Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mini-Skirts Need Not Pray

I've read "Infidel" and, as anticipated, it was a bit more thought-provoking than your average Tom Clancy. There were a pile of themes, and I might unpack more of them in subseqent blogs (we'll see where the conversation goes when we have our book club). Not knowing much about Islam, I found that I read the book through my Christian experience - drawing parallels between Christian and Muslim fundamentalism.

One of the things that caught my attention is the focus in the devout end of both religions with controlling sexuality. Ali, the author of Infidel, grew up honestly believing that the trains would all crash and the country would descend into chaos if women showed their necks (until she left Somalia for the Netherlands, and realized that the transit system was quite effective, tube-tops notwithstanding . . . .). Earlier this week, I was reading the homesite of "Ladies against Feminism," a right-wing Christian organization, and there was an online forum on the question of whether it was sinful for a woman to marry if she didn't want children (the general consensus being that it was).

Another common thread is the belief that women are responsible for the sexual purity of the community - that men cannot control their sexuality, and women are responsible to not tempt them. I have always found that to be an interesting argument, considering that it is generally advanced by people who also believe that women are the weaker sex in every other area of life, and must be protected by men.

I am not a hedonist - I believe that there is sexual morality and immorality. However, this is only one aspect of morality, and I think that it is a shame that it has become such a focus of two of the world's largest religions. It does not seem that monitoring sexuality has generally helped people to be kinder, more loving, individuals.

I don't know why sexuality has become such a huge focus of religion - on the one hand, I could argue that religions, as hierarchical power structures, can only allow a certain number of people at the top, and by conveniently dismissing half of the population as defiled, the number of people vying for power is severely reduced. This answer, though, only gives a reason for why women are subjugated - it doesn't answer the general issue of rejection of sex, which is ultimately unhealthy for both men and women. Maybe it's because sex is about bodily pleasure, and in religion, ecstasy is supposed to be spiritual? I don't know . . . but these threads run deep, and they're troubling.

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