Throughout the novel Nine Parts of Desire Geraldine Brooks describes the lives of Islamic women who appear to be oppressed by their faith, however, this is not the case. These women are not oppressed by their faiths but by their male counterparts. There are many laws within Islamic nations that place restrictions on women and the way in which they should live; such as the requirement of women to be veiled and their ineligibility to work. These laws are not directly supported by the Koran, but are a matter of interpretation and are enforced by patriarchal societies which prevent women of basic freedoms. Such societies also allow women to face serious injustices, definitely not supported within the Koran, which would never be allowed if happening to men.
There is a passage in the Koran in which women are told to be modest and to draw veils over there bosoms and this passage is used by many Islamic societies to justify their belief that women should cover their hair (pg. 13) In some nations this is the extent of it however, nations, like Saudi Arabia, believe women should wear a chador, covering them from head to toe. This however is a matter of translation. The passage could be saying that women should dress modestly which in today’s standards does not require women to wear a black sheet. Since this passage is not specific it is open for interpretation by the leaders, mostly men. Yes, in some nations women can make this choice for themselves and it is not a law, however these male dominated societies make it difficult to women to go against it. Women who are dressed “inappropriately” are subjected to public humiliation and at times physical abuse. This is what happens when Brooks encounters a Christian nurse at a Gaza hospital who was threatened by young boys when they saw her without a veil (pg. 155). The Koran definitely doesn’t support the abuse of women especially non-Muslims who choose not to wear a veil, yet it is a common practice in Islamic societies.
Another view commonly supported in Islamic societies is that women should not work especially if they are married. This is not found in every Islamic nation however, it is a common belief in many Muslim societies. If allowed to work they should not have contact with men. The Koran does not support this practice either, in fact there is a passage within the Koran that states “I suffer not the work of any worker, male or female, to be lost,” (pg. 167). Many may argue that this passage supports the idea that there is “women’s work” and “man’s work” however, it can also be argued that the prophet Muhammad’s most beloved wife was a successful businesswoman therefore women married or unmarried are not expected to stop working (pg. 2). This is just another passage open for interpretation that has been taken to fit the needs and desires of the male dominated society. By keeping women at home men are able to dominate the economic world while maintaining power over their wives. Once again it is not the Koran deciding the fate of women but men.
Along with degrading laws come some very violent practices such as honor killings and clitoridectomies. Clitoridectomies are not supported by all Islamic societies however, one in five Islamic girls live in a society where clitoridectomies are still practiced and religiously sanctioned (pg 54). Honor killings are also not supported however they occur and the murderers are rarely brought to justice. In fact “… every year forty Palestinian women die … in so called honor killing…” and the men who commit them are seen as simply protecting their family honor (pg. 49). Rather or not Islamic societies approve of these violent crimes is irrelevant if they refuse to take action against them.
Islamic nations place restrictions on the way women dress, prevent women from working, and allow them to become victims of violent crimes none of which are sanctioned within the Muslim’s holy book. Instead, the rule making is being left up to men who interpret the Koran in biased ways, that best suit their on personal agendas, and who refuse to act against injustices. Women are not being oppressed by their faith but by their fathers, husbands, and sons. The only way for these nations to accomplish their goals of becoming true Islamic states is by finding less biased rulers that pay attention to the rights of both sexes and interpret the Koran based on the needs of all Muslims.
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