Archive for the ‘Islam’ Category

D.C. Event: Islam and Reproductive Health Care in Morocco

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Islam and Reproductive Health Care in Morocco

Who: Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists

Where: Charles Sumner School, corner of 17th St and M St NW, Washington, DC

When: February 4 | 7:00pm

Description: 
News articles in the post-9/11 moment have referenced the fact that Muslim populations are growing outside of the Middle East and North Africa. According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, the Muslim population in the United States is expected to double by 2030. After the tragic events of September 11th, the migration and reproduction of Muslims raises concern about the potential for terrorist acts by fundamentalist groups who have settled in places like the United States, Canada, or Europe. It is reasonable to suggest that Muslim fertility has become a political matter in the United States and a topic of popular and scholarly importance. Islamic doctrine has frequently been interpreted (or seen as being interpreted) as prohibiting family planning, but there is no set interpretation of the Qur’an and sacred texts. The interpretation is open depending upon the person (or group) reading or teaching the doctrine and where this is taking place. Muslims’ reproduction and more importantly their bodies have become the subjects of political and popular scrutiny in part to prevent the international threat of violence by future generations.

In this presentation will explore the ways in which Islam has been interpreted as encouraging the use of family planning and reproductive health care, and along the way, it will complicate our understandings of neoliberalism. In it, I will present data that I collected through extended ethnographic fieldwork in Morocco in order to analyze the relationship between reproductive health, development policy, and popular Islamic beliefs. Responsibility and self-governance are two traits often associated with neoliberal citizenship in scholarly and popular discourses and are clearly the goals of the National Initiative for Human Developmentundefineda program launched in Morocco in 2005 that makes social development and improving citizens’ lives top political priorities. The program is based upon the premise that if the government provides the proper tools and knowledge, it is the citizens’ responsibility to use them to reach their full potentials. Through an analysis of childbearing and childrearing practices of urban Moroccan women living in and near the capital of Rabat, I demonstrate that these women are active in their own governance and accountable for their reproductive behaviors, and in addition, they take advantage of the reproductive health services offered in Morocco, but they did not do this at the behest of the government’s policy, they did so because of their understandings of what Islam says about fertility and motherhood. I suggest that their engagement with religious discourses and teachings illustrates that modern contraception and reproductive health care are pious in nature because they allow women to put their Islamic beliefs of proper womanhood and motherhood into practices, especially being able to provide a quality life for themselves and their children.

 
Speaker bio: 
Cortney Hughes Rinker earned her Ph.D. in Sociocultural Anthropology from the University of California, Irvine in 2010. She is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology & Anthropology at George Mason University and is the director of graduate studies in Anthropology. She conducted long-term research (2005-2009) on reproductive health care among working-class women in Rabat, Morocco. She focused on the ways the country’s new development policies impact how childbearing and childrearing practices are promoted to women and how women incorporate these practices into their ideas of citizenship. Before joining George Mason, Cortney was a postdoctoral fellow at the Arlington Innovation Center for Health Research at Virginia Tech where she worked in conjunction with a healthcare organization in southwest Virginia developing projects to improve the quality of end-of-life care and psychiatric services in rural Appalachia. She is currently engaged in a new study on the role of Islam in end-of-life care within the context of the US health care system and is looking at the ways that Islamic medical ethics and popular Islamic beliefs intersect with health policy and discourses in the United States and recommendations for care at the end-of-life. Ethnographic research for her new project has led her to develop a second smaller study on the use of religious apps for the iPhone and other devices to help people develop and/or live out their faith. She is the author of Islam, Development, and Urban Women’s Reproductive Practices (Routledge, 2013) and has published in Medical Anthropology Quarterly, the Arab Studies Journal, Journal of Telemedicine and e-Health, and Military Medicine. A chapter of hers appears in Anthropology of the Middle East and North Africa: Into the New Millennium (Indiana University Press, 2013) and she has been a guest on WVTF Roanoke to discuss end-of-life care.

Debunking myths about women and Islam

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

In an opinion piece in Truthout, Lauren Rankin, a graduate student at Rutgers University, denies the assertions that rape and harassment of women in Egypt are because of Islam: “Let’s make something clear: the sexual harassment and rape of women in Egypt (as it is anywhere) is horrendous and unacceptable. Clearly, something is at play here, if that many women report being sexually harassed. I just don’t think that “something” is Islam. If it was, sexual harassment and rape would be limited to Muslim countries and communities. But as we well know, that is simply not true.” Rankin is a feminist activist, a freelance writer, and a graduate student in Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers.

The more we sweat in peace the less we bleed in war

Monday, February 4th, 2013

By Milad Pournik

The title of this post is a quote from Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Indian political leader and diplomat, related to the theme of striving for a comprehensive peace impossible without gender equality. This theme was the main message at a discussion hosted by the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) on January 30th, which explored the role of women in the Yemeni transition. Amat Alsoswa, Yemen’s first Minister for Human Rights, presented an overview of the role of women to date, focusing her talk on the importance of following the women’s right agenda in 2013. Below is a summary of her talk.

Photo courtesy of Sudarsan Raghavan/Washington Post. Taiz, Yemen

Photo courtesy of Sudarsan Raghavan/Washington Post. Taiz, Yemen

The women and youth of Yemen played a crucial role in the relatively peaceful February 2011 revolution. Women in Yemen have traditionally been amongst the least publicly active populations across the world. Thus, it came as a shock to the society when women came out on the streets in sizeable numbers. Yet this only lasted for two months; many women reverted back to their homes after a speech made by ex-President Saleh in April 2011 saying that mixing between men and women during the revolution was haraam, [a sin]. Despite initial backlash to his words, the revolutionaries were certainly affected and started a process of gender segregation. Nevertheless, the important role of women has not subsided. For example, negotiators proposed that women should be represented at a ‘suitable’ level throughout the transition process but women resisted this and managed to get a 30% quota for representation throughout the transitional period.

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Wanted Women: Book review

Friday, January 13th, 2012

The Economist provides a review of a new double biography of two women whose lives were transformed by militant Islam: “Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Aafia Siddiqui are forceful, intelligent women who were born around 40 years ago in the heart of the conservative Islamic world, into families of some prominence. Later, they moved to America. Like tens of millions of others who made similar journeys, they had to negotiate the interface between an immigrant sub-culture that harked back to the homeland and a liberal society where very different options existed. Presented with two sharply contrasting value systems, two diametrically opposed ideas about the meaning of virtue, success and fulfilment, they had to make their choices.”

The book is:
Wanted Women: Faith, Lies, and the War on Terror: The Lives of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Aafia Siddiqui. By Deborah Scroggins. To be published in Britain in February by HarperCollins.

Women in the Arab Gulf states: Pioneers for equality?

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

The April 2011 issue of Human Resource Development International contains four articles devoted to women, empowerment and human resource development in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Beverly Dawn Metcalfe, senior lecturer in the Center for Organizations and Development at the University of Manchester, wrote the guest editorial piece and one of the articles.

Source: Change.org

Video still: Saudi woman driving in defiance of a ban. Source: Change.org, via New York Times blog Motherlode.

In her editorial, she states that her aim is to “promote transformative scholarship that addresses the centrality of women, work, empowerment and development in Arab Gulf states.”

She points out that Human Resource Development (HRD) has overlooked gender concerns. She notes that the articles in the issue of HRDI on women in the Gulf region describe the challenges the women there face, highlight positive gains made and critique outsiders’ assumptions.

Intersecting themes shaping women’s identity are globalization, women’s movements, Islamic feminism, institutional development and governance.

In her article, “Women, Empowerment and Development in Arab Gulf States: A Critical Appraisal of Governance, Culture and National Human Resource Development (HRD) Frameworks,” Metcalfe makes a case for inserting gender into the discipline of HRD. She considers national HRD planning in the context first of several Gulf states and provides gender statistics on them in comparison to the U.K. and the U.S.: women holding seats in parliament, women in minister positions, labor force participation and more. Women in the Gulf states are severely disadvantaged in all these measures.

Moreover, surveys reveal that both men and women see the man as the family provider and protector of the wife. The author then compares Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. None of these countries has a dedicated women’s ministry. But beyond this shared feature, variations across the three countries appear in women’s organizations and possibilities for women’s leadership training. Metcalfe points out that a key area will be finding ways for women to balance family and work responsibilities.
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The wish to show less

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

I apologize for coming back to the issue of dress, especially as related to Muslim women. But the challenge posed is too important to resist, especially after a week in which a prominent U.S. politician tweeted messages with pictures of himself wearing less.

My inspiration comes from a news article about an American Muslim woman weight lifter who prefers to lift weights while wearing a head scarf.

lifting weights

Flickr/Ahmad.

Why is it wrong to wear more? Well, in this case, the “more” is a head covering. It, however, signals adherence to a particular religious faith (Islam) which is under suspicion in the U.S. It also signals female modesty. Depending on which micro-culture you belong to in the U.S., female modesty is variously defined and expressed through clothing and behavior.

The contemporary Western “modern” code is for girls/young women to show more of their bodies. That’s supposed to be a sign of their freedom. I can relate to that, because I can still remember being a teenager in a small town in central New York, with a conservative Christian father, and not being allowed to wear skirts that were shorter than my knees to high school. What did I do? As soon as I got to school, I rolled up the waistband and felt so free.

As I recall, some of the high school guys appreciated my freedom, too.

Now, decades later, we have the SlutWalk campaign. I support them, wholeheartedly. Shouldn’t anybody, no matter what they are wearing or not wearing, be safe at home or in public?

Everyone, worldwide, needs to work to create zones where covered and uncovered women’s rights are protected and where women are valued as people and are safe, whether covered or uncovered.

My thanks to Kulsoom Abdullah, the Muslim woman weight-lifter of Atlanta, Ga., for challenging the categories of public performance, dress and human value for women everywhere.

Making waves: Islam, women and swimming

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

A reader made an interesting point on our Facebook page about what a Muslim woman lifeguard would do if she had to rescue a male victim.

Could she touch him? Could she resuscitate him? Could she give him the “kiss of life?” What would Mohammed say?

Malaysian pool

Credit: Flickr/Ben Beiske.

I know my limits. I cannot answer these questions. I hope knowledgeable readers will comment.

In the meantime, I did a quick Google search with the keywords “Islam Women Swimming.” Really interesting! One of the first things to pop was an article about….my university! Who knew? How did I miss all this?

In 2010, George Washington University declared one hour per day at its health center pool as “Sisters Splash.” No men allowed.

This policy was widely covered in the media — from GW’s student newspaper The Hatchet to the Huffington Post and USA Today (via Inside Higher Education). Fox news called it a “Sharia pool.”

Beyond all the political flap, the puzzle is this: does gender-segregated access to an otherwise denied resource for women actually promote gender integration (if not with men, in public, but with the “larger society” and its resources)?

Similarly, in 2008, a policy of women-only access for two hours a day to a public swimming pool in France made a splash in the media. The local mayor said it was a means of cultural integration. Others said it defies the heartfelt French value of equality.

What do you think?

Let’s dump both bikinis and burqas

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

At the 10th India Today Conclave in New Delhi, British feminist Germaine Greer and Pakistani activist Fatima Bhutto asked if the bikini and the burqa can co-exist. Interesting question.

A burqini clad woman in Australia.

A burqini clad woman in Australia. Credit: Flickr/Omar Sasha.

Greer sees the purported “freedom” for women to wear a bikini as actually extremely controlling.

She says that it forces women to maintain a childlike figure below the waist with purchased/enhanced breasts on top.

So what looks like liberation is in fact a cage constructed of dental floss (this blogger’s words).

Bhutto is concerned that the increasing adoption of the burqa by Muslim women may lead to further gender segregation.

She also argues that outsiders’ focus on women’s veiling in Muslim populations diverts attention from more important issues such as women’s voting rights.

Can the bikini and the burqa be friends?

This blogger says: as examples of extremely controlling female clothing, both should be consigned to the dustbin.