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The Arabs and their Muslim Women


Some of you may have read Mona Eltahawy’s recent article “Why Do They Hate Us” at Foreign Policy. I’ve read it, thought a little about, and seen a LOT of reactions, both for and against it.

One of these reactions is Monica L. Marks’ “Do Arabs Really ‘Hate’ Women? The Problem With Native Informants” at Huffington Post.

Both articles are interesting, though I do see problems with both approaches. I can certainly follow Monica’s criticism of Mona as generalizing way too much, and not relating to the cultural differences in the various countries, but Monica’s approach to Mona is also somewhat problematic, basically casting suspicion on Mona and others like her (Monica mentions a number of women ‘informants’ in the article), especially with wordings like the second part of the title and sentences like stating that “by¬†stirring up our sympathies and reinforcing our prejudices, individuals like Ms. Hirsi Ali and Ms. Eltahawy have climbed to the top of the media ladder,” hinting that they are doing this more to get sympathy and a good carrier, than based on a sincere wish to change the ME societies.

But as said, I do think that Monica has some correct points of view, such as when she objects against the leveling these actions and incidents, which are being described by Mona, with the whole religious system of Islam (is she?), and that there isn’t only one reason for the Muslim woman to wear a scarf, whatever shape and form it comes in. She especially has a point when she states that “many people in the Middle East believe that Western women who wear miniskirts and bikinis do so because they are oppressed by a culture that objectifies & sexually commodifies women’s bodies, or because they are simply morally loose women.” Not that I necessarily agree in this view, but how people understand cultures and cultural behaviors differ. We have to understand that we are not always viewing things the same way, and what for some people might seem as being imprisoning oneself, might seem for others to climb on a higher level of discipline.

I do still agree with Mona to a great extent, I do believe that there is a problem here in the ME (also partly here in Israel), but I’m not sure I would blame the religion (Islam), but rather how people are expressing it, maybe there is the problem found.


What do you think?


Ps. Regarding the title, I know that it can be understood somehow as an attack on Arabs, but just as Arabs are not all Muslims, so not all Muslims are Arab. That duality was my attempt to capture in the title. If I didn’t succeed, then please let me know.


  1. Heshke says:

    Man, that’s a whole lot to read at 10 pm, lol. I’ll have to think about it and reply later, Insha Allaah t’ala. But I do agree that most of this has nothing to do with Islaam, but with how it is expressed sprinkled but a whole lot of cultural BS.

  2. Heshke says:

    I also forgot to mention: did you know that Mona was sexually assaulted in Egypt during the uprising? Much of her vitriol aimed toward Arab man may have something to do with her assault.

  3. Heshke says:

    Oh, and she is a JJ member! Did you know that ?

  4. qolyehudi says:

    Dear Heshkel

    I decided, when I saw your comments here, to answer you as the first of my duties today;o) I can’t keep promising and not doing it.

    Dalila wrote an interesting article, and though I only read it quickly I think she got a good point when she writes that “Finger-pointing and blame games will only create further antagonism.” That is my thoughts in a range of problems we’re facing in the ME, not only when it comes to gender. Of course problems exist and they should be addressed, but the question is, as Dalila points out, that the way we are doing it might not do much help, maybe even just make it even harder to solve it. The question is, are we going to be ideological or pragmatic about it? The ME is not a place where you get results being staunch ideological, you have to be very pragmatic at times, at least that is my experience, and so in order to improve the status of the woman. Blaming religion, as many wish to do, is not the answer, in fact, many religious people are also fighting for improvement of things, basing their struggle on their religious faith. Unfortunately that is often overseen, only pointing to the extremist examples within the religions. I would think that to involve, include and encourage those religious movements and individuals, who wish to do a positive difference, is a great step for all in the right direction. But as it is now “we” (the West) rather blame the religion as the sole problem, alienating those among the religious who really do want to change things for the better, for all.

    I was aware that she was attacked, many female journalists unfortunately were, but I don’t think that that is the reason for her focus, that she had already before, though it might have hardened it, which would be understandable.
    I didn’t know that she was a member of JJ, she never participate in our discussions. I might actually have been the one who added her in the early days:oS.

    All the best

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