Treatment on women in the Middle East Rationality has often been a valued attribute in Western culture, with the result that people may claim to be rational simply as a way of enhancing the value of their presentation. One of the central themes to be explored in this paper is the idea that what is rational and, therefore, what is irrational has received (and continues to receive) different answers at different times and from different people. The paper will focus on why and how women are treated in the Middle East. I will emphasize the examination of real examples of irrational behavior, but at the same time will show why the Middle Eastern men consider it rational. Human action is necessarily always rational. The term "rational action" is therefore redundant and must be rejected as such.
When applied to the ultimate ends of action, the terms rational and irrational are inappropriate and meaningless. The ultimate end of action is always the satisfaction of some desires of the acting man. Since nobody is in a position to substitute his own value judgments for those of the acting individual, it is vain to pass judgment on other people's aims and violations. No man is qualified to declare what would make another man happier or less discontented. The critic either tells us what he believes he would aim at if he were in the place of his fellow; or, in dictorial arrogance blithely disposing of his fellow's will and aspirations, declares what condition of this other man would better suit himself, the critic. It is usual to call an action irrational if it aims, at the well being of another human being.
In this sense people say, for instance, sometimes with approval and sometimes with disapproval, that a man who sacrifices his morality, goodness, and moral instinct to the attainment of higher goods such as: religious convictions, honor, and political convictions, is motivated by irrational convictions. Given the status of women in society and the socio-economic structure, the prevalence of violence in the Egyptian community is not surprising, and by far exceeds previous expectations. Perhaps it is too far fetched to suggest that in order to redress the problem of violence, the entire social structure, laws and manner of thinking must be changed. The role of women in society must be reviewed within the family and the community at large, enforced through the media, education and through community leaders, in order to support a p Islam stresses the idea of a public morality which is to be enforced collectively. Today, many perceive that it is the government's job to enforce this morality.
In light of this, Islam has acquired a political nature, despite the original Islamic sources' rare mention of government or state. Islam cannot be the sole reason for the position of women in the Muslim world, since implementation of Islamic codes varies from country to country. However, the Arabs have legitimized their governments, including its relation to the status of women, by linking them to religion. Because of the profound effect religion has on government and culture, the position of women in the Middle East cannot be understood without reference to Islam. A major component of the Islamic view on women concerns the concept of desire. Differing from other religions such as Christianity and Judaism, Islam does not see desire as a force that must be eliminated or systematically regulated.
Rather, one must employ it in a way that coincides with what religious law dictates. For example, sexual desire, exercised according to Muslim beliefs, ensures the continuation of the human race. Sexual desires exerted outside of the scope of Islam, however, can lead to destructive acts and work to destroy the social order. Desire must be constantly steered in the right direction to ensure that it is used properly. Women are believed to be endowed with a fatal sexual attraction. They are seen as sources of seduction that are responsible for man's inability to resist them.
However, because they are considered the morally and intellectually inferior sex, it is their sexuality that must be strictly controlled and regulated. In a society that relies on external rather than internal moral enforcement, it is believed that women must be hidden and separated from men so that the males are not overpowered by feminine sexual appeal. Young females, in whose every soul lays a temptress, must be modestly dressed, which has evolved into the tradition of veiling. Veiling is a distinct example of how Islam reinforces the perception of women as purely sexual being who need to be controlled. The concept of honor plays a substantial role in the lives of both men and women in the Middle East.
As previously explained, Middle Eastern society often revolves around the concept of public morality. Within this type of society, honor is of supreme importance. Fear of scandal is a major consideration in the daily lives of many Arabs. Upholding the honor of the family and protecting it from dishonor is a vital responsibility.
More than pride, more than honesty, more than anything a man might do, female chastity is seen in the Arab world as an indelible line, the boundary between respect and shame. An unchaste woman, it is sometimes said, is worse than a murderer, affecting not just one family, but her family and tribe. It is an unforgiving logic, and its product, for centuries and now, has been murder - the killings of girls and women by their relatives, to cleanse honor that has been soiled. Across the Arab world, in Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, the Palestinian territories and among Israeli Arabs, a new generation of activists has quietly begun to battle these honor killings, an enduring wave of attacks prompted by sexual conduct that is sometimes only imagined.
In Jordan, home to the most candid talk about the issue, the Government under King Abdullah has promised to join in the fight, following the example set by the late King Hussein and Queen Noor, who helped to lift a lid on public discussion of the killings. Across today's Arab world, modernizers may be wrangling with traditionalists, and secularists with Islamists, but a nationalism overlain by Islam remains a powerful political force. Even leaders like the late King Hussein and Egypt's President, Hosni Mubarak, long entrenched, have had to balance pro-Western outlooks against the risk of being seen as the instruments of outsiders. Activists trying to call attention to honor killings say they face a similar challenge from those who portray their campaign as an assault on Arab ways. "They accuse me of trying to make the country promiscuous", said Asma Kader, a Jordanian lawyer who is a leader in efforts to tighten the laws against honor killing. Most often, the killings occur among the poorer and less educated, particularly in Arab tribal societies like Jordan's and the Palestinians, with long traditions of self-administered justice.
The killings are rare among the educated and urbane. But even among those upper classes, it is rare to hear condemnation of the killings. Across Arab society, a bride is expected to be a virgin, and other people's justice is not a subject for polite company. In dozens of conversations in the Arab world in recent months, lawyers, laborers, clerics, cooks, physicians and politicians said most often that, personally, they could not condone honor killing. But most also said they felt the tug of traditions that could lead a man to kill, and some suggested that they would be inclined to act on them.
"I would do what I have to do", said Bass am al-Had id, a Jordanian with an American doctorate who spent 12 years as a hospital administrator in the United States, when asked whether he would kill a daughter who had sex outside marriage. Even some victims of the attacks said they deserved their fate. "He shouldn't have let me live", said Rowe ida, 17, who was shot three times by her father after she confessed to an adulterous affair, and, along with dozens of girls with similar stories, is being held for her own protection in a Jordanian prison. They firmly believe a girl who commits a sin deserves to die. There are countless cases of honor killings, these girls are viciously attacked and killed for the sake of upholding a reputation. In Esaifah, Jordan, it took six years for the al-Goal family to hunt down their daughter Basma.
She had run away with a man, afraid for her life after her husband suspected her of infidelity. Her husband divorced her and, in hiding, she married the other man. But back in this overcrowded, largely Palestinian village, where a woman's chastity is everyone's business, the contempt for her family kept spreading. "We were the most prominent family, with the best reputation", said Um Tayseer, the mother. "Then we were disgraced. Even my brother and his family stopped talking to us.
No one would even visit us. They would say only, 'You have to kill. ' " Um Tayseer went looking for Basma, carrying a gun. In the end, it was Basma's 16-year-old brother, just 10 when she ran away, who pulled the trigger. "Now we can walk with our heads held high", said Amal, her 18-year-old sister.
Women accused in sexual misconduct cases in Arab countries, like these three in Jordan, are jailed to protect them from being killed. Another example being Marzo uk Abdel Rahim, a Cairo tile maker, stabbed his 25-year-old daughter to death at her boyfriend's house in 1997, and then chopped off her head. He also said he had no regrets. "Honor is more precious than my own flesh and blood", said Abdel Rahim, who was released after two months. There are many different kinds of torture that Middle Eastern women endure, the newest one being Acid Mutilation. Sulfuric acid, cheap and easily accessible like kerosene, has emerged as a weapon used to disfigure and sometimes kill women and girls.
Reported reasons for the acid-throwing attacks include the refusal of an offer of marriage, dowry disputes, domestic fights, and disputes over property. Acid attacks leave the victims scarred and often blinded. Treatment, too expensive for most victims, is an excruciatingly painful experience. Violence against women is happening everywhere.
It is local and specific. It does not distinguish between class or race or age or locality. Rape happens in back alleys, plush hotel suites and college dorms. Women are beaten in thatched huts, high-rise apartments and trailer parks. They are sold into sexual slavery every few minutes.
They are burned with acids for refusing to marry, mutilated as little girls. Although the particular forms of violence may vary from culture to culture, we have come to expect it, make room for it, and accommodate it, as if it were a given of the human condition. As a result, women spend most of their lives recovering from, resisting or surviving violence rather than creating and thriving. Female Genital Mutilation is a very dangerous tradition still used today. Beyond the obvious initial pains of the operations, FGM has long-term physiological, sexual, and psychological effects. The unsanitary environment under which FGM takes place results in infections of the genital and surrounding areas and often results in the transmission of the HIV virus which can cause AIDS.
Some of the other health consequences of FGM include primary fatalities as a result of shock, hemorrhage or septicemia. In order to minimize the risk of the transmission of the viruses, some countries like Egypt made it illegal for FGM to be practiced by any other practitioners than trained doctors and nurses in hospitals. While this seems to be a more humane way to deal with FGM and try to reduce its health risks, more tissue is apt to be taken away due to the lack of struggle by the child if anesthesia is used. FGM has often been referred to as female circumcision and compared to male circumcision. However, such comparison is often misleading. Both practices include the removal of well- functioning parts of the genitalia and are quite unnecessary.
Both rituals also serve to perpetuate customs, which seek to regulate and keep control over the body and sexuality of the individual. However, FGM is far more drastic and damaging than male circumcision. A more appropriate analogy would be between clitoridectomy and penisdectomy where the entire penis is removed. "Sunna" circumcision: Consists of the removal of the prepuce and / or the tip of the clitoris.
Sunna in Arabic means "tradition". Clitoridectomy: Consists of the removal of the entire clitoris, and the removal of the adjacent labia. Infibulation: This most extreme form consists of the removal of the clitoris, the adjacent labia, and the joining of the scraped sides of the vulva across the vagina, where they are secured with thorns or sewn with catgut or thread. A small opening is kept to allow passage of urine and menstrual blood. An infibulated woman must be cut open to allow intercourse on the wedding night and is closed again afterwards to secure fidelity to the husband. The magnitude of abuse that Middle Eastern women face everyday is unthinkable.
This is why Western civilization deems the Middle East an irrational culture. Life is ultimately the judge of good and evil for us. We understand this instinctively as well as rationally. All of our rights, all of our morality, stem from our basic right to life. Over in the Middle East the effects of an irrational culture can hardly go unnoticed. Most Muslim countries are governed to a lesser or greater degree by Islamic law.
The culture is also synonymous with Islamic law. What they have over there is an entire population that has been raised from birth to accept and believe irrational things, things that in many cases are directly contrary to the evidence in front of them. They are in effect negating the free working of a mind. An entire portion of the world has been trained to believe that the sky is green because everyone says it is, so to speak, when they can clearly see for themselves that it's really blue.
Unfortunately women as a whole are not ready to revolt against the oppression they have faced for so many centuries. This is one of the reasons the abuse has lasted this long, women believe in the rationality just as their countrymen do. Until women stand up and fight for their rights this oppression will continue to run their lives. Of course a revolutions such as this are easier to start and win on paper, than actually declaring independence.