Monday, August 22, 2005

women shafted again - who'da thunk it?

I know this may come as a shock to you, but it seems that the American ambassadors overseeing the drafting of the Iraq constitution were being fececious when they claimed that women's rights were important.

Because the U.S. is so hell-bent on getting a constitution -- any constitution, it seems -- drafted and out there so that it looks like we're actually doing some good over there, my fabulous home country has "dropped its opposition to enshrining Islam as Iraq's main source of legislation in a bid to secure agreement on the text of a new constitution by a Monday deadline."

It is hardly my intention to bash Islam as a religion or a guideline for one's personal moral codes. I know, from many lectures from a few Muslim friends, that Islam isn't inherently misogynistic or anti-women's-rights (at least, no more than Christianity or pretty much any other organized monotheistic religion). I cannot, however, advocate constitutional law based on any religion, Islam included.

From the NY Times:
Maintaining secular authority over family matters is especially important to secular Iraqi women, who fear that Islamic judges will take away the rights they now enjoy under Iraqi law.

Religion is fine and dandy for one's own personal life. And it's fine and dandy for a community life, provided that every single person in said community fully believes without dissent in the tenets of the given religion and agrees fully with all the laws.
However, when you put religious moral codes into official nationwide legislation such as a constitution, it becomes a bit of a problem. Religion is personal. Religion is private. No religion has any place in any country's legislation.

And by the, "social mores" can't be used as a replacement word for "religious morals" either.
In the same MSNBC article I linked to above, there's this quote from Salama al-Khafaji, a female Iraqi member of the Shi'ite group, the United Iraqi Alliance who supports Islamic rule and, therefore, restrictions on women's equality in Iraq:
We have a lot of tribal areas where they don't like women having the same rights as men in inheritance. If you put this (in law) you would have a big mess in the country.
Iraqi society does not accept that a woman should be outside the house at night in jobs with night shifts. We've got used to it in hospitals but we reject it in other facilities.

(This woman, I think, is the Iraqi version of Phyllis Schlafly. Scary.)

Evidently, because social mores, or norms, in Iraq are "naturally conservative," it makes it ok to continue such oppression, because obviously, that's what the people want.
And in the Jim Crow era in the South, the social norms of segregation should have been left untouched, since obviously, that's what the people want.

What she's not acknowledging here is that these social norms that keep women in the house, holding only daytime jobs, and coming second in priority after the men in their lives, are dictated by men interpreting Islamic law for their own best interest.
Kind of like the social norms that kept segregation alive and well in the South were dictated by old white men opposed to positive change.

Just because something is socially accepted does not mean that it is right or in the best interest of all involved. A novel idea, I know. But somehow, I don't think I'm the first or only one to acknowledge this.

Pam has this to say about Bush & Co's flip-flopping on the importance of women's rights:
"Women's rights mean less than doing what is right for the long-term health of this country's prospective foundation. This is sickness beyond belief."

Not to mention it's probably a bit rattling to have to rush to finish a relatively important document like a country's constitution with Rumsfeld and ambassador Khalilzad breathing over your shoulder, telling you to hurry up. It's kind of like in high school, when you were the last kid left in the room for finals, and the teacher sits there and stares at you while you frantically scribble illegible paragraphs about the cold war, and feel guilty for making the teacher stay there longer. Except...this is a wee bit more important and further-reaching than your 10th grade history final.

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