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Ethnocentric Views On Women

The cultural and intellectual ethnocentricism that gave rise to Imperialism in the West has not diminished. It has taken many other forms, each as vile as the source. Among the views that are born from this ethnocentricism is their views on women.

On the one hand, the West decrees that they are all for freedom, justice, and equality for all people. On the other hand, the inequality between men and women in the West is not far off from the inequalities of the rest of the world. Indeed, the question of equality is one that varies immensely from place to place, but the general trend is undeniable.

To add insult to injury, Western thought, and the thought of the wish-washed admirers of it, hold that they value equality and respect of women higher than any other societies, particularly those of the Middle East. The ethnocentricism behind these sentiments is undeniable.

We see now in parts of the Western world, for example Winnepeg, Canada, women and men are 'championing' the right of women to go topless, just as men do, during the summer heat. The moral fabric of the West is such that nudity and promiscuity is not frowned down upon, so long as inappropriate acts do not result from these behaviors. In Europe especially, it is common for families to go to nude beaches. And then the women in these societies complain about being 'objectified'. They complain that women should not be judged on the basis of their looks. They complain about being pressured to dress or act in certain ways. Surely if you ask any Western woman, feminist or not, if Western culture needs no improvement in the treatment of women, the answer will be nearly unanimous.

But if we look at this with respect to how other societies treat their women, the answers will be more varied, and surely there are some trends that indicate ethnocentricism. When Westerners see a nun, dressed in full uniform; similar in many ways to the modest garb of a Muslim woman; they see a caring, devout, pious, humble woman. When they see a Muslim woman in hijab, they see an oppressed, miserable, low-self esteem wreck in need of liberation. At once, the Westerner believes that promiscuous dress, even nudity, is acceptable for women on the grounds that they are liberated and free to choose what they want to wear. As France has demonstrated, this does not apply to the hijab. Sexiness, especially for women, is viewed as positive in the West. Humbleness is seen as square and boring.

What I am saying here is that the West has a double standard that is fierce and uncompromising. They see themselves as the best. Whatever is alien to their values and virtues is wrong by default, whether or not it contradicts the 'rights' they pretend to champion. The West and their stooge admirers are eager to attack 'inferior' societies, while all too willing to turn a blind eye the inequalities between men and women in their own societies. In the extreme case of the state of Utah, where many practices and norms are similar to the Taliban, the double standard is all too clear.

Finally, we look at the facts about Muslim societies. Indeed, they are not nearly perfect. But like their counterparts in the West, paternalism is strongly rooted in culture. This is true before and after Islam. Nonetheless, the life and times of the Prophet Muhammed clearly illustrate that the rights Islam gave to women are unmatched. Muslims may have failed to uphold them, but the facts are clearly present. It is no secret that many Sheikhs have interpretted verses and hadeeths so as to suit the paternalistic cultures that preceded Islam everywhere.

The views that Muslims hold on women do vary, but even the more austere attitudes cannot be seen as necessarily negative. If you look at the statistics on rape worldwide, don't be surprised who leads the way. It is certainly a crime for the West to purport that they treat women better than other societies, when per capita the most heinous crimes against women occur in the West.

Which society treats women worse is of secondary importance. The primary issue is that the lessons and insights of varying societies provide indicators on what areas of female oppression need what kinds of attention. To blanket Muslims with the label of chauvinists is no different from labelling the West likewise. But if you stop worshipping ideal Western views on women, and consider, without any postulates, Islam's principles with respect to women, you will see that the latter is worlds more logically sound. It is much too easy to ignore the proofs and explanations of Islam's noble rules on women if you have already decided that these rules are a farce. Case in point; the West.

A. A. Omar


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