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Monday, March 20, 2006

Sultan and more

Women at war with the mullahs

While some acclaim her as “a voice of reason” others have denounced her as a “heretic” and insist that she deserves to die. What seems to have most infuriated many Muslims were Sultan’s comparisons between how Jews and Muslims have coped with the tragedies that have befallen them.

“The Jews have come from tragedy and forced the world to respect them,” she said, “with their knowledge, not with their terror; with their work, not with their crying and yelling.

“We have not seen a single Jew blow himself up in a German restaurant. We have not seen a single Jew destroy a church. We have not seen a single Jew protest by killing people. Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people and destroying embassies. The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them.”

Sitting in the airy living room of the spacious modern home where Sultan and her husband live, it is hard to believe this small, neatly dressed woman could be at the centre of an international firestorm. Just as improbable is that the most important and controversial critics of Islamic fundamentalism, violence and intolerance are, like Sultan, women, mostly from Islamic countries.

They include Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born Dutch politician, who has strongly criticised Islamic attitudes towards women and the widespread practice of female circumcision in Muslim north Africa; Irshad Manji, a Canadian lesbian of Pakistani descent, whose book The Trouble with Islam Today chastises Islam for its aggression towards women and for its anti-semitism; Amina Wadud, an African-American convert to Islam and Muslim academic and author, who has infuriated traditional Muslims by leading Friday prayer for Muslims in New York, a role traditionally taken only by male imams.

Other Muslim women in the front lines of the clash with Islamic governments are as diverse as Mukhtar Mai, the Pakistani village woman who was brutally gang-raped in 2002 as reprisal for an alleged transgression by her 14-year-old brother, and Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian lawyer who was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2003 for her defence of the rights of women and children in fundamentalist Muslim Iran.

hat tip: New, improved, spicy graphics, Sandmonkey(.org)

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Tehran’s Killing Fields
By Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi | January 27, 2005

Elio Bonazzi and Alireza Saghafi were co-writers of this special feature.

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