August 2, 2010
There are many abuses that women in the Middle East face as part of everyday life. This paper will focus what those abuses consist of, why they exist, and what types of things are being done to help women realize their full potential. However, just as has been the case in other parts of the world, the transition to equality for women can occur at a very slow pace.
Challenges of Middle Eastern Women
There are many challenges that face women in any part of the world. Women in the Middle East face an especially long list of challenges as a result of their culture and the interpretation of Islamic law. These cultural challenges are as old as the region itself. Many of these challenges create limitations that women must operate within. Could the challenges that Middle Eastern women face also limit the culture and region as a whole? What could the Middle East accomplish if half of its members were allowed to be as productive as their male counterparts? Brief History of the Region
It is necessary to look at the culture of the Middle East as a whole. There is a long and rich history that is found in the part of the world known as the Middle East. The Semitic people originated from the Arabian Peninsula. These people are responsible for the first civilizations, three major religions, and a set of cultural practices that survive today. The Semitic people’s three most important times are: the growth of Mesopotamia four thousand years ago, the increase in Christianity and Judaism two thousand years ago, and the rapid expansion of Islam fifteen hundred years ago. The last one of these is what has given rise to the religion and culture that we find synonymous with this region today (Hooker, 1996). It is believed that the pre-Islamic Middle East was a much different place for women than what will be discussed later in this paper.
The next major time period in the Middle East occurs during the rise of Islam. It is important to point out that many of the atrocities that Middle Eastern women face are not the product of Islam, but of the predominant cultural beliefs. Islam, meaning submission to God, gained strength after the birth of the prophet Mohammed in 570 AD. At the age of 40, Mohammed had his first vision and proclaimed Allah as the one god (Hooker, 1996). Today, Islam is in conflict. Many fundamentalists ask the question “If Allah is the god, then why are we defeated by the west.” Many Muslims feel that it is the straying from Islam that allows their defeat. They believe that their lack of submission to Allah dishonors him. These fundamentalists feel that they are at war with Jews and Christians. Israel occupies land that formerly belonged to Muslims and the fundamentalists believe that they are at war to reclaim it. Add in the fact that the United States has aligned with Israel and there is a hatred for the west on two accounts. (http://www.truthnet.org /islam/whatisislam.html) However, many scholars feel that these behaviors go against the beliefs of Islam as foundational Islam is an ethical religion (Hooker, 1996). Abuse of Women
Figure 1 The tools used to perform FGM source: http://jonieu.wordpress.com/2009/07/27/female-genital-cutting/
There are many abuses that females are the victim of in the Middle East. As stated earlier, these abuses are not as a result of being Islamic, but as a result of cultural beliefs that are regionalized in the same area that is synonymous with Islam. It is necessary to point out that women are the victims of similar atrocities in other parts of the world; however, there does tend to be a concentration of mainstream mistreatment of women in the Middle East. This section will focus on those abuses, first for girls, then, for women.
Middle Eastern girls operate within a very tight set of limitations created by a culture that believes that women are second class citizens. Women...