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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Why I'd ban the burqa


- from Wikipedia, Afghan women wearing their traditional burqas when going outside in northern Afghanistan

Reuters FaithWorld has a post on France's wish to ban the burqa . Here's a bit of the FaithWorld post ....

Jean-François Copé, the majority leader in the French National Assembly, is one of the most outspoken champions of a complete ban on niqabs and burqas in all public spaces in France. An ambitious politician who political junkies here suspect has presidential pretensions, Copé continued campaigning for a ban even after legal experts said it could be unconstitutional. He eventually won out, however, when President Nicolas Sarkozy backed a full ban. The French cabinet plans to review the draft bill on May 19 and then send it to the National Assembly for debate.

Copé has published an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times — Tearing Away the Veil — that clearly explains his position on a veil ban. The column, written for non-French readers, is stripped of some of the political rhetoric that obfuscates the issue here. I recommend it to readers still trying to figure out what France is doing and why ....


I'm for banning burqas in the West in public places. This is a tricky stance, though, because the issue is hard to pin down. Is wearing a burqa a religious thing or a cultural thing? Is banning the burqa nationalism disguised as feminism .... is it political conservatives who want to ban the burqa for jingoistic, xenophobic, or racist reasons? If banning it is about feminism and not nationalism, is it more "feminist" to ban a forced wearing of clothing that seems to dehumanize women, or is it more feminist to champion the rights of women who actually prefer to wear the burqa?

I'm not good at laying this all out cogently, but my own feeling is ..... burqa-wearing is not a religious issue but a culturally driven discrimination against women issue ..... that while political right-wingers may be using the burqa issue to push their own agendas, there is no intrinsic link between the desire to ban burqas and nationalistic, xenophobic, anti-religious, mono-cultural jingoism ..... and, in my opinion, while it may seem like the desire to ban burqas, instead of freeing women, takes away their freedom of choice, actually this is not so.

Here's a 2009 opinion piece in the NYT that makes my case .....

**********************

Ban the Burqa
By Mona Eltahawy

NEW YORK — I am a Muslim, I am a feminist and I detest the full-body veil, known as a niqab or burqa. It erases women from society and has nothing to do with Islam but everything to do with the hatred for women at the heart of the extremist ideology that preaches it.

We must not sacrifice women at the altar of political correctness or in the name of fighting a growingly powerful right wing that Muslims face in countries where they live as a minority.

As disagreeable as I often find French President Nicolas Sarkozy, he was right when he said recently, “The burqa is not a religious sign, it is a sign of the subjugation, of the submission of women. I want to say solemnly that it will not be welcome on our territory.” It should not be welcome anywhere, I would add.

Yet his words have inspired attempts to defend the indefensible — the erasure of women.

Some have argued that Sarkozy’s right-leaning, anti-Muslim bias was behind his opposition to the burqa. But I would remind them of comments in 2006 by the then-British House of Commons leader Jack Straw, who said the burqa prevents communication. He was right, and he was hardly a right-winger — and yet he too was attacked for daring to speak out against the burqa.

The racism and discrimination that Muslim minorities face in many countries — such as France, which has the largest Muslim community in Europe, and Britain, where two members of the xenophobic British National Party were shamefully elected to the European Parliament — are very real.

But the best way to support Muslim women would be to say we oppose both racist Islamophobes and the burqa. We’ve been silent on too many things out of fear we’ll arm the right wing.

The best way to debunk the burqa as an expression of Muslim faith is to listen to Muslims who oppose it. At the time of Mr. Straw’s comments, a controversy erupted when a university dean in Egypt warned students they would not be able to stay at college dorms unless they removed their burqa. The dean cited security grounds, saying that men disguised as women in burqa could slip into the female dorms.

Soad Saleh, a professor of Islamic law and former dean of the women’s faculty of Islamic studies at Al-Azhar University — hardly a liberal, said the burqa had nothing to do with Islam. It was but an old Bedouin tradition.

It is sad to see a strange ambivalence toward the burqa from many of my fellow Muslims and others who claim to support us. They will take on everything — the right wing, Islamophobia, Mr. Straw, Mr. Sarkozy — rather than come out and plainly state that the burqa is an affront to Muslim women.

I blame such reluctance on the success of the ultra-conservative Salafi ideology — practiced most famously in Saudi Arabia — in leaving its imprimatur on Islam globally by persuading too many Muslims that it is the purest and highest form of our faith.

It’s one thing to argue about the burqa in a country like Saudi Arabia — where I lived for six years and where women are treated like children — but it is utterly dispiriting to have those same arguments in a country where women’s rights have long been enshrined. When I first saw a woman in a burqa in Copenhagen I was horrified.

I wore a headscarf for nine years. An argument I had on the Cairo subway with a woman who wore a burqa helped seal for good my refusal to defend it. Dressed in black from head to toe, the woman asked me why I did not wear the burqa. I pointed to my headscarf and asked her “Is this not enough?”

“If you wanted a piece of candy, would you choose an unwrapped piece or one that came in a wrapper?” she asked.

“I am not candy,” I answered. “Women are not candy.”

I have since heard arguments made for the burqa in which the woman is portrayed as a diamond ring or a precious stone that needs to be hidden to prove her “worth.” Unless we challenge it, the burqa — and by extension the erasure of women — becomes the pinnacle of piety.

It is not about comparing burqas to bikinis, as some claim. I used to compare my headscarf to a miniskirt, the two being essentially two sides to the same coin of a woman’s body. The burqa is something else altogether: A woman who wears it is erased.

A bizarre political correctness has tied the tongues of those who would normally rally to women’s rights. One blogger, a woman, lamented that “Sarkozy’s anti-burqa stance deprives women of identity.” It’s precisely the opposite: It’s the burqa that deprives a woman of identity.

Why do women in Muslim-minority communities wear the burqa? Sarkozy touched on one reason when he admitted his country’s integration model wasn’t working any more because it doesn’t give immigrants and their French-born children a fair chance.

But the Muslim community must ask itself the same question: Why the silence as some of our women fade into black either as a form of identity politics, a protest against the state or out of acquiescence to Salafism?

As a Muslim woman and a feminist I would ban the burqa.

Mona Eltahawy is an Egyptian-born commentator on Arab and Muslim issues.

***************************


28 Comments:

Blogger Denny said...

Good article, and good comments. I wasn't sure where I stood on this issue until recently. But I totally agree that the "totally hidden" Muslim woman is effectively ERASED. And it's not something in the Koran, essential to the faith, it's something imposed by a male hierarchy. BOGUS!

I loved the comment about candy!

12:23 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Denny,

Me too - I wasn't sure either. The desire to be respectful of another cultures' ways is strong, but I think there are some things that should be universal across all cultures, like treating everybody equally.

1:19 AM  
Blogger Cura Animarum said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:20 AM  
Blogger Cura Animarum said...

A friend and I were talking about this yesterday. She works closely with an Islamic family we helped to bring into the country as refugees. She`s quite close with the mother and two older daughters who are themselves quite concerned about the prospect of the western world banning their use of the burqa. It does nothing to change the actual religious/cultural underpinnings of the practice, merely makes the women who feel bound by the practice of wearing the garment when out in public or have this practice imposed upon them, into the offenders.

Their greatest concern? Should the burqa in any of its forms be banned, women who continue to feel bound by its use will not experience the kind of liberation and freedom the west is hoping to grant them, but will instead be bound as self-imposed prisoners in their homes, unable to venture out in public at all.

In their opinion, a banning of this particular style of dress is tantamount to locking the innocent up for life. They do not feel it will help to abolish the practice, merely ensure that we in the west no longer have to be subjected to looking at them in public anymore.

Not saying I agree entirely, but their own concerns about a law like this certainly made me stop and think about what we are hoping to accomplish vs what the actual effects of such a law might be..

6:24 AM  
Blogger Deacon Denny said...

Hello CURA --

And I do understand the sentiments you've expressed, too. Nobody wants anyone to feel locked up in their own homes. Or at least I don't. That's a danger, sure.

But I don't agree that it will do nothing at all to abolish the practice. My hope -- even my expectation -- is that it will cause some wiser and influential people within the Muslim community to question this practice.

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Crystal,

You raise some very very important questions! Now, building on what Cura Animarum wrote, I’d like to play devil’s advocate for a little while. (FYI, my comments grow out of conversations I have had with a good friend who is a Muslim convert about the differences between Islam and Christianity.)

What right does the West have to impose an imperialistic ideology (Feminism) on a non-Western culture? On what basis do you presume that Feminism is indeed true? I am saying this because Western imperialists all presume that their culture is so much better than ours! Lastly, Mona Eltahawy is just a puppet of an imperialist mind-set, can you cite an authentic Muslim to support your assumptions?

Pax,

Henry

P.S. If it’s OK with you I am going to ask Brandon who posts at Whosoever Desires to join in.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Mike L said...

This is going to be of those discussions where no one walks away happy. I do not like the idea of a national dress code, which is what banning the burqa would be. I can hear the screams if some feminists managed to get a bill through that bans the wearing of a bra. On the other hand I think there are reasons why a law might be passed that required exposing the face under some circumstances for identification.

The question, for me anyway, is how to you set up a situation where women are allowed to where one if THEY want to so that their husband cannot force them to do so. Hmmmm, could we pass a law that says if a wife wears a burqa, the husband must also wear one? Since I believe men have just as much value as a women, they should also be protected, shouldn't they?

More seriously, there are places that do not allow women in pants, or men without a tie, so I can see a precedent for banning the burqa in some places, but I really don't think I like the idea of a general banning of it.

Hugs,

Mike L

1:31 PM  
Anonymous Brandon said...

Hi Henry and Crystal,

I'll admit I didn't have time to read the original post, but I think I know the "theme" well enough to offer a few points.

First of all, we should be very careful in isolating elements of a culture and criticizing them. All these things have so many factors and really can only be understood by looking at the bigger whole they are a part of. I can say from my experiences in strictly Islamic societies, that extremely conservative dress does produce a certain peace and contentment in public spaces. Nonetheless, I do think the burqa is in fact an oppressive tool in some cases.

Second, I think I see Henry's point from his questions about feminism, and I've held a similar stance for a long time. Essentially I think "feminism" is a counterproductive ideology. In nature there are absolute differences, and
"equality" in effect is injustice. I say this with the utmost concern for my sisters, that happiness and respect won't come from being seen more like or equal to men, but rather from simply being great women.

With that said, I do strongly oppose the use of the burqa in some cases. But the issue really isn't the burqa. The issue is a lot greater than that and a lot more serious. The issue is that there are two radically different cultures here, and in the midst of globalization, they are being forced closer and closer together. The burqa is an almost insignificant element of a much bigger concern, HOWEVER, it may also be a crucial first step in asserting resistance to the spread of more oppressive ideologies.

1:43 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, I love the “everyone must wear a “burka” idea although since we are in the West perhaps we should make everyone wear a “Cousin Itt” costume especially since I love the “Adams family’! Who would object, it's more or less the same shape. ; )

Pax,

Henry

1:45 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, I love the “everyone must wear a “burka” idea although since we are in the West perhaps we should make everyone wear a “Cousin Itt” costume especially since I love the “Adams family’! After all, it's the same shape. ; )

Pax,

Henry

1:46 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Cura,

Yes, that's the thing also that has made me think twice about my stance. The women who currently want to weat the burqa, for wahtever reason, are caught in the middle between the westerners who want it banned and those of their own culture who want them to wear it.

Imagine us moving to an Arab country. Would we feel we had the right to wear tube tops and shorts in the summer? Would we get away with it? If we were nudists and wanted to walk aroud naked all the time here in the west, could we without getting arrested? In Florida (I think) there's a law on the books since the civil war that prohibits people masking their faces because the KKK used to do that to hide their identities - isn't it possible that covering one's whole body could be seen as a threat to some?

Freedom of choice is a western value, but it isn't the freedom to do whatever you want - that kind of freedom only exists in isolation. Freedon of choice = being responsible to the rights of others too.

1:48 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Henry,

What right does the west have to impose it's values on ono-westerners?

They have the right because those people have immigrated to the west and want to be citizens.

It's not all about feminism, it's alos about respecting the rights of others in your new culture, and about safety and security.

But let's speak of feminism. Feminism is the desire that women be treated equally - I just don't understand how anyone could be against that.

I don't know anything about the woman who write that article but I think it's pretty high handed to call her a puppet. And I don't need to find a Muslim to agree with me - the treatment of a whole group, like women, shouldn't be subject to cultural norms but to a higher standard, the dignity and equality of each person, whatever their culture, should be respected. Would you say the same thing if another culture practiced slavery?

1:57 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Mike,

There are already laws in place, as you mention, that determine dress codes to some extent. The law banning burqas isn't telling people what to wear, it's telling them they can't wear one type of germent in public. Did you see what I wrote in response to Cura - ditto.

I like that idea - men who want their wives to wear them must wear them too :)

I do think it's actually hard for women in Muslim cultures, even those who have moved here, to make a truely free choice about whether to wear a burqa or not.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Liam said...

I think there are two issues here. One is whether or not the burqa is in itself oppressive to women. As opposed to the headscarf, it certainly seems to be, and I think Mona Eltahawy is pretty convincing about it. Yet still, I think this is a debate that should take place within the Muslim community, not imposed from outside.

The second issue is whether a state should legislate what clothing people wear at all. For example, I think that wearing a Hooters uniform is demeaning to women (though there's probably, somewhere, some ultra hip tenth wave radical feminist who will argue that it's empowering). At any rate, I don't think the uniform should be banned. I think I should be able to go out in the street dressed in a bear costume if that's what I feel like.

The woman Mona Eltahawy spoke to on the subway did have a disagreeable mindset about her own gender, but she was obviously not being forced to wear the burqa. It ticks off Muslims when westerners come at them with the "we know what's best for you, simplistic children" attitude, and I can certainly understand why.

2:19 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Brandon,

Thanks for your comment.

I think "feminism" is a counterproductive ideology. In nature there are absolute differences, and
"equality" in effect is injustice.


I think I see where you are coming from - you think justice doesn't mean treating men and women equally but in treating them "appropriately" - you believe in the complimentary-ness of the sexes based on their differences ... difference feminism?

I don't agree with that idea. Yes, men and women are different, but I think their similarities are bigger than their differences and they all deserve equal opportunities - equality feminism.

Have you read of philosopher John Rawls' idea of justice? He spoke of a veil of ihnorance -

Rawls thought that people are both rational and reasonable, and though it's rational to want to have one's needs met, it's also reasonable to allow others to meet their needs too, to cooperate. But given that we are all so different in our needs, due to our different situations, how can we find a principle of justice that will work for us all? Rawls imagined a situation in which representatives of citizenry choose a plan that will work for all, based on ignorance of what situation the citizens they represent are actually in ....

the original position — a thought experiment in which the parties are to choose among principles of justice to order the basic structure of society from behind a veil of ignorance — depriving the representatives of information about the particular characteristics (such as wealth and natural abilities) of the parties that they represent. Justice as Fairness is developed by Rawls in his now classic book, A Theory of Justice. (Justice as Fairness)

If you didn't know if you would be a man or a woman, if you would be living in the west or the middle east, what kind of laws would you make?

As for the globalization defense, I do see the value of preserving individual cultures, but first of all, that ship has really already sailed - there is no way to really do this anymore, given our global communication and ability to travel. Secondly, when people immigrate to another country and culture, why do they do so? Because of the benefits that very different culture affords them. To try to keep some aspects of their culture that deny equality while benefitting from the values that make the society they have moved to attractive to them is not really coherent.

2:27 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Liam,

I'd like to see everybody be able to wear whatever they want to, especially bear costumes :)

But take the example of the women wearing hooter's uniforms. Those women wear those because they have to, to keep their jobs. Some may tell themselves they even like to wear them - maybe it gives them a feeling of empowerment. But they, as employees, can't really make a free choice.

But suppose the boss said they could choose to wear them or not. And suppose that, given the clientele of hooters, many women still chose to wear the demeaning uniform because they got more tips. Would that really be a free choice? They must weigh the benefits and deterents, but it's not the same choice as it would be if they were asked whether they wanted to wear that uniform all the time, when not at work.

I guess what I'm trying to say in my own tortured and inept way :) is that many women who want to wear the burqa are not making free choices in the normal sense of the word, and that society sometimes makes things harder for some (like those women) to make it better for many.

2:39 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Crystal,

You may have overlooked that I wrote that I was playing devil’s advocate and so it appears that you’ve misunderstood what I wrote.

The questions I raised are modifications of questions I’ve been asked and I thought they were good (the original ones) because they made me look at my premises.

Let’s look at them together:

1. What right does the West have to impose an imperialistic ideology (Feminism) on a non-Western culture?
2. On what basis do you presume that Feminism is indeed true? I am saying this because Western imperialists all presume that their culture is so much better than ours!
3. Lastly, Mona Eltahawy is just a puppet of an imperialist mind-set, can you cite an authentic Muslim to support your assumptions?

I have many Muslims tell me that Feminism is an imperialistic ideology and question my assertion that “it is about the desire that women be treated equally.” I took that question seriously and asked myself what is the basis for my belief? If it’s because I am a Christian, well that didn’t fly because the person I was speaking with thought Christianity was a false religion. And so, is their a common ground for this assertion? What is it? If you are going to say, human rights (which I did), the person may ask, where do those human rights come from (as I was asked). So, what would you answer?

Regarding Mona Eltahawy, she would be considered a “heretic” (I am using a Christian term) and probably be in physical danger.

I am not saying this to disparage Islam, no, I am saying this because I believe, based on my study and discussions I have had with various people, that we Westerners generally misunderstand Islam for two general reasons: 1) we persist – many times unconsciously – in viewing Islam in light of our Christian categories and Christian experience. 2) We assume that Islam is simply a religion that will eventually mature, as did Christianity, into a more tolerant, more expansive faith.

And I believe these two assumptions are unreasonable and a great danger!

Pax,

Henry

2:39 PM  
Blogger Liam said...

Crystal, I see what you're saying, but still the burqa is one way among many that people are pressured into choices in society. Our choices are more or less free -- but once again that woman on the Cairo subway seemed to be in full agreement.

Henry -- Mona Eltahawy is a Muslim. Islam is a religion of great variety. Some fundamentalists may consider her a heretic, but then again some Catholics will consider me a heretic.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Liam said...

I guess I just don't want the state to be the one who decides in these cases.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Mike L said...

Crystal,

A few scattered thoughts. You say the West has a right to impose their laws on those that immigrated here. And the West also felt they had the right to impose their culture on the Native Americans because they were not using the land productively.

Every culture has its view as to what is right or wrong, good or bad, and I do not believe that anyone living in a culture has a totally free choice. While the Muslim woman might be limited in her choice of wearing a burqa, the western woman has to fight her culture to stay home and raise kids. I believe all of us are far more limited in our choices than what we think.

I once heard the statement that if you have two kids and treat them identically, you are abusing at least one of them. I do not like the Golden Rule since in many cases I would not like to be treated as the other is, and so I try to treat others as they would like to be treated, not as I would like to be treated. This leads me to the belief that if we treat all women the same, all men the same, or everyone the same, we are abusing a lot of people. I do believe that there should be equality in letting people chose their own path and develop their own potential.

I very much agree that freedom also requires responsibility, considering others rights in particular. You asked about wearing tube tops in a Muslim country, and I have heard cruisers talk about the problems they have met in Arab countries. Wearing short shorts and a tube top darned near got them stoned. And I think they were way off base in wearing that kind of clothing.

Oh well, just a few random comments to add fuel to the fire.

Hugs,

Mike L

3:24 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Liam,

I know that Mona is a Muslim and I agree that Islam is a religion of great variety. I don't do much interreligious dialogue but from the discussions I have had with current and former Muslims, most of them would consider her a "heretic" although they would not use that term. For us Catholics, as you know, "heresy" is defined as "the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same."

The media very often applies the term "fundamentalists" to some practitioners of Islam but that is an example of using a Christian category to describe, and in some way, disparage the Muslim Faith (at least that's what I was told). But this discussion will take us far afield and so I will just drop it…

I personally believe this is a very difficult issue to debate because the starting points are so different. For example, the Christian idea of man (in the inclusive sense) is completely different than the Muslim idea of man, etc. Therefore, the question of rights (do they exist? where do they come from?, etc.) is not at all the same.

I see where Crystal is coming from but I also see some dangers that have to be addressed...

I will try, if I can, this weekend to share my own thoughts on the subject.

Pax,

Henry

3:26 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Liam,

Heretic - hee hee :)

Yeah, I feel like you mostly. It's hard to try to figure out how to make things good for everyone. Suppose there are Mormen women who like being the multiple wives of a polygamist. Maybe they should still get to be so. But unless the goverment outlaws polygamy, so many more women will suffer because they may not have the wherewithall to break with their upbringing or to face life outside their culture, etc.

3:34 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Henry,

The basis for my feminism, the belief that all people are equal in worth and deserve to be given equal opportunities, doesn't come from Christianity but from my own conscience and is backed up by philosophers like John Stuart Mill, who wrote about slavery and women's rights. I don't know if I can prove to another person that all people are of equal worth, but if there are people who don't believe this, I think they are not worth my time to try.

I don't want a burqa ban because I disrespect Islam. From what I've read on the subject, the burqa is not required by Islamic law - it is a cultural thing, not a religious thing.

Having said this, I don't have any compunctions about criticizing another religion, or my own religion, if I think there is something worth criticizing. Same for cultures. It may be PC to respect others, and I do try to, but a religion or a culture that damages people doesn't rate my respect. Did we respect South Africa's policy of apartheid? Did we respect the past Mormon's practice of polygamy? Respect must be earned.

5:58 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Mike,

if we treat all women the same, all men the same, or everyone the same, we are abusing a lot of people.

I'm not saying everyone should be treated the same. I'm saying everyone should have equal opportunities. Affirmative action is a good example - people are not treated the same, some are given help, because that's the only feasible way to give them equal opportunities.

6:02 PM  
Blogger victor said...

Just thought that I would say hello under the veil of whatever "IT" might bring our way!:)

I've asked God in prayer where this plus all our other problems come from and to make a long story short, He seems to have told me with taughts that our sins are responsible for "IT" all.

For example and to name only one, you can't see the wind but you can see the destruction that "IT" can do and sin helps "IT" all come about.

Come on Lord Stop "IT!"

Tell me what you're doing about "IT" Lord?

Victor! What more do you want me to do? I've created men and womon in my own image with free will and then when they led me down, I sent prophets and sins killed them ALL. I even sent "MY WORD" but still sin would not listen to HIM and they even used forgiven sins to help them crucify "ME" but relax Victor cause I know what I'm doing and between me, you and any other cells who care to believe, "MY WORD" will not return to me without having done all "IT" was told to do!

I could go on and on, on fire but I think I'll close by saying, "IT" is nice to visit again crystal. :)

God Bless,

2:58 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Victor,

Hi :) It's nice to "see" you again! Thanks for the comment.

6:06 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Crystal,

I can only post a partial response now because I did not have the time to think through what I want to say because of Mother’s day.

Your definition of feminism is different than the standard one and I find that intriguing; although it would take us far afield to explore it at the moment.

Getting back to the subject at hand, you are absolutely correct not to invoke Christianity but to invoke “conscience” may not actually help your argument unless you explain that it is an organ and not an oracle. After all, certain Germans who supported the Nazi’s cited "following their conscience" as justification. And they would be right because we are all obligated to follow our conscience!

Now John Stuart Mill is an interesting choice although Linda C. Raeder in her book “John Stuart Mill and the Religion of Humanity” argues that Mill's orientation is singularly religious and that his religious preoccupations had two prongs. The first is a deep "animus toward traditional transcendent religion"(p. 1) and a life-long commitment to the destruction of Christianity. The second is his commitment to found a new secular Religion of Humanity to replace Christianity; Mill is not a secular humanist at all but is "more accurately characterized as the militant apostle of an intramundane 'social religion' to replace transcendent religion"(p. 2). Of course, I presume you have also read the work of James Fitzjames Stephen who is Mill’s greatest critic of the time. Moreover, John Stuart Mill's Defense of British Rule in India is problematic.

Of course our Muslim interlocutor would state that Mill is also a Western imperialist especially since he has been, if only unconsciously, influenced by Christian premises.

You wrote: “I don't know if I can prove to another person that all people are of equal worth, but if there are people who don't believe this, I think they are not worth my time to try.” This is an interesting position to have but one that would give our Muslim interlocutor the impression that we are surrendering before the question of truth. Of course, I agree with you that it is impossible to change a person’s mind when they are only interested in being right and not in the search for wisdom or truth.

More to follow…

Pax,

Henry

10:22 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Henry,

By conscience, I just mean that interior feeling that something is right or wrong. I don't think it's infallible.

Yes, Mill was also (I think) for the English taking the US away from the Native Americans - not a perfect guy :) But he was something of a feminist for his time - The Subjection of Women.

6:55 PM  

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