I am swamped.
It's finally my last semester of university and I made the mistake of taking an overload of credits just to graduate. I have barely had time for myself, much less time to update the blog. Apologies to anyone who actually stops by here every now and then and is disappointed at the lack of new posts. (wishful thinking)
A lot has been happening on many different fronts but since I have a snail-paced thought process at times, it takes quite a bit to take it in. I suppose my commitophobia has also kicked into overdrive since I can barely commit to a blog.
Will update whenever the gods of all students and procrastinators smile upon me favorably to allow me a short breathing period.
Technology and Human Fragility
Thursday, August 26, 2004
Hell hath no fury like when there is a severe power outage and you're left to toast in the heat for a good 12+ hours. It reminds you of how important some things are that we take for granted, namely electricity and airconditioning. It can also remind you of how sometimes too much electricity isn't good for anyone, we are a very spoilt population. When there is a power outage in Lebanon and it takes a while for the generators to kick in, we all keep quiet and wait for the electricity to return. But then again, that's for a maximum of 15 minutes, and the Lebanese have an excuse for poor infrastructure (almost 20 years of it). Between all the conspiracy theories that are flying around here, no one knows who's really to blame. ;)
I haven't updated this blog since I got back to Bahrain. It's amazing how quickly you can get swamped with family, friends, and lots of other nonsense. (I am in a constant state of amazement; I have an IQ of a 6 year old). However, since the power outage I have been forced to count my blessings, log on, and force myself to commit my thoughts to writing.
More soon, I am finally winning my battle against insomnia and am contemplating hitting the sack.
I've been up to my ears with exams recently, and I've finally managed to pack up my room and find my way back home only to be caught up with the intricacies of my wonderful family back home. I'm wondering now why I ever missed this. ;)
At any rate, one more semester to go, and I'm planning on becoming a complete slob for 3 months or so, although the idea of a summer job has occured to me, but the work culture in several of the banks that I've applied to is intimidating: religion and banking just don't mix, certain expats of ours seem to think that I'd be encroaching on their territory or trying to steal their jobs sot they'd try to make life very difficult for me, or the airheaded female trainee attitude that's expected out of anyone not applying for a full-time job. We'll see.
I'm also unamused and dismayed at the recent events in our neighboring Saudi Arabia and find myself wondering at the consequences of such a blatant disregard for any form of authority. I'm surprised, and yet not surprised that the Saudi government has let things get this far, but I'm worried about the repercussions here in Bahrain. It seems to be all quiet on the Bahraini front, but then again parliament members and ministers are too busy debating the receding Bahraini morality.
This is going to be an interesting summer.
In reply to a comment I've received about the url of this blog: Why an Absinthe Fairy?
A friend of mine once told me that my thoughts are sometimes as erratic, unabashed, and uncensored, sometimes borderline schizophrenic. One of the side-effects of drinking absinthe, other than drunkenness and possible alcohol poisoning, are the symptoms of schizophrenia. Absinthe Fairy is just an embodiment. :)
Religion and Patriarchal Society
Friday, June 11, 2004
A friend of mine, who for the time being is to remain anonymous, recently wrote a paper for her Women's Studies class connecting religion and patriarchal societies throughout the entire world. The reason that I'm posting the paper, which was part of her exam for the semester is that I was curious to find out that the concept of a patriarchal society and religion is one that is found throughout the major religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. My Human Rights professor was insistent on the idea that the only religion of the world that would encourage patriarchy is that of Islam. I am not a fundamentalist when it comes down to religion. Rather, I am more of a Deist that has tendencies towards Islam. This is the first attempt I have seen to explore the attitudes of all religions towards females, since most of the things I have seen deal with women in Islam and the Arab world. I can also say that this is an unbiased view of all religions with regards to patriarchy.
This friend is currently graduating with a bachelor's degree in Political Science and the French language from MacQuarie University in Australia. She is on her way to a Diplomacy course and a Russian language course in Moscow this summer, and has given me permission to post the paper on the internet. Needless to say, she is multilingual, and in my unholy opinion, very erudite. Any errors in the following paper are my own.
"Whether we decide to acknowledge the fact that we live in a patriarchal society or not, or if we tend to believe that females and males have been both prescribed specific gender roles by their societies, it is crucial to note that religion is the conspicuous base of these gender-based roles which have ruled our lives for centuries. The predominant religions in the world, the three monotheist religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, have shaped the lives of its followers and no one dares to publicly doubt these divine messages, thus people choose to blindly abide by them assuming they are following the right path. How does religion assign gender roles? How have women’s lives become inherently patriarchal? Is there any equity between the sexes in these religions? How are males and females depicted in all monotheist religions? And should traditional religious interpretations be changed to accommodate our modern times?
Finding answers to these questions should begin by a comparison between the portrayal of women in the Koran, Bible and Talmud, commencing with the representation of Eve, the first woman created by God. According to the Koran, when God prohibited Adam and Eve from eating from the forbidden tree, the devil seduced them both into going against God’s wishes (7:19-23) . Hence, they were both equally guilty for committing the same sin. Whereas according to the Judeo-Christian idea of Adam and Eve’s story (Genesis:3-1) the serpent/devil seduces Eve first and then in the 12th verse Adam blames his “woman” for giving him the fruit. Therefore, Eve is to be blamed for the submission of women to their husbands and pregnancy pains (Genesis:3-16), thus
here females are negatively depicted as untrustworthy, unreliable, deceitful creatures who are inferior to their men and who are, as the Bible states, the source of sin and death for all mankind (Ecclesiasticus: 25-33).
Women’s roles in the Old Testament did not go beyond the private sphere of their homes and families and the role of the obedient wife, mother sister or daughter, would always be praised. Women were solely mentioned if they were linked to certain male characters around whom all important events revolved. As for the New Testament, Paul’s churches gave women the right to be ministers and they even prophesised side by side with men, however, contradictions arise with I Corinthians 14:33-35 which demands that women be silent in church, thus abolishing any role of women within the religious field and confining them only to their homes and husbands to whom they are always compliant, for husbands are their only teachers and masters. Another verse which contradicts the latter is (Galatians 3:28) which clearly claims to erase any form of preference of one sex over the other, as “they are all one in Christ”. Not only are the women who remained faithful to Jesus till his death and who accompanied him through his life scarcely mentioned in the New Testament, but some are negatively portrayed, like Mary Magdalene who was described as a prostitute in the Gospels, whereas there is no mention of her “maligned sexuality” in the New Testament. Thus, the role of women in the Old and New Testament has not changed much, they are still required to remain modest, reserved, and most importantly, silent (1 Timothy 2:11-12)
Moving on to Judaism, Orthodox Jews start their day by praising God in their early morning prayers for not having created them as women. They were saved from being cursed! Women in Judaism were prevented from participating in any religious ceremonies or rituals and are also forbidden to read the Torah in public and especially during the Sabbath synagogue service, where women and men are both segregated into two different areas. Hence, females are excluded from priesthood, and males enjoy superiority over their wives and daughters, whose roles are only limited to their households and husbands. Additionally, as a consequence of the “Fall” of Adam and Eve from Heaven unto earth, Jewish Rabbis have stated that God has inflicted nine curses upon women, which consist of the blood of menstruation and virginity, the burden of pregnancy, childbirth and the upbringing of the children, the covering of the head, serving their masters (husbands), not being believed as witnesses, and finally, death. Furthermore, men are advised not to talk much with the opposite sex, especially not in public, even to their wives, daughters or sisters, because people would not know they are his relatives. Above all, rabbis have stated that “He that talks much with womankind brings evil upon himself”. Clearly women are marginalised and considered as sex objects whose voices are regarded as “sexual incitement” and who contaminate others with “impurity” if touched by them during their menstruation.
As for women’s role in Islam, it is worth noting that only one woman is clearly referred to by her first name, Virgin Mary (Mariam) is given great importance in the Koran and has a chapter (19) which narrates her story. As for the other women who are mentioned in the Holy book, they play secondary roles in stories that deal with more important male characters.
The fourth chapter of the Koran “The Women”(4) provides vital information concerning the role of Muslim women in society. Verse 34 is a guide for Muslim men who deal with their disobedient wives, by talking to them first then refraining from having intercourse with them and if these two steps do not tame them, they have the right to beat them. All this to bring their rebellious women back to their senses and obey their husbands who are “quawwamun” i.e. made responsible for them for they are the bread earners (As interpreted by scholars in general). Therefore, women rely on their men who support them financially and protect them from going astray in order not to cause “fitna” (chaos). But people seem to forget that the Prophet’s wife Khadija, who was the first person who converted to Islam, was a wealthy and independent widow who was the Prophet’s employer. Moreover, Aisha, his other wife, is believed to have narrated more than two thousand of his Hadith, which have been constantly repeated till our present days. So, once more, as in Judaism and Christianity, obedience is mentioned and expected from righteous Muslim wives, daughters and all believing women in general.
According to scholars, Prophet Muhammed orders women to fulfill their husbands’ sexual needs whenever they ask for it “or else the angels will curse them till the morning” (narrated by Al Bukhari). However, women’s sexual needs are rarely mentioned although Islam is the only monotheist religion which mentions the woman’s right to sexual pleasure, and in addition to this, women are reminded that “if they die while their husbands are pleased them, then they will enter Paradise” (Al Tirmizi) but there is no mention of what happens when a man dies while his wife is pleased with him! It is also believed that the Prophet uttered the following statement: If I were to order anyone to bow down for any human, I would order the wife to bow down to her husband.
(Al Tirmizi) if bowing down is a symbol of worship, then men are perhaps indirectly regarded as God’s representatives on earth?!
Religious scholars place a great deal of emphasis on the man’s needs by reminding women of their duties in the private sphere. Rarely are they reminded of how much Muslim women contributed to Islam, like Aisha who, for example, raised an army to fight against Ali.
As a final point, it is interesting to note that Judaism, Christianity and Islam all demand the covering of a woman’s head. Ancient Rabbis have declared that any man who allows his wife’s hair to be shown in public will be cursed. So, Jewish women never left their homes without covering their heads, Christian women, nuns for example, also cover their heads: (Corinthians 11:3-10) because they believe that “every man’s head is Christ and the head of every woman is the man, and the head of God is Christ....[….].. let her cover her head….[…] …A man is the image and glory of God…[…].. woman was created for man”. Hence Christian women ought to cover their heads because they belong to men who represent Christ and therefore God. Hence, it is a symbol of male authority over them. As for the Islamic covering of the head, scholars insist that the “hijab” is a Heavenly order although the word, when mentioned in the Koran, never refers to any kind of covering of women, but, for example, to a division of two areas (7:46) or the segregation of the sexes (33:53) it is also used metaphorically and negatively to express the “blindness” of the polytheistic people (41:5). The verses which deal with women’s clothing use the term “jilbab”(33:59) and “khoumour” ( 24:31) but who decides what these words mean or what these coverings are supposed to hide? When it is said that scholars, who are males most (if not all)of the time, “agree” or “disagree” on interpretations, then this means that Muslims are basically adopting what “men of religion” believe is correct! Therefore, women’s sexuality in Islam is defined, once again, by men.
The interpretations of the three mentioned religions, share a common point: They believe in women’s reclusiveness, submission and obedience to men. Women contributed very little to the history of religion and are always adjunct to men.
After researching about this topic, it seems as though religion has been successfully used for patriarchal propaganda . I have realized that very few Jews, Christians or Muslims actually wade into the depth of their respective religions and beliefs, for had they done so, religious conflicts would probably cease to exist and more bold and curious questions would arise. Religion is not the obstacle which stands in the way of women’s liberation, the problem is the misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the Holy books by male bias translators. Women want their voices to be heard and their achievements in the public sphere to be rightfully acknowledged, beginning with the acquisition of their true religious rights which can be achieved by reinterpretations of the monotheist religions from a feminist point of view in order to accommodate religion to our present times and social changes. We need to ask ourselves why women, according to religion, have to carry the “burden” of being the weaker sex who is morally inferior to men and needs to be led by them to follow the straight path. If the answer is: because Eve deceived and tempted Adam to eat the forbidden fruit, (as Christians and Jews believe), then why can we not turn the tables around and interpret this story to favor Eve by supposing that Adam was in fact morally weaker than his woman since he, the more “knowledgeable” sex, was successfully seduced into disobeying God? In this case, which one of them truly needs guidance? "
In memory of my loving father, who was a great man, a loving husband and father, whose death left a gaping void in the lives of all who knew him.
It's been a year since his death, although the shock and the chaos that were unleashed at the moment of his death have yet to abate. Our memories of him remain pure, our pride, and our appreciation for every valued moment that we spent with him.
He is sorely missed, and all those that remember him still choke up with tears at his very memory.
Now the existance of swamps in Lebanon is a very common phenomenon, usually occuring during two months of the year, January and May. Accompanied with the formation of the swamps is the cry of the helpless creatures, known as students, at the sudden increase of their workload due to approaching finals and deadlines, two dangerous predators, that survive at the increased amount of stress and endorphine levels of the terrifed students.
It is unbelievable how the university professors must plan this out. Somehow or the other, they manage to plan most of the taxing workload during those two months, and I'm literally swamped and terrifed at how fast the time is flying. I can't seem to cope between completing assignments and projects, preparing for my exams, and packing since I'm going home for the summer.
Those last two weeks have been hell, and it's completely unrelenting. On the bright side, I should be done by the 15th and flying home on the 16th. In the meantime, I'm producing enough adrenalin and endorphines for an entire population of students. The stress levels all around me are amazing. I hate being senior. Or maybe I like it.