PRINCESS – A Shocking Expose of Misogyny Within Saudi Arabia

Princess was the first book that I’d read on the, shall we say, unusual treatment of women in Saudi Arabia. This led me to read other books on the subject which dealt with women’s precarious place in other Muslim countries as well.

Princess
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The story of Princess Sultana (a pseudonym) was written by Jean Sasson a twelve year resident of Saudi Arabia. It is the story of an anonymous Saudi Princess who grew up in a Saudi palace, her sisters, servants, friends and other unfortunate women she had heard about. Some have debated the veracity of the book but many things as I have outlined in my conclusion cannot be denied.

Princess Sultana was born into a Royal Saudi family of ten daughters and one pampered son. She was too feisty for her own good and managed to often manifest the displeasure of her father. Some of the things she did wrong were taking her toys back from her bratty, can do no wrong , brother and then trying to explain her side of things when she got in trouble, but as she and her sisters got older things became even more suppressive.

Supposedly an honor and a sign of adulthood, Sultana was forced to veil as punishment for standing up for herself a couple years before menses. She was saved from female circumcision, which her four oldest sisters endured when a foreign tutor intervened. Sultana goes on to describe how her favorite sister, Sara, was betrothed at sixteen to a man forty-six years older. Within five weeks Sara almost committed suicide due to her aged husbands sadistic and brutal sexual practices.

Sasson goes on to describe many practices and laws in Saudi Arabia that would make a westerner blanch, including the summary execution of a thirteen year old girl for fornication, who was most likely raped, a young girl drowned in the family swimming pool by her father for kissing a boy and girls who had been forced to marry as young as twelve, having four and five children before their eighteenth birthday.

Summary
Jean Sasson weaves a very interesting story. Her writing is easy to follow and extremely readable. The incidents she describe tend to stay in your mind for a long time and may cause indignation in the reader. She accomplishes a fairly good character development of Princess Sultana and other family members.

The book itself is 254 easy reading pages long and also contains four appendixes, The Koran and Women, The Laws of Saudi Arabia, a glossary on Arab terms and a Chronology of Key Events in Saudi History, all located in back. In addition there is a map of Saudi Arabia, the surrounding area, with facts on Saudi Arabia and the surrounding countries and a family tree of the House of Saud in the front of the book.

Conclusion

The conclusion I took from all the books I have read so far on the subject is, that while some, maybe even most, women in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries may be well treated, the underlying groundwork is there for the mistreatment, even killing of women.

It is hard not to notice than Muslims take exception to this and similar publications. They would like us to believe the conditions and incidents that take place in these books are fantasy and maybe they believe they are, but the undeniable facts that lie within, lend credibility to everything within the books.

I ask these people. Can women drive in Saudi Arabia? Are there modesty police? Can a woman get in trouble for not wearing a head covering, a veil, letting hair show, letting skin show? Has any women ever been executed for adultery? Have young women ever been killed by family members in honor killings? Can a Saudi man divorce his wife by saying I divorce you three times? Can a wife own property? Does a woman need three witnesses to report a rape? Can a Muslim man have multiple wives? Is a Saudi woman’s testimony worth only half of a man’s? Are many if not most of Saudi women’s husbands chosen by their father? Are Saudi women encouraged or even allowed to get an education? Can a Saudi women work in any field she chooses? Can a Saudi woman walk the streets unescorted? Can a Saudi woman date?

To be sure, women historically have had trouble in almost all societies but the second class citizenship that seems endemic in Saudi Arabia and several other Muslim countries is systemic and deeply rooted.

January 19, 2008. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , . execution, Islam, misogyny, Overzealous, review, Saudi Arabia, Sharia, Sunni, Wahabism, women.

31 Comments

  1. Shaheen Khan replied:

    I originally hail from Iran and am an atheist.I will try to answer some of the questions you put forward.Though no human being can be totally objective, I will try my very best.Can women drive in Saudi Arabia? No they cannot and that is very unjust.Yes they can get into trouble for letting hair and skin show, which is wrong too.In supposedly the most liberal country for women, Sweden,the Swedish Queen has undergone numerous plastic surgeries and her eldest daughter Crown Princess Victoria was anorexic. Why? The social pressure put on women in Western countries to look eternally young and unnaturally slim.5% of western teenagers spend their teens puking over a loo.(By the way, I don’t wear a veil or purge out fatty food)Yes, women like men have been executed for adultery.Its not a woman only thing.Yes young women have been killed in honor killings and young men have been too( though in a far lesser proportion). It happens among Christians too in Palestine and Jordan as well.Yes Saudi men can divorce their wives by saying” I divorce you” three times.A woman can divorce her husband too by a process known as Khula however it is more difficult and she forfeits her right to mehr or maintenance.Does a Muslim need three witnesses to report a rape? Its actually four.This is the worst aspect of Islam according to me.However the Bible allows rapists to marry their victims( by paying money to the father for having destroyed his property!) A rapist in Saudi Arabia is executed.

  2. shaheen khan replied:

    Marriages are mostly arranged not only in Saudi Arabia but also other traditional societies like India and China.Not only are saudi girls husbands chosen by their parents but saudi boys wives are chosen the same way.Half of all university students in Saudi Arabia are women.Compared to the West where married Women’s Property Act emerged only in 1880, Saudi married women have kept their assets and owned property since Prophet Muhammad’s time.

  3. viv replied:

    Shaheen, The difference is we in the west don’t follow the Bible when we make our laws. We seperate religion from state. Rapists in the west are treated as criminals and no woman would marry her rapist whatever the Bible may say. It was written thousands of years ago. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Saudi Arabia, hence brutal, inhumane laws applicable only to women.
    As for owning property, what is the point of that when you are not free to do as you wish with your own life? I would go crazy if I had to ask permission from my husband to go out, to leave the country, to drive places. This would be insulting to me. Also,why can a saudi husband obtain a divorce easier than a wife?
    As for boys having to suffer arranged marriages too, the big difference here is that they just take another wife if they don’t like the one they already have. or get a concubine. It is so blatantly unfair to women I don’t know why you women don’t do something about it instead of perpetuating your position by acceptance.

  4. Reem replied:

    Hi viv,
    If you were a muslim I would say “as’salm alaikum” not Hi. It means pease upon you. this is how to sey hello or hi in Islam.
    your question of why don’t we wommen do something about devorcing or about a veil is that it is not something that the goverment imposed upon us women or men, it is God (or as we call Him Allah)who ordered us to do what we are doing. That is why no women or men dare to change it, becouse they fill with fear from Allah and whoever dissent it will be punish.

    Please Viv if you are wondering about anything just e-mail me or if you want ask me here . and I will be very pleased to answer your questions.

    “ma’a as’salamah” it means Bay

  5. Dee Dawning replied:

    I’m sure you believe Allah directed women to be subservient to men but can you be sure. I haven’t read the Quran, other than excerpts in other books, and those books say there is nothing in the Quran that states veiling or covering practiced by many Muslims was Allah’s will.

    In addition The Quran was written several hundred years after the death of Muhammed as the Bible was written several hundred years after the death of Jesus. How can we be sure either book is accurate.

  6. Deborah replied:

    I couldn’t help but being drawn to the comments here. However, the Bible is only compiled together after the death of Jesus, however the books in the bible were written at the different times throughout the period, both before and after the death of Jesus. If sceptical consider this, many quotes by Jesus and the apostles in the new testament were taken from verses in the old testament which was recorded and studied even before the days of Jesus.

    Also, I would like the correct a comment made earlier by Shaheen Khan. It is true that the Bible does say a rapist will pay money to the victim’s father. However, that’s an INCOMPLETE observation, and I highly doubt you have read that sentence yourself, but to enlightened you and all the curious minds out there. Here is the direct passage taken from the NKJV version.

    Deutronomy 22:28: ‘If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin who is not bethrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall NOT BE PERMITTED TO DIVORCE her all his days.’

    Let me explain the context of this verse. I know some of you may think it is cruel, why let a rapist marry his victim? In the olden days, a girl who was rape has no future. No one will marry her and once her father dies who will take care of her? (think of the ancient days). Therefore, what the man has done will forever be his responsibility and that is his punishment for life.
    God is fair, if a married or engaged woman is raped, it says clearly in the verse before hand that, the rapist ‘shall be out to death’.Executed.
    Obviously with changing times and with more open minds, a rape victim gets help and is not push aside in modern society. So this law is not practiced in modern western society whose criminal laws are based on the bible (somewhat so). But in those ancient times, it really was for the benefit of the victim.
    Please don’t make naive comments based on hearsay. It crumbles any argument and any point you wish to draw. And worst of all it gives other people a false impression.
    cheers~

  7. viv replied:

    Dee,I agree with you, how can we be sure the words in the Koran, Bible or any Holy book were actually written by God, or influenced by God. They are a bit too much on the side of men and the so called male superiority angle for me to be comfortable with this view. We all know that women are the default sex ( proven by scientists) and the world needs women in order to keep our species going ( you don’t need many men! ) I sometimes wonder if men are inately jealous of women and this causes so many religions all stating how superior the male is.
    I don’t think that God would want a woman to veil the face that he created any more than he would want a man to veil. It never occurs to anyone that women can be as distracted by a good looking man as men are by a good looking woman.
    I do respect those who believe in a certain religion, I am not mocking that. I have a very strong faith in God and experiences to back this up. It’s just I am free and in control of my destiny as an adult, free to make my mistakes, free to do as I wish and face the consequences.
    I feel desperately sorry for other women who are trapped by their religion, who have to accept second class status and share their men. They are like caged birds. It is heartbreaking. Men are NOT superior in any way!
    Please do not believe this. The jails would not be full of them if they were.
    All I am saying is please examine what you are told is the word of God and any “saying” blatantly skewed in favour of the male is suspect and should wisely be ignored.

  8. viv replied:

    Reem, you sound very sweet, a lovely person and thank you for inviting me to e mail you. It is sad that you associate God with fear and punishment because my experience is that God is loving and compassionate.
    Blessings to you.

  9. Shaheen Khan replied:

    Viv, I started out by saying I am an atheist now.I used to be a Muslim, however, I have left Islam, and the rape laws and other unfair laws had lots to do with it.However, my attempt to explain what happens in Saudi was simply giving the devil its due.For instance even if Hitler was evil incarnate,its true he objected to cigarettes while Churchill was a chain smoker.The percentage of female graduates in Saudi Arabia is 55% ie. more than half.As for a man in an unhappy arranged marriage taking a concubine or second wife,is there an endless supply of women? As it happens due to polygamy, many men do not get wives.

  10. Shaheen Khan replied:

    The fact is there are 105 baby boys born per 100 baby girls.Saudi Arabia does not practise female foeticide( there are 105 boys for 100 girls and newborn boys die more than girls, as nature created) Again giving the devil its due, my native Iran has a birthrate lower than China(1.71 in Iran and 1.75 in China)and no skewed gender ratio. We did not have a strict one child policy either but it got so low.I am an only child and almost half of my classmates in my all girl school were.Haven’t you seen Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch etc with decades younger wives.Similarly, many very rich Sheikhs are polygamous, majority are resigned to monogamy.The reason a Muslim girl becomes an oil billionaire’s 2nd, 3rd or 4th wife is the same Anne Nicole Smith married Harold Smith.Plain gold digging, Islamic style.By the way Viv,I’ve yet to come across a loving God.Whom do you pray to( and I don’t find the Christian God loving)

  11. Shaheen Khan replied:

    Deborah, yes I have read the verse in the Bible and in context not in some anti Christian book or website.The reason I don’t like the standard excuse you gave is that,Christianity believes that Bible is the inerrant word of God. All that God wanted to say has been said in it beginning in the Old Testamment ending in the Cross.There is no appendix in the Bible saying what is for all time and what is time bound.Further, I heard and read about Christian missionairies criticize other faiths like Buddhism( calling it pessimistic) and Hinduism ( calling it polytheistic).They also criticize tiny faith groups like Prophet Zarsthrushtra of my native land inspite of the fact that Zarathrushtra gave the world the ideas of Ahriman ( prototype of Satan). When the pagan religion of Greece was brutally suppressed and replaced with Christianity, Christians called its gods demons. Since there is no appendix saying that the misogynistic verses are time bound, other undesirable aspects of other faiths maybe time bound too.Why does Christianity claim superiority over them? ( Judaism and Hinduism say that all good people are eligible to a happy afterlife)And Deborah, times did not change automatically.The Enlightment brought about science and gradually women claimed and got rights.

  12. Shaheen Khan replied:

    Deborah, unfortunately laws made a long time ago can still have an unfortunate effect. For instance, well into the 19th century, women were not allowed painkillers during childbirth as they were supposedly enduring God’s punishment to Eve.Thus, even if feminists began to argue that the rape laws are discriminatory,many staunch believers in the Bible would still support them. The feminists would have to overcome the opposition of the Bible.(again an appendix saying that the rape laws were for a particular place and time would be highly welcome, but there is no such thing in the inerrant word of God)While Biblical laws maybe beneficial to the patriarchal jews, who thank God everyday for not making them a woman or a slave, they maybe harmful to other matrilineal cultures.For intance, take the Khasi tribe in India, today largely Christian. The mother is the head of the family and rapes are almost non existent.Today, due to modernization and Christianization, they are becoming patriarchal.Thus, it is not always true that Christianity improved women,s situation everywhere.

  13. viv replied:

    Shaheen,

    I am not a practicing Christian but the words of Jesus are very beautiful as he preaches compassion and forgiveness.
    I think you are confusing the Jewish God Yahweh in The Old Testament with the loving God that Jesus came to tell us about in The New Testament. It’s true that the Jewish God does seem very vengeful and cruel.. However Jesus said ” You have been told an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but I tell you if a man smotes you on the right cheek offer him your left also” He was gentle and humble. He saw everyone as equals and in fact had women as disciples although this has been covered up by the Church.
    Despite Jesus’ words, we still live in a very patriarchal world and most religions reflect that.

  14. Shaheen Khan replied:

    I agree with Jesus Christ being a very nice person. I think Prophet Zarathrushtra, Buddha etc are nice people too. Unfortunately, both Moses and Mohammed and the kind of God preached by them are anything but benevolent.At least Jews do not proselytize and Moses did not personally rape any woman, though he allowed his followers to rape.Mohammed himself raped Juwariah and Raihana bint Amr.However Jesus’s words and deeds while providing a code of conduct did not provide a comprehensive theology. The Church history and the early church fathers’ attitudes to women left a lot to be desired.

  15. Deborah replied:

    Thank you for for your comments Shaheen Khan, I like your keen interest. I did not think anyone would respond to my comment I made months ago and I only just came back here out of curiosity.
    Firstly I would like to justify myself and who I am. I am christian and I love God.
    The Bible starts with Genesis ends with Revelations. It does not end with the cross. Jesus and the cross is told in four books, the gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. After the gospels which begins the new testament there are many books which chronicles the journey of the apostles, the growth of the Church, the challenges that the christians had to undergo and many more works of God before it ends in Revelations which tells of the second coming of Jesus.
    I am sorry if I sound like I am patronising you by the above paragraph, but whether you know it or not I just wanted to be sure that we are all speaking in the same context, to avoid confusion and further misunderstanding. So please bear with me.
    From what I read there are two main issues which you have commented about.
    1. Laws in the bible concerning the women.

    2. The egoistic way christianity seems to claim superiority over other religions.

    I know of many of the practices which you have mention above. Like the way patriachal jews would thank God for not making them into a women and such. I know that and I am sorry that some chrisitians had given the world the wrong impression of God. I find it disgusting that painkillers would be refused to women on the grounds that God is punishing Eve.

    You must be wondering why I am still saying I love my God and proudly declaring that I am a christian?
    You must think I am delusional. After all I am a female and a law student, why can’t I see that my own religion is putting down my sex and the unfairness of the laws that still exist in society which are adopted from the bible?
    I am cherished, God cherishes me, He delights in me. Yes I am a woman, a female, jewish man thank God for not making them into me. and they are wrong in thinking less of females. Because God did not make females to be lesser than men. God did not make Eve to be lesser than Adam. Eve was the last creation of God and the most beautiful, she was made to be a comparable helper to Adam. His ezer kenegdo.

    Genesis 2:18 And the Lord God said, ” It is not good that man should be alone, I will make him a helper comparable to him”.

    Mark the word comparable. I am not made to be any lesser than man. I know you are probably thinking there she goes again quoting the bible, I don’t doubt the bible. But what I want to show you, is what God’s will really is. God cherishes women, He loves them and did not intend for them to be inferior to men. The problem is that many people over the centuries had interpret the bible wrongly, portrayed God’s will in the wrong way and misunderstood what God meant. Not just in feminine issues but in many other issues, God’s word has been misinterpreted so many times. Even during the time of Jesus. If you read the four gospels, you will find that Jesus had to rebuke the pharisees many times for misinterpreting the old testament, for teaching people the wrong idea about God. Even times after the cross, Paul had to rebuke some of the old apostles for interpreting God’s word the wrong way and acting so.This pattern continues up to today. sadly. It is a trap that all christians will continually be challenge again and again. But I know that my God is a righteous God and a personal God. I know fully well what He intends for me. Christians are still people, we all for short of the glory of God, we make mistakes and very sadly when we don’t guard ourselves and when we stray from God. We misinterpret what God really intends and want, and it brings disaster.

    On the second issue however, I can’t stand in for those missionaries. I did not read the same material you did nor do I know them personal;y therefore I cannot comment on the intentions of those missionaries and preachers.
    I hate talking about christianity as a religion. It makes it sound like an option for a person. Like a person can choose christianity out of the many other religions in the world. It puts christianity on par with other religions.
    I do not mean that Christianity is superior to other religions.
    I mean that if religion was a set of doctrines which is good and believed. Than Christianity is more than that, it is on it’s own level.
    The bible as you know does not only contain teachings on how to be good and holy etc etc.
    It is about our soul, our redemption, our salvation from death.
    Being good does not free you from death. practicing good values does not save you from hell.
    I could go to church every sunday, give my money to the poor, not tell a lie, do everything religion tells me is good values, practice it till the end of my days- I would still be condemned.
    Only with the acceptance of Jesus will I be saved. does other religions tell you that?
    There is only one God in Christianity. One God in the world. And the devil tries to deceive us.
    Satan and demons exist in this world.
    God, Jesus and angels too.

  16. Shaheen Khan replied:

    @ Deborah,

    To clarify who I am, I belong to the upper middle class of Iranian society, and skepticism is more a rule than an exception amongst us.You should travel to Iran and meet the elite sections, who’re disgusted with a theocracy.And yes, this has also caused a surge in interest for religion amongst us so we’re quite familiar with the Abrahamic faiths.I know all that you wrote about.

    Coming back to the issues you wrote about yes, many of the stuff in OT is cancelled out by the NT. For instance,the Jews stoned women, but Jesus saved a woman from stoning- so I guess that is outlawed.But in other instances, when Jesus is silent for instance in cases of homosexuality, I guess the OT is the final word so the fundies in U.S.A. preach against gays. Same with the rape laws, it wasn’t cancelled out by any NT clarifications.

    And Augustine and later Church fathers often made nasty statements on women. Anyways, the same contradictory attitude to women is amply obvious in other faiths, including the Koran, where you can find quite a few positive statements on women, but quite a few nagative statements as well.

    Coming back to missionaries, I’ve read stuff online as missionaries aren’t allowed in Iran. And isn’t it unfair that good works won’t save you from Hell?You believe in Jesus, yet He hasn’t shown up to you personally, so there are many who don’t.Indeed a large % of people in Sweden, France etc are non believers. Does that mean they’re doomed to Hell? Hitler burned Jewish Anne Frank in his gas chamber for some time, for which we call him evil. Will God now burn Anne Frank in Hell forever just for not believing in Jesus? Is God that evil that He won’t personallly show up to everyone and still expect them to believe, and cruelly punish them for eternity if they don’t? More than two third of the world doesn’t accept Jesus as personal saviour, and as you said, even in that two third, there would be quite a few “cultural Christians” who go to Church and everything, but can’t believe(would faking belief in Jesus do,or would God see through it?)

    Although I don’t believe in Islam anymore, my parents mildly do and my grandmother staunchly does. She’s a very good woman,was a law professor and raised four children. She’s given almost all her savings to the poor,as her children are well off. Why should I believe in a God who condemns her to Hell, when He hasn’t even bothered to show up to her in the first place.

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Thats’ why I re

  17. Shaheen Khan replied:

    @ Deborah,

    I don’t mean to be rude or mock your beliefs, so don’t take it that way.Its just that, I’m sure you come from a family and society where most of your loved ones believe in Jesus,which I like many people on Earth don’t. My ex faith and my family’s faith accept Jesus as a Prophet, equal in stature to Moses, but less than Prophet Mohammed. You might be aware of this, that Muslims’ believe Jesus wasn’t even crucified, and God supplanted Judas for Jesus at the cross.Even if I’m a cultural Muslim turned atheist, I see many devout and practicing Muslims’around me who’re extremely good people, and who love me.(there are good and bad people in every culture).These people don’t accept Jesus as saviour, only one in a long list of Prophets.My grandmother who I wrote about, my nanny who’s been with our family since I was born, our cook and his entire family-I could go on.My grandmother is of course quite familiar with the Christian idea of Jesus as the Son of God, but she follows the Muslim idea as her ancestors did. Even if you tell the Christian concept of Jesus as God’s son, they won’t accept it.Perhaps if God or Jesus had personally shown up to them, they would change their minds, otherwise you can well understand that they’d hold fast to the faith of their ancestors’ just like your exposure to Christian beliefs came through your family. Would you suddenly change your mind and become Muslim? I’m sure not. Similarly they won’t accept Jesus as Saviour, even if you tell them they’re condemned.

    Same holds true for millions of Hindus in India or Buddhists in Thailand.As a Christian citizen of a Christian nation, I’m sure you don’t often think this way, but as a person of a Muslim nation and Muslim family, the fact that my parents’, friends’, uncles, aunts’cousins’ and grandparents’ all burning in Hell for not accepting Jesus doesn’t make Christianity very appealing to me.

    Or take me.On reading the Koran in its Farsi translation, I became atheist.There are quite a few girls in my class who don’t believe in God.They won’t accept Jesus as Son of God but only because they can’t. Otherwise I’m a good person, as are all my classmates.

    Isn’t it unfair that they’d end up in Hell? On developing my interest in religion, I’ve read up on Christianity and liked Jesus as portrayed in the Bible.I’ve read a lot on Buddhism and Iran’s Zarathrushtra too, and found some eternal values in those scriptures as well.Buddhist scriptures and the Zoroastrian Zend Avesta don’t believe non believers’ end up in Hell. But the billions in Hell acccording to Christianity is what makes me uncomfortable.

  18. Dee Dawning replied:

    Shaheen, I have been following our erstwhile discussion with interest. I too, am an atheist. Therefore, I have more in common with you, a former Muslim than Deborah and Viv who both sound like nice people, but are Christians. It is nice that Saudi Arabia graduates so many women from college. I didn’t know that. However, from what I understand job opportunities for women are notoriously poor. There are so many restrictions like not working around men etc. that working women are stuck with a few government jobs and things like working in all girls schools.

    There is a saying in America that “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.’ A corollary to that could be ‘An educated mind is an even more terrible thing to waste’ and that is what is going on in Saudi Arabia.

    As you are probably aware, Muslim orthodoxy has made woman second class citizens throughout Islamic society. In some areas women are little better then slaves. Pakistan, is the only country in the world where men outlive women on the average. That may be because in the rural area the woman do all the work yet all only allowed to eat the scraps there lazy men allow them. When a woman is raped in Pakistan, she does not report it, because experience has taught than they will be taken to jail, where they most likely will be raped again by the guards.

    I read and correct me if I’m wrong, but Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeni lowered the marriage age for females from eighteen to thirteen, but permitted girls as young as nine, even seven in some cases to be married if a physician signs a certificate agreeing to their sexual maturity.

    Don’t get me wrong I know there are bad things happening to women all over the world, but the fact remains that in the countries of Islam, the mistreatment of women is institutionalized in their own religion.

  19. Shaheen Khan replied:

    Dee Dawning,

    Thanks for following our conversation with interest.Yes you are perfectly right about career opportunities for women being limited in Saudi Arabia.Its a pity that so many women are wasting their education and intellectual abilities.But Saudi Arabia isn’t the world’s only Muslim nation.In Muslim Algeria for instance, 65% of lawyers, 60% of judges and 70% of law students’ are female.In Turkey, 30% of doctors and 33% of lawyers are women. In Tunisia, 35% of the workforce is made up of women.

    Rape required four male witnesses in Pak from 1979 to 2006, and as four male witnesses for rape are near impossible to find, raped women would end up in jail for adultery. In fact, the majority of women prisoners’ in Pak were raped women.So it wasn’t just a question of being re raped by guards,but being punished for being the victim of rape by the State’s laws.Fortunately the law’s been repealed but Orthodox Muslims’ protested its repeal.

    Even I feel that Islam more often than not debases women rather than elevates them wherever it spreads.I’m not sure if thats’ due to what you call Muslim Orthodoxy or Islam itself.Since you seem to have some knowledge of Islam, I’m sure you’ve heard of Prophet Mohammed’s first wife Khadija, who spent almost all her life in Pre Islamic times. She was one of the richest citizens of Mecca(in present day Saudi Arabia) inherited her business from her father, which proves women in pre Islamic Arabia could inherit property from their parents. She also personally proposed to Prophet Mohammed when she was a twice widowed 40 year old woman and he was 25 years old and this was perfectly acceptable to 7th century Saudis.Maybe the misogyny in certain verses of the Koran, rather than its misinterpretation is the real problem. Otherwise, how is it possible that Khomeini, whom you named, and President Zia ul Haq of Pakistan, who codified those rape laws, got it all wrong, being so geographically apart and having only the Koran in common?

    As you said, both the Koran and the Bible were compiled many years after the Prophets’ lifetimes, so that puts some doubts on their accuracy.Another doubt of their accuracy is of course whether the Prophets’ were truthful and mentally stable.The Bible’s Deuteronomy contains some horrific verses about killing unbelievers, and the Koran has similar violent stuff.The Earth isn’t 6000 years old as the Abrahamic faiths would have one believe, but billions of years old, and humans have been around for a million years. Why would God suddenly speak after a long silence of thousands’ of years,and then go silent again? And instead of appearing to Prophets’ in caves, why doesn’t He appear in the Football World Cup? I think its all man made.Again, I specifically mean man made rather than people made or man and woman made and I write this after reading the Zoroastrian Zend Avesta, the Christian Bible and the Muslim Koran. All three have frequent references to virgins, like the numerous times’ God mentions virgins in the OT, and Muslim martyrs getting 72 virgins in Heaven. Why would God care about virgins?

    I feel following any religious scripture to the letter is a definite disaster for women (and gays, whom God dislikes much more than women))However, since today its mainly the Muslim nations’ who are following their Scriptures, things are worst for women in Muslim countries.

    However, the head to toe niqab, and the Muslim rape laws, may partially be a case of misinterpretation( I strictly believe in giving the devil its due)I’ll come back to Khomeini’s comments’, the Koranic verses about veiling, and Pakistan’s rape laws later.

  20. Shaheen Khan replied:

    I’m back to post on the Islamic veil, rape laws and Khomeini.
    Islamic veil:The Koran has a few verses on modest attire. One asks believing (means believing in Islam) men and women to lower their gaze and guard their modesty.Another specifically asks women to pull their cloaks over their chest.This is the English translation, and the Farsi translation is pretty much the same(I cannot read Arabic)
    Some scholars are of the opinion that in Pre Islamic Saudi, women often went about with their chest uncovered and thats’ what the Koran prohibited.Some of Prophet Mohammed’s wives, especially his child bride Ayesha was very pretty, so his followers’ would lust for her. The Prophet(rather conveniently) got a revelation from Allah asking his wives to fully veil.Other Muslim women took on the veil from the Prophet’s wives.When Muslims’ conquered the Sassanid and Byzantine Empires(present day Iraq-Iran) they saw upper class women veiling, and so the veil became de riguer for Muslim women.

    Rape Laws:The bit about rape also came from an incident involving Ayesha. She was once accused of adultery. The Prophet refused to believe it in the absence of four male witnesses. This forms the basis of four male witnesses for rape.

    Khomeini: This guy not only lowered the marriageable age from 16 to 9 for girls and from 18 to 15 for boys, he also made it permissible to have non penetrative sex with baby girls. Although there’s no justification for sex for baby girls in the Koran(none that I know of)marriage with 9 year olds is justified by Prophet Mohammed’s marriage with Ayesha. The Prophet married her when she was 6, and consummated the marriage when she was 8 years 9 months old.Go figure.

    However, Khomeini’s theocracy wasn’t all bad for women. In the Pre Revolution era, the secular Government was trying hard to improve girls’ schooling, and opposing the veil. The urban educated classlike my family adapted very well, but the vast bulk of the country was going further into medievalism.But when Khomeini toppled the Government, the rural families were quite relieved, and began sending their daughters’ to the cty for higher education.Today, two thirds of University graduates in Iran are women, and the avarage age at first marriage for women is 24(just one year below America).The gap between men and women’s marriage ages, which used to be 7, has shrunk to two years,with the avarage age at first marriage for men being 26.

    I don’t mind what you said, I’ve come to similar conclusions about Islam myself.Not just the position of women, but the violence and worldwide terrorism in the name of Islam, the fact that in Muslim nations except Turkey, there’s no democracy-either the secular government is troubled by Muslim fundies, or a theocracy is established and liberals are trying to topple it like in Iran, or some unholy combination of both.

    I think it has quite a bit to do with Prophet Mohammed’s example. He’s rather like some of the OT Prophets’, but did a few worse stuff. People like Jesus and Buddha never uttered a word against women, had quite a few female disciples and never compelled anyone to accept their faith.

  21. Shaheen Khan replied:

    Yesterday, an imam came to my house.He’s a distant cousin of my mother and a reformist. I asked him what what Islam has to say about non Muslims going to Hell. This guy told me that Jews and Christians are also entitled to Heaven as they’re “People of the Book”. For the uninitiated, People of the Book means those that follow the revelatios of the earlier Prophets of Islam, Abraham, Moses and Jesus.However, as a Muslim( I’ve told my parents and some other people I’ve quit Islam, but not this guy)I’d have a huge advantageover Jws and Christians as I’m following the last Revelation sent by God, so obviously this revelation is the most perfect, and the best and complete guide for mankind. All these are his words. Guess if I had remained a Muslim, I could’ve developed a superiority complex about my faith, believing that my faith is the last and best advice from Almighty Allah! 😉

    When I was tought how to pray as a very young child, I was told that after praying, I should first greet the djinn on my left, the the djinn on my right. According to Islam, djinns are Heavenly creatures quite similar to Christian angels who roam the Earth.

    Somehow, I don’t believe all this, but its quite surprising that one’s religious belief is almost always something one inherits from one’s family and background.Had I been born to Jewish parents in Israel, or Christian parents in Switzerland, my ideas of god and the stories surrounding that god would’ve been vastly different. IMO, if God exists, and She has let so many religions exist on Planet Earth, with no religion having even a majority(Christianity has 33%, Islam has 21%, No religion 14%, Hinduism 13.5%, Buddhism 5% and so on), She must be wanting all these different religions to exist, as an All Knowing and All Powerful being.

    Further,as She has created so many brilliant,talented and nice people in all these faiths, who do nothing but good and honorable deeds, dividing people into different religions or no religion, and endowing them with goodness must be part of her plan!She won’t have created people like say, four times Noble Prize winner Linus Pauling, an atheist and made him lead a perfectly good and honorable life only to roast Him in Hell afterwards.And She wouldn’t have let the Jewish faith endure for millennia in the face of such strong anti Semitic persecution, if her aim was to roast Jews like Einstein in Hellfire!

    I do not consider myself a Buddhist but here are two Buddhist quotes I feel very comfortable with:

    Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.

    We should abandon the heresy of worshipping God and of praying to him. We should stops all speculation and vain talk about such matters and practice good so that good may result from our good deeds.

  22. Dee Dawning replied:

    Hi Shaheen,
    I’m glad you resurfaced. I so enjoy your take on things. I don’t have much to add at this time, but I would to say this. I believe almost all organized religion is passed on through the family. Young eager minds are willing to accept anything their parents tell them or is approved by them. (books sermons etc.)

    However, for those of us who are strong minded and free of childhood indoctrination, religion makes no sense except maybe Buddhism. Which takes me to your Buddhist quote.

    L.Ron Hubbard, the founder of Dianetics and Scientology made almost the exact same quote. By the way he himself said of all the world’s religions Buddhism is where he felt the most confortable.

    I hesitate to tell you about some of his sixty year old predictions about Islam except what he said is about what is happening today.

  23. Pat Brown replied:

    Shaheen isn’t the only one confusing the Old Testament with the new. Where do you think all those exhortations from the Fundamentalists come from? All their ‘abominations’ that they use or have used in the past to support slavery, women’s second class citizenship, the whole raft of anti-gay sentiment? You can find a ‘law’ in the Old Testament to support just about any injustice, all carefully couched as the word of God. Fundamentalists are famous for picking and choosing the ‘abominations’ they support, hence I don’t know one of them who has given up shellfish, though it’s as much an abomination as a man lying with another man.

    Religion today is used to oppress just as surely as it was used that way in the past. The only thing that changes are the victims.

  24. Shaheen Khan replied:

    Well, the Old Testament laws are made by God and Jesus is God according to the Bible, so even if His words in the New Testament are full of compassion and forgiveness, He still has to explain why he was being such an misogynist, mass murderer, homophobe etc before His conversion into the benign New Testament “Turn the other cheek” avatar. According to Christians God is Three in One, The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, they worship One God, not three distinct and separate beings unless they’re Mormons.

    And if He indeed had such a change of heart, why could he not outlaw all those old barbaric laws? According to Christians, or believers of most theistic faiths, their religious books are authored by God, while of course countries’Constitutions are man made. But even Constitutions of different nations are amended by mere humans, like when Apartheid was outlawed in South Africa, the South Africans outlawed any form of racism. Couldn’t Jesus as God say clearly that He’s now changed His mind and all those barbarisms He as God ordered or committed in the past are now permanently overruled?

    If Jesus is indeed One God, I find his past behaviour unpardonable, no better than Koran’s Allah. 😉

    I also dislike the superiority complex that both Islam and Christianity have. Both speak about their one path being the only, or at least the best possible way to save one’s soul, prevent eternal damnation, stay in Paradise forever etc, and naturally, both have to convert the Earth in order to prevent other people burning eternally in Hellfire.In the highly,highly unlikely circumstance that one is right,a wrong choice between these faiths would lead one to burn eternally, after a perfectly good life.And of course according to both these faiths, choosing to be an atheist, Zoroastrian, Bahai, Jew or Wiccan is to immediately reserve a place in Hell.
    The primary reason one will make a wrong choice is by being born into the family practicing the wrong faith, something again God decides, so He dooms some people at birth.

    Deborah in her post says that she’s a Law student, while I’ve just finished school and will soon be an engineering student. But for an accident of birth, she could have been me. And had she been me, she’d probably be saying that the Koran isn’t like other religions, its on its own level as it has the revelations of all the earlier Prophets like Abraham,Moses, Jesus plus the last time God spoke to mankind through Prophet Mohammed and gave him all the guidance that man needed to know in order to enter Heaven, so the Koran is on its own level.Followig the Koran minutely one can never go wrong so it makes the best sense to convert to Islam etc.

    And instead of God, Jesus, angels and Satan- it would have been Allah, Prophet Mohammed, djinns and Shaitan.

  25. Dee Dawning replied:

    Hello Pat,
    You are right, historically Christianity is no better than Islam. The only advantage I see is it has the ability to evolve. While Islam is a contradiction, taking advantage of modern technology, while preaching ninth century virtues.

    Also Christianity has numerous subsets with different degrees of dogma. Islam probably has this, too. But there doesn’t seem to be many subsets nor nuances in their beliefs.

    Nevertheless the fundies can be downright unchristian and intransigent. They have taken over the Rrpublican party and as far as I’m concerned ruined the country with their poster boy ‘Dubya’.

    Another thing. We’re always hearing how the founding fathers were devout Christians–a Fundamentalist myth. Well, they weren’t. The word God does not appear in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. David Mills in his book ‘Atheist Universe’ says “To the extent that the Founding Fathers had any religious affiliation at all, it was a tepid embracing of the philosophy of Deism.” He goes on to quote anti-Christian statements from Thomas Paine, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.

    “The Christian system of
    religion is an outrage
    on common sense.”
    Thomas Paine

  26. Dee Dawning replied:

    Hi Shaheen,

    Admittedly, I’m no expert on Christian dogma but I do believe the Trinity, a Catholic belief is only accepted in certain Protestant religions. And yes God has been mysteriously silent since Muhammad if he ever spoke at all. Of course he didn’t really speak to Muhammad, he used a go between. I read a funny story about the interaction with Gabriel. Maybe you know whether it’s acknowledged. God told Gabriel he waanted his subjects to pray to him fifty times a day. Muhammad agreed but Gabriel thought it was excessive so he went back to Allah and negotiated with him. This apparently went back and forth with Muhammad with Allah eventually settling on five time a day.

  27. Shaheen Khan replied:

    That funny story, and I too believe its hilarious appears in the Hadiths. Muslims refer to Gabriel as Jibreel.

    This story isn’t found in the Koran. Actually, much of what Muslims do- circumcision, praying 5 times etc aren’t found in the Koran. In itself, the Koran simply doesn’t have enough material to establish a separate faith. The Muslims rely on the hadiths for that. The hadiths are the sayings and doings of Prophet Mohammed, recorded by his followers at various times. Some hadiths are considered more accurate than the others, “accurate” if the chain of narraters are well known. The hadiths collected by Bukhari and Muslim are most accurate. This is what Muslims believe, not me.

    This story, and some other stories like this, appear in Bukhari hadiths. Oddly enough, till some time back, Muslims considered the Bukhari hadiths and the Ibn Ishaq biography of the Prophet as the most reliable guide to his life.Today quite a few incidents in these hadiths and the biography repel them, so some Muslims have started a Quran only Islam. They claim that these hadiths are made up by the Prophet’s enemies. However, without these 90% of Islamic practices would be lost.

    Regarding what you said to Pat that Christianity has evolved I too feel the same way. Infact not only Christianity, Judaism, Iran’s Zoroastrianism, Hinduism and all other faiths have evolved. For eg, in Iran even before Islam, women used to veil. The Zoroastrianism Zend Avesta doesn’t require it, but that was what was practiced in Iran when Zoroastrianism was the state religion. Today, Zoroastrian women are very advanced, and were it not for Iran’s laws, none would veil. Zoroastrians in India or anywhere else don’t veil. Likewise the ultra orthodox Haredi Jews might have as strict segregation of the sexes as Islam, but they stop short of stoning for adultery.

    However, Islam does have different subsets with differing nuances as well. Its near impossible that a faith with one billion followers and spread from Morocco to Malaysia won’t have subsets, and won’t have followers doing different things.

    Some that I know, if you’re interested:
    1) The Tuaregs, living in Northern Africa. In them, the men veil, the women don’t cover their faces at all, while among men its considered uncouth to reveal one’s face in the presence of a non related woman. Unmarried women don’t even wear a headscarf, married ones wear a headscarf to signify their marital status.
    2) The Alevis, the biggest minority in Turkey, 15-30% of Turks are Alevis.The want to translate the Satanic verses into Turkish, and consider St. Francis of Assisi and Gandhi to be better believers than most Muslims. No sex segregation, honor killings or women’s lack of education among them.
    3)The Ismailis, in India and Pakistan. Although Muslim women are prohibited according to the Koran from marrying non Muslim men, Ismailis are allowed to do so. The head of 20 million Ismailis worldwide is the Aga Khan. His daughter Zahra Aga Khan is married to a British Anglican who didn’t convert to Islam. Their wedding was held according to both Islamic and Christian rituals. Just compare this to the conspiracy theories surrounding Princess Diana’s death and her alleged intentions to marry a Muslim.
    4) Islam in Senegal and Mali.I mentioned Senegal’s President Leopold Sanghor in your blog on Spencer’s book. There’s been not a single incident of forced conversion, honor killing or terrorism in either country. Islam in Mali is 1000 years old. Interfaith marriage is common in both these African nations, and in many families, family members follow different faiths. This is better than Christianity in African Rwanda, where Christians slaughtered each other a few years back for God.
    5) The Minangkabau of Indonesia, who at 4 million strong are the world’s largest matriarchy or weak patriarchy. In Islam, a daughter is supposed to get half the inheritance of a son, while among the Minangkabau, land passes from mother to daughter, and sons get no inheritance.

    There are many more for eg in Chinese Hui Muslims, there are female imams etc, but the above are the more important tolerant subsets.Actually, not all Muslim nations are Saudi Arabia infact till the last century, not many Muslims could go on Hajj to Saudi, so quite a few Muslim nations follow\ed more tolerant and less misogynistic interpretations.

  28. Shaheen Khan replied:

    Here’s a hate crime or more correctly a terrorist act done by fundamentalist Christians. It would certainly be called an act of terrorism were it done by Muslims on a Christian church.

    On Friday, September 26, the end of a week in which thousands of copies of Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West — the fear-mongering, anti-Muslim documentary being distributed by the millions in swing states via DVDs inserted in major newspapers and through the U.S. mail — were distributed by mail in Ohio, a “chemical irritant” was sprayed through a window of the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton, where 300 people were gathered for a Ramadan prayer service. The room that the chemical was sprayed into was the room where babies and children were being kept while their mothers were engaged in prayers.

    “Did the anti-Muslim video circulating in the area have something to do with this incident, or is that just a bizarre coincidence? Who attacks women and children?

    John McCain has a moral obligation to publicly censure the Clarion Fund, the organization that produced Obsession and is distributing the DVDs; to denounce the inflammatory, anti-Muslim message of Obsession; and to do everything in his power to stop any further campaign activities by his supporters that have the potential to incite violence.

    The U.S. Republicans seem to be getting worse by the day. I still think X tianity has evolved much more than Islam, yet I cannot imagine something like this happening in the Scandinavian countries. And the American Young Earth Creationists would definitely put the bigotry of my Tehran school to shame…

  29. Connie replied:

    I am impressed how women from such different theological backgrounds are coming together to explain beliefs. Such kindness, this is the way our children and our world will be saved. The reason men keep women away from the world (locked up or mentally bondaged,hidden under veils,etc) might be because we are so strong that if we are allowed to come together we will change their disastrous world. Keep it up, ladies. With computers to bring us together, we may find peace.

  30. Shaheen Khan replied:

    Dee Dawning:”Pakistan, is the only country in the world where men outlive women on the average.”

    Shaheen Khan: Thats’another false statement. In at least two other nations- Zimbabwe and Swaziland men outlive women on the avarage. Swaziland-men’s life expectancy 39.8 years and women’s life expectancy is 39.4 years.

    In Zimbabwe, which has one of the world’s lowest life expectancies, men live on avarage to 37, women to 34 years.

    Source: CIA World Factbook.

    It may be worth noting here that in Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Somalia, women outlive men and Somalia’s avarage life expectancy is also higher than either Zimbabwe or Swaziland.

    Why are women’s life expectancies lower in Zimbabwe and Swaziland? The booming AIDS rates in these nations thanks to the Church’s ban on condoms, and thus Christian African nations suffer from far more AIDS than Muslim African nations.In Zimbabwe, women are more likely to be infected with AIDS,even if she marries very young as a virgin, if her much older husband is infected.

    The book where you read about Pakistani men outliving Pakistani women either 1)did not know or 2)deliberately did not mention about Zimbabwean women. I suspect it was the latter as Swaziland and Zimbabwe and Swaziland are Christian nations, and the author didn’t want to make Christianity look bad.

    Some authors like Robert Spencer are quite honest about their aim to vilify Islam while some others do it insidiously.

    I don;t have any special affection for Islam, and I would be very glad if Islam were to be replaced with Zoroastrianism in Iran, but I don’t believe in lies and half truths.If you wanted to learn about Judaism, Martin Luther’s “The Jews and their Lies” isn’t the best place. Likewise had you wanted to learn about Islam, Robert Spencer and those like him aren’t the best sources.

    • roy replied:

      father’s property should give equally to girl other wise litterlly you were selling your daughter

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