qatarperegrine: (niqab)
This weekend my mother attended a conference by the Muslim Education Centre of Oxford on Islam and feminism. During the conference, a woman led jumu'ah prayers for the first time ever in England. Here's her write-up (I added links for possibly unfamiliar terms):

MECO annual conference
Islam and feminism: Text, Tradition and Theology

by Kathleen Tillinghast

Dr Amina Wadud leading the prayers
This weekend I was watching history happen. On Friday, the first Jumua'ah sevice for men and women led by a woman, in the U.K., took place in Oxford -- tiny, opposed, but a seed from which, I think, inevitably change will come. According to the male spokesman at one of Oxford's mosques, people were told to neither take part nor protest, though there were several women protesting. The conference organiser, Dr. Taj Hargey, stated that their principle was that what is not explicitly prohibited in the Qur'an is allowed.

The same Qur'anic scholar, who led the service, Dr Amina Wadud, has previously led prayers in New York, covered by the media as this one was, though few of the media stayed to hear her khutbah! It was, to me, a quietly inspiring statement about salat as the greatest example of the efficacy of ritual for body, heart and mind and a constant ongoing reminder of people's position before Allah as moral agents and also as completely submissive to Allah. In spite of the media coverage (the sermon was not political, except possibly for one sentence saying that for women and men equally it is necessary to remember Allah alone and together) the service was quietly centred and reverent and Dr Wadud was calm and a figure of authority earning respect.

Women attending the conference -- there were a few men, but mostly I talked with women -- included a diversity of ages, countries of origin, native languages, and cultures and also included converts (reverts) to Islam. Many, I discovered were academics and published authors presenting their research on various fields. Others were young women, some from conservative backgrounds, some ambivalent about the issues raised. Some were of mixed cultures (a woman with Italian and US black Muslim parents, brought up in Saudi!) I attended sessions on Qur'an and Hadith and the traditions, but missed other topics such as the openness of mosques in the UK to women and ethical issues including marriage. Listening to these young women's thoughts was so moving: they are serious and devout and also fully in the 21st century. They are in Western culture but don't want to lose their values in it. One young woman with a science degree, who has lived and worked in Italy was aware that her conservative (Pakistani British) culture, which she values, would have problems with the issues discussed.

First time a woman leads Friday prayers in England - protest
In Dr Wadud's keynote speech she talked of her work in understanding ethical norms of Islam as a basis for justice and human rights. She spoke of incidents and decisions that were clearly of limited applicability, for example, that the wives of the Prophet should not remarry after his death, a ruling which is not applied to other widows and then of others that may be based on individual incidents, such as when Aisha stayed behind to search for a lost piece of jewellery and was found and brought back to camp by a young man, which led to rules of general applicability, in this case that an accusation would only be upheld if supported by four eye-witnesses. She suggested a need for a further category, namely principles applicable to all of humanity. (Incidentally, though a mother of five, a longtime Muslim, a renowned scholar currently at Starr King in the GTU, her father was a Methodist minister! A real P.K.!)

Throughout the conference, I, as a Christian, was aware that these questions have been faced and are being faced by our churches too. One woman asked me about this and we wondered which would accept women's leadership in worship first, British Muslims or Roman Catholics. And so much resistance is not because of the words or deeds of Jesus or Mohammed, who both appreciated the women followers in ways their successors apparently did not, but because of the cultures in which we have been raised. "A woman leading worship? It makes me uncomfortable".
qatarperegrine: (quran)
Last week, an Iraqi militiaman training with U.S. forces found a bullet-riddled Qur'an on a shooting range in Baghdad. American soldiers had been using it for target practice.

I wonder how long that militia will stay allied with the U.S.

Yesterday, the army issued a formal apology, which it sounds like they handled reasonably well. Angry Iraqis were chanting the traditional "With our spirits and hearts we defend you, Qur'an." The commander of U.S. troops in Baghdad begged forgiveness. The commander of the brigade reported that the soldier responsible had been reprimanded and dismissed from the regiment, and then presented a new Qur'an to the village after kissing it and touching it to his forehead. (Of course it's questionable for a non-Muslim to touch the Qur'an in the first place; I wonder how the villagers felt about that.)

I've said before that it's easy for us to underestimate how Muslims feel about the Qur'an. Since it is believed to be the actual incarnation of the Word of God, its role in Islam is more comparable to Jesus' role in Christianity than to the Bible's. Desecrating the Qur'an is therefore much, much worse than desecrating the Bible. I would hazard that shooting the Qur'an in a Muslim community would have much the same impact as peeing on the Eucharist outside the Opus Dei headquarters in Vatican City.

It does seem slightly surreal to me that the shooting of an book would cause such a furor when people are being shot, which surely ought to be viewed as more blasphemous than harming an object. But come on, people. When the Muslim world increasingly feels that our military presence here represents a new crusade against Islam*, the least we can do is not freaking prove them right.

* At a 2005 Doha Debate on this topic, 49.6% of the audience voted that "the war on terror has become a war on Islam" -- and that's an audience made up almost entirely of people affiliated with American universities. In fact, in retrospect I suppose that means the motion would have passed if I hadn't voted against it.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
On the plane on the way home, I read a riveting book called Inside the Jihad. This is the memoir of an anonymous Muslim who, according to the book, was involved with the Algerian Groupe Islamique Armé, became an informant for the French secret service, and ultimately trained at Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan in the 90s.

The book reads like a spy thriller, and I don't imagine there's any way to verify how true it is, but it was a really worthwhile read. I was fascinated by the author's ambivalence: on the one hand, he is seeking to destroy these jihadist groups because he believes their tactics are un-Islamic and wrong. On the other hand, it's clear that his sympathies are with them, and indeed if Al Qaeda had asked him to go make his jihad in Chechnya, he would have gone. Reading about a European Muslim's love/hate relationship with armed jihad made for fascinating reading.

Equally fascinating was the jihadists' rhetoric. As the introduction points out, none of the mujahidin in the book "hate us for our freedom." Our freedoms pass entirely unmentioned, as do even the moral depravities the Muslim world tends to find most off-putting about the West. Rather, the mujahidin's rationale is entirely that specific foreign policies of the Western countries (US support of Israel, Russian domination of Chechnya, widespread lack of concern about Bosnia, etc.) add up to an outright assault on Islam, thus warranting a defensive jihad. This isn't news, of course, but it's interesting to hear that rhetoric in a first-person account.

Related to this is a sentiment I've heard even here in Doha: a deep-seated sense of humiliation that the Muslim umma, which used to be and ought to be the preeminent civilization on Earth, has fallen into such a state of decay that it can be bullied by infidels. The author's sense of shame that the mujahidin need to use their enemies' weapons (Uzis) is palpable. And this feeds into the rhetoric above: Muslim civilization ought to be the finest on earth, but it has been robbed of its rightful place by enemies without and within. This helped me understand how the mujahidin -- who obviously know the Qur'an well enough to know that an offensive war cannot be Islamic -- can come to believe that they are protecting the Muslim homeland from what amounts to one more in an endless series of crusades to stamp out the true faith.

A final fascinating point is that the author trained under Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, whose intelligence (extracted by torture) was what convinced the U.S. government that Saddam Hussein supported Al Qaeda. The author's accounts of al-Libi's views on Saddam and Iraq provide a lot of insight into what might have motivated him to spread that disinformation.
qatarperegrine: (arabic)
I really wish I'd been able to see Monday's Doha Debate. The topic was an interesting and provocative one: "This house believes that Muslims are failing to combat extremism."

The speaker lineup was a good one, too. Speaking for the motion were Ed Husain, a Bengali Brit who spent five years in Islamist organizations before rejecting fundamentalism, and Arsalan Iftikhar, former legal director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations who now works for Islamica Magazine. Speaking against the motion were Daisy Khan of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, and Moez Masoud, the young Egyptian televangelist whose Stairway to Paradise series I so enjoyed a couple of Ramadans ago.

The debate will be aired on BBC World on Saturday at 08:10, 14:10 and 20:10 GMT, and Sunday 00:10, 08:10 and 20:10 GMT.

I actually sat next to Arsalan Iftikhar on my flight back to Doha Sunday evening. I don't normally talk to people on planes, but Mr. Iftikhar turned to me with a grin after expressing surprise and delight at the abundance of food and said, "Sorry... I'm a human rights lawyer -- we don't often get to fly business class." We ended up talking for a long time about the Doha debate topic and about moderate Islam -- a term he demurred from using, saying it's not how Muslims would self-identify to other Muslims. The conversation made me think about what I mean when I say "moderate Muslim": does it really just mean "someone who doesn't make me feel uncomfortable" or "someone who isn't too serious about religion"? Or does it really denote something useful and positive?

Living in Doha often exposes me to aspects of Islam that are not very appealing to me: rigid, puritanical forms of Islam that seem more concerned with the evils of nail polish than the evils of abusing housemaids. It was tremendously heartwarming to have a long conversation with someone who decried the Muslim world's misguided response to the Mohammed cartoon controversy, and then quietly sauntered off to pray.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
Yesterday, a British schoolteacher in Sudan was sentenced to 15 days in prison and then deportation, all for the offense of allowing her elementary school students to name the class teddy bear "Muhammad." Though the name was chosen by popular vote of seven-year-olds and was not at all religiously motivated, the Sudanese courts decided that giving a stuffed animal the same name as the prophet constitutes "insulting Islam."

Today, authorities had to move the incarcerated schoolteacher to an undisclosed location, because they feared for her safety: thousands of armed people were demonstrating in Khartoum and calling for her death.

Hint: if you are worried Westerners might not have enough respect for Mohammed and Islam, rioting with machetes over a freaking teddy bear might not be the best PR move.
qatarperegrine: (ramadan)
  • The National Human Rights Committee is expecting a change in the sponsorship system. This was discussed publicly a few months ago, but I never heard anything after one prominent minister dissed the plan, so I'm very pleased to hear it's still on track.

  • The Industrial Area in Doha is apparently a "hotbed of crime": "[C]rimes which are flourishing there are alcohol consumption, and adultery. Murder and rapes also take place." I'm glad we have our priorities straight. Alcohol consumption! Adultery!! And, oh yeah, some murder and rape and stuff.

  • My friend Qatar Cat, who recently moved to Dubai, was just escorted out of a mall by police officers after absentmindedly drinking out of a drinking fountain during daylight hours. Public eating and drinking during Ramadan is banned here in Qatar, too, though I've never heard of anyone getting in trouble for failing to fast.
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: (Default)
I just came across a hilarious list of Islamic pick-up lines on Facebook. They're a little "haram-y," but I think in good fun since they're clearly mocking Western pick-up lines. Here are some of my favorites, annotated for those unfamiliar with Islam:
  1. Assalamualaikum [peace be upon you], so what time does a Hoor Al-3ayn [houri] like you have to be back in Jannah [paradise]?

  2. So, read any good Surahs lately? [a surah is a chapter of the Qur'an]

  3. Do you believe in the hereafter? Oh you do? Then you know what I'm hereafter.

  4. Lets get married so I don’t have to lower my gaze every time you walk in the room.

  5. Your father must be a terrorist, because you're da BOMB!

  6. Would you like to help me wake up for Fajr [dawn prayer]?

  7. Are you a Shiite? Because when I saw you, I said to myself, "She aiight".

  8. Do you wanna date? I bought a box full when I went to Madinah. [Madinah is known for its date palms.]

  9. I need to break my fast. Can I have a date? [It's traditional to end fasts with dates and water.]

  10. Baby, someone needs to chop off your right hand because you stole my heart.
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.


Jan. 16th, 2007 12:05 pm
qatarperegrine: (quran)
I started moving into our new compound last night. The apartments there are nice, and most of the other TAs, CAs and young faculty live there, so though I'll miss our friends in Riviera I'm excited to make the move.

The first carload I moved comprised my religious studies books. When I packed my Qur'an, I carefully ensured that it was at the top of the stack of books in its box, in accordance with Qur'an-handling etiquette. It wasn't until I picked up the box to move it that I realized I had just reverently packed my Qur'an into an Absolut vodka box.

I think I'm going straight to hell.
qatarperegrine: (eid)
It's hard for me to tell from here in northern California whether 'Eid al-adha has begun in the Gulf or not, but I think it should begin around about now!

So a most blessed 'eid to my Muslim brothers and sisters!
qatarperegrine: (rumi)
Last Thursday, my friend Doug and I attended a talk on "The Spirituality of Jihad" over at Georgetown. The speaker was Dr. Reza Shah-Kazemi, from the Institute of Ismaili Studies. He's written several books on Shi'a and on mysticism in Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. He has a bachelor's in International Relations and a doctorate in Comparative Religion, so basically I want to be him when I grow up.

The talk was rather loosely organized, but I thought Dr. Shah-Kazemi said some interesting things. It's always fun to hear a Shi'a/Sufi perspective, since mostly around here we hear Sunni/Wahhabist perspectives.

(All quotes from the Qur'an below are reconstructed from my notes of his on-the-fly translations. If you want to read official translations of the verse, I recommend the USC-MSA Compendium of Muslim Texts.)

Dr. Shah-Kazemi's Talk )
In conclusion (or in abstract, if you didn't read the above): armed struggle is permissible in Islam in very limited circumstances, and only to protect religious freedoms. More vital, though, is the "greater jihad" or the struggle to conquer our own caprices and egoism.
qatarperegrine: (me)
From today's Peninsula: Propagators of Islam face challenges.

I find myself less and less tolerant of the bad reasoning in these kinds of articles.
"Hitler, a Christian, killed so many Jews, but he was not referred to as a Christian terrorist."
Hitler was born into a Christian family, but he was not a practicing Christian. But that's beside the point. Even if he had privately practiced Christianity, his crimes were not motivated by Christianity. He did not say, "We must kill the Jews to make Jesus happy." He did not say "In the name of God" before committing genocide. I'm not saying that terrorism is a good interpretation of Islam, but I think it's tough to deny that there's some relationship between the two, if only in the minds of Muslim terrorists.
"'Islam allows its male followers to marry more than once to help maintain gender balance in society,' [Ghazanfar] said.
There are, for instance, 7.8 million more women than men in the US today. 'This means that if every male US citizen picks a wife, 7.8 million women will be left without marriage. These women will either have the option of getting married to an already married person or become promiscuous,' said Ghazanfar."
Leaving aside entirely the question of whether marriage and promiscuity are REALLY the only two options available to women, this use of statistics is just silly. How on earth does he imagine that the US citizen has 7.8 million more women than men? Where would they all come from? The reason that there are more women than men in the U.S. (around 5 million more, according to the CIA World Factbook) is that women outlive men. There are not 7.8 million 20-year-old women pining for nonexistent prince charmings. In the age range I imagine this guy has in mind (15- to 64-year-olds), the gender ratio is about 1:1.

In Qatar, on the other hand, the gender ratio among 15- to 64-year-olds is 2.24 males per female. I assume this means the Qatar Center for the Presentation of Islam would support my taking on another 1.24 husbands....
qatarperegrine: (ramadan)
Along with several of my coworkers, I will be attempting to fast tomorrow. You all are welcome to join me! (Unless you're already fasting for Ramadan, in which case you're welcome to poke fun at my whining.)

Here are the "rules":
  • No food, drink, smoking or sex from first light (fajr) till sunset (maghrib). Here in Doha that's 4:08 a.m. - 5:24 p.m. (If you're playing along at home, be aware that fajr happens quite a while before "dawn" as defined by your local paper or You can figure out your local fasting times here.)
  • We can and should wake up before fajr to stuff ourselves. It's called suhoor. Think proteins and fats. (And, a student just reminded me, a whole lot of water.)
  • It is cheating to cut back on our daily activities to compensate. Nevertheless I'm not going to go to the gym tomorrow morning. So sue me.
  • It is cheating to deliberately salivate in order to soothe a dry throat.
  • We should also refrain from anger, arguing, rudeness, gossip, lying, etc. Driving like a maniac seems to be OK, though.
  • The fast should be broken immediately at sunset. I'm a little fuzzy on the details, but I think it's best to break the fast with dates (preferably an odd number) and water. Then, after prayers, a big iftar meal is called for. Here at CMU we're having a community iftar in memory of our student who died this summer, so I'm sure they'll show me how it's done.
If Muslim readers would like to add corrections or clarifications, I would appreciate it.
qatarperegrine: (ramadan)
Ramadan is upon us. For the uninitiated, Ramadan is the ninth month in the Muslim calendar, and for the whole month Muslims all over the world fast from sunup to sundown. Fasting, in this case, means no food, drink, smoking or sex during daylight hours. Muslims also try to focus on being better people during Ramadan, and may participate in extra prayers and intensive reading of the Qur'an. (Longtime readers may recall my interminable daily blog updates about reading the Qur'an, in English interpretation, during Ramadan two years ago.) My previous reflections on how Ramadan impacts daily life in Qatar can be found here.

This year Cornell has posted warning signs outside the faculty lunchroom, since it also serves as one of the major thoroughfares between the north and south wings of the building. Almost every time I've passed the signs, someone has been standing there chuckling at them.

Muslims here seem very eager to educate non-Muslims about the wonders of Ramadan, and thus the month tends to be full of presentations and helpful brochures on the subject. This year I've been musing on the propensity of these presentations to remind us of the fabulous health benefits of fasting. A powerpoint presentation a coworker e-mailed to me claims that the Ramadan fast is necessary to give our our digestive organs an annual opportunity to recuperate. On this website, a doctor suggests that the hypothalamus responds to Islamic fasting differently from non-Islamic fasting, and furthermore that tarawih prayer aids digestion. Everywhere, people are stressing the spiritual and psychological importance of exercising control over your food intake.

This makes me really wonder what effect, if any, the rhetoric (and practice) of Ramadan fasting has on Muslims with eating disorders.
qatarperegrine: (camera)
I saw almost no bumper stickers in Doha until the Danish cartoon controversy last winter. Then, there were suddenly bumper stickers everywhere, proclaiming "We are defending you, O Prophet."

Now there seems to be a new bumper sticker on the market. In the last 24 hours I've seen two of these:

In case that's too blurry to read, this is the text:

بارواحنا نفديك يا حبيب الله
We sacrifice our souls for you, our belvoed [sic] Messenger of Allah

The English text so caught me off guard I thought it must have been mistranslated, but it seems to be basically right (although I think it says "O beloved of God" and not "our beloved Messenger of God"). I sort of think the sticker means to say something more like "We'd lay down our lives for you."

Any Arabic speakers care to comment?
qatarperegrine: (jesus)
I was the world's worst blogger last week!

Work has been amazingly busy, which is of course fabulous. In addition to the normal tutoring and administrative stuff, we were preparing for this morning's meeting with a representative from Middle States, the organization that accredits CMU. On to more bloggable topics, though....

In case you haven't followed the news: last Tuesday at a German university, the pope gave a rather academic talk entitled "Faith, Reason and the University." While discussing the historical Catholic approach to reason, he quoted an obscure 15th century Byzantine emperor (Manuel II Palaiologos), who said that "not acting reasonably ... is contrary to God's nature." The pope explained that this statement would have been self-evident to a Byzantine Greek, but not self-evident to the Persian Muslim he was addressing, because to Muslims God is so transcendent as to be unconstrained by anything, even reason.

This is all well and good, but in the course of this citation, the pope quoted more of what Manuel II said about Islam, including the line: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

In the pope's defense (how often do you hear me say that?), the pope did note what a strange thing this was for Manuel II to say, given that Manuel must have known that the Qur'an condemns forced conversions. And this rather strange digression seems to have been intended to be a statement against the use of violence in religion, not as a statement about Islam. But, still: stupid pope. Stupid, stupid pope.

The Muslim world's reaction has included (at last count) five church bombings in Palestine, the burning of the pope's effigy, and the murder of a nun in Somalia. Because there's nothing like getting violent to protest the pope calling your religion violent. Good job, guys! That'll show him!
qatarperegrine: (niqab)
I was going to write about Yvonne Ridley's talk on Islamophobia, but I don't feel I have much to say. I agree with a colleague who said Ridley just didn't add much to the dialogue. Her speech consisted largely of outrageously unsubstantiated claims that most of the audience agreed with anyway, and that was about that. It didn't really fuel intellectual discussion.

There's not much to refute when everything she said was couched in vague sentiments like "we should develop a zero-tolerance approach to anyone who'd try to dilute our faith" without specifying who is diluting the faith or (more importantly) exactly what a zero-tolerance approach would mean.

Much of the talk was actually from her recent article Beware the Happy Clappies, so if you did not hear her speak, reading that will give you a gist of her rhetoric.

The only major section of her speech not appearing in the article was on the Mohammed cartoon controversy. Specifically, she lifted up the Muslim world's response to that incident as an ideal display of Muslim values and solidarity. She said that the Muslim response sent the message "We can be strong; you can only push us so far." As proof of this she said gleefully that "You'd have to have an editor with suicidal tendencies to publish a cartoon [like those] again." I found this rather stunning. I don't know any Westerners who feel they have a more positive understanding of Islam as a result of the Mohammed cartoon controversy.

Harking back to my blog entry about about pacifism in Islam, she also said, "Muslims are not pacifists. We're peace-loving people, but we're not pacifists."
qatarperegrine: (socrates)
There are about 5 things I've been dying to blog about, and somehow the pressure has prevented me from blogging any of them! So let's start here.

In the comments on this post, PeacefulMuslimah (an educator here in Education City) said:
"I was particularly incensed when [Yvonne Ridley] snidely pronounced that the Americans teaching in EC were simply interested in suckking up petro-dollars so they could return to their homes and live the life of rich 'fat-cats'."
to which someone anonymously responded:
"I can tell u that as an 18 yr old Qatari it is common belief amongst many Qatari's that the Americans in EC r infact only here for OUR money & corrupting us but its just said behind closed doors"

I've been thinking about this exchange for several days. It makes me sad that our motivations are so misunderstood. In my experience, if you ask expats why they moved to Doha, Education City employees are pretty much the only group who, on the whole, give answers other than "For the money." Still, it's not terribly upsetting to me that Qataris would think we're just here for the money. There is, I think, equal concern from our side that Qatari society is treating education like a commodity that can be bought for a high enough price. If Education City is really some weird sort of intellectual prostitution, I think both parties are guilty of participating.

I'm far more concerned about the charge of "corrupting us," both because it's more sinister and because, in some ways, it's closer to the truth. Socrates, after all, was executed for "corrupting the youth" because he challenged the young people of Athens to think critically about their beliefs and not automatically buy into the worldview that surrounded them. Aren't the American universities in Qatar similarly challenging traditional thinking here?

Folks at Education City rarely say they came here for the money. But I have heard us saying that we are here to provide good education in the Middle East, to offer more opportunities to Qatari women, to increase understanding between Western and Muslim cultures, and so on. These motivations are not value-free, and they all involve changing the way that people think. That's what education does, after all. Does this count as corruption?

Is exporting Western-style education to the Muslim world inherently culturally imperialistic? Or can traditional, Muslim values and thinking be reconciled with a Western-style education?

I'm particularly interested to hear the thoughts of people here in Qatar. (Hey CMU-Q students, I know you're reading this! Leave a comment! I don't mind if it's anonymous! :-) If Education City is seen as "corrupting" Qataris, what does that mean exactly? And is that what's really happening?


qatarperegrine: (Default)

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