Women as victims of religious/ideological extremism

Over the past few decades, factions in the mainstream religions – Christianity and Islam – have drifted towards very conservative/extreme ideals. These ideals, in my opinion, are founded and funded by institutions or individuals that have a deeply entrenched agenda far removed from the concerns of the people in which it purports to serve. Social and political institutions are now being driven by ideologies set up by a few. Of interest in my research topic is how women have been objects of different extreme views. In my next blog, I will try to answer why women are objects of abuse in this narrow ideological shift.

Over the past few years, controversies have arisen in regard to women dressing in Western Europe. France for example passed a law keeping religious symbols out of its schools principally aimed at prohibiting wearing of Muslim religious headscarf and Italian government, citing domestic terrorism, passed a law prohibited face coverings. Some German states have also banned schoolteachers from wearing headscarves. In the Middle East and North Africa region, the public has seen a shift towards a conservative religious dressing.

Last year (in the US), women contraceptives dominated policy and election debates. The conservative who are very ‘concerned about the morals of the ethical America’ have been very loud and did spend a lot of money trying to influence the electorate that contraceptive was the defining issue in regard to American moral values. What was surprising was how the public supported this engineered truth. They argued that, more than poverty and the first amendment, women contraceptive was the main issue in the 2012 campaigns.

“In the Middle East region, religious discourse dominates societies, the airwaves, and thinking about the world. Mosques have proliferated throughout Egypt. Book stores are dominated by works with religious themes … The demand for sharia..”(The Age of Sacred Terror by Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, Random House, 2002, p.172-3)

I should make it clear that the new shift in values is not reflected in different moral and ethical values carried by different religious leaders. As Alaa Al- Aswany observed, there are sheikhs (in Egypt) who “enthusiastically advocate covering up women’s bodies but do not utter a single word against despotism, corruption, fraudulence.”

Over the recent past, we have also read about catholic priests who have been molesting young boys and advocating for certain limiting ideals about women. Of course, these leaders find justification of their messages in the religious texts but it is very interesting how they garner support among many women who are the victims of the constructed narrow ideological path.

Whether the veil is a requirement in the holy teachings of the prophet has been a wrong question that has been posed severally for wrong reasons. Being a non-Muslim, I will speak for the non-Muslim women and although I am not a feminist, I believe in some universal values. I might be biased and I would like to be called on if I explicitly come out as biased but no one should be forced to do or practice what they do not want or believe. I know many people agree with me on this but it is unfortunate how the masses have been fed with a view that advocating for individual liberties is a grievous ideal that should be punished in the highest possible terms – Sandra Fluke experienced it first hand. It is surprising how women and men alike support this view. Earlier on, I put a quote from the book, The Age of sacred terror, and it mentioned how religious discourse is dominating Egyptian society. Mainstream publishing houses and media channels are receiving enormous funding to air religious messages that seek to narrow the very ideals that we seek with education.




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