovas Vidner.