women of the wall 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Religiously inspired misogyny seems to be running amok. Last week Gaza’s Hamas
government issued an order banning women from smoking water pipes (shisha in
Arabic, nargila in Hebrew) in public places. “It is inappropriate for a woman to
sit crosslegged and smoke in public,” Ehab Ghissin, spokesman for the Interior
Ministry, announced. “It harms the image of our people.”
motivated by a strange combination of prurience and religious fervor, Hamas has
singled out women for censure since its 2007 takeover of Gaza. In addition to
the fairly straightforward female dress code in courthouses, schools and
universities that demands the hijab and full-length dresses, Hamas has also
issued surprisingly idiosyncratic decrees. These reportedly include a ban
against women riding on motorcycles with their husbands, getting their hair cut
by a male hairdresser, and walking on the beach without a male chaperon who is a
family member. It is unclear why of all possible female “transgressions,” these
have been singled out. Perhaps they are the personal favorites of the Hamas
functionaries who decide such things.
Meanwhile, Iran’s deadly hatred for
women hardly needs qualification. The story of Sakineh Mohammadi
poor, 43-year-old mother of two who’s been jailed since 2005 for alleged
adultery – and initially facing death by stoning – is just the most
recent in a
litany of religious violence directed against the fairer sex by the
Republic. According to Iran’s Muslim-inspired penal law, which already
Ashtiani with 99 lashes, the rocks used in her stoning must be big
inflict pain but not large enough to kill her, at least not immediately.
outrage has so far managed to delay Ashtiani’s stoning. But it is
how much longer.
Nor is Islam the only religion with clear misogynistic
tendencies. Just last week the Vatican issued long-awaited revisions to
internal laws aimed at facilitating discipline of sex-abuser priests.
Catholic Church also used the opportunity to lash out at women.
oblivious to simple moral distinctions, the Vatican equated the sexual
molestation of children with the ordaining of women as priests. Both
were deemed graviora delicta
(grave offenses), a category reserved for heresy,
apostasy and schism. A clergyman who ordains a member of the opposite
just as worthy of defrocking as a priest who rejects the Trinity or who
One can, perhaps, understand the male-controlled Church’s
concern over the threat presented by women, especially in light of a
by The New York Times
showing that 59 percent of US Catholics support
the ordination of women while 33% oppose it. But to distort simple moral
reasoning in order to defend male hegemony is incomprehensible.
if the church is concerned that introducing women to the clergy could
celibacy, how could consensual sex between two adults possibly be
JUDAISM, TOO, is not immune. Recent examples of misogyny here
include the obsessive segregation of women on buses. In Beit Shemesh and
She’arim, supermarkets and the post office have separate hours or queues
and women. Sometimes this segregation is brutally enforced and the
dress of women is blamed for various societal ills.
At the Kotel, women
who attempt to pray or carry a Torah scroll are regularly attacked
verbally or physically. The May 2003 High Court ruling that forbids
read from the Torah or to lead prayer groups at the Kotel is based on a
the victim” reasoning that such activity is liable to incite (male)
Therefore, due to the inability of police to ensure their
safety, women should be prevented from engaging in such activity.
French parliament’s vote last week to ban full-length veils in public
places is a
commendable move to curb misogynistic religious extremism that clashes
liberal sensibilities. When possible, a “responsible adult” in the form
secular, level-headed legislators needs to step in and stop the
is especially true when moderate religious elements that undoubtedly
Islam, Catholicism and Judaism are either unwilling or unable to stem
Sadly, women in Gaza and Iran will continue to suffer for
the foreseeable future. And there are no signs of change in the Catholic
But perhaps Israel can learn something from the French and protect the
women to pray at the Kotel.