Wednesday, June 11, 2008

On Angry Arabs, virgins, and shoes

I have trouble understanding As'ad's problem with the media mentioning the fact that beating someone with your shoes is considered an insult in Islamic culture. Yes, of course, hitting someone with a shoe would be considered an insult in Western culture, too. But it would not be imbued with the same meaning. And westerners never talk about it. Yet you do hear Arabs and Muslims use it as a threat, insult, and also playfully. My own husband said, jokingly, to me the other day that if one of his friends did not stop talking about a particular subject, he would take off his shoe and beat the friend with it. He has also told me that adults in his family would use shoe beating as a threat to unruly children (perhaps this was in a joking manner as well). And I have an Egyptian friend who will sometimes say "ya gasma" to me (calling me shoes in the Egyptian dialect). So the question is why does As'ad object to the media mentioning this from time to time? Is it because he thinks it makes Islamic culture seem inferior? I do not it does. Is it because it is often remarked on by those who have very little knowledge of Islamic culture except this one aspect? Why would that be so bad? Similar to his dislike of the mentioning of shoes was his posting of the article on hymen reconstruction among European Muslim women? Was there anything factually wrong with the article? Unfortunately, hymen reconstruction is a reality. That is what should bother As'ad (and since he is a feminist, I am sure that it does), not the article. I know the "Orientalism" line of thinking via Edward Said is that all Western writing on Islamic culture is politically driven, but isn't there room for nuanced thought on this issue? Can no western anthropologist or journalist be a disinterested observer? I will add more thoughts on this later.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know you, and I just chanced upon your blog today, and all I can say is that you've echoed so many of my concerns that I'm a fan already. It's so good to read the writing of someone who thinks. Thank you.