Friday, 1 of August of 2014

Archives from month » June, 2011

No sex-slaves please, we’re Muslim

This was my newspaper column in last week’s National in the UAE. It is a response to a video posted by a female politician in Kuwait where the protagonist says that men should have sex-slaves in order to protect themselves against the sins of fornication and adultery. See my thoughts below.

Muslim women rarely talk about sex in public. To do so is considered by the cultures they inhabit – not by Islam – as one of the great taboos. So what on earth possessed Salwa al Mutairi, a failed politician from Kuwait, to declare that female “sex-slaves” were a solution to meet the needs of lusty Kuwaiti husbands?

According to Al Mutairi, Kuwait is jam-packed with men whose excessive virility means they are aroused to a frenzy by the sight of female domestic help wielding a vacuum cleaner or stacking a dishwasher. Her solution to their uncontrollable libidos: buy women from war-stricken countries to be their sex-slaves. She suggests Chechnya, where female prisoners of war are in plentiful supply, and who will be grateful for being saved from starvation.

Predictably her comments have been seized upon by Islamophobes. And no wonder. She’s managed to wrap up every possible stereotype of Muslims into one mind-boggling story: men who treat women as possessions; oppressed wives; women who buy into the worldview that men are there to be satisfied at all costs and that the Arab desire for conquest is still rampant. And she’s quoted some “specialists of the faith” to make it look as though this is a religious position that all Muslims hold.

Here’s what I think of Al Mutairi’s views: bonkers.

Her opinion is about as representative of Muslim thinking as the Pope is a Muslim. That is to say, not at all. Yet because she feeds into existing prejudices, she has received wide coverage. It’s a bit Sarah Palin: all hype and no sense.

Just to be clear, Muslims don’t condone the buying and selling of women, or any human beings. We’re opposed to it. Islam doesn’t see men as ravaging sex-beasts, rather men should treat their wives with compassion and respect. Muslims are not out to conquer the world, or take prisoners of war. Instead, Islam counsels peace and harmony with its neighbours, and that Muslims should act as a refuge for those who have been afflicted by war.

Of all the craziness that props up Al-Mutairi’s strange notions, the one that really bothers me is that men are beholden to uncontrollable lust. And that’s a notion that pervades both eastern and western cultures. Let’s get rid of the idea that men are hostages to their libido once and for all.

I’m fed up with excuses rolled out for men that they are so feeble and lacking in self-discipline that they are incapable of controlling their sexual desire. But, strangely they are not incapable of being the head of a household or running a country. My view: if men can’t control what’s in their pants, then their argument that they should control society is on pretty shaky ground.

Men who have power and wealth believe that they can treat women as possessions; that “manly’ men who are overloaded with testosterone must inevitably engage in affairs. Al-Mutairi’s views fit into this same power and lust paradigm as the Dominique Strauss-Khans of this world, or the Arnold Schwarzeneggers. It’s the same wrong-headed thinking that sees women in war as legitimate targets for abuse through the wielding of power and sex, as we’ve seen in the recent allegations that Qaddafi used rape as a weapon of war.

Let’s get away from this sleazy, skin-crawling, dirty tone that sees women as sex objects. It’s a pernicious paradigm that men as well as women must challenge. And no taboo should hold us back from saying so.


An absurd proposal: what if men weren’t allowed to drive?

This is my weekly newspaper column published yesterday in The National (UAE).

With all the recent media coverage of women not being permitted to drive in a certain Middle Eastern country, I got thinking – what would it be like if men weren’t allowed to drive?

I came to one simple conclusion: we women would be much safer.

Think about the dangers of male drivers. Men have higher rates of speeding, they are involved in more accidents and cause more deaths on the road. Their high-testosterone brains ignite higher incidences of road rage. They are notorious tailgaters, failing to observe any measure of safe stopping distance. And, they can’t even be bothered to ask directions when lost. The solution is simple: bar them from driving.

If men start to whine and whinge about their “rights” being infringed, then just to stop their “waagh waagh waagh” moaning, consider this modest proposal.

Driving lanes could be segregated by gender. Or, better still, we introduce gender-segregated streets, some for men, and some for women. This way, we women would not have to look at the horror of their balding heads, especially those of middle-aged drivers in convertibles, their toupees or comb-overs flapping in the wind.

By limiting their access to certain streets, we would also be safe from their high-speed antics and reckless driving, which, due to their biological design, they are compelled to engage in. They can’t help it, poor things. Have petrol, will accelerate.

Where there are roads that men insist they need access to (although what kind of roads these could be, I just don’t know – perhaps ones with football stadiums on them?), a timetable could be devised with restricted hours for men to use them at essential times only. Of course, these hours would exclude the times that the men ought to be at home putting out the rubbish, fixing shelves or cleaning out the drains.

Segregated lanes, limited access and a timetable could be combined into a new road system based on Gender Prioritisation and Separation (GPS).

Male drivers are genetically predisposed to road rage, and if we are to permit them to drive, then we must warn them they will only have themselves to blame if they are attacked in any altercation that ensues. Not driving is for their own good, so if they choose to ignore this, they must bear the consequences.

Of course, we must ensure that these male drivers are not a source of temptation for women. And even more importantly we must take steps to prevent them from driving willy-nilly around on frivolous activities like collecting the children from school, caring for sick relatives or attending places of employment to earn wages to buy food.

In fact, now that I think about it, these tasks are entirely trivial and the men can manage them quite comfortably by hiring a female chauffeur to drive them around. If they are in the back, then they won’t be able to use their wiles to tempt the poor female driver.

When it comes down to it, I am of the view that men don’t really want to drive, but they think it’s fashionable to say that they do. I mean, why would they bother with the hassle of parking? Why get hot under the collar trying to navigate traffic?

In short, men are simply not designed to drive. We tell them and tell them that driving is not good for them, and it’s not good for society. But that’s typical of men isn’t it: they just won’t listen.