I’m working at trying to be a Christian, and that’s serious business. It’s like trying to be a good Jew, a good Muslim, a good Buddhist, a good Shintoist, a good Zoroastrian, a good friend, a good lover, a good mother, a good buddy – it’s serious business.
While Muslim men describe themselves as insecure in their harems, real or imagined, Westerners describe themselves as self-assured heroes with no fears of women. The tragic dimension so present in Muslim harems – fear of women and male self-doubt – is missing in the Western harem.
Fighting for one’s freedom, struggling towards being free, is like struggling to be a poet or a good Christian or a good Jew or a good Muslim or good Zen Buddhist. You work all day long and achieve some kind of level of success by nightfall, go to sleep and wake up the next morning with the job still to be done. So you start all over again.
The waves of religion based on terrorism in the 1990s are based on the tormented response of a mutilated Muslim society whose progressive forces have been savagely emasculated. Why on earth is the Arab world so hostile to women? Why can it not see women as a force for development?
To understand the fanatic rejection of women’s liberation in the Muslim world, one has to take into account the time factor. Most of us educated women have illiterate mothers. The conservative wave against women in the Muslim world is a defense mechanism against profound changes in both sex roles and the touchy subject of sexual identity.
But the weakness comes from these Westernised co-opted Muslim leaders who just want to look good in the eyes of the West and Western media.
People’s identities as Indians, as Asians, or as members of the human race, seemed to give way – quite suddenly – to sectarian identification with Hindu, Muslim, or Sikh communities.
I found that a whole series of people opposed me simply on the grounds that I was a woman. The clerics took to the mosque saying that Pakistan had thrown itself outside the Muslim world and the Muslim umar by voting for a woman, that a woman had usurped a man’s place in the Islamic society.
America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, even eaten with people who in America would have been considered ‘white,’ but the ‘white’ attitude had been removed from their minds by the religion of Islam.
The first responsibility of the Muslim is as teacher. That is his job, to teach. His first school, his first classroom is within the household. His first student is himself. He masters himself and then he begins to convey the knowledge that he has acquired to the family. The people who are closest to him.