Monotheism’s fear of educated women

Monotheistic cultures can’t handle educated women or literate women who eventually start thinking independently and making their own decisions, living lives on their own terms.

| Updated: 22 December, 2022 11:20 am IST
Knowledgeable women have always been hated since medieval times in monotheistic cultures

The Taliban recently regressed again by banning women from universities in Afghanistan. There are heartbreaking images of women tearing up, consoling each other and standing their ground near the university gates, carrying books and trying to enter the houses of knowledge that are their birthright.

Though there has been international condemnation from the United Nations and other government leaders, surprisingly even a few Muslim intellectuals are giving voice to Afghan women. Yet, the kind of swift reprisal that should have come to a barbaric group subjugating a people with their guns and arms and tacit support from a failed state (Pakistan) that exports terrorism to both India and Afghanistan, is simply missing.

The ‘selected’ foreign minister of Pakistan’s statement that while he was “disappointed” by the Taliban’s decision, he still advocated engagement with Kabul and through the interim government can be seen as the smokescreen that moderate Muslims devise to hide their bigotry.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who recently started a war of words with India with ad hominem attacks on its elected Prime Minister, is one of those elite, moderate voices who do not care for individuals standing at the point of rifles or on the receiving end of lashes Sharia style.

It is just political correctness within diplomacy, the kind Im the DIm – the now-ousted formerly selected Prime Minister by the Pakistan Army – displayed when he kept reiterating to negotiate with the Taliban. One cannot negotiate with someone whose policy is blowing themselves up on the path to God.

Knowledgeable women have always been hated since medieval times in monotheistic cultures, some were even burned as witches at the stake. Monotheistic cultures can’t handle educated women or literate women who eventually start thinking independently and making their own decisions, living lives on their own terms.

If we study religions and cultures throughout history, anthropologically, we start seeing patterns of misogyny embedded in the Abrahamic traditions, vastly different from the polytheistic ones.

The feminine in polytheistic cultures is revered differently than the feminine in monotheistic or Abrahamic cultures and religions. Monotheistic religions do revere the figures of Mary, the mother of Jesus, or the ancient deities of the Judaic culture transitioning from ancient Babylon. Even in Islam Lady Fatima, Lady Aisha and Lady Khadija in Muslim lore are venerated but the reverence is just tokenism, purely as rhetoric.

Polytheistic cultures especially Hinduism, revered the female deities aesthetically with sculptures made of them and rituals, traditions and temples dedicated to the feminine.

It is difficult to trace whether current misogynistic trends in even Indic culture (Hinduism) have everything to do with the advent of monotheism in the form of Middle Eastern coloniality first and then the Victorian mores of British imperialism, but some conclusions can be made safely and accurately.

Reading, writing, knowledge of herbs and medicines, clan memory and general wisdom has been more revered among the Native Americans, and the Indic Civilisation. Abrahamic religions have always had the underlying misogyny behind their texts, scriptures and traditions shaming women for their biology be it the monthly cycle or musculature which is clearly weaker than the males.

The fact is that Islam goes one step ahead in reducing the woman to a second-class citizen with Sharia laws underlining how a woman’s testimony is equal to that of two men, implying she cannot be relied on. Her place and role are constantly defined by the Muslim male and freedoms are more of concessions given because of geopolitical pressures and the need to be politically correct and appear liberal.

An example can be taken from the Aligarh Muslim University and its founder, Sir Syed who believed women’s education should make them good homemakers and supporters of their husbands, not very different from Maududi’s opposition to women’s education (like the Taliban’s first and second rule in Afghanistan).

So, an educated Muslim woman is feared, and her potential is constantly monitored, checked and manipulated to suit patriarchal setups, while independent thinking is brutally crushed whether physically through honour killings or mentally by ostracism, forcing the hijab/veiling or character assassinating her with labels of slut, attention-seeker or “easy”.

The 21st century is the century of the Muslim female, the feminine resurgence crushed brutally by the scourge of monotheism, regaining her ancient place in the modern world.

This is a fact acknowledged by male dissidents within the Islamic world too, who were pioneers in a Muslim Enlightenment or Renaissance be it the Age of Translation in the 8th to 12th centuries, the 19th century Arabic Nahda and the Ottoman Tanzimat or the new millennium Arab Spring, the current Iran protests and the brave Afghan women resisting the misogynist Taliban in 2022.

They are supported by the heretics and outspoken women like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Masih Alinejad and Yasmine Mohammed who though operating from the safety of the liberal Western world are fighting against the woke feminists affected by postmodernism and cultural relativism.

There have been women pioneers – Nawal-el Sadawi from Egypt, the Moroccan Fatima Mernissi, the contemporary Elif Shafak from Turkey, Azar Nafisi from Iran and Taslima Nasreen from Bangladesh and counting. Together they are pushing back against the monotheistic scourge that caged women throughout and unsuccessfully confined them to their homes and hearths.

Arshia Malik is a Delhi-based writer, blogger and social commentator
Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author’s own

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