“Rights” not perks…

Once again, there’s a repressive system yanking a ‘right’ away from women, while granting it to men living in the same society.  

This week Hamas announced that it would enforce a ban against the use of water pipes for women in public places. Water pipes are decidedly a whimsical pastime for emancipated women in Gaza. Women who engage in the smoking of water pipes in public places are not likely to be strict followers of the code of Islam – as related to women. They are usually young with a free spirit that allows them to test the limits of women’s rights in Muslim society. They are the ones the AP terms “the secular minority”. They are “secular” because they are better educated. They are a “minority” because education is kept at bay in their broader society so that power can take over. The “right” is to live and conduct ones-self in a manner that one desires. The limit that Hamas decided to impose this week is to restrict the freedom with which women can be who they are, and a compulsion to conform with a conservative Islamic way of life.  It comes on the heels of other limits Hamas has begun to enforce on women in order to adhere to more conservative guidelines of Islamic society.  

The water pipe restrictions are just the latest in a yearlong Hamas campaign to gradually enforce a strict Muslim life code on the people of Gaza. Hamas… has banned women from riding motorbikes. Teenage girls are pressured … to cover up in loose robes and headscarves. 

 Associated Press Writers Diaa Hadid And Ibrahim Barzak - Sun Jul 18, 4:08 pm ET

Water Pipes - AFP 2010

Plain clothed Hamas operatives have begun combing the streets and secular hot-spots to uncover violating women. They then haul them off for some Hamas style intimidation so the next time a woman wants a pipe, she’ll think twice. 

And hence goes the imposition of repression. It is built on intimidation, and the promise that the consequence will be more unpleasant that the conduct in question will be rewarding. It will work. Women will stop smoking and cafe/restaurant owners will stop offering the pipe to women in Gaza. 

Now, squeezed and strained already by the Israeli blockade, the women of Gaza will be further strained by a system that imposes more rules on them, limiting their outlets to a greater degree than the men. Proponents of Islam will insist that their religion does not discriminate against women. But by my understanding, discrimination is just what is described above:  “disparate treatment or consideration based on class or category rather than individual merit”. The class or category is women and their treatment is consistently disparate or different. It is not based on merit, ability or qualification. It is simply based on the fact that they are female, and in repressive societies they can be shoved around. For fear of physical harm, they comply. 

AP - Woman smoking water pipe in Gaza

It may be that Hamas was “democratically” elected, thanks to George W. Bush’s 2 terms as the President of the United States. But “Democracy” isn’t just a word. It is a government “of the people, for the people and by the people”. In the Middle East that seems to be a tough concept to convey. 

Case in point: Since elections in Iraq more than 5 months ago, the Iraqi parliament has met for a mere 17 minutes to ponder the affairs of State.  A precious 17 minutes of time the government dedicated to serving the people – a people who incidentally need a lot of service at this point. Hmm, Democracy yes: because the government is technically elected – we have images of inked fingers to prove it. But Democracy not: since there is no representative form of government that meets and debates and negotiates on behalf of the people and their common or specific rights. I remember the triumphant call of “Let Freedom Ring” (I belive it should be “reign”) pronounced by President G.W. Bush on the heels of Iraq’s first election. But today, neither Gaza nor Iraq looks any more Democratic, or incidentally any better, than it did before America’s democracy experiment. 

What both countries do have today, that they may not have had as much of before, is radicalized young Muslims ready to take on Jihad. A conceptual call some years ago against the great “Imperialist Powers” is now a jihad against a realistic and palpable foe to the people of Iraq and the Palestinian territories, not to mention Afghanistan (another democracy pet project of Mr. Bush) and Pakistan (which recently “democratically” elected Asif Zardari who’se wife, the real candidate, was shot to death just before the elections). 

Another woman making the news today is the very distinguished, and as it turns out very correct, , Baroness Manningham-Buller, who headed the British spy agency MI5 between the years 2002 to 2007. Ms. Manningham-Buller, who was testifying for a British inquiry into the lead-up to British involvement in the invasion of Iraq, said “our involvement in Iraq, for want of a better word, radicalised a whole generation of young people, some of them British citizens who saw our involvement in Iraq, on top of our involvement in Afghanistan, as being an attack on Islam.” 

So after hundreds of thousands of people have died in these multiple battle fronts, all that we have collectively accomplished are two defunct democracies and many more haters hoping to harm us than we had before.

Former MI5 Chief: Baroness Manningham-Buller

“What Iraq did was produce fresh impetus [for] people prepared to engage in terrorism,” she said, adding that she could produce evidence to back this up. “The Iraq war heightened the extremist view that the West was trying to bring down Islam. We gave Bin Laden his jihad.” 

 See article: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100720/ap_on_re_eu/eu_britain_iraq_inquiry 

Now that we’ve provided the “impetus” that propels radical regimes like Hamas and it’s ilk, and enables them to impose their strict brand of Islam on societies where women and girls pay the highest price, I have often wondered how radical Islam will be toppled. It just may be from within: when perhaps women become educated enough to know the difference between a “Right” which governments can’t take a way, and a “perk” which can be granted and witheld to suit policy. 

see articles on water pipe ban:  

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100718/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_hamas_crackdown 

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100718/lf_afp/mideastconflictgazahamaslifestyletobacco_20100718215249

One response to ““Rights” not perks…

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