Foreign Policy’s May/June issue is a…. fiery one. It focuses on sex, which in itself is not a big deal (see the countless ‘women’s’ mags out there). But this is about sex and the Muslim world. It’s about Muslim women and the repression they are under. It’s about hate, and about sorrow and about a call for change. Some of the articles are very personal and very moving, especially ‘Why Do They Hate Us’ by Mona EltaHawy.
I hesitate to weigh in on the issue of women in Islam, mostly for the backlash it draws. Now the criticism wouldn’t really bother me if it were only from men, but a good part of it is from Muslim women as well. Approximately 23% of the world population is Muslim, and half of that (obviously) are women. Now even taking into consideration the different types/divisions of Islam, it follows that the way women are dealt with in Islam is perpetuated in part by the women in Islam itself. So me, being a non-Muslim male, speaking out about women’s rights in Islam is often met with scorn. And you know what ol’ Shakespeare says about a woman’s scorn.
Mona EltaHawy on the other hand is an Egyptian-American female journalist, which makes her perfect to address the issue of sex, and women in the ME. And man, she is intense. The articles are beautiful, but what bothers me about it are the pictorials used to represent the articles.
The pictures are of a female model nude, and painted black to resemble a burkha. I have written about sexualisation before, and the problem with Western media and their idea of sex/freedom is that they identify it with nudity. Sex is not about nudity. Freedom is not about nudity. Expression is not about nudity. Being modest and dressing modestly is not repression but rather a cultural trait which is admirable. So the pictures of the nude model are rather offensive and frankly insulting. It is akin to a body painting of a nun, or a priest, or a Jew.
It is like burning down the yard to get at the weeds. A little bit of cultural awareness hurt no one.