Yesterday I posted my review of Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks. I didn’t get too much into specifics about the book; I was purposely vague as I didn’t want to get into any discussions regarding Islam. I am no expert on Islam, and frankly it’s not something I stay awake at night thinking about.
But I did receive a comment, which I left as is, that made some statements I thought merited correcting. However, I felt these corrections deserved more than editing the actual post, and while writing this particular post is probably overboard, what can I say? I’m feisty.
Here’s the comment:
I’m always astonished at the amount of knowledge you guys”really” have in the west concerning Arab women, hijjab and lifestyle.
This is like the new rave- let’s pick anything related to Afghanistan or the Arab world, Muslim women, oppression & pain and you’ve got yourself a best-seller.
Ironically when “we” pick these books up and read them we’re shocked just as much as you are. Last time I checked, I’m not genitally mutilated, neither oppressed nor forced to put a hijjab on my head.
We’re living life like normal people, waking up in the morning, order take-out coffee/tea, we hook up bluetooth hands-free in our cars (yes shocking not camels), we arrive at work, laugh with our colleagues, get paid and buy ipods then go back home and watch TV.
You want to “LEARN” about Arab women and how they function successfully in their societies, ask real arab women not rely solely on what’s written in some book or movie based on some rural muslim community that’s none-existent now adays but catchy enough to be turned into a book or a movie.
*and I’m talking about Arab women living in the Middle East not in your countries just to make things clear.
First of all, I never said *you* were genitally mutilated. The AUTHOR doesn’t even say all Muslims are genitally mutilated. In fact, she addresses this by saying, “Because some Christians and animists also practice genital mutilation, many Muslims resent the way it is linked most closely with their own faith. But one in five Muslim girls lives today in a community that sanctions some sort of interference with her genitals….While some Muslims protest the limkage of mutilation with their faith, few religious figures speak out against the practice, and numerous Islamic texts still advocate it….It is understandable that progressive Muslims hate to see their faith associated with these practices. But what is less understandable is the way they turn their wrath on the commentators criticising the practices, and not on the crimes themselves.”
I never said Muslim women were oppressed or forced to put a hijab on their head. In fact, what I said was, “Ms. Brooks attempt[s] to understand why Muslim women take up the hijab and how the culture has slowly been eroding women’s rights, rather than furthering them.” Ms. Brooks was clear that wearing hijab is a choice. In fact, many women who start off not wearing the hijab eventually decide on their own that they want to wear it. Let me make it clear: I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU DECIDE TO DO.
Next, Ms. Brooks did not base her research on what you claim is “based on some rural muslim community that’s non-existent nowadays but catchy enough to be turned into a book.” In fact, I can only think of ONE INSTANCE IN THE WHOLE BOOK that she was out in the country. Normally, she was in bustling cities talking to, not only average women, but quite extraordinatory women, such as Queen Noor.
Finally, Ms. Brooks spends quite a bit of time looking at women’s rights. And Islam HAS been, as I said, “slowly been eroding women’s rights, rather than furthering them.” Ms. Brooks notes this towards the end of the book:
Once I began working on this book, I looked everywhere for examples of women trying to reclaim Islam’s positive messages, trying to carry forward into the twentieth century the reformist zeal with which Muhammad had remade the lives of many women (other than his own wives and the Muslim army’s war captives) in the first Muslim community at Medina. It turned out to be a frustrating search. In most places the direction of the debate seemed to be exaclty the reverse. Palestinian, Egyptian, Algerian and Afghani women were seeing a curtain come down on decades of women’s liberation as Islamic leaders in their countries turned to the most exclusionary and inequitable interpretations. For those women who struggeled against the tide, the results were a discouraging trio of marginalization, harassment and exile.
Finally, I’d like to note that this commenter didn’t leave their real name, instead, ironically they called themselves “Ignorance”. And yes, an email was given, but I doubt the email is real. Does this kind of comment deserve the time I’ve put into rebutting it? Probably not. But I reserve the right to post a dumb comment so I can point and laugh…and this, in essence, is what I’ve done here. Maybe I’m not laughing, but I’m sure I will be in a few days.