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Child sucking at her mothers breast Woman with a sick child at a clinic. A daughter of King Mohammed Zahir Shah watching Older women at literacy class. Man with his two wives and 18 children.
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Women prisoners clean woollen mattress stuffings Nomad wedding in the Hindu Kush. Veiled woman. A bride awaits her husband whom she has never seen A man and one of his four wives. Two women shopping. A woman in a market. United Arab Emirates. A vegetable seller.
Time Behind the Veil: The Media, the Middle Ages, and Orientalism Now
Four veiled women inside the wall of their harem Fisherman bring in the catch for the woman who is their Wife of an Abu Dhabi Sheik. Veiled woman and child. Bedouin girls dance at a wedding Vegetable souk. Wedding preparations. Blessing of Sweet vendors Wedding guests. Or, at least, so it seems in France today.
Male-Female Dynamics in a Muslim Society
The French government has decreed that any girl from an Islamic background who covers her head with a scarf must be barred from school. This is a government whose interior minister, Pasqua, is notorious for playing the race card, sending thousands of police to set up roadblocks around the Parisian quarters where North African immigrants live.
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The attitude is wrong because it simply does not understand the role played by religion in general and Islam in particular. But all of them survived by turning themselves into institutions that depended on the support of the rich as well as the poor. Islam arose in 7th century Arabia in the midst of a great social crisis.
The prophet Mohammed seemed to show how society could be regulated in a way to overcome crisis. He tried to reconcile the rich and the poor by urging charity instead of oppression on the one and obedience on the other. Such a message was full of ambiguities. The oppressors who embraced the religion, financing its mosques and its preachers, could interpret it as justifying their rule. Yet those they oppressed could see in the Koran a programme for armed liberation.
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The ambiguity extends to the role of women, since Islam arose in a world in which women were oppressed and tried to mitigate that oppression without abolishing it. Supporters of Islam can still boast that their religious law gave women greater rights in Koranic and medieval times than Christianity. But modesty meant the veil in the societies which Islam conquered in which Christian paintings normally portray the Virgin Mary wearing a full headscarf.
And so many Islamic societies came to regard women exposing their hair, shoulders and upper arms or, for that matter men their chests in public much as western societies regard exposure of the breasts. There has been a spread of Islamic revivalism in the modern world because of the horrific conditions in which vast numbers of people live.