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(Posting a bit different then I usually do to encourage reblogging and further discussion. Article link: (http://womensrights.change.org/blog/view/sudanese_woman_flogging_captured_on_video_activists_demand_answers)
Thank you for this question I definitely appreciate it. I wanted the chance to get back to this topic. I certainly don’t seek to marginalize this article, but I have a lot more to say regarding the related questions. I was recently introduced to the term “brogressive” and certainly don’t seek to fit that term. I’m not trying to minimize the issue, I fully recognize that mistreatment of women is a very serious issue. I simply have a different path to bring about change then some. Infighting among people with the common goal of rights for everyone and equality is always troubling to me, but it happens.
For anyone who hasn’t been made aware of this particular issue you should take a look. The woman was convicted of a terrible crime, wearing pants, under her other coverings. The officers in the video laugh at the woman as she screams and begs for them to stop. They threaten her with jail time if she doesn’t submit to the flogging. Originally outrage was brought about not because of the incident but because the flogging was not properly administered. Of course, personally, I take more issue with the fact that some people see no issue with beating a woman for wearing pants. There is a lot that could be said about this horrible incident but I want to focus on the other part of this question for the time being.
I reblogged a post the other day about the situation Afshan Azad is going through with her family. I added a comment regarding what I believed to be religion’s role in the situations. I was honestly a bit taken back by sukoon (the original poster) being a bit upset with my comments. We talked a bit more and the discussion came to an amiable conclusion. There were several other reblogs that included my comment followed by comments stating that I should recognize the different between culture and religion. It was often stated in a way as if the differences should be so self apparent that it requires no further explanation. I don’t see it that way. I don’t necessarily think I was able to clarify my reasoning fully and being a bit on the defensive I may not of necessarily made the points I intended as strongly as I could.
I do recognize that there is differences between cultures. For example Muslims in Saudi Arabia are not going to act like Muslims in India. They read from the same Qu’ran, but they interpret it differently. Honor killing and family honor is much more of a cultural issue in Eastern culture, but simply because it is part of their culture does not mean it is unrelated to religion. It is so deeply intertwined with religion that they can not be separated. As one changes so does the other, they work hand in hand. You can not hope to bring about change in either without changing the other.
In order to talk about culture we have to understand where culture comes from. It should be obvious that culture comes from people. The majority of people in a particular area decide that something is acceptable for their culture and it takes hold. Many times no actual vote needs to take place, once a majority of people see it as acceptable it simply takes hold when culture starts forming. Similarly in order for something to change and no longer be culturally acceptable the majority has to swing to the other side in some way that those holding onto the original side can no longer resist. At that point they’re forced to either accept the cultural change or protest it in whatever form they chose well the culture moves on and accepts it.
The USA works as a great example of how culture is formed. Being a relatively young country we can take a look back at it’s history and have great reference for how these things take hold. I’ve said many times the USA is not a Christian nation and was not founded as one. Unfortunately anyone would be hard pressed to deny that we do live in a Christian culture. The USA is one of the most Christian countries in the world and as a result we have a very Christian culture.
If that statement isn’t self apparent take a look at the biggest holiday of the year, Christmas. Two of the biggest cultural issues in the USA in recent times have been equal rights for the LGBT community and abortion. The reason people take issue with either of these is almost always as strongly related to religion as it is to culture. There are some exceptions and cross over on both sides but the vast majority of people that are pro-life and anti-LGBT rights are also strongly religious. (Usual disclaimer, yes, not all, I know.) They are strongly conservative, they are rooted in tradition, and extremely resistant to change. The same mentality they use on cultural and social issues is the mentality they use when it comes to religious issues.
They have a perceived idea that tradition is good simply because it is tradition. That the old ways were some how better then changing and updating our views. They often purposely cross the two over using religion to defend their reasoning in opposing abortion or gay marriage. Sighting religious scripture as justification to tell us how to live our lives now and for reasoning why these things are deeply offensive. Often trying to elevate these issues to a metaphysical level where they perceive them to be untouchable saying they go against the laws of God. If our culture accepts the issue though we look at those that fight against it as the fringe. They become those that will more or less simply have to deal with the fact that we see it acceptable as a culture. For many issues we attempt to make accommodations for all people but with other issues there is no way to satisfy everyone.
Religion exacerbates these problems. The Catholic church is a perfect example. Every so often the Catholic church will come out and update their views. They will say we’ve decided to change our views and so should Catholics, but almost always long after the change has already taken place in cultures around the world. Galileo was treated horribly in his lifetime but eventually once enough people realize he was right, the church had to come around. Pope John Paul II said in 1996 that the church should accept the teaching of evolution, long after nearly all major scientific bodies and organizations accepted it. They’re just now getting around to admitting that condoms help to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Religion seeks to slow any progress by making people drag their feet to excruciating points before finally giving in to cultural pressure.
These examples are the USA and Christianity but it translates to the Muslim world in the same way with different issues and on different time scales. Honor killing is not exclusive to a particular religion but in nearly all cases religion plays a center roll in the issue. The family feels dishonored by someone in their family associating with someone of another religion, of another sect of the same religion. The people holding on so strongly to these cultural ideas are the same that cling to fundamental religious ideals. It is doubtful that someone who considered themselves to be a moderate Muslim/Hindu/Coptic Christian/ect. would ever threaten or beat a woman over associating with someone of a different religion. It is the same people that hold on to outdated fundamental religious ideals that hold on to outdated cultural ideas that we’d all be better off moving on from.
As long as the two are so tightly held together I don’t think you can change one without changing the other. I don’t know if you can convince misogynistic fundamentalist Muslims that it is not okay to beat and abuse their women without also convincing them that Muhammad was wrong to refer to women as awrah (the source of all sin). On the reverse side though I will fully admit that convincing them that women are not the source of sin will not get rid of all misogyny. It is certainly a step in the right direction though and will certainly make any further steps taken easier to make. It is a matter of working for progress instead of looking for a magical off switch.
I don’t think removing religion will magically make the world a wonderful and amazing place but I do believe that to make steps to improve the world secularism is important. Moving away from superstition and fantasy is important. I don’t seek to tell people what to believe, but I do seek to tell them to be realistic, rational, logical, and look at the real world that we live in right now. Religion looks to make people drag their feet on progressing. It seeks to make people deny reality, to deny the problems, to write off accountability for their actions and decisions. In it’s worst forms it purposely teaches misinformation and prejudice against others. We don’t need any more of that and there is far too much as it is.
I will end this rant here because it has gone long as it is but it is a difficult subject to address. Please feel free to comment, reblog, ask questions, whatever you’d like regarding this. Thank you to anyone that takes the time to read through this because hopefully it gives clarification to some of my views. It’ll be something I refer people to in the future when they say “Learn the difference between culture and religion!”