Cast of Characters:

Enkidu (AKA Slim)
Beowolf (AKA Wolfie)
Blaze (AKA Blaze)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A new understanding of the Holy Spirit

A friend of mine just shared this anecdote with me:

She was in a high school history class that was discussing the history of Christianity. There was also a girl from Asia there, who was not familiar with many of the concepts commonly held by various groups within Christianity. Some people in the class explained to her that God sent the Holy Spirit into Mary, and Jesus was born. So the girl thought about it and says: "So, the Holy Spirit is like God's sperm?"


another wrinkle on the hijab question

Another couple of Saudi guys told me the following about why women are to cover themselves, even though men don't have to:

  • There are some things that humans should not ponder too hard. For example, in Islam, men are not supposed to wear gold. In some brands of Christianity, there is the Holy Trinity, which is also a sacred mystery, not meant to be understood.
  • A lot of the application of the women-covering rules is local tradition and not inherent to Islam per se.
  • Men are stronger at controlling their emotions than women (an example of how men and women are different; beyond physical strength and child-bearing ability).
  • Unlike women, men are unable to control their sexual urges.

I'm not one for taking things on faith. If there is a prohibition, I want some sort of answer other than "just because". Sorry, can't ask me to stop pondering.

I think that everyone is capable of controlling their sexual behavior. Period. Sure, you'll get turned on by things, but that doesn't mean that you are powerless when it comes to deciding whether to act on those urges or not.

I think that the argument that men are better able to control their emotions is an artifact of their socialization. There are men who cry because they've never been taught not to, and those who won't because they've been led to believe that it is unmanly. I don't believe that it has much to do with sex; only with gender roles.

On the other hand, the hormonal cycles are different in men than in women (or visa versa). So, maybe there is more to it that should be considered.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Kids' reading list

I would like to recommend the following socially conscious Dr. Seuss books for kids:
The Butter Battle Book

The Sneetches and Other Stories

The Lorax

They are great for getting kids to engage with social issues of the "other", both at home and abroad, foreign policy, and the environment. I'm sure that there are others, but these are the ones that I really loved when I was a kid!

Update on the hijab question

I asked my Iraqi friend what he thought about the whole women covering and men not covering thing. Here's his response:

Karen: My question: In strict traditional Islam, women are required to cover (at least) their hair. This is because of the concern that the female body will incite a sexual reaction in men. So, I ask; why is it that men don't also have to cover up? Why is it that in many countries, the women wear long robes and scarves, but the men wear western dress? Why don't men cover up to avoid awakening a sexual response in women?

Jassim: well

Jassim: let me think a little lol

Karen: ok

Jassim: it looks a good issue to talk about

Jassim: breifly, men should cover themselves too, this role is for men and women equaly, but because of the rugh nature of men (I think) so they not obay roles while force women to do it,

Jassim: actually I believe that all people women and men must be modest in their cloths to avoide these unneeded desires publicly, not to over practise it like some people does, they make women in those countries like a black bag, I don't think this is necessary , it is enough to be moderate in clothing

Jassim: Islam rised in Arabic land, not in Iran, Pakistan or india , arabic women were riding horses, speaching, telling portery and fighting in battles if necessary, they were modist as well as men,

Jassim: but not over covering even the face such as what known about arabic culture, actually alot of the history is not true about arabs, many things needs to be reknown

Jassim: I hope that I answered your question dear and I'm glad to answer

Something to think about from the Western standpoint is this: Women have to cover their chest, but men don't. Why is that exactly? A man with his shirt off can be incredibly arousing.

Friday, July 13, 2007

It's just a question...

So, I've been spending a lot of time around Arabic speakers. There is a very high concentration of Saudi Arabian students studying here, and they come to dinner with us.

I've been asking a number of them a question that has been getting some interesting responses.

My question: In strict traditional Islam, women are required to cover (at least) their hair. This is because of the concern that the female body will incite a sexual reaction in men. So, I ask; why is it that men don't also have to cover up? Why is it that in many countries, the women wear long robes and scarves, but the men wear western dress? Why don't men cover up to avoid awakening a sexual response in women? (A couple of these Saudi guys are REALLY cute!)

The first Saudi man I asked told me that when he is in Saudi Arabia, he wears the full Thobe with head covering. He said that the Prophet covered himself more than the women did. He said that he personally only wears western dress here so that he will blend in and not get attacked as an Arab. He also explained that in his country, if a woman is raped, the men in her family will kill the offender without involving the police, so there is a certain responsibility on the part of the woman to do what she can to keep that from happening.

The second guy looked awfully uncomfortable and evaded the question. I found out later that he hates talking about religion. I probably shouldn't have asked him and might have gone about it differently if I'd known. (I'd been working under the assumption that the Saudi students were all about sharing Islam, since that's what a friend who spends a lot of time with them had told me. Apparently, this particular one wasn't one of them, unlike the first guy I'd asked.)

The third guy also seemed a bit uncomfortable, but explained that it had more to do with physical ability to rape. He said that since women are the ones who are vulnerable, they are the ones who need to be protected by the hijab.

The fourth guy also didn't know what to respond, but promised to ask a friend of his, who is more knowledgeable in such things and get back to me. I asked him a bit later if I had offended him, and he assured me that I could ask him anything I wanted and that if he didn't have an answer, he would find out. I made a point of telling him that he didn't have to answer my questions if he didn't want to. I haven't seen him since, but it's only been a day or so.

Every time I ask this question of someone, my friend (who was present for conversations 2, 3 and 4; and is Muslim to some degree, though even he is unsure at this point...really long story) berates me for asking this question. He asks me why I am not just satisfied with what the third guy said. Tonight, he asked me not to ask this question anymore in his presence.

It was this friend who told me that the Saudi students were interested in convincing people of Islam. I'd say that this is definitely true of the first guy I asked, not true of the second, perhaps true of the third and of the fourth. This same friend told me that the third and fourth guys are both very religious and that the fourth guy talks about Islam a lot. So, my thought is, that if (the rhetorical) you are going to want to convince me of your beliefs, then I want to know how this apparent double-standard is resolved. If you are going to ask me to believe, then I need to know what I am supposed to believe and why.

Also, I've asked more than one guy, because there is more than one version of Islam. Some schools of thought don't require any particular garments. Others require them to more or lesser degrees. I wanted to know what the belief is. From my experience, asking four Christians about what it takes to get to heaven will all potentially elicit very different responses, so I figured that it's probably the same with Muslims. I should note that the first guy I asked is very openly anti-Shia, so I suspect that this is indicative of such schisms.

I think that I should ask my Iraqi friend. Maybe he will answer. Actually...I might have already asked him once and I don't think that he had a clear answer, but I can always ask again in light of these conversations.