27 October 2006

Cats & Meat

Sheikh Hilaly, Australia's top Muslim cleric, got a lot of attention recently for comparing women who dress immodestly to "uncovered meat." He apparently got a bit of criticism two years ago when he apparently glorified martyrdom and called the 9/11 attacks "the work of God." Sounds like a real nice fella.
Now, I'm all for giving people the benefit of the doubt, and I understand the news media isn't perfect. Maybe it's all just a big misunderstanding and his comments are all out of context. Maybe. Plus, he supposedly apologized for the comments, and has been suspended from preaching for 3 months. That sounds too short to me, but I'll take it...

I'm a little bit curious why nobody is complaining about his comparison of men to cats, as if we are all driven simply by our appetites. I think that's more than a little insulting, and I think it has something to do with the fact that Islam isn't about redemption & re-creation, but instead is theologically focused on repression. At its core, Islam's perspective on humanity is that we need to be controlled, rather than set free. I think that's pretty awful.

The whole hijab thing seems more rooted in a (negative) belief that men can't control themselves than in a positive appreciation for modesty. I'm all for modesty, and I believe there's something wrong with dressing like the cover of Cosmo. But the head-to-toe black covering isn't about modesty. It's about externally-imposed control (on both women and men), because self-control is basically impossible (according to Islam). Thus the restrictions on men and women socializing, women driving, etc. It all says people can't be trusted, and that says a lot about Islam.

In a Ramadan sermon last month, Hilaly said sexual assaults might not happen if women wore a hijab and stayed at home.

"If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat? The uncovered meat is the problem," Hilaly said, according to a newspaper translation.


Kim said...

Very interesting. I'm sure that you've heard about the European burka debate going on. While I don't personally think that burkas are the way to go, I'm not sure that Muslim women need Western regulations telling them what they CAN'T wear. I can only imagine that after years of being "covered up", a Muslim woman without her burka would feel just as naked in public as I would if I were told that I have to go topless to work - regardless of the presence of any cats.

Kim said...

To clarify, my comment is a tangent directed at the current French and Belgium bans of the burka (making it possible to arrest women wearing them in public), and not at what you wrote.

The Islam-Western culture clash is a big issue here these days, especially as the EU expands. So far the "blending" is about as successful as mixing oil and water.

I certainly agree with you that men and women are not comparable to cats and uncovered meat - a very discouraging view of humanity.

Dan said...

Good comments - I knew what you meant about the restrictions on muslim dress. I think making burkas illegal is about as enlightened as making them mandatory. I guess that makes me something of a libertarian, eh?

The more I learn about the faith and practice of modern Islam, the more I appreciate the profound differences between that faith and my own. It is genuinely 180 degrees different from modern Christianity, in terms of its view of people, its understanding of God, justice, mercy, etc. That doesn't mean there aren't good Muslims around - of course there are. I'm just coming to really grasp how strikingly and fundamentally different these two faiths are.

Kim said...

Yes, I agree. I guess it's no surprise that Islam and Christianity have been at odds for thousands of years.

Passante said...

I'm a little bit curious why nobody is complaining about his comparison of men to cats, as if we are all driven simply by our appetites. I think that's more than a little insulting,

This is off the main focus of your post, but the words above lead me to make a connection: I find it distressing that women can crack male-bashing jokes and men are supposed to laugh good naturedly, but if men make female-bashing jokes, there's a great outcry. No fair. The same rules have to apply all round.

Dan said...

Good point, Passante... I've always wondered about that myself. I suppose it's payback for generations of dumb blonde jokes.