25 August, 2009

Sharia Law vs Daily Mail Law

Much is made by the Fail of the inherent evils of Sharia law. Now, I don't like to speculate on the relative merits of cultural law without doing my research first. So below, I've outlined some of the basic tenets of Sharia law (focusing mostly on gender equality) and contrasting them with the Daily Mail's own opinions on the same subjects. The results probably won't shock you at all if you're a seasoned Mail-watcher.


SHARIA: There is a hadith (Sahih al-Bukhari 5:59:709) in which Muhammad is recorded as saying that people with a female ruler will never be successful ("When Allah's Apostle was informed that the Persians had crowned the daughter of Khosrau as their ruler, he said, "Such people as ruled by a lady will never be successful."), however historically Islamic women have had access to education and employment unheard of in many other societies. The Muslim scholar Ibn Asakir states that, as early as the 12th century, women were able to study and become scholars and teachers. During the years of Caliphate rule, Women held respectable jobs in a variety of sectors. Muslim women also held a monopoly over branches of the textile industry, which was the largest market-oriented industry of its time. Europe, by contrast, had very few working women.

What about modern Muslim women? Some interpretations of Sharia law suggest that women should not take prominent jobs, for example in government. Women are generally encouraged to work, although there are conditions. Women working outside the home must dress appropriately to maintain their modesty. It is also important that a woman's job does not affect commitments seen by the Muslim community as more important, such as family. However, treatment of working women varies from country to country; Morocco, for example, legislates that certain fields of work are restricted to women and under 16's . Though this is often defended as protection of women as potential child-bearers, it also suggests that women are less able to protect themselves. A 2005 survey found that while 16% of Pakistani women were in employment or considered able to work, 52% of Indonesian women were - there are glaring discrepancies despite the overall attitude to working women being rather positive.

According to the Islamic Voice website, "when a woman earns something from her work, her earnings belong totally to her. If she is unmarried, her father cannot claim her earnings as his own. Similarly, a woman’s husband cannot put any claim to her earnings. "


The Mail, despite considering itself far more progressive than Islam, consistently asserts that working women are doing themselves a great injustice. The Mail assumes that most women of childbearing age, whether they realise it or not, want to have children and that working mothers not only do their children a terrible injustice but secretly wish to return to the 'good old days', when men worked and women cared for the home. "Nine In Ten Working Women Want To Quit To Become Housewives" states that "The worry is that since for most women in our society marriage, conception and children are connected - consciously or not - there is a danger that by the time a woman decides that marriage is not for her she may have left it too late to have the child she so desperately wants."

This article reinforces the long-held Mail belief that working mothers are detrimental to a child's development, and to family life. In this respect, Sharia Law is completely compatible with the Daily Mail.


SHARIA: A Sunni hadith states unequivocally that the punishment for rape is death. Elsewhere in Islam it is generally agreed that a woman should not be punished for being raped, and that there is no sin on the part of the victim. However, the requirements under Sharia law (4 witnesses, usually 2 male and 2 female) mean that rape is very rarely reported and even more rarely punished. That said, many Muslim scholars believe rape falls into a different area of Sharia law, hiraba, which does not require four witnesses. There is also no mention in the Qu'ran of stoning, which some Muslim countries offer as punishment for women convicted of adultery - a criticism of Sharia law is that rape cases are sometimes turned on their heads by the rapist, leading to a wrongful conviction of the victim for adultery or some other sexual crime.

The Qu'ran states that rape, within or outside of marriage, is wrong and a reprehensible act. Further information can be found here. However, there is a verse of the Qu'ran often quoted by apologists of domestic violence - "...and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them" (The Qur'an, chapter 4 (An-Nisa), verse 34) . Some scholars have sought an alternative interpretation, unfortunately it certainly seems that this verse advocates violence when a woman 'asks for it'.

DAILY MAIL The Daily Mail's attitude to rape is very telling when one 'searches' the Daily Mail homepage using the keyword 'rape' - the page of results is dominated by stories of women 'crying rape'. Much like the Sharia system of four witnesses, the Mail often errs on the side of the perpetrator, as evidenced by not only the number of 'cry rape' articles but the general attitude of commentors on rape articles. The Mail seems to subscribe to the Sharia idea of requiring absolute proof from the victim before a conviction can be made. Intriguingly, the Mail expresses outrage in articles written about recent laws passed in Afghanistan making it effectively legal for a man to rape his wife, or Saudi judges ordering a rape victim to be lashed. Much like Sharia, the Mail almost suggests that sexual violence can be considered more acceptable if the victim was 'asking for it'. The Mail is also fond of asserting that claims of domestic violence ought to be treated with suspicion.


SHARIA: The Hijab is required of both genders and refers to modest dress, although it is now used mainly in reference to the headdress worn by women. Extreme examples of hijab include the burqa, which is not required by Islamic law but is instead enforced by some governments in Islamic countries - in contrast, the Tunisian government try to discourage wearing of the veil. It is, however, required that women act and dress so they do not draw sexual attention from men. Some scholars believe that women must lower their gaze when speaking to men in order to enforce this. In some Muslim countries women are actively forbidden to communicate with men who are not their husband or close relatives - this 'purdah' was strongly enforced under Taliban rule.

While the Mail doesn't lay down any concrete rules for women in terms of dress, it is extremely quick to criticise women who do not fall under its umbrella of 'acceptable appearance' - from today's Mail, we find several examples ('Sharon Stone's not wearing makeup!'
'Helena Bonham Carter dares to wear a swimsuit!' 'Nadine Coyle's not wearing a bra!') the standards of acceptable female appearance seem unattainably high and only Kelly Brook ever seems to tick all the Mail's boxes. The Mail lists smoking cigarettes, eating food and taking the Pill as just a few examples of undesirable female behaviour.

Obviously this is a fairly superficial overview of both Sharia law and the Mail's gender politics, but it's pretty fascinating to see how close the Mail and Sharia Law are, despite the Mail's constant assertions that Islam is the greatest evil to pillage our earth since Chris Deburgh.

04 August, 2009

Three little pigs...

This is a little... unconnected. I had three rants, but none of them warranted individual blogs. So you get a bumper-blog of leftovers. I'm good to you.

You don't have to like Harriet Harman. You don't have to agree with her. However, I don't really think that her comment "Jack [Dromey, her husband] is not waiting for dinner to be there in front of him or he'd be starving" is exactly a feminist war-cry up there with some of the statements coming out of I Blame The Patriarchy, is it now, Daily Male? Yes, she is a feminist. She is open that she wants to see more women in positions of leadership. Reading endless articles like this - which don't actually appear to tell us very much about Harman's policies are*, beyond an "equality agenda" (oh noes! equal rights!) and her making a comment that the number of women in the workplace is not reflected in the number of women in boardrooms and decision-making positions, particularly in banking - it's easy to get depressed about the state of politics in the UK. The article itself isn't overly hectoring, or particularly nasty - for once - but still, there is this constant undertone of "uppity woman should go home and be a good housewife". It doesn't applaud her outspokenness, doesn't view a politician with determination as a good thing (she's too bitchy, see?), and doesn't do anything to actually argue why Harman is wrong.

The DM likes a good moan about unobtainable beauty standards, especially if run with beauty articles (with airbrushed models) or finger-wagging "vaguely famous person has gained/lost weight/looks a bit tired/isn't smiling like a cracked-up clown on laughing gas/is wearing something not overly flattering" articles. So do those writing the comments. Except for David, in London, who thinks that

"Maybe it's not the airbrushed ads that are at fault, maybe it's all the ordinary women who just need to make a bit more of an effort! Come on girls, raise you're game a little."

Yes. Excuse me, David. Once I've quietened the urge to circle your abuse of the common apostrophe in red pen, I'll just slap on a bit more lipstick. Maybe then my breasts will double in size like Keira Knightly's did in that film poster.

Dear Liz Jones
You did not learn to shear. You washed a fleece, although I suspect that was done for you. You did not card it, or dye it. You did not spin it, you merely posed for a photograph with a spinning wheel (a rather nice one, but a little overly-fancy for your needs, and don't tell me you can move properly in that jacket, you'd be covered in lint too). You did not knit that lace shawl. You admit that in your third to last paragraph. So why the fuck does your title claim you made the shawl with your own hands from your own wool? (this I will allow - it is your wool). Finally - who the fuck is Alison Haggas? Why did you not link to people like British Wool if you're so concerned about the plight of the British wool industry (which is, admittedly, in need of a helping hand), or speak to Jo Watson, who organised UK Ravelry Day. Or link to fucking Ravelry.com, if you're so into your yarn and needles.
Fucked-off Wool Hugger who is actually just jealous of your spindle and your sheep.

P.S. Holistic shearer my left dicknipple.

*except intimating that she'd probably like to have all men castrated or something