Monday, September 7, 2009

Sudan, Women, Trousers, Culture and Common Sense

Sudan's in the news again.

I think if the Sudanese government had more wealth, they could give Saudi Arabia a run for its money as the craziest Islamic country. Still, they're doing a pretty good job with the resources they have.

The topic is trousers, again. This time, trousers on women:
"A Sudanese judge convicted a woman journalist for violating the public indecency law by wearing trousers outdoors and fined her $200, but did not impose a feared flogging penalty.

"Lubna Hussein was among 13 women arrested July 3 in a raid by the public order police on a popular cafe in Khartoum. Ten of the women were fined and flogged two days later. But Hussein and two others decided to go to trial.

"Hussein told the Associated Press Friday that she would not pay any penalty and would serve a month in jail instead as a matter of principle...."
Trousers seem to be 'un-Islamic' in parts - although not all - of the world where Muslims are a majority. Almost two years about, this hit the news:
"Three suspected al Qaeda militants, including two sisters, beheaded their uncle and his wife, forcing the couple's children to watch, Iraqi police said on Friday.

"The militants considered that school guard Youssef al-Hayali was an infidel because he did not pray and wore western-style trousers, they told police interrogators after being arrested in Diyala province northwest of Baghdad...."

Religious Beliefs, Cultures Mores, Personal Preferences: There's a Difference

I think I can understand the horror of trousers a bit better than some Americans, particularly younger ones.
Women, Trousers, Culture and Common Sense - a Digression
Roughly forty years ago, women in America started wearing trousers or pants - occasionally. The custom wasn't all that new: but it hadn't been adopted so widely before. Quite a few people who were Christians, but whose beliefs were a mix of cultural traditions and what they felt about some passages from the Bible, were aghast.

According to them, women wearing trousers or pants was un-Biblical! They had a point, sort of. It's that Deuteronomy 22:5 thing - "A woman shall not wear an article proper to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman's dress; for anyone who does such things is an abomination to the LORD, your God."

No woman in my experience was fined, flogged, or jailed for wearing trousers. On the other hand, I did run into folks who, judging by what they said and how they said it, would have been happy to do so. What was funny, in a grim sort of way, was that these folks lived in the Red River Valley of the North: where wearing pants is one of the few ways of not freezing your legs in the winter.

Quite a few of the folks who really believed that God supported American cultural norms of the 1940s were people I could get along with. They meant will, but hadn't learned to distinguish between the Word of God, cultural mores they'd grown up with, and the personal preferences of their pastor's clique. Then there are outfits like the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas (October 31, 2007) and Tony Alamo's group (A Catholic Citizen in American (October 2, 2008)).

Those 'skirts for God' people were responsible, indirectly and in part, for my eventually becoming a Catholic. Which is another topic, for another blog.

From Abraham to Janet Jackson in One Generation: Cultural Values, Principles, and Confusion

As a sort of segue back to this post's main topic: According to the Catholic Church, "The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another...." (Catechism (2524). I think that a confusion over what are cultural values and what are religious beliefs is behind quite a lot of the war on terror.

As I've said before, I have some sympathy for people in places like the Middle East and Sudan. Their ancestors had lived in a reasonably stable culture - one which had scarcely changed since the time of Abraham. Then a late-industrial-age global culture dropped on them, closely followed by the early information age, with its hundreds of cable channels, beer commercials, Gap jeans and freedom of expression.

It's no wonder some of them are a little crazy.

Not that I'm making excuses for what's happening in Sudan and elsewhere. It's been a long time since Ur and Lagash, Nubia and the Old Kingdom were major powers. Recognizing the importance of the past is one thing. Trying to live in it is another.

Related posts: In the news: Background: Related posts, on Islam, Christianity, Religion, Culture and the War on Terror.

Related posts, on tolerance, bigotry, racism, and hatred


Amy said...

I admire her for her courage and I feel blessed to be living in the U.S.

Brian H. Gill said...


Agreed. America isn't perfect - far from it - but it's still a good place to live. Particularly for people who aren't at the 50th percentile.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.