One of the staples of science fiction stories and films is the idea of time travel. H. G. Wells wrote the classic novel The Time Machine, and many other writers and filmmakers have explored the fascinating possibilities of travelling back and forth in time. What few people realize, though, is that time travel is perfectly possible, at least in one direction...you need only look to the Middle East.
Welcome to the Arab/Muslim world. Set your watches back 1200 years.
Two things bring this thought to mind today. One is the news out of Iran that the authorities are cracking down severely on women guilty of the heinous crime of insufficiently modest, Islamic dress. Evidently the sight of an uncovered female arm, or a glimpse of a woman's hair, is such a danger to public morals that the religious authorities are making extra efforts to get such hardened criminals off the streets.
Oh, and they're detaining Western reporters who attempt to film the enforcement of Islamic morality. Evidently, they don't want the rest of the world to realize how backward they are.
The other thing that attracted my attention on the topic of time travel was a report on the MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) website. MEMRI report number 1562, dated April 27th, provids translated excerpts from a debate which aired on Al-Arabiya television on January 28th of this year. The topic of the debate among several Islamic scholars was whether women may serve as heads of state, and it makes amazing and unsettling reading. Consider this statement by Said Farahat Al-Mungi, an Islamic scholar from Al-Azhar University:
"We sympathize with the woman because of [the emotions] that surge in her and lead her to desire everything. We treat women with the utmost honor and respect, but there is a limit to the positions she is allowed to fulfill. Even the things most specific to women are beyond her capabilities. For example, the dresses worn by women are made by men. The food that she eats is produced by men. One cannot find even a single successful female gynecologist. She is incapable of doing even the things most specific to women. Men do them. In no way to I mean to belittle women's capabilities. After all, women constitute half of society, and they are the ones who raise the other half."
Set that watch back another few hundred years while you think about this ridiculous drivel from a "scholar."
If you needed any proof that the Middle East is and will remain a religiously-stultified cultural backwater, important only because it sits on the oil the rest of the world needs, statements like this ought to give you something to think about.
I could write more on this topic, and I will in the future. For now, I recommend you just read the MEMRI report in its entirety (click the link in my recommended link list to get there fast) and think about what it will mean to all of us if rigid and inane social and religious opinions like these are allowed to spread without being held up to the ridicule they deserve.
Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.