From OWL journal 43
All religions are patriarchal and misogynist. They all regard women as inferior beings and the subjects or slaves of men. Women’s main role is to provide services for men and raise their children. There are of course differences between religions, but not in the sense that one is egalitarian and the other is not; one misogynist and the other for gender equality. The differences are only in how one religion might be stricter in one aspect of social or sexual life than the other.
All religions promote violence
In all the “holy” books violence is prescribed against non-believes, infidels and disobedient. This includes the ones who believe in another God. Torture and murder are regarded as fair punishments for such actions . Violence is used as a main tool to generate obedience. The history is permeated by stories of murder and torture by “men of God” against the heretics, and those who dare to question the almighty power of God and the religious establishment. Women are victims of violence by religious establishments, the religious state, their masters, the men who own them. Throughout the history, more human beings have been killed under the name of God and the banner of religion than any other cause.
Rape as reward and punishment
Rape is a “holy” method both to reward pious men and to punish disobedient women. All religions reward their soldiers by encouraging them to rape the women of the enemy. Women are considered booty, raping them is not only justified but also encouraged.
Islam promises its dedicated soldiers, those who fight in its defence and for its expansion, to be rewarded by tens of virgin beauties in Heaven. What do you call this? Rape or prostitution? Raping the women of the enemy, raping 9 year old girls under the name of marriage, or raping an infidel, a non-believer virgin before she is executed, these are the different forms of rape justified and encouraged by Islam. Calling for rape or justifying rape by different religions, including Islam, exposes the misogynist nature of religion. According to religion, women are the property of men, slaves of men, booty for men.
Women are evil
Women are regarded as the source of evil and sin and therefore they have to be controlled and kept on a leash. This control is necessary if men are to be saved from sin. Islam is a good example of this. To safeguard men from temptation and sin, Islam orders women to be covered from head to toe. The veil in Islam is the epitome of women’s slavery and gender apartheid in a society under the grip of Islam.
The veil is the tool and symbol of women’s subjugation in Islam. Particularly in our time, after the coming to power of an Islamic regime in Iran, the growth and expansion of the Islamist movement, i.e. political Islam, the veil has found significance, it has become the banner of Islamic power and movement.* The non-submissive woman is punished severely and brutally: burning the witches and stoning women to death are two acts of punishments prescribed by religion for disobedient women.
Very briefly, I like to comment on the concept of cultural relativism. It is commonly believed that cultural relativism has been introduced to diminish racism and discrimination. The media, academia and part of the political establishment defend and justify applying cultural relativism as such a measure. Cultural relativism is a product of post-modernist thought and world view.
This definition or justification of cultural relativism is totally false. Cultural relativism is in reality a reactionary and racist concept. Defining and creating 2 sets of laws and moral values in a society for different sections of the population on a notion as arbitrary as culture is nothing but racism. Why should a woman who by chance is born in France, Sweden or Canada have more rights and enjoy more freedom than me who by chance is born in Iran or my daughter who has biological connection to that culture? This is nonsense.
I have used this example a lot, because I believe it exposes the hypocrisy and falsity of cultural relativism. It is said or was commonly believed that Iran is an Islamic society and that Islam, the veil and all the rest of it is the culture of the people in Iran. (Of course this commonly held belief has been greatly challenged in the mass movement of 2009, where the mass protests of people have been viewed on TV screens around the world.)
I used to ask these people, do you think that people in Iran are bunch of masochists who like to practice their culture by torture, being whipped and stoned? Isn’t culture a voluntary set of norms and customs? If it needs to be forced, then it means it needs to be abolished.
To wrap it up.
Religion is part and parcel of the patriarchal, misogynist dominant ideology in our world. It promotes, legitimizes and justifies inequality, injustice, gender discrimination and violence. Those who want to get rid of all these injustices in society, those who would like to build a more egalitarian, freer and more just society, must seek to build a secular society. Secularism, that is, the separation of religion from state, legislation, education and citizen’s identities is a necessary political condition to realize these goals. I like to finish my talk with a message of hope. People in Iran are showing the way. The women’s liberation movement in Iran is showing the way by being in the forefront of a brave war against a religious state and for bringing about a secular, egalitarian and free society. Once people of Iran overthrow the Islamic regime, it will not only open up the doors to a whole new world, to a freer and less discriminatory society, where gender discriminations are curtailed, but it will also open up a window to a more free, less misogynist and more secular world in the whole region under the grip of Islam. It would marginalize the Islamic movement and terrorism. It will do to Islam what the French revolution did to the church and Christianity.
The freedom-loving people of the world must support the movement of the people of Iran and the women’s liberation movement there. However, we must warn that we should not fall into the trap of economic sanction or military attacks that are on the news these days. Just think about Iraq. Just remember how a society was torn apart and turned into a killing field.
(on the issue of the veil I like to just make two statements, lack of time does not allow me to dwell on them and elaborate. I believe that the civilized society we have today must ban the veil for underage girls as it is a clear abuse of their rights and deprives them of a happy, normal childhood and reinforces a system of gender apartheid which is an inequality between girls and boys.
2- I believe that the burke and niqhab should be banned in public, for different reasons, the safeguarding of society at a large and for restricting the excessive modes of women’s degradation.)
This is the text of Azar Majedi’s speech at Humanist conference in Stockholm May 2010