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Davini994
617892.  Fri Sep 25, 2009 5:14 pm Reply with quote

CB27 wrote:
I honestly think the greatest obstacles for Islam in the world today are not from external forces like the West, or Israel, etc, but the corrupted so-called "traditional" view which is taking it over from within.

Are they not elements of the same problem though?

 
CB27
617900.  Fri Sep 25, 2009 5:35 pm Reply with quote

I'm not sure I follow.

 
exnihilo
618026.  Fri Sep 25, 2009 11:20 pm Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
exnihilo - so your contention is that women in a harem were more free historically than Saudi women are now? That they could come and go as they liked, and interact with whom they liked?


Yes. Although, to an extent we're comparing apples and oranges with that. Women in Saudi now have few rights and freedoms, this we know - and by our standards women in ancient Persia or mediaeval Arabia would have had few rights either, same the world over, so all we can look at with any meaning is how their rights would have compared with those of women in other societies, and their own, of the time.

Women in, for example, the harem of the Topkapi Palace (seat of the Ottoman Sultan) did, however, have status and liberty, guarded of course, but not actively prevented from going about their business which was, admittedly, confined to "women's things" but, again, not as a matter of law but simply by custom that in that day and age women did not seek to lead armies or govern nations. For the gynaeceum, which was essentially the same beast, the situation was even more liberal, and Byzantium had no major issue with a female Emperor (although she did still live in the women's quarters of the Great Palace), similarly for the Persian saray.

Now, all of those examples are for royal establishments, which we can expect to be very different to the lot of the average peasant woman who would have enjoyed few - if any - rights. For the houses of the rich and the powerful the situation was not wholly dissimilar. A man who had a harem in his house was obliged to maintain it in certain ways. The harem was for some women both a prison and an escape, a double edged sword in that it granted privileges, freedoms and protections not enjoyed by the majority of women, but it carried with it duties and responsibilities.

So, yes, they would have been free to interact with other people, but they would not have been free to do so unaccompanied, whether by other women or eunuchs. They would, however, have been free to enjoy the society of other people, especially their families (which they might not in an ordinary household), they would have had money to spend (they were often patrons of the arts), they would have had educational opportunities denied to most people, and they may have had influence over matters of business or state - through their husbands. Not the ideal life, perhaps, but better than any available alternative and, by the standards of the time, one that women with ambition would have eagerly pursued.

CB27 wrote:
I'm not sure I follow.


Presumably, that the "return" to "traditional" values is a reaction to the external pressure from the West.



(And apologies for "tosh" before, it had been one of those days.)

 
suze
618081.  Sat Sep 26, 2009 4:55 am Reply with quote

So we've established that the harem did not do what a lot of us probably thought it did.

But in that case, what happened when the Big Man did in fact desire a new nubile to share his bed? He couldn't go into the harem, so was there somewhere else where the young ladies paraded themselves for his approval? Or was there a rota, and the girl sent up to him was selected simply because it was her turn?

 
exnihilo
618097.  Sat Sep 26, 2009 5:59 am Reply with quote

Well, the husband could go into the harem. But when a new girl was desired she would be found and moved into the harem, being summoned from there as needed and, eventually, having her lying-in in there.

 
Arcane
618106.  Sat Sep 26, 2009 6:25 am Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
exnihilo wrote:
It was not, in conception, a form of oppression for women - shutting them away - but rather a form of respect, granting to them their own things .


It's amazing how many centuries men managed to get away with that line.

Put it in a South African context and substitute white and black for men and women and it becomes a little clearer.


I have to agree with Jenny. It's certainly the slant that the males liked to tote; strange how there seem to be very few accounts from the women themselves if they were so "free".

 
exnihilo
618108.  Sat Sep 26, 2009 6:32 am Reply with quote

I'll say it one more time: context.

But feel free to ignore it, let's just continue to judge other times and places by our modern, western standards, that should give us a good, solid understanding of them.

Also, considering general levels of literacy, there's not that much of a dearth of contemporary sources with female authors, but why let facts cloud things either?

 
Arcane
618470.  Sun Sep 27, 2009 2:33 am Reply with quote

Most women writers were scorned until comparatively recent times. Not to mention the lack of writers being due to them not being allowed to be educated in the first place. Also, if women were so "free", regardless of illteracy, why no second hand accounts even?

 
Davini994
618483.  Sun Sep 27, 2009 4:44 am Reply with quote

Surely it's not just women though: everyone had a well set place in the sort of society under discussion.

If members of the gynaeceum weren't granted our modern Western idea of freedom, but held respect and reasonable working conditions, that sounds like a pretty good deal to me. Only a handful of people were born with much Western style freedom, most being committed before birth to a particular crap life, or given very little chance at all.

Yes/no?

 
CB27
618569.  Sun Sep 27, 2009 10:48 am Reply with quote

Hang on a moment, can we say that women were given freedom of education and freedom of free expression so long ago even in the civilized West?

Until just over a century ago it was not unknown for a man to commit his wife (and sometimes children) to an insane asylum for reasons of disobedience so that he could divorce her and marry a younger woman. Unmarried mothers were also put into insane asylums until just a generation or two ago.

Just like most people take their freedoms and their rights for health, minimum wage, votes, etc, without thinking how many people fought and died for those rights just a few decades ago, it's easy for many women to forget how much they've also gained in the last century or so and that the so-called "traditional" views of some people of how women should be treated was not confined to the Muslim world, but was also rife in the Western world as well.

 
CB27
618570.  Sun Sep 27, 2009 10:49 am Reply with quote

I mentioned recently on another thread a book called "Women's Roles and Statuses the World Over" by Stephanie Hepburn and Rita J. Simon, having looked through this recently, and I think it's a very interesting and enlightening book.

*Edit: There's a great deal of preview on google books:

Link

 
Arcane
618785.  Mon Sep 28, 2009 5:01 am Reply with quote

As an aside: Australia has not yet had a female prime minister, nor the US a female president. New Zealand granted the vote for women in 1893 and has had a female PM (Helen Clark), women of South Australia in 1894 and the rest of Australia by 1908, the US in 1920, and not until 1928 in the UK did women receive equal voting rights as men.

And it is not easy for women to forget the struggles that many early pioneers who fought for equality went through, because it's part of our history. Trust me, we're aware of it alright. Remember also, until fairly recently in some occupations, women were expected to leave if they became married, such as nursing and teaching.

I think the bone of contention is that it's implied that whilst there is a certain view of the harem that isn't correct, some men seem to be offering the viewpoint now that the women there really were quite emancipated, and could do almost what they pleased. History unfortunately makes a lie of that.

 
Peregrine Arkwright
618821.  Mon Sep 28, 2009 5:26 am Reply with quote

CB27 wrote:
From my personal experiences which are only a quarter of a century ago, I can definitely tell you that attitudes of Arab and Muslim people have changed tremendously - it's actually quite frightening how much in such a short span of time.

I honestly think the greatest obstacles for Islam in the world today are not from external forces like the West, or Israel, etc, but the corrupted so-called "traditional" view which is taking it over from within.


I blame oil. Specifically I blame the wealthy dominance of Saudi Arabia in the Muslim world, and I then blame the over-weening influence of Wahabi "wisdom" in Saudi Arabia.

I think one either needs to live in Saudi, or speak and read Arabic, to understand just how specific and pervasive these corrupt influences are. From a distance it seems comparable to the Church of England, or the Vatican, being taken over by the Nazis or the BNP.

Let's never forget that in its heyday the Islamic world was the centre of world culture, wisdom and intellect. Islam invented universities, it laid the foundation of much of modern western science and mathematics (helped by the Indians) it rescued Greek philosophy when 'the West' could not have been less interested, while Cordoba in 'Andalus' was, in its day, the most brilliant city in Europe.

Peregrine Arkwright

 
exnihilo
618825.  Mon Sep 28, 2009 5:31 am Reply with quote

reddygirl wrote:

I think the bone of contention is that it's implied that whilst there is a certain view of the harem that isn't correct, some men seem to be offering the viewpoint now that the women there really were quite emancipated, and could do almost what they pleased. History unfortunately makes a lie of that.


And your basis for that assertion is precisely what? Because they did not enjoy the rights that you enjoy now? That is historical illiteracy of the first order. You're entirely ignoring everything that I've said and all historical evidence in favour of your own pre-conception.

 
dr.bob
618830.  Mon Sep 28, 2009 5:39 am Reply with quote

CB27 wrote:
Hang on a moment, can we say that women were given freedom of education and freedom of free expression so long ago even in the civilized West?


No, we most certainly can't. But, then again, I don't think anyone has tried to claim this. Unlike exnihilo's statement in this thread that a harem (or gynaeceum) was a form of respect rather than oppression.

 

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