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Shi'a Pundit

Devoted to the viewpoint of Islam of Muhammad SAW and Amir ul-Mumineen, Ali ibn Abi Talib SA, in the Shi'a Fatimi Ismaili Dawoodi Bohra tradition.

August 11, 2003

universal problem, unique solution.

This is one of those irony-laden situations that frankly drain my optimism.

In Yemen, there are two kinds of internet cafes - ones that let you sit with your back to the wall, and ones that don't. The former are commonly understood to be safe havens for (obviously, male) patrons more interested in porn than in fatwas. Some of the more accomodating cafes even have partitions between terminals for absolute privacy onscreen.

(Point 1 - porn is as popular in oppresively conservative religious countries as it is in secular, sex-drenched America.)

Naturally some "Islamic" "authorities" (the terms deserve separate sneer quotes in this context) take issue with this. Their response? outlaw partitions in the internet cafes.

(Point 2 - as usual, religious authorities find ways to legislate morality, seemingly oblivious to the fact that doing so renders honest piety utterly indistinguishable from simple fear, and therefore equally worthless.)

The response of the internet cafes? Invoke Islamic law and (successfully) argue that removing the partitions would violate women's modesty:

The cafe owners, meanwhile, have formed an organisation to defend their business and have come up with a cunning argument against the removal of partitions: it discriminates against women. Partitions allow women internet users to be segregated from men in accordance with Islamic custom, they say, and removing them in effect deprives women of their right to use the internet.

The segregation argument is the one that they are relying on. While it is tempting to admire the cunning of the internet cafe owners, and applaud the fact that the internet users have now avoided a needless imposition on their liberty (said imposition which, of course, completely contradicted the Islamic principle of choice and reason as the foundation of belief), it is equally true that this "liberty" was won by legitimizing the oppression of women (ie, the mandate of partitions for womens' modesty), in order to enable the objectification of women (granted, a more universal problem).

I can't complain - with partitions, maybe some enterprising young firebrand might stumble across the texts of Locke, Jefferson, and Syedna Qazi Noman. Heck, they might even stumble across Shi'a Pundit (my ego blooms with a thousand facets).

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Nahj-ul Balagha

About Shi'a Pundit

Shi'a Pundit was launched in 2002 during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The blog focuses on issues pertaining to Shi'a Islam in the west and in the Islamic world. The author is a member of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community. Bohras adhere to the Shi'a Fatimi tradition of Islam, headed by the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (TUS).

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