Bloggin’ Banat

two arab-american chicks takin’ over the blogosphere

Tradition Isn’t Always Right May 15, 2009

The other day I came across an article in the Christian Science Monitor about one of the two first female Islamic judges in the Middle East.  The article focused on Khouloud el-Faqeeh who is Palestinian. She is described as not only being exceptional in her knowledge (top in her class at Jerusalem’s Al-Quds University and one of the highest scorers out of 45 people in the qualifying sharia judge exam) but she’s also a straight arrow; she won’t bend the rules for anyone.  Pretty fantastic.

But there was one thing in the article that annoyed me.  It was the view that women are ‘too emotional’ to take on such a position.

Sheikh Hamed Bitawi, who’s the head of the Association of Islamic Scholars and Scientists,  said that there are two schools of thought on the issue: that every position but that of a caliph is open to women, and that women are too emotional to make legal decisions – as judges or as witnesses.

“I am of the second view because I consider women to be gentle human beings who should not be subjected to difficult situations or difficult decisions,” Mr. Bitawi says. “They cry easily, and hence their judgment is tainted with emotions. Moreover, lawyers are difficult to deal with and people who come to courts are angry and violent.”

Give me a break.  I’ve heard this perspective before and for the life of me I still can’t believe why people continue to buy into this archaic and stereotypical argument.  As if men aren’t emotional?  Men indeed are emotional. One could also make the stereotypical argument that men tend to have a short fuse and they consequently yell, scream or react violently.  Therefore, they too are ‘tainted with emotions.’  Would that make them a better judge?  Of course not.  That’s why one’s qualification shouldn’t be based on gender but by their individual abilities.

El-Faqeeh explained that “In Islam, it says a sharia judge has to be a Muslim, rational adult” – not necessarily a man.  Whenever I would discuss this with the chief judge, he would say, ‘This is tradition.’ ”

I’m all about tradition. But when it comes to professional matters, sometimes tradition counters common sense and what’s right and that needs to be corrected.  As el-Faqeeh said “I’m a legal person, and, to me, legal issues are stronger than tradition.” Case closed.

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Technology Can Be A Bitch April 9, 2009

text-messagingThe popular and expanding use of text messaging, Facebook and Twitter definitely have their advantages. They have become great tools in dispersing information widely and quickly.  However, if you happen to be on the receiving end of bad news or the subject of unflattering information from such messages then it may not be so great for you.

A couple of days ago a Gazan mother and journalist, Laila El-Haddad, was detained at the Cairo airport with her two young children.  El-Haddad was attempting to visit her family by going through the Rafah crossing.  Through her Twitter and blog updates, via the free Wi-Fi at the airport, El-Haddad has been documenting about her detention and treatment.  Apparently, the Egyptian authorities at the airport told her they cannot allow Palestinians into Egypt if the Rafah crossing is closed.  According to her latest tweet, she’s been informed she’ll be deported back to the US via the UK. Thanks to this technology, El-Haddad’s story has been picked up by several online media outlets and the whole world knows of her ordeal and treatment in Cairo.  I wonder if Egyptian authorities will decide to discontinue the Wi-Fi at the airport after this?

In another story, a Saudi man decided to divorce his wife via text message.  He followed up the text with a couple of phone calls to relatives to inform them of his decision. The man wrote the text from Iraq where he was on jihad, as he describes it.  If you’re wondering if divorce via text is legit, it apparently is in Saudi Arabia. A court in Jeddah finalized the whole thing.  Under Sharia law, a man can divorce his wife by saying “I divorce you” three times but I always thought that one must say that in person.  I don’t know.  It’s probably best his wife, or ex-wife now, didn’t see him.  I hope this way of getting a divorce doesn’t catch on though.  It’ll be a cop out, particularly for men with no backbone.

The access to instant information is great but it can be a bitch too depending on the circumstances.

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Know any 25-yr-old men who go cruisin’ for 75-yr-old women? March 9, 2009

Know any 25-year-old men who go cruisin’ for elderly chicks? No? Well Saudi Arabia’s religious police know of at least two who, along with the 75-year-old woman caught chilling with them, will be severely punished. CNN reports that 75-year-old Syrian woman Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi was sentenced to 40 lashes, 4 months in jail, and deportation from Saudi Arabia for having two unrelated, twenty-something men in her house. Literally, God forbid any intermingling of the sexes. I mean, imagine what would have happened had the religious police not intervened? Who knows? Maybe the grandmother would have offered these boys tea and cookies. We all know how tea and cookies can corrupt humanity.

Those sneaky guys tried to get away with it, though:

Fahd told the policeman he had the right to be there, because Sawadi had breast-fed him as a baby and was therefore considered to be a son to her in Islam, according to Al-Watan. Fahd, 24, added that his friend Hadian was escorting him as he delivered bread for the elderly woman. The policeman then arrested both men.

But don’t worry, this treacherous breast-fed man and his buddy didn’t get away with their inappropriate behavior:

Fahd was sentenced to four months in prison and 40 lashes; Hadian was sentenced to six months in prison and 60 lashes.


I am having a hard time gathering my thoughts about this idiotic sentencing, which is yet another coup for Saudi Arabia’s heinous Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. If anyone was near me after I read this absolutely abhorrent report they would have seen steam pouring out of my ears like a fuming cartoon character.

This commission’s police force patrols and regulates behavior based on a strict interpretation of Islam (Wahhabism). This repressive organization bases its power on being judges of piety and forces a population to follow its interpretation of a religion. But who or what gave them the right to judge anyone’s piety? This commission and its ideology is extremism at its worst, but some people are astutely pointing out that religion may not really be the driving force behind this group’s actions. The CNN story quotes Wajeha Al-Huwaider, a Saudi women’s rights activist, as saying:

“This is the problem with the religious police, watching people and thinking they’re bad all the time. It has nothing to do with religion. It’s all about control. And the more you spread fear among people, the more you control them. It’s giving a bad reputation to the country.”

Really, if any good could come from this sickening story it is that the court’s verdict and sentencing has created public outrage, and hopefully the sentences will be overturned.

“It’s made everybody angry because this is like a grandmother,” Saudi women’s rights activist Wajeha Al-Huwaider told CNN. “Forty lashes — how can she handle that pain? You cannot justify it.”

Saudi Arabia is hardly the only country with puritanical policing of its people, however. What about Iran during the Islamic Revolution, or Iraq, where barbers are attacked for shaving beards, or in Afghanistan, where girls are attacked for attending school? Clearly, when a population is vulnerable, using the guise of religion makes it easy to maintain power by enforcing strict rules and instilling fear in society.

I am just glad that people in these countries are becoming more vocal in their outrage. Rather than being regarded as the rule of law, these police forces are being openly criticized by the very societies they try to oppress. Consequently, more and more people will shed their fear, and the police forces will ultimately loose power.

I am reminded of a great scene in Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s film, Persepolis, which is set during the Islamic Revolution of Iran. Late for class, Marji races down the street, books in hand, as Tehran’s religious police call out repeatedly for her to stop. Finally getting Marji to turn around, the policemen demand that she stop running. Marji tries to explain that she’s late for class, but one of the policemen explains that when she runs, her rear end moves in what he calls an “indecent” or “obscene” manner.

Fed up with the tyranny, Marji explodes with “Well, stop looking at my a**!!”

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A Modern-day Henry VIII: Bridges TV Founder Beheads Wife February 18, 2009

When news stories surfaced late last night about the horrifying beheading in Orchard Park, NY, a Buffalo suburb, I couldn’t help but wonder what the hell century we’re living in. Last time I checked, it was 2009, not 1536 as accused murderer, Muzzammil “Mo” Hassan, seems to think. I tend to forget, however, that many in some parts of the world continue to live in the 16th century (or import this attitude).

Muzzammil “Mo” Hassan is accused of beheading his wife last week, days after she filed for divorce. Authorities have not discussed the role religion or culture might have played, but the slaying gave rise to speculation that it was the sort of “honor killing” more common in countries half a world away, including the couple’s native Pakistan.

As shocking as the murder is in and of itself, the whole ordeal is insanely ironic. Hassan and his wife, Aasiya founded Bridges TV, a cable station aimed at Muslims in North America that, according to its mission statement, seeks “to foster a greater understanding among many cultures and diverse populations.” The station’s purpose is basically to build bridges between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities and to counter stereotypes.

Yeah, I’m not so sure how beheading your wife is going to actually counter any stereotypes or endear Hassan to the North American population. I have a feeling that most Muslim Americans don’t want him representing their community.

The debate, though, is whether this murder is considered good ole American domestic violence or a foreign-style honor killing:

The New York president of the National Organization for Women, Marcia Pappas, condemned prosecutors for referring to the death as an apparent case of domestic violence.

“This was, apparently, a terroristic version of ‘honor killing,'” a statement from NOW said.

Nadia Shahram, who teaches family law and Islam at the University at Buffalo Law School, explained honor killing as a practice still accepted among fanatical Muslim men who feel betrayed by their wives.

“If a woman breaks the law which the husband or father has placed for the wife or daughter, honor killing has been justified,” said Shahram, who was a regular panelist on a law show produced by Bridges TV. “It happens all the time. It’s been practiced in countries such as Pakistan and in India.”

The fact that they’re actually having this debate is odd because to me, an honor killing is really just a form of domestic violence. That statment from NOW further confuses me. What exactly constitutes a “terroristic version of ‘honor killing?'” Is there a regular version of honor killing? Honestly, I think all honor killings, as well as what some in the West would differentiate as domestic violence, are forms of violent terrorism against women. And those who commit these detestable crimes must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

My point is that because we’re in America, we shouldn’t even recognize the fact that a father or husband may have created some fake law for his wife or daughter that, when broken, might have been his justification for killing her. In the end, that father or brother or husband is a murderer, plain and simple.

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