Posts from May 2017

Toxic masculinity, well -what’d you expect?

May 22, 2017

It isn’t uncommon of liberal ideology, in general, to try and piecemeal ideas of the past, without realizing that they worked within an entire way of life -attack religion then try to piece together spirituality and morality, and be left utterly confused and constantly spun around because you lack any core values -homosexuality is good because hey it’s not hurting anybody… transgenders should go in the bathroom they like because of freedom of choice (but women don’t get to choose if they want transwomen in their bathrooms?)… pornography is good because it’s liberating (or bad because it exploits women…?) It’s no wonder those of us who are conservative -I use that term in a nonpolitical sense, or religious wonder “what’s next?” since there seems to be no underlying theory behind their movement, except maybe that what is old is quaint and what is new is good. But how do they formulate these new rules concerning goodness and who gets to formulate them? The feminist movement (which is part of the liberal movement) suffers the same confusion -chivalry is bad because it implies that women are weak, modesty is bad because it exerts male control over women, making any distinction between women and men is bad because it allows us to not be treated equally. Then comes the piecemealing, men should not be aggressive to women, show sexual attraction or hit on them because that is sexual harassment. Yet, when there were clear rules regarding male and female interaction there was no need to threaten men with lawsuits, chivalry was expected -and men who dared cross the line were swiftly dealt with, by other men.

But once we as a society take on the feminist assertion that chivalry is sexist, what exactly do we expect will follow? If men are asked not to treat women with any deference because they should treat them the same why are women fighting for things like sexual modesty, honor, and respect? These things can never be given in a vacuum. Men have been convinced -as have women, to believe that men and women are the same -so why are men simultaneously being asked to hold women to a higher standard than themselves?

Women are sending men mixed messages, and I personally feel bad for them. I remember a guy in grad school musing that he didn’t know if he should hold the door for women -is it sexist and offensive or is it still considered good and chivalrous? What I remember is (the classroom filled mostly with women) laughing, but was it really funny? Just the basic rules of conduct between genders have been lost and men, as well as women, are confused. I recall thinking of men who didn’t hold the door as rude but simultaneously feeling bad when they did –You don’t have to do that, I’d think. And no, it’s not as simple as “people should hold the door for people”. Obviously, there is a common level of courtesy that we should all exert to one another, but there is a very big difference none-the-less between common courtesy and chivalry. Holding the door long enough for the person behind you to come in is one thing, but chivalry is a man opening the door for a woman and letting her go first.

But who cares, right? We can all hold our own doors.

And this is why we have “toxic masculinity” (“Toxic masculinity is a narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status, and aggression.”). Firstly, let’s be clear that the term is clearly women’s experience of men, it is not objective. And that is partly the point. If and when men treat us equally, we feel the force of their masculinity as brutish. In reality, they are just being themselves with no consideration for you, just as requested -equality. Why do I and many other women experience something as simple as a man not holding a door as rude? Because men have a superior physical strength to women and doing things like holding doors is a symbolic gesture that says “I choose to use my physical strength to protect you not hurt you”. When the door closes in our face or even when they simply hold the door only long enough for us to grab on and hold it for ourselves instead of opening it and allowing us to go first, it signals to us that we are not protected and if it comes down to physicality, he wins.

For the first time in Jordan, I experienced another chivalric gesture. Anytime a man saw me -or any woman, waiting for an elevator, they’d take the stairs. We didn’t have to spend two minutes of discomfort together in a small square space, I didn’t have to worry about sexual assault or rape -no, I don’t think those things are so common that one should worry about it every time you enter an elevator, but it was a signal from those men to us women that we were safe from them. It was also a small sacrifice to say they’d rather the bother of taking steps than making any woman feel uncomfortable.

When men are able to recognize their superior physical strength and use it to protect women, they do not need laws and conferences to scold them about toxic masculinity. But when women make men afraid and ashamed of their physical differences, when they belittle them by asserting that chivalry is no longer needed. Then we begin to experience men, full strength and unfiltered. It is similar to what has happened with women, we were told modesty is blasé so we began to strip ourselves of our clothing and put our full feminine beauty on display, now men experience our complete lure, the veil of modesty has gone so they are no longer inspired to court us, they instead ogle and pant like hunting dogs -what we call sexual harassment.

Male aggressiveness and female sexuality were dressed in the cloaks of chivalry and modesty for a reason. The world without both is one filled with chaos where men don’t know how to treat women and women don’t know what to expect from men. You cannot piecemeal aspects of chivalry through and ever growing list of laws and academic terms and expect to piece together an honorable man. Nor can you preach that women should be able to do whatever they want and still expect the full respect of men. Chivalry and modesty go hand in hand -if you want one you better be working for the other as well. We’ve gained nothing but broken societies and confused people when we pretend men and women are the same, we are not, we’re different in important ways and once we value that women will no longer have to fear men, for they will use their strength to protect us.

What’s in a name? Some thoughts on ‘scholars’

May 15, 2017

In the West, Sheikh Nuh Ha Meem Keller would be recognized as a religious figure but he’d also be recognized as a scholar of philosophy. Despite the fact that I solely know Sheikh Nuh as a religious scholar and have only occasionally heard him mention anything about philosophy, he has a Ph.D. in the subject and in the West that makes him a scholar of that subject. Dr. Amina Wadud is considered a scholar of Islam in the West because she has a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies, in Western Academia that is the requirement.

Yet in the Muslim community, Sheikh Nuh is considered an Islamic scholar whereas Dr. Amina Wadud, though no one would deny her Ph.D., would be considered as no more than a Muslim public figure. But why? And is that fair?

Scholarship is an interesting concept and obviously an English word which makes it difficult to understand how to use it and who it should be used for when religion and modernity cross paths.

The West has a very different method of learning and a very different road on the path to scholarship. It would be very possible to get through the American school system without reading a single book from beginning to end. Not that we don’t read books, but often we read a section from this book and a section from that book and American students are notorious for just wanting the quickest route that will get them the best grade, meaning they have no problem reading Spark Notes. That wouldn’t be possible in a traditional Islamic learning environment where the first thing you have to do with any book, is memorize it.

But that isn’t to denigrate Western scholarship and uplift traditional Islamic scholarship, it’s to point out that the methods, paths, as well as the goals, are different. In Western scholarship, the highest goal of learning is to learn, analyze and propose a new theory of one’s own. If you can successfully critic a foundational theory in any subject you’ll receive great accolades and be looked upon as a great intellectual in the field. That is not the goal of traditional Islamic scholarship. The goal of traditional Islamic scholarship is to learn firstly in order to practice. No sincere seeker studies Islamic knowledge in order to create their own rulings. And if one does it’s not celebrated, it’s shunned.

So is it shocking that Dr. Amina Wadud cursed a prophet or that Reza Aslan feels fine to practice other people’s religions as the world watches? Well, once you understand their educational background, it’s not surprising at all. In fact, if neither of them prayed or even believed in God for that matter it would not be shocking. Western academia does not care if you practice what you study. Whereas a religious scholar within the Islamic framework would rightly be called a hypocrite or an apostate if they did not practice what they studied.

We’ve been blessed in the Muslim community to not have an abundance of religious scholars (or practitioners) who are blatant hypocrites. If you look over to the other religious communities you’ll see how abundant it is for them to question and disregard even the most foundational beliefs of their religion.

It is safe to say that despite the common word, ‘scholar’, these two types of scholars can offer very different types of knowledge. I resolve that we begin to make it clear what kind of scholar we’re talking about (Traditional vs Academic) in order to clearly know the framework they are coming out of and clearly understand what we can hope to gain from them.

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