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Pre-2008 Posts

Shaikh Abdool Hamid on Women-Only Buses

In this video, Shaikh Abdool Hamid, a resident scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, uses the rolling out, throughout the world, of woman-only buses as evidence of the truth of Islamic teachings about the segregation of the sexes and subordination of women. The gist of his teaching is one I am very familiar with. In my old world, we often heard teachings such as this, couched in biblical terms, i.e., that sometimes those who “do not have the Word” nevertheless have the “Word written on their hearts,” in other words, people often act according to biblical principles they have never been taught because “all truth is God’s truth”. Hamid says basically the same thing, that non-Muslims worldwide are recognizing the truth of Islamic teachings even though they may not realize it. And of course the reasoning in these teachings is the same whether the teacher is a Christian or Muslim: their teachings, they believe, were handed down by God himself, so even when the teachings don’t make sense or seem restrictive or difficult or painful, people should trust in the truth of the teachings because they originated, as Hamid says, with the “Creator of the Universe.”   And then events like the debuting of woman-only buses become the evidence that the teachings are “true.”

It’s this close up view of the circular reasoning of patriarchy that gives those of us exited from patriarchal religions the insights we often have as to the mechanics, the nuts and bolts of patriarchy. The abuses of women by men become the justifications for subjugating women to men, with women who resist subjugation blamed for the abuses they experience. Islam, and some fundamentalist Christians, separate the sexes because men are expected to sexually harass and assault women. Women who resist this separation are then blamed when they are sexually harassed. It’s an airtight system.  The question that is never asked is, why aren’t men expected and required to stop abusing women?

Our interest, as feminists, is in building a world that is safe, that we can inhabit in comfort, where we can move about in freedom.   Our interest in woman-only buses is centered in reasons which would be viewed as apostasy and heresy by fundamentalists, of whatever stripe.  The irony is that it is in large part because of the teachings of fundamentalism that women need woman-only facilities and buses!

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16 thoughts on “Shaikh Abdool Hamid on Women-Only Buses

  1. Don’t you just love the logic of fundamentalist men! This is invaluable evidense of the male brain at its devious best!

    How about condemning men for being this way in the first place? How about covering men up with cloth so we don’t have to even look at their dreadful faces? Or better yet, how about putting an electronic choke chain around their necks, so that the minute they harass women they are administered a shock of Allah to punish them with divine wrath! (This is a joke by the way 🙂 –men who are offended, you just don’t have a sense of humor 🙂

    Honestly, what will these men think of next? And what will it take for women to walk OUT of those mosques and churches and male dominated spiritual communities forever!

    The key is for women to stop listening to these sermons, to refuse to go to one more speech or sermon by the oppressors.
    Women need to get out and create a world of their own. Let those patriarchs nut cases talk to themselves with no women present at all. Let the women go off and create a woman centered thealogy in the first place.

    Posted by Satsuma | February 1, 2008, 9:10 pm
  2. why aren’t men expected and required to stop abusing women?

    We’re evil temptresses and avatars of Satan, remember?

    Posted by Miranda | February 1, 2008, 10:02 pm
  3. ***why aren’t men expected and required to stop abusing women?

    We’re evil temptresses and avatars of Satan, remember?***

    The question is deep, that “answer” is shallow and answers nothing.

    Posted by Branjor | February 1, 2008, 10:36 pm
  4. wonderful post–sums up the craziness of patriarchy so well. as an addendum, it would also be wonderful to have women-only subway cars in new york city where most men take up too much room with their expansive spread-leg behavior when seated. just a regional issue?

    Posted by naomi dagen bloom | February 2, 2008, 5:19 am
  5. No, Branjor, it answers the underlying attitude. Fundamentalist religions of all stripes paint women as temptresses of men. One Islamic religious leader referred to an uncovered woman as an ‘uncovered piece of meat’. In the Bible, Eve brings sin into Eden.

    When religous leaders get caught in a sin of a sexual nature, they are expected to apologize for straying, but there’s a real sense of their not being able to help it. The woman is always the figure left out, and the blame hers to bear.

    Women are supposed to be the gatekeepers of sex and chastity and a model of submission at one and the same time. If a man ‘strays’, the fault is hers.

    Posted by Miranda | February 2, 2008, 1:45 pm
  6. And, btw, watch who you condescend to.

    Posted by Miranda | February 2, 2008, 1:46 pm
  7. So true, Miranda. I think Branjor might have been condescending to fundamentalist men who say what you said there, not meaning to point that at you (though I could be wrong and don’t mean to speak for Branjor).

    There’s a HIDEOUS story in the holy books shared by Judaism, Christianity and Islam that sends terror into the heart of every little girl or teenager or woman who hears the story, or rage, if the girl or woman has managed to distance herself from the way fundamentalists hate women. It’s the story of the rape of Tamar.

    Tamar is a daughter of David (King David, the guy who is always spoken of as the man after God’s own heart, so chilling). She is described as very beautiful. Her brother and David’s oldest son, especially loved by David, Amnon, wants to rape her, but he can’t figure out how to do it. The story says he wants to rape her so badly that he is distressed, and another man, Jonadab, notices and asks him what’s up. Well, the story doesn’t say he wants to rape her so badly, the story says Amnon is sick with his “love” for Tamar. Jonadab concocts a plan for Amnon that Amnon carries out. He tells David that he is sick and asks David to ask Tamar to cook food for him and bring it to him, which David does.

    Tamar brings the food to Amnon in his bed, and Amnon then asks Tamar for sex. She says no, does all she can to talk him out of it, pleads with him, begs him, but he rapes her anyway.

    The bible says that after this rape, the hatred with which Amnon hated his sister was greater than this “love” with which he had loved her. He banishes her and says get her away from me.

    Her life is ruined. She is destroyed. She is damaged goods and no one will marry her now.

    As the story goes, David, the father, the man after god’s own heart, is heartbroken only because he is disappointed with his son, Amnon. He does NOTHING. Later, Absalom, another son, kills Amnon for raping Tamar, then flees. The bible says that David is distraught, but he is also distraught when Absalom flees because he misses Absalom so much.

    Girls and women in fundamentalist churches hearing this story over and over again hear that what is most important — most important — not only to men but to god, David being the man after god’s own heart, is that men be reconciled to men. Tamar is an object in this story. Nobody cares about her. There is not a single person in this story who cares about Tamar. God doesn’t care about her either. She is compassionate and caring and obedient, she tries to help her brother, she is raped, she is cast aside. Absalom killing her rapist, his brother, doesn’t care about her, he just wants Amnon out of the way because Amnon was David’s favorite son and Absalom wanted that.

    In my old world, the way this story was OFTEN told was that Tamar probably *wanted* to bring the food to Amnon, yes, that she *put herself* in a position in which she could be raped. She is presented as a likely participant and is criticized because she knew she wasn’t supposed to go into her brother’s bedroom, but she did it anyway, which means, again, she wanted it. Never mind that her father, David, the king, specifically told her to bring the food to her brother.

    This is the way women are ALWAYS cast in these holy books, no matter what the story says, there is always the suggestion, no matter how brutally they were raped or killed or butchered that had they known their place, had they stayed in their place, had they followed the rules, it would not have happened.

    So it’s so true what you are saying there, Miranda. The way this hideous belief system works its way into the minds and hearts of men and women, boys and girls should not be underestimated. It colors every interaction they have with each other in that world, it taints the view of every fundamentalist man towards women and of every fundamentalist woman towards herself, such that when a woman hears a sermon like this– and honestly when I listened to this sermon, I was immediately back in my old world, this is a man who sounds JUST like the teachers I listened to for years, all the way to the apparent humility in the voice– she welcomes it because it sounds as though she is being given a way out of her predicament of being a seductress and temptress and a terrible woman, like all of those jezebels in the Bible. She thinks, see, if I just get under authority, if I am just obedient to god and do what god says, then I won’t be like all of those women in the bible who met their fate, ruin, death, destruction. When in fact, all of those women they are thinking of were raped/murdered/destroyed by men because they were nothing more than objects to men, then blamed for being the objects they were made to be.

    Of course, this sermon takes things to another level in that the teacher is saying all people everywhere recognize the truth of all of the above and that these woman only buses evidence their own desire to be obedient to these male gods, whose favorites are men like David, a rapist and murderer, whose sons were rapists and murderers.

    Posted by womensspace | February 2, 2008, 4:24 pm
  8. Thank you for posting my video on your site and showing interest in Islam. We are all open to different opinions. Hijab is something that a woman has to wear if she is a believer. It has to come from her heart and not be forced upon her.

    My wife does not wear hijab and I do not force her to wear it. Every act of worship towards our Lord has to be done with sincerity. God will not accept any act of worship if it is done for other reasons. Like wearing Hijab because the husband will beat her for it or trying to win acceptance in the Muslim community.

    Allah says that there is no compulsion in religion. That is we do not force people to worship Allah. There is no point in forcing people to worship God because God himself says he will not accept it. That is why I do not force my wife to wear hijab. I would be sinful for forcing this religion on someone and driving someone away from this beautiful religion.

    The command of hijab come after allah commands the men to lower their gaze. A man is not allowed to look at a woman’s face in public more than once. He can look at her face if it is business transaction going on. Men are also cammand not to tocuh the hand of a women who is not his wie. These are the command of my Lord and I will obey it to the best of my abilities because I believe 100% that my Lord is one and he indeed send a last messenger. I only worship God alone and I will obey him to the best of my abilities.

    In Islam we protect our women. Women are more important and precious than men. We are subject to women in the respect that we have to use our strength and money to house them and maintain them. Any money women make is theirs and we do not have any right to it. This is pure islam.

    This pure islam is what rue believers want to come back. And indeed it is, many young muslims are returning back to the religion, learning the quran and the way of the prophet. One of the major obstacles are not the non muslims but rather their muslim parents who do not want their son to wear a beard or have their daughters wear hijab.

    Ironically before as a non Muslim, who made partners with my Lord, I hated everything about Islam. The praying, the Hijab the sexual oppression. I believe that everyone has the right to sleep with whomever the please. May Allah forgive me. As a non Muslim I wanted women to dress showing their body parts. It made the day much nicer. Even though I would not video tape feet or butts I would get an unending supply of feminine beauty on the streets, school or office.

    Now as a Muslim I cannot even look at a women like that. I remember the quran and fight the urge look at her in a lustful way.

    Women only buses is extreme though, it is a reflection of the men in that country. Men who only look away from other women if they are with their spouse.

    Anyhow thanks again for posting the video.
    Have a nice day

    Sorry for any grammer mistakes or spelling mistakes my kid wants to play with me now.

    Posted by IslamAnswersBack | February 2, 2008, 5:12 pm
  9. Thanks for weighing in, IslamAnswersBack. You seem like a good person and I appreciate your sincerity.

    What you say is also familiar to me. This was what was taught in what I call my old world. For years, I was what I would describe as a bible-believing Christian, a literalist. I did wear a head veiling, of my free will, of my own accord (I felt at the time). My husband didn’t ask me or require me to wear it. I felt I was acting on the basis of the impulses you describe, wanting to serve god, wanting to love and worship god and be obedient to god. I felt my humbling of myself and attempting to learn god’s nature and honor him as he asked to be honored would lead to a better life for me.

    We also had teachings in my old world about men looking at women, touching women, being in the presence of women without others present. We had similar teachings for women, that women ought to avert their eyes in the presence of men.

    We — those of us who taught and practiced these things — believed them at the time and felt deeply about them. Of course, many still do.

    My experience is that there can be many beautiful and good things in these communities. I miss my old world at times. But for those who, once a member of the community, depart in some way, dissent, break ranks, things can become very serious and very difficult, very quickly. It only “works” so long as everybody either agrees, or can suspend their own disbelief to the degree that they can muster “enough” agreement to function according to the norms of the group. When people can no longer suspend their disbelief and bring a challenge, resist, fall from grace in some way, again, it can be very difficult, especially for women and girls, and I am talking about my own old world now, not yours. I have never been part of yours. But I see many similarities, have close friends who have been muslims, and feel I have some insights that might be relevant.

    Again, I thank you for weighing in. I wish you and your wife and children the best.


    Posted by womensspace | February 2, 2008, 5:47 pm
  10. You know Islam answers back, you can’t force your wife to do anything in the U.S. The whole point of freedom is for women to actually have free choice in life. It is never up to men what women will or won’t do. The very fact that countries force women into enclosures, and force women to wear specific head coverings is just a sign that all of these religions are the inventions of men.

    Now if I invented a woman’s religion, we’d have a lot of sins that men are guilty of, and a lot of punishment believe me. I think when women rise up worldwide, men will be paid back for their crimes.

    It’s how men imagine a god in their own image. God is not a HE, women were created in the image of god, and so for women, god is not a male. Forcing women to believe in a male god is simply their projection. Men are worshiping a false idol in their own image.

    The problem is with men. If you rape or harass a woman in a public place you end up in jail. If you discriminate against women in the work place, you face fines.

    The stories in the bible and koran are really the stories of tribal men. We have yet to fully know the spiritual life of women apart from all of this. Men wrote the texts, men did everything to make women property. Even marriage itself started out as property transactions.

    Is Islam bad? Well, yes it is. Is christianity bad? well yes it is. Until women are in their full power, and until they have complete control over their economic lives, and are not forced to marry men to survive, we will have attrocities that men feel free to commit against women.

    When Islam comes to America, it’s a different story. I meet Muslim men in America who can’t get away with the things they do back home in Saudi Arabia. We shook hands, we did business, and we cut deals with oil producing states. These men obviously could adjust to this once they were outside their home countries.

    I think women have a right to determine their own relationship with god, or they have a right not to believe in a male god to begin with. Until women have all of their rights and self-determination, we’ll have the oppression of women. We’ll have wars that men fight against each other, while they think nothing of the sin of killing women and children.

    When Imams are equally men and women, and when religious rules are no longer determined only by men, then we’ll see some progress. When the prophet of Islam speaks, he is speaking in a man’s voice. God speaks to women all the time, it’s just too bad that men can’t hear this information, because then we’d have a very different world than we do now.

    Islam and christianity have many sins to attone for, but the first sin of the world is male supremacy. The original sin is the oppression of women in “god’s” (read men’s name). If men can’t control their sexual thoughts about women, perhaps we should take them out into the courtyard and stone them to death, not women. And if men can’t come to terms with their evil attitudes, perhaps we should just ask god to strike all men dead in the name of justice. Now that would be a story I’d love to hear!

    Posted by Satsuma | February 2, 2008, 11:44 pm
  11. womenspace and satasuma I welcome the dialogue. What i love about being Muslim in the western world is that no one is forcing you to do anything. Should my wife ever decide to wear hijab it will be because she will want to.

    There is a lot of secular baggage in the old muslim world. I am not talking about Saudi Arabia. In Saudi I have never seen women with so much confidence and I this something else that I don’t think their is a word for it.

    At 3 am in the morning there were two sisters walking out downtown in an area that would women in the west would not even thinking of walking through. I realized it was Saudi Arabia and something like that would get the man in serious trouble if he tried.

    I went to eat at a fried chicken restaurant in Suadi and the men and women sat in separate areas. The men side did not have any space left for brothers so we decided to sit in the sisters section. Big mistake those women gave us dirty looks and then the bus boys yelled at us to get the hell out.

    The one thing I can never forget though I was walking with my fellow muslim brothers on a street in mina in saudi and we kind of was blocking the whole walk way. This barely 5 foot thin girl in full niqab was behind us and she was alone. With her two finger she shoved my fellow brother to the side and she kept on walking like she did nothing.

    For a western guy this was enough to get blazing mad at since male or female should not do that and it’s not proper Islamic manners to treat each other like that. My Muslim brother who is 6 foot 10 was so upset. We laughed. Because no woman in the west would ever do this and still walk away with a confidence that even I could not have if I did the same thing in the west.

    That day I fell in love with the muslim woman. All the stereotypes were gone since I saw with my own eyes how these women are.

    My Muslim brother said , “yeah she can only get away with that because we are in this country.” It may be an abuse of women and their rights in Saudi but who knows really.

    I am still learning about this religion I have only been in it for 7 years. Most of the stuff I heard about Islam is actually misplaced. There is a lot of ignorance of this religion among Muslims. Believe me I tried telling them using authentic sources but some don’t take a 7 year old Christian convert seriously.

    My mother taught me that a woman is like a flower and should be treated as such. She is delicate and beautiful. Islam taught me to stay in my own garden.

    Oh one last thing. I always tell my wife if men really invented a religion the woman would be obligated to work the man would have to stay home. Men would be allowed to look at other women on the Internet and TV and the woman would not say anything. The women who were more pious would wear less cloths.

    The last thing a man wants is to have a woman to cover herself up especially if she is pretty.

    I have to go now. My wife is coming home from work and I have to make her tea. Why, because Muhammad(pbuh) would do this kind of stuff and I want to be like him.

    take care.

    Nice talking to you two.

    Posted by IslamAnswersBack | February 3, 2008, 1:01 am
  12. Also I apologize for posting too much. This is a woman’s space i feel bad intruding. Also I hope i did not sound like I was tooting my own horn may Allah forgive me if I sounded like that.

    Ok I am gone. Enough with the male.

    Islam Answers Back

    Posted by IslamAnswersBack | February 3, 2008, 1:12 am
  13. Believe me, men invented these religions. When men are covered up and are stoned to death because of their crimes against women, then I’ll believe women have real power in the middle east.

    On this site, women rule!

    Posted by Satsuma | February 3, 2008, 2:07 am
  14. ***I realized it was Saudi Arabia and something like that would get the man in serious trouble if he tried.***

    Wasn’t a woman in Saudi Arabia recently sentenced to (was it jail or whipping, I forget which) for the “crime” of being raped by some men? Whatever “trouble” the man gets into is nothing compared to what happens to the woman he rapes.

    ***Hijab is something that a woman has to wear if she is a believer.***

    There’s worlds of coercion in this statement alone. Force isn’t only physical.

    Posted by Branjor | February 3, 2008, 4:38 am
  15. Excellent post, and you are dead on.

    Posted by apostate | February 3, 2008, 6:04 pm
  16. Thanks apostate– you are definitely someone whose opinion holds weight with me!

    Posted by womensspace | February 5, 2008, 11:52 pm

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