Originally posted March 1, 2005
I’ve been reading various reports, most recently in Newsweek, that women in Iraq are facing increased pressures to revert to Muslim traditions. These traditions include extraordinary modesty (the face masks and coverings), not being able to go to school, not being able to go out without a male relative, being treated differently by the courts (inheritence, divorce and custody) and on and on. As an aside, I can come to terms with a lot of different customs, but I cannot come to terms with the way the Muslims treat their women. To a lesser extent Christians and Jews have some of the same issues, but the Muslims stand alone. While it is not yet certain what sort of country Iraq will end up with, the Shiite victory would lead me to think the odds of an Islamic society are pretty high. Such a society would almost certainly lead to a degradation in the status of the female half of the population. So that’s what our treasure (now getting close to $300B) and lives (about 1500) was spent on? Enslaving women? Nice work. If that happens (and I’d bet money it does), I wonder what our response will be. Let me propose the following rationalizations.
1) It’s their country, they can run it anyway they want. That may be true, but we generally don’t like voting majorities running over other’s rights. We certainly don’t let our majorities run the U.S. anyway they like.
2) Islamic women prefer it this way. Probably some do. That isn’t the point. The point is that they have no choice. Raw informal violence is used to keep them down.
3) The women aren’t treated that badly. As long as they obey the men, that is partially true. Still, make no mistake, the men run things the way they like, and often women are treated badly.
4) It was worse under Saddam. Sorry, no way. Women did pretty well under Saddam, going to schools and working at a large number of different jobs. That’s one of the ironies of our invasion – we overthrew the most secular government in the Middle East, and are likely to get a theocratic government in its place.
One response I don’t think we’ll have the courage for is to tell them they can’t treat their women like this.