Monday, October 23, 2006

Gender Equality

Yesterday, I read a very sad story about abused women in India, where economic growth has been spiraling skyward these days. An article in the October 22nd issue of the International Herald Tribune titled, "Indian brides pay a high price" reported that "Violent dowry harassment is an increasingly visible phenomenon in India".

According to the article, as their lifestyles are becoming westernized, dowry comes to be used as a convenient tool to get what they want ---- such as a color TV, a motorcycle and a refrigerator. I am astonished to see some grooms even resort to violence with their brides complaining their dowry is too little.

'"People are getting more greedy and aggressive in their dowry demands," said Jha, of the Delhi Commission for Women. "You might expect that as the country becomes more and more Westernized, this traditional practice would be dying out, like other traditions, but actually the reverse is true. The old habits remain,"' the article said. Very unfortunately almost all the victims are women.

However, I found an intriguing take on Islam with an article written by Nicholas D. Kristof, a NY Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist specializing in East Asia. He said on the report of the October 16th issue of the International Herald Tribune that Islam itself may face a Reformation, such as what Christianity experienced in the 16th century.

"I've written often about the honor killings and other abuses suffered by women and girls in some Muslim countries and many Westerners think Islam is inherently misogynistic. But Muslim women themselves naturally resent that kind of Western paternalism, for they want opportunities and equality ― and yet they frequently don't want to discard their faith(or even their head scarves), " he wrote.

Another interesting episode he quoted is that the Proohet Muhammad's youngest and ostensibly most beloved wife, who is thought to be the first Islamic feminist, once said, "In the name of God, I have seen the Prophet saying his prayers while I was there." This message no doubt contradicts the well-known statement, which is considered to be said by Muhammad, that man's prayers are ineffective if a woman, dog or donkey passes in front of the believer.

Kristof concluded that Islam is much more complex than the headlines might suggest. I completely abide by that. Then, what teachings represent true Islam?

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