Sunday, August 22, 2004

Start Slow, Finish Strong

I got off to a slow start today. After helping Sandra from Germany burn a CD, I decided to go out to Holland Park. It's about 10 minutes (walking) north of where I live. So I grabbed a book and soon found myself reading in a lovely park. The flies and bees were buzzing annoyingly, though, so I only stayed an hour or so. The park, however, is on High Street Kensington which is a posh area (similar to Georgetown), so I decided to walk the strip for a bit. I had been on the street before, but it was such a nice day that I wanted to stay outside.

My new friend Dave (apparently it's required by law that I have a friend name Dave in every place I live) called me just as I got going to see if I wanted to grab a pint. Since I'm such an agreeable fellow, I immediately said yes.

He was at school, however, so he suggested we meet at Baker Street (which is right off campus). I told him it would take me about 30 minutes. Being the stingy type (and having meager funds in my pocket), I chose to walk. That may not have been the best idea, however, since it was quite a long way. An hour later (and two phone calls from Dave wondering where the hell I was), I managed to make it.

We had several pints and eventually some food. It was a good time. He's in my program and seems like the decent sort of fellow. At the least, it's good to get along with those that you'll be working with and going to school with on a weekly basis.

At 9 or so, we called it a night. I still didn't want to burn the fundage on the tube, so I decided to walk. It was a nice night and I was in good spirits, so I thought it would do me good. Unfortunately, I didn't wear walking shoes. I did enjoy the walk, but my feet won't be thanking me. All told, today was another 10 miler. Easy to do when the weather is nice in this town.

One thing that really is starting to bother me is the number of traditionally Islamic women wearing the hijab or shroud that covers their bodies from head to toe. I know I should be culturally sensitive, and I do try, I find it hard to respect a culture that is inherently, institutionally sexist. Maybe this means I'm not a cultural relativist, but I'm ok with that. I think that the hajib is just another way that traditional islamic culture coerces women to fulfill certain roles - but not only that, it teaches girls from a very young age that certain tasks are "women's" work and other tasks are for men. Women forever receive secondary status in these instances, and they think it's the way things should be. This culture is so pervasive, that the US military even required US servicewomen serving in arab nations to abide by the custom - at least until one brave woman said no.

The worst country, by far, has to currently be Iran. There, women have virtually no rights. Indeed, this cultural perversion is so extreme that it manifests itself in the worst abuses by the state government. The country of Iran observes strict Muslim law and frequently executes prisoners for a variety of offenses. The point, however, is not that the Islam demands such a thing. The point is that the exercise of Islam is political. Iran's conservative rulers want to remain in power, and they'll use any means necessary. That's one of the motivations for jailing political opponents and then not giving cause for those jailings.

Saudi Arabia is not to be excused either. They have one of the worst human rights record in the world. Yet, they are a US ally because of their strategic importance.

I used to think that Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations thesis was absurd. But now, I see it before us. The US is engaged in two wars in the Mid-East, the French are banning all religious headgear, post 9/11 has seen a rise of anti-arabic protesting and violence. And still, women across the arab world are subjugated and abused and treated as second class citizens.

Maybe the hajib is not the cause, but it is a symptom.


Blogger steve said...

(himel here) Glad to hear ur enjoying overseas living. Must be a nice change of pace. Read the cultural relativism link and I must say that #2 seems to be a bit too preachy/biased and #3's logical loop doesn't really hold water; he seems to be confusing the terms 'true' and 'valid' which are two quite different terms according to the 'rules of logic.' Im not expressing my opinion on cultural relativism here at all (I think it's more of a gray area than that), but I just like to argue and thought Id respond to whoever was speaking in that article, even if theyll never see it. Ha!



7:13 PM  

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