Where There Were No Doors

Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before - Joseph Campbell

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Mrs. Bush goes to Jerusalem

From the Middle East we hear news that Laura Bush has been heckled whilst visiting holy sites on Temple Mount in Jerusalem. I have to admit that I find this trip of hers completely mystifying. I can't see how it could generate anything but further ill feeling amongst those already opposed to America's presence in the region.

The most high-profile thing she did was to criticise the attitudes of Arab societies towards women before visiting the Wailing Wall with the wife of Israeli President Moshe Katsav. There - in accordance with Orthodox Jewish Law - she prayed "in the Women's Section".

(Rumours that she was asked to sit at the back of the tour bus with the rest of the women are apparently untrue however).

Then she drove to the Dome of the Rock mosque... a high-profile tourist with the world's media in tow, performing a motorcade pilgrimage of deep crassness and bad taste.

Don't get me wrong. I've lived in Egypt and worked in Saudi... Islamic society is very seriously fucked up (Egypt far less so than Saudi let me point out). I wouldn't describe it as more fucked up than Western consumerism... just fucked up in different ways. I suspect that a culture based on the instructions of a 6th century warrior prophet who heard voices is probably madder in many ways than one based on totally meaningless material acquisition. But it's also probably less dangerous in lots of ways. So whatcha gonna do?

All the same, women do indeed get a more overtly raw deal over there than they do here.
...that's why I could never get to grips with Saudi Arabia, and why it's the one place I enjoyed living even less than I'm enjoying the American Midwest... the total lack of anything remotely "feminine" in hardline Islamic society wasn't something I could deal with very well. And even though the argument over there was that at least it's better than a culture in which "the feminine" is reduced to just another commodity, I disagree. I'm uncomfortable living in a place where, for days on end, every face I see is male. Too much testosterone.

So yeah; I'll even take Ottumwa or Des Moines or Columbus or... save us... Oakbrook, Illinois rather than Riyadh or Jeddah. And even though there may be a lesson in that, I hope I'll have the courage to choose a quick and honourable death if those two ever become the only options available to us.
- me (email from America, 1998)
So I'm not defending Islam against the charges levelled at it by Mrs. Dubya (incidentally, along with the whole "Women's Section" thing... I'm a little confused by the fact that The First Lady; a woman whose position is entirely based upon the achievements of her husband; gets to lecture a foreign culture on the position of women in society... but that's just me). The charges themselves are perfectly valid and - if anything - don't go nearly far enough. But Laura Bush could hardly be a worse messenger. Especially as all three of the monotheisms involved have parables about tending to your own shit before criticising others.

Also, her very presence is all wrong. Coiffured, unapproachable and untouchable her visit to the Dome of the Rock mosque simply reeked of opportunistic and hollow theatrics. It was exploitative. All photo-op no soul.


Blogger L said...

It's frightening that there are religious extremists in my country who would like to bring the status of women down to a near paralell with that found in the Middle East...

23/5/05 02:26  

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