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Chaser
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Re: Afgan Fashion--the BURKA

I think you make a good point about the misogynist fashion industry here in the West. I had not thought of it in quite that way. I guess the difference I see is, I can choose whether or not I want to wear what is being marketed to me. Though I am sure you can make the claim that these messages infiltrate just about everything out there.

I wonder if the burqa in someways is protective for women b/c it allows them to escape confronting their identity on a subconscious level; not that they have no personality or uniqueness (or don't want any), but in a society, where so much of what makes humans individuals is denied, it is almost easier to be anonymous. I think this is what makes me feel so sad while reading the book - Mariam and Laila are developing humans, but so much of what they would like to experience is denied to them by Rahsheed and the ruling government (i.e. Laila cannot even visit her daughter without having a male escort).

I also want to comment on your statement that "Unfortunately, all societies have extreme ways of persuading their women to dress --how to fit in." I know that I spent most of my years - into my twenties - in a strict Christian environment - including attending a Christian school. I know as females we were constantly confronted with regulations - not able to wear pants or shorts (depending on the situation), skirts had to be a certain length, and all kinds of restrictions on what styles and fits could be worn.

I certainly don't want to seem like I am comparing these Christian ideas with the burqa, but in some sense, I see them stemming from a similar belief system. If any girls were to wear anything outside this guideline, they were labeled "immodest," "loose," and certainly "unbecoming of a Christian woman." So I see what you are saying - these types of standards pop up in many different "cultures" - not just Islamic ones. The double standard, I must say, seems to remain the same. Men were very rarely, if ever, targets of the dress code "police" in my experience.





IBIS wrote:
Westerners see the burka as a symbol of oppression, and in the majority of cases, it is. For every positive use of it, there are a hundred negative ones.

But the issue of the burqa is not about the garment itself. It was worn way before Islam, and for many Muslim women, it's a traditional choice of dress. For some Muslim women who choose to wear it, is a symbol of Islamic piety and enthusiasm. For others, it's a security blanket; without it, they feel naked in public. It protects them against dust in the busy streets; it's a convenient shield for breast-feeding; and sometimes it's a nifty cover to run to the store without makeup. Some women even wear them as a protest against Western culture and scanty clothes.

In many news articles, during the Afghan war, the burka was worn for safety by many journalists and World aid workers caught in war-torn Kabul. They used them to hide their identity in dangerous areas; foreigners who were targets of the militant Taliban wore them for security.

As a form of disguise, many Muslim women would say that our fashion equivalent are dark sunglasses.

Unfortunately, all societies have extreme ways of persuading their women to dress --how to fit in. Many would say that Western culture has a misogynist fashion industry which ruthlessly promotes indecent exposure.

We need to respect the traditional societal arrangements of different cultures, even those that are alien and foreign to us.


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aireloom
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Re: Afgan Fashion

Thanks for the site Nadine, very interesting
aireloom
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aireloom
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Re: Welcome from your Moderator

I agree they found comfort wearing the burka. There are occasions where I would think a burka would be valuable if one wanted to look at people and not have them see you. I mean like sitting in the mall and people watching. So less conspicuous.
aireloom
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Nadine
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Re: Afgan Fashion--the BURKA

I think you make a good point about the misogynist fashion industry here in the West. I had not thought of it in quite that way. I guess the difference I see is, I can choose whether or not I want to wear what is being marketed to me. Though I am sure you can make the claim that these messages infiltrate just about everything out there.
--------------------------------------------------

I had not thought about it this way but women in the West are also often catering to men in their dress here in the west. Why do women often wear such uncomfortable clothes like high heels, or freeze in lowcut gowns, or get great sunburns in bikinis, or even wear lipstick--it is all because it is sexually attractive to men. Does anyone remember back in the 60s and the miniskirt an almost impossible garment to do anything in especially for an office worker--while at the same time the work dress code would not allow women to wear pants suits to work. But we have become more "liberated" and the dress code is more unisex. I have noted that many Muslin women wear pants under short skirts or tunics which is far more practical and comfortable. As far as head gear is concerned, women used to wear scarves often and still do in colder climates here in the West and nobody thinks anything of that. People often wear traditional clothing associated with their cultural origin or religion.

I think a lot of the reaction is due to the fact that women were forced to wear totally covering garments that were hot, uncomfortable, and difficult to move in. I am getting the impression that Afghanistan was a pretty liberated society as far as Muslim countries go before the Talaban took over and the Burka became symbol of the oppression of women.
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IBIS
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Re: Afgan Fashion--the BURKA and Today's Women in Afghanistan

[ Edited ]
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Chaser wrote:

... I think this is what makes me feel so sad while reading the book - Mariam and Laila are developing humans, but so much of what they would like to experience is denied to them by Rahsheed and the ruling government (i.e. Laila cannot even visit her daughter without having a male escort).
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
lasharp24 wrote:
To me the burka represents the absolute and complete disregard for even the slightest existance of women in the islamic society. They live as slaves behind a veil in their own society and are brain washed since birth to believe that in being subservient and accepting the unfathomable abuse, that they are serving Alah!

It saddens me beyond belief... How can this be happening in society today.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It does sadden us when we witness uber-patriarchal (so-called modern) governments marginalize their female citizens. What does it say about us when half of humanity is subjugated in Asia, Africa and Europe.

The not-so-visible ways are paralyzing... women who are judged morally questionable are murdered by their male relatives "because they shame the family."
Women have no say in who they marry. Their husbands are chosen for them; women cannot divorce abusive husbands. And when he divorces her, they do not get custody of the children. They get no alimony. They cannot own or inherit property; they cannot start their own businesses (although they can be used as cheap labor in the business' success.) And the list goes on and on in education and the workforce.

But Mariam is not a victim. She deserves our admiration, not our pity. It would be very easy to see Mariam as a victim, trapped by her birth into this vicious misogynist society. Nana chose to be a victim because she became embittered. She exposed her bitterness to Mariam, hoping to spare her. But she only succeeded in alienating Mariam. Even at her young age, Mariam intuited that no one should allow misery to defeat oneself like this.

As I traveled with Mariam through her later years, I saw that she emotionally separated herself from her miserable marriage. It was a matter of time before someone as sweet and innocent like Laila and her baby would unlock her emotional life.

I like to hope that many women, like Mariam, can overcome the brutalities of their lives, and hold onto their inner worth and beauty. Mr Hosseini has given us this marvelous character to keep us hoping.

Message Edited by IBIS on 08-08-2007 02:32 PM
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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bennysax1
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Re: Afgan Fashion--the BURKA and Today's Women in Afghanistan

I disagree with all of you in saying that the dress expectations and opression of women in Afghanistan as seen through Hosseini's novel is disturbing, but I don't think we've really gotten to the root of the issue. I think the primary issue in this case is a religous one, and not necessarily the tenets of a particular religion like Christianity of Islam, but the relation of religion to the everyday life of a group of people. In Afghanistan as in much of the Middle East, religion, government and culture are all one and the same. After all, if God is supreme and one shouldn't we has humans be united and not seperate our religous lives from other aspects of it? I'm not saying I want to live in Afghanistan or necesarily agree with this relationship of religion to life. I'm just pointing out the difference in our postmodern view of religion and the more traditional view of many Muslim nations.

The burqa does have a religous reason, as in Islam women's faces are considred beautiful, not ugly or vulgar. In fact they are consider so beautiful that they should only be viewed by their husbands. To allow everyone to view women's faces would be to subject society to moral laxness in the case of marital faithfulness. That's not necessarily the function of the burqa now and it is no doubt a symbol of oppression in some situations. The fault for Laila and Mariam's maltreatment in Hosseini's novel is not in the system, but with their Husband who abused it.
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bennysax1
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Re: Afgan Fashion--the BURKA and Today's Women in Afghanistan

I had a typo in my previous post. The second word should be agree. Sorry!
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Nadine
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Re: Afgan Fashion--the BURKA and Today's Women in Afghanistan

In doing more research my interpretation is that the Burqa is limited to Afghanistan and is more a cultural requirement than a religious one. This article from Wikipedia points out that the Koran prescribes modest dress from both men and women but does not require that a woman cover her face.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hijab
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bennysax1
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Re: Afgan Fashion--the BURKA and Today's Women in Afghanistan

[ Edited ]
I don't think that the specifics of the burqa are what's important in the novel nor in the culture, but the idea of modesty and piety which are religous concepts. The fact that religous concepts are tied to government and culture in Afghanistan, whereas they are only tied to our personal choices in the postmodern melting pot of religous ideas in the West, are the concepts I found important when reading the novel and reflecting on the world of the two Afghan women portrayed by Hosseini. In Afghanistan, as well as in many other Muslim countries, religion and culture cannot be seperated, because religous dictates culture as well as politics. The Western paradigm of thought that segments life into culture, politics, religion etc. doesn't apply in the culture of Laila and Mariam,

Message Edited by bennysax1 on 08-09-2007 05:00 PM
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Mariposa
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Re: Afgan Fashion--the BURKA and Today's Women in Afghanistan

[ Edited ]
I think the burka is a symbol of oppression for the women in Afghanistan. They are not given a choice whether or not to wear it. But moreover, it hides their identity. They become anonymous, unseen and unheard. The burka is a manifestation of what is happening to women in Afghanistan.

I was much more horrified by the physical abuse than the clothing they were forced to wear. If there are no laws to protect women, they revert back to being chattel or property, which I believe they were here in the US too at one time. Probably in every country. There was a time when women were not allowed in school, were not allowed to vote, etc. We are seeing the past in the present in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, many of them are brainwashed by the interpretation that the Taliban have enforced in regard to Islam. So for them, to discard the burka and stand up for their rights would be to be an infidel and against Allah. Therefore they are stuck in their condition.

Lizabeth

Message Edited by dianearbus on 08-09-2007 11:23 PM
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Jansten75
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Re: Welcome from your Moderator

I am picking up this book today to read for my local book club and would like to join in your discussion. Is there a breakdown of any timeline for reading this book. I will start it this weekend then pick up with all the comments on Monday and jump in from there. My introduction is under that category. Thanks.
"For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?" Pride and Prejudice
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Chaser
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Re: Afgan Fashion--the BURKA and Today's Women in Afghanistan

I agree with you, dianearbus. The burqa was imposed as a result of the Taliban's interpretation of Islam. To say that wearing the burqa is simply a manifestation that a woman is religious or Muslim I don't think is correct - from what I understand the burqa was not required wear before the Taliban. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Islamic extremists take everything to the next level. Whereas Muslim women may have worn a hijab or some other type of head covering, under TAliban law, every inch of the body had to be covered. Women were beaten for stumbling and falling and accidentally exposing an ankle. To me, this goes beyond religion and it infusing every aspect of life. This is absolute power out of control.

I agree with you in the point, also, that women, in their desire to be good Muslims, may feel they need to submit to this covering. I think it is worth looking at other Muslim countries to see what the women typically wear. Am I wrong in believing that the burqa is/was most prominent in Afghanistan?

I think it is evident in the book that Laila and Mariam wore the burqa because they had to. They were Muslim believers but did not wear the burqa until forced by their husband to do so (also, we don't read of Mariam and Laila's mother wearing the burqa; it was enforced when our two characters were grown). If it were based solely upon the Muslim religion, I believe women would do so of their own accord. Of course, they are denied education, so they may not be able to discover the real truth on their own.





dianearbus wrote:
I think the burka is a symbol of oppression for the women in Afghanistan. They are not given a choice whether or not to wear it. But moreover, it hides their identity. They become anonymous, unseen and unheard. The burka is a manifestation of what is happening to women in Afghanistan.

I was much more horrified by the physical abuse than the clothing they were forced to wear. If there are no laws to protect women, they revert back to being chattel or property, which I believe they were here in the US too at one time. Probably in every country. There was a time when women were not allowed in school, were not allowed to vote, etc. We are seeing the past in the present in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, many of them are brainwashed by the interpretation that the Taliban have enforced in regard to Islam. So for them, to discard the burka and stand up for their rights would be to be an infidel and against Allah. Therefore they are stuck in their condition.

Lizabeth

Message Edited by dianearbus on 08-09-2007 11:23 PM


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Mariposa
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Re: Afgan Fashion--the BURKA and Today's Women in Afghanistan

Yes, I believe it is the twisted interpretation of the Muslim religion that has forced women in Afghanistan into the burqa. I believe women in Iran are also fully covered. The Muslim religion is not the cause of the problem there. It is the fundamentalist sect of that religion which intertwines religion, government, culture and even the private lives of people that is causing the difficulties. Here we have separation of church and state. There is no separation there.

This is from Wikipedia:
The Taliban (Pashto: طالبان) are a fundamentalist Sunni Muslim and ethnic Pashtun movement that ruled most of Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001, when their leaders were removed from power by American aerial bombardment and Northern Alliance ground forces. Some smaller groups of the Taliban are currently engaged in protracted guerrilla warfare and terrorism against allied NATO forces and the current government of Afghanistan.

While in power, the Taliban implemented the "strictest interpretation of Sharia law ever seen in the Muslim world,"[2] and became notorious internationally for their treatment of women.[3] Women were forced to wear the burqa in public.[4] They were allowed neither to work nor to be educated after the age of eight,[3] and until then were permitted only to study the Qur'an.[3] Women seeking an education were forced to attend underground schools, where they and their teachers risked execution if caught.[3] They were not allowed to be treated by male doctors unless accompanied by a male chaperon, which led to illnesses remaining untreated. They faced public flogging in the street,[5] and public execution for violations of the Taliban's laws.[6][7]

I think the Taliban is still in more control that the Wikipedia article states especially in relation to women's rights.
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lasharp24
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Re: Afgan Fashion--the BURKA and Today's Women in Afghanistan

I completely disagree with any inference that the primary issue of dress is a religious one. If that is the case, then why aren't men required to wear a burka. Are we not all created in the image of God? Therefore, are we not all equally as beautiful? Does this beauty breed infidelity and compromise of ones basic values? I think not.

All of the oppressive restrictions put upon females is the only way that this male dominant society can insure absolute male supremacy. We all know that education is freedom. Should equal rights and opportunity be afforded women, the "traditional" view of the Muslin society would be destroyed and rewritten.

This attitude is timeless. Comparing this thought process to the time of slavery in our own country, were not the black people equally as oppressed, forbidden from learning to read and write, and for exactly the same reasons, so that they would serve willingly and without contempt. As time, education and freedom has demonstrated, we have a very important and contributing society of black people in America today. I would think that this is what God/Alah/Mohamed would want celebrated in his name - not burka's and violence.

People and cultures can try to justify this attitude with whatever words they choose to use such as "religion" but it all equals the same - oppression and slavery.

I want to scream with sadness for these women. I wish they could know just a smidgen of our freedom. May God be with them.
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bennysax1
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Re: Afgan Fashion--the BURKA and Today's Women in Afghanistan



lasharp24 wrote:
I completely disagree with any inference that the primary issue of dress is a religious one. If that is the case, then why aren't men required to wear a burka. Are we not all created in the image of God? Therefore, are we not all equally as beautiful? Does this beauty breed infidelity and compromise of ones basic values? I think not.

All of the oppressive restrictions put upon females is the only way that this male dominant society can insure absolute male supremacy. We all know that education is freedom. Should equal rights and opportunity be afforded women, the "traditional" view of the Muslin society would be destroyed and rewritten.

This attitude is timeless. Comparing this thought process to the time of slavery in our own country, were not the black people equally as oppressed, forbidden from learning to read and write, and for exactly the same reasons, so that they would serve willingly and without contempt. As time, education and freedom has demonstrated, we have a very important and contributing society of black people in America today. I would think that this is what God/Alah/Mohamed would want celebrated in his name - not burka's and violence.

People and cultures can try to justify this attitude with whatever words they choose to use such as "religion" but it all equals the same - oppression and slavery.

I want to scream with sadness for these women. I wish they could know just a smidgen of our freedom. May God be with them.









It's sad that the Taliban exalted themselves to the supreme authority on all community and social matters and as the only rightful interpreters of islamic law in Afghanistan. The damage done to women's rights and the fair treatment of citizens was and is horrible.

BUT

To say the matter is not religous is to ignore the fact that women face similar, yet different, struggles for rights in other Muslim countries. This correlation is revealing as to the place of traditional Muslim thought and it's relation to Women's rights.

AND

Anyone who has studied the Quran and the rise in prominence of the Islamic religion will know that Mohhamed would not have been an advocate of Women's rights, nor would any group of Muslims until recently. In fact, the Quran states that at times it is neccesary to beat ones wife. This statement doesn't come from someone interpreting the Islamic faith, it comes from it's founder. My hand of friendship, gratitude and thankfulness goes out to all the moderate Muslims who have corrected these injustices, but I still truly believe this oppression started with the foundation of the Islamic faith and continues in different shapes and forms throughout the Muslim world. It is changing, and I am thankful, but an honest look at the source of Islamic faith and law uncovers frightful ideas in relation to our America/Western idea of freedom and education.
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greentrees
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Re: Welcome from your Moderator

Hi! I loved both of these books. They truly are a testament to the realities of war, ethnic difference, poverty, the end of eras and the absolute courage and thirst of the human spirit.

I started late, but I would love to add to the discussion more.

Thanks!
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greentrees
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Re: Afgan Fashion--the BURKA and Today's Women in Afghanistan

I believe the wearing of the burqa is to protect women in a place like Afghanistan. It is without question two things: a strong political statement, and a deeply held cultural gender bias. A place like Afghanistan is not open politically to the voice of women. Any woman in the world who is not entitled to more than a highschool education is restricted by her government. When a situation like this occurs, all other factors in society contribute to the bias against women.

Khaled Hosseini has taken a real story and put it into a visionary medium. Anyone who reads his novels live the chapters they read day in and day out while they are reading these books. I was completely enveloped by the cry for humanity against such indignified acts of violence and mental and physical abuse. It was a tragedy beyond tragedies when he described the way in which a woman succumbs to a man, the way in which a young boy was brutally assaulted, and the way in which a young woman's birth marked her life for only tragic beginnings and endings.

In American society, we all but too often relate what is life here to what we think of life there (or in some other place). It takes a novel(both novels) written in this way to reveal that one has to immerse oneself in the characters, long enough to see through their eyes what their "real" world truly is and truly does to them.
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Chaser
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Re: Afgan Fashion--the BURKA and Today's Women in Afghanistan

lasharp24, I feel your passion and intensity on this issue. You are right, this same principle has been carried out so many times in history (and continues all around the world currently). One group of people oppressing another - whether it be based on race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, and the list goes on.

I feel the same urgency on these injustices. Though an exploration into the history of a country's religion may be somewhat of an explanation, it never seems to pass as an excuse, does it? As you say, "it all equals the same - oppression and slavery."

You're right, anytime you have an instance where the opportunity for education is removed or restricted, you have an attempt at supremacy. I do believe that at the center of these impositions is the patriarchal ideas that find expression all over the world (including our own country, though sometimes in less subtle ways). Religion is merely a justification for that supremacy, a way to through women into confusion as to whether a life of subordination and silence is really the life they were meant to live. Not many people want to contradict the laws of God (or what have been established to be those laws).

It seems to me that the success of any society or people group (based on historical happenings, not in my belief) is based on the utter extinction of anyone different. When that group or those groups cannot be destroyed, they must be subjected, i.e. what happened in the US with black slaves. I don't understand how so many can follow this mindset but it seems there are many; perhaps, any power leads eventually to this delusion of superiority.

Anyway, I could go on and on. But I wanted to let you know your post caught my attention. I understand and agree with your feelings. It's maddening to struggle with these issues - and also to put yourself in the place of those who are in the midst of this struggle.



lasharp24 wrote:
I completely disagree with any inference that the primary issue of dress is a religious one. If that is the case, then why aren't men required to wear a burka. Are we not all created in the image of God? Therefore, are we not all equally as beautiful? Does this beauty breed infidelity and compromise of ones basic values? I think not.

All of the oppressive restrictions put upon females is the only way that this male dominant society can insure absolute male supremacy. We all know that education is freedom. Should equal rights and opportunity be afforded women, the "traditional" view of the Muslin society would be destroyed and rewritten.

This attitude is timeless. Comparing this thought process to the time of slavery in our own country, were not the black people equally as oppressed, forbidden from learning to read and write, and for exactly the same reasons, so that they would serve willingly and without contempt. As time, education and freedom has demonstrated, we have a very important and contributing society of black people in America today. I would think that this is what God/Alah/Mohamed would want celebrated in his name - not burka's and violence.

People and cultures can try to justify this attitude with whatever words they choose to use such as "religion" but it all equals the same - oppression and slavery.

I want to scream with sadness for these women. I wish they could know just a smidgen of our freedom. May God be with them.


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Chaser
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Re: Afgan Fashion--the BURKA and Today's Women in Afghanistan

Thank you for your post, Benny. This is a honest exposition that requires further discussion, I believe. I had a discussion once with a gentleman that I work with (who is from Egypt and no longer Muslim). I was having trouble understanding the violence seemingly inherent in Islam when I could not conceive of Mohammed inspiring this violence. My friend corrected me, though, and told me that, on the contrary, Mohammed was a very violent person.

I certainly don't mean to put down or attack any person's religion or belief system, but somedays I wonder whether this is the way things are intended to be, whether Islam itself requires these conditions. My question is, can you be a good Muslim and believe in equality, education, moderation in government, etc.?

I hope you will add anything you feel is relevant, bennysax1, as well as anyone else out there who can shed some more light.



bennysax1 wrote:


lasharp24 wrote:
I completely disagree with any inference that the primary issue of dress is a religious one. If that is the case, then why aren't men required to wear a burka. Are we not all created in the image of God? Therefore, are we not all equally as beautiful? Does this beauty breed infidelity and compromise of ones basic values? I think not.

All of the oppressive restrictions put upon females is the only way that this male dominant society can insure absolute male supremacy. We all know that education is freedom. Should equal rights and opportunity be afforded women, the "traditional" view of the Muslin society would be destroyed and rewritten.

This attitude is timeless. Comparing this thought process to the time of slavery in our own country, were not the black people equally as oppressed, forbidden from learning to read and write, and for exactly the same reasons, so that they would serve willingly and without contempt. As time, education and freedom has demonstrated, we have a very important and contributing society of black people in America today. I would think that this is what God/Alah/Mohamed would want celebrated in his name - not burka's and violence.

People and cultures can try to justify this attitude with whatever words they choose to use such as "religion" but it all equals the same - oppression and slavery.

I want to scream with sadness for these women. I wish they could know just a smidgen of our freedom. May God be with them.









It's sad that the Taliban exalted themselves to the supreme authority on all community and social matters and as the only rightful interpreters of islamic law in Afghanistan. The damage done to women's rights and the fair treatment of citizens was and is horrible.

BUT

To say the matter is not religous is to ignore the fact that women face similar, yet different, struggles for rights in other Muslim countries. This correlation is revealing as to the place of traditional Muslim thought and it's relation to Women's rights.

AND

Anyone who has studied the Quran and the rise in prominence of the Islamic religion will know that Mohhamed would not have been an advocate of Women's rights, nor would any group of Muslims until recently. In fact, the Quran states that at times it is neccesary to beat ones wife. This statement doesn't come from someone interpreting the Islamic faith, it comes from it's founder. My hand of friendship, gratitude and thankfulness goes out to all the moderate Muslims who have corrected these injustices, but I still truly believe this oppression started with the foundation of the Islamic faith and continues in different shapes and forms throughout the Muslim world. It is changing, and I am thankful, but an honest look at the source of Islamic faith and law uncovers frightful ideas in relation to our America/Western idea of freedom and education.


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Rachel-K
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Re: Afgan Fashion--the BURKA and Today's Women in Afghanistan

I think the novel really presses us to look at the kinds of brutalities a society can bring down on individuals--and Hosseini is marvelous in not allowing us to turn away from what's most awful. Laila and Miriam are such full, wonderful characters--and they are the "lowest" in their society--and must fight as hard as they know how for any scrap of dignity or happiness they get.

I do want to turn away from making judgments about Islam. Most of us aren't familiar with the practice, and I think that the Judeo-Christian Bible could also be read to support many practices that most of us think are wrong--certainly, a religion isn't only about its text. We might remember from the story that it is Miriam's religious teacher who tried to argue for her schooling early on, and who was broken at her being sent into marriage on the death of her mother. It was her "modern" father who gave her up!

But I also agree that the novel is an extraordinary indictment against the mistreatment and inequality of women, especially under the Taliban. As Kite Runner was with class separation. He doesn't pull punches, does he?
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