qatarperegrine: (mandala)
A lawyer avers, in today's Peninsula, that "women are physiologically not geared to be in a judge's role since their performance can be affected during menstrual cycle, pregnancy and delivery," and more generally that "they are emotionally disposed which can be disadvantageous for a judge's job."

While troublesome, this sentiment is less disturbing than that of a Yemen Times article entitled There Must Be Violence Against Women, which accuses human rights organizations of failing to recognize the necessity of violence against women to maintaining family life. ("Personally, I don’t think fathers or brothers would undertake such behavior unless there was a reason for it," the author says. In related news, a Qatari resident just bashed his wife's skull in for not being at her office during the day, which he took to mean she was having an affair.)

Al-Kholidy's article is slightly confusing; for example, it argues that the Qur'anic injunction to beat your wife is a mistranslation, but then says that failing to beat women would lead to the downfall of Islamic values. But it does bring up an interesting conundrum. If you accept that God says husbands should (in some cases) beat their wives, then any movement to eliminate violence against women is irreligious. More broadly, if God has handed down a set of guidelines for how to run a society, any attempt to run society differently is problematic.

Both the Bible and the Qur'an have all kinds of unsavory verses that recommend beating one's children, stoning adulterers, killing heretics, and so on. It seems to me that one of the biggest differences between Christianity and Islam as practiced in the world today is that most Christians are perfectly happy to explain away those verses, whereas Muslims seem to have a harder time ignoring God's more troublesome edicts. Progressive Christians say that these archaic laws don't represent the will of God for our time. Outside of American academic discourse, I've never heard a Muslim suggest that.

I've often wondered what the difference is between Christianity and Islam that the unsavory laws are, on the whole, interpreted so differently. Is it inherent in the differences between the Qur'an, which outlines a comprehensive system of organizing society, and the New Testament, which focuses more on the individual? Is it a result of Christianity's ambivalence towards the Law? Or is it just that biblical interpretation has been shaped by centuries of Western humanism? After all, Christianity as practiced outside the U.S. and Europe is much more likely to side with Mr. Al-Kholidy on this issue.

Lest I come across as sounding biased against Islam and towards Christianity here, I will say that this is one of the issues that disenchanted me with Christianity. If American Christians are unlikely to agree with Al-Kholidy that women need to be beaten, or with Abu Nida that women lack the "balanced disposition" to become a judge, it is not because the Bible is imbued with feminist values; as far as I can tell, Western feminism developed despite Christianity, not because of it. The same is arguably true of all values I care most about -- equality, self-determination, tolerance, rationalism. It's hardly a celebration of Christianity if we manage to be civilized by ignoring scriptural injunctions to be otherwise.
qatarperegrine: (niqab)
As I have often remarked, I came here prepared (by cultural bias) to be horrified by the treatment of women in the Arab world, but quickly learned that this is not where the story is. The flagrant human rights abuses that take place here in Qatar are predominantly against immigrant laborers, not against Arab women.

This week, however, a researcher at Qatar University released the first ever study of violence against women in Qatar, entitled "Violence against Women in the Qatari Society." In her study, Dr. Kulthum Al Ghanem surveyed 2,778 female students at Qatar University (aged 17-25, 84% Qatari). I haven't tracked it down in English, but here are some highlights from local media (here and here).

  • 63% of those surveyed had been beaten, usually by male relatives (husband, brother, father).
  • 4% had been sexually harassed and 2% had encountered "'strong violence' like rape".
  • 45% of victims had been subjected to violence since childhood, 34% since adolescence.
  • 47% said they'd suffered ill effects after their abuse, such as depression. 2% said they'd attempted suicide.

The finding rocking the news media, though, is that 42% allegedly said that they deserved to be beaten. And, in a related study of 703 Arab female QU students, 37% said that men should "discipline" women and 63% said more generally that women needed "someone" to "discipline" them.

Some of the statistics reported in these three media sources were mutually contradictory (e.g. the percentage of women who had been beaten was reported variously as 63%, 65% and 23%), and subjective terms such as "beaten" were not defined, so do with this information what you will.

I still suspect that violence against maids is more pervasive and more extreme, notwithstanding a recent claim that it is "not a widespread phenomenon" and (even more perplexingly) that "invariably all cases of violence it is the lady of the house who is responsible for violent behaviour against a female domestic." The gentleman putting forward these views concluded, in keeping with Al Ghanem's findings, that the solution to this problem was for the men of the household to discipline their wives.
qatarperegrine: (niqab)
Housemaids are probably the most frequently victimized members of Qatari society; since they're not covered by Qatari labor law, they have virtually no rights and no recourse to the court system. Statistics don't exist, but anecdotal evidence suggests that housemaid abuse is insidious. For example, maids are routinely imprisoned in the houses in which they work, to the extent that many people don't even think of this as imprisonment. In other cases, though, the abuse is shockingly violent. [More info here; thanks, anonymous contributor.]

What I'd never considered, though, was the case of Qataris living abroad. The ACLU has just accused the United States of violating human rights conventions because diplomatic immunity allows foreign diplomats in the U.S. to abuse their housemaids with impunity. One of the six housemaids they are representing works for a Qatari diplomat.

The ACLU's summary of abuses reflects the situation here in Qatar, too:
The abuses suffered by the petitioners while employed by diplomats include extreme wage and hour violations with no vacation, free time or holidays; virtual imprisonment in the homes of their employers with no ability to communicate with the outside world; passport deprivation; physical and emotional abuse; and invasion of privacy.
(Thanks to Nigel over on QatarLiving for the heads-up.)

My final news story of the day is one that has been getting press in the U.S.: a Saudi woman who was gang-raped while meeting with a male friend has been sentenced to 200 lashes for meeting with a man in the first place, and then for talking to the media about the rape case. ... I guess Qatar's human rights situation could be worse. Sigh.
qatarperegrine: (travel)
This morning found me driving over to the airport immigration office to renew my tourist visa.

Yep, tourist visa. When I came here three years ago my work visa was mistakenly issued in my maiden name, and thus all my official paperwork in Qatar, from my residency permit to my liquor license, is in my maiden name. Last year I got a new passport, and Qatar refused to transfer my old visa over, because (surprise!) the names don't match.

Since then I've been traveling with my old passport and residency permit stapled to my new one, but when I returned from Gabon a month ago, airport immigration not only refused to accept it but also cancelled it on the spot. I entered the country on a one-month tourist visa, and since my new work visa isn't ready yet, I had to renew it today.

I was dreading my trip to immigration this morning, but it was not the madhouse I expected. There were signs all over the building making it clear exactly where you needed to go for various visa procedures, and the employees were quick and efficient. As you can see from the picture, people even stood in lines! (Cynical comment from an anonymous cynical friend: "Well, the clients aren't locals....") I expected a huge headache, but it was not an unpleasant experience at all.

Next up: medical and X-ray! Again!
qatarperegrine: (niqab)
From my sister's local paper: there are arguments going on in Oxford over whether Muslim women should be able to swim in hijab.

Aren't there burqinis in Oxford?
qatarperegrine: (qatar)
Apparently RAND's Initiative for Middle Eastern Youth had a symposium on "Creative Use of the Media for Tolerance and Understanding" here yesterday. It sounds like some very interesting issues were raised, including:

In more local news, there have been a spate of articles relating to the upcoming Central Municipal Council elections here in Doha. For example, two candidates have made public statements about how to solve the problem of the masses of single male workers living in Doha. (Al Emadi: Make them live elsewhere. Al Jefairi: Recruit single women expats. Al Jefairi has also publicly disavowed the face veil.)

Today's article on the election is most interesting for the subtext on the role of tribes in these elections.
qatarperegrine: (niqab)
I just attended tonight's Doha Debate, which debated the resolution: "This House believes the face veil is a barrier to integration in the West."

Really, though, this is the wrong question. What ended up being debated -- and what is a more interesting topic, I feel -- was something like this: given the undeniable negative reaction Westerners have to the face veil, what is the responsible Muslim response? Should Western Muslims abstain from wearing the niqab in order to seem less foreign and threatening to Westerners, and thus more empowered to engage in more serious debates in Western society? Or should Western Muslims exercise their right to veil if they choose, thereby refusing to capitulate to the prejudices of the majority?

Some of the talk got back to an issue I've discussed in this blog before. If Westerners look at a niqabi and cannot see her as fully human and an equal participant in the public sphere, whose responsibility is that? Is it the responsibility of the Muslim woman to dress in a way that makes others comfortable and presents a positive image of Islam to the West? Or is it the responsibility of the Westerner to get over the prejudice that tells us that a veiled woman is not a complete human being?

---

Here's my niqabi story of the day. I've been using this usericon -- the one of me in a niqab -- as my usericon on Facebook. This morning I received a message from a man who wanted to get to know me because "MAY BE U ARE SPECIAL WITH UR PHOTO ...BECAUSE U ARE REAL MOSLEM." So there you go: I never knew that being hit on is a fringe benefit of wearing a niqab.

---

Update: Peninsula article on the debate.
qatarperegrine: (niqab)
Since Islam's position on women's rights is such a hot topic in the West, I thought I'd post a leaflet on the topic that was given to me by one of our students, part of a packet of materials produced by Qatar Guest Center.


Women's Rights )

#23 is my personal favorite: "If a man kills a woman intentionally, he -- under Islamic law -- incurs the death penalty, even if the victim was his wife." The "even if the victim was his wife" seems like a rather telling phrase. Apparently the author assumes that the default position is that men do have the right to kill their wives, and Islam is to be applauded for saying otherwise. Hmm.

Now don't get me wrong, I think that Westerners tend to overstate the oppression of Muslim women. Women's rights are nowhere close to Qatar's biggest human rights problem, and we should never forget that the advent of Islam was radically feminist. Still, I am very much bothered by the objectification of women that underlies brochures like these. I don't want to be a jewel, a rose or a gazelle. I am unimpressed that men are killed for "fail[ing] to preserve the jewel[s] ... in [their] possession." If the author was trying to give me warm, fuzzy feelings about Islam, he failed pretty spectacularly.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
  • The Qatari appeals court has just commuted the sentence of a Jordanian teenager who killed his sister in an apparent honor killing. Instead of three years in jail, he now gets a one-year suspended sentence. To my knowledge, Qatar does not officially soften penalties in the case of honor killings, but in practice it seems they are pretty sympathetic to the perpetrator.

  • The trial has begun for the apparent attempted hijacking of a Qatar Airways plane last year. I had not previously heard the accused was a former camel jockey, nor that he was at the time applying for asylum in Israel. I hope we hear more in the paper about his asylum request. Since Qatar finally outlawed child jockeys and replaced them with robots shortly after we moved here, I hadn't given much thought to what happened to former jockeys.

  • In lighter news: I'm all for imams fighting for the betterment of those in poverty, but must they look so terrifying?
qatarperegrine: (qatar)
Three interesting stories from yesterday's Peninsula:
  • Like their Christian counterparts, imams try to make the most of their sermons during the well-attended holiday services. Apparently, imams this year called for better treatment of workers and denounced religious extremism. I'm pleased.

  • Qatari women are complaining that they feel uncomfortable with male salespeople in clothing stores and would prefer women clerks. Several women noted that having their clothing purchases seen by an Arab man is even more embarrassing than by a non-Arab man. We non-Arabs are in some ways a third gender in Qatar; the normal rules don't quite apply to us.

  • Finally, and unsurprisingly, executing Saddam during 'Eid was widely seen as a bad move.
qatarperegrine: (niqab)
My friend PeacefulMuslimah just wrote about this sad Peninsula article: Official laments apathy towards abuse victims.

In unrelated news, Filipina maids just got a salary hike.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
  • This week both faculty and student orientation are taking place at CMU, so suddenly there is life in the hallways again! It is most wonderful. The Peninsula published a list of our new faculty: Carnegie Mellon appoints new faculty members.

  • In less good news, the weather shifted this weekend. June and July are the hottest months in Doha, but August is more humid. So it's down to around 110, but now with 90% humidity. Residents hit by high humidity. (Check out the accompanying picture if nothing else.)

  • So what does Qatar do when it's dissatisfied with its natural environment? Silly question; the answer is always We do exactly what Dubai does: MMAA plans to bring artificial rain to Qatar.

  • And, finally, the Peninsula decries the trend of married men entering temporary marriages in order to have a summer fling: Wife for vacation: Qataris marry poor women just for the holidays! I love how the social worker blames temporary marriages on "the mushrooming of TV channels and information explosion." While American TV may be responsible for much evil in this world, it does seem a bit sketchy to blame Western cable for a form of polygamy sanctioned by Islam and outlawed in the West.
qatarperegrine: (niqab)
Sheikh Jassem Al-Mutawah explains the difference between men and women, using modern computer software.

The cool thing is, I'm actually starting to be able to follow the Arabic! Maybe I should be watching more Arabic TV.
qatarperegrine: (UNCHR)
This week, Qatar's National Human Rights Committee released their first major report, which is shockingly candid about human rights abuses in Qatar -- abuses which the report warns "impair the reputation of the State at the international level." I haven't found the report itself online, but I've read an extensive news article about it (linked to below); here are the highlights.

Qatar's main human rights abuses )

Here's what's particularly remarkable: the National Human Rights Committee is a government-appointed body, and more than half its members are government employees. (At least, they were last week!) And yet it has absolutely not pulled its punches when reporting human rights abuses. I'm particularly impressed by the level of detail in its recommendations for fixing the problems -- and anxious to see what happens next!

Everything here has been condensed from an extensive synopsis of the report which appeared in yesterday's Al Sharq, here automatically translated into English by my hero Google. (If you'd like to read Al Sharq's article, here are two warnings. First, Google only automatically translates the first few paragraphs, but you can copy and paste the rest of the article into the text box here to translate it too. Second, be skeptical of the translation. The word it translates "bail" really means "work visa," for example.) The Peninsula has less comprehensive but more grammatical articles on the report here and here.
qatarperegrine: (niqab)
This is one of those days that I wish Qatari media were a bit more reliable.

Yesterday and today the Supreme Council for Family Affairs is holding a conference called "Family Violence in the Qatari Society: the Reality and Solution." I think this would be an interesting topic to know more about. I wouldn't be surprised to discover that violence against women was more prevalent here than in the States; I also wouldn't be surprised to discover the reverse. I could see explanations for either one being the case. (The statistics on reporting of domestic violence reported in The Peninsula article are quite low, but given the extreme underreporting of domestic violence I don't think that tells us much.)

The local papers do not have the level of sensitivity we Americans expect from the media (and that's saying something!), and there are a number of unfortunate newspaper passages on this conference. Here's the worst from The Peninsula:
Ameena said incidents of violence against women in Qatari families were on the rise over the past years but there was nothing alarming about it.
I suspect she said that the increase is not of alarming proportions, not that there is nothing alarming about violence against women. I hope that's what she said, anyway.

The Gulf Times reporting is, as always, even worse. While the Peninsula reports that uneducated women are more often victims of physical violence and educated women of emotional abuse, the Gulf Times headline proclaims: 'Educated' women face violence from husbands, finds researcher. The leading paragraph repeats this claim that "the more the woman is educated, the more she is subjected to family violence."

Contrary to Western myths, the Arab women I have come to know this year are strong and independent women, and by all accounts women are the strength of the Qatari family. And, again contrary to our stereotype, the advent of Islam probably did more to advance women's rights than any other single event in history. Given that, it's such a shame that the horror of violence against women isn't being explored more competently in public discourse here.
 
qatarperegrine: (Default)
I was reading The Bookseller of Kabul recently when it suddenly hit me: if Sultan Khan had fled to North America, as he was at one point considering, he would have had to leave his second wife behind.

How weird is that? Expats here in Qatar complain that we have to hide relationships that fall outside of Muslim standards (e.g. same-sex relationships, cohabitation), but if a polygamous Muslim moves to the States he actually has to renounce his legally and religiously sanctioned marriages. We require him to ditch his family. (This applies to refugees as well.)

And, what's more, you can't get a greencard or citizenship if you've practiced polygamy within the past five years. It violates the "good moral character" you must exhibit to qualify.

I sure as heck wouldn't want to be a cowife, and I'm ambivalent about polygamy as a marital option, but I don't really understand how it can be considered so "antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family" (to quote my esteemed senator Santorum, in the infamous "man-on-dog" interview) that it must be banished from our borders.

Welcome to the land of the free.....
qatarperegrine: (Default)
qatarperegrine: (gay)
Earlier this month, a Dubai-based magazine confusingly called Al Jazeera reported that Prince Tameem, the Crown Prince (i.e. heir apparent) of Qatar, had been kicked out of a gay bar in London for drunk and disorderly conduct.

The article is no longer on their website (here is where it was), but a cached version is still available through Google: Qatari Crown Prince banned from G.A.Y nightclub. It claims to have gotten the info from islamonline.net (Qaradawi's website), but I can no longer find the story there.

I don't particularly care if Prince Tamim is gay, but I'm intrigued by the fact that the story is no longer on aljazeera.com. I'm guessing they were *ahem* asked to remove it, since they clearly do normally keep old stories online -- I know this because I finally resorted to searching their archives for "gay" and found this truly hilarious story from January about the U.S. building a gay bomb. That, of course, convinced me that the site was not a reputable source for news, but then I realized that the gay bomb story was carried by the BBC and other mainstream media outlets. So who knows?

All in all, that was one of my more entertaining web surfing adventures. It sure took my mind off this *$#^ presentation I have to give in 45 minutes.
qatarperegrine: (niqab)
Why is that the BBC writes so much more on the Gulf than anyone else? Today it's an article on Why appearances matter in Saudi.

In other news, I just learned that Robin Cook died this weekend. Alas, poor Robin. You were one cool dude.
qatarperegrine: (niqab)
This one was spotted by [livejournal.com profile] kgilmore:

Maid on the run arrested by police

I'm wondering about the "Asian bachelor" side to this story. Why do they say she fled to a house "occupied by Asian bachelors," one of whom happened to be her boyfriend, instead of saying she ran away to her boyfriend's place and there happened to be other guys there? The other Asian bachelors seem like a red herring. What purpose do they serve, other than to make her flight seem more sordid? And who are the "people involved" who got arrested? They didn't arrest the roommates too, did they?!

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