During my studies of other religions, particularly Islam, I have been reading about the history of nations and societies. In the process, I have come to consider the freedoms which we sometimes take for granted in this country, Australia, and without which life could be less than fulfilling, or perhaps even miserable.
As I considered all of our freedoms, I wondered firstly how much do we really appreciate all of our freedoms, and secondly how much do we exercise our freedoms. Thirdly, I began to wonder how vigorously we have defended our freedoms as they have been eroded. When I began to consider these points, I realised that we have generally failed on all three counts.
In learning about the development of increased and reduced rights, for women in particular, in other countries, I was lead to consider how recently these rights have been won for us. Perhaps it is time, now, to remember all the difficulties which others have faced before us in order that we, as women and human beings, could have the rights which have become such a fundamental part of our society that we forget to acknowledge them, and neglect to exercise and defend them.
Women over 21 achieved the right to vote and stand for Australian parliament in 1902, the year following federation, providing they weren’t Aboriginal. (Aboriginal men and women were denied the right to vote until 1962.) Our rights were largely won by the women of Britain, who fought a long hard battle starting in the nineteenth century, when only male land- owners were allowed to vote. Restrictions meant that only 58% of men in Britain had the right to vote by 1918 when some women were granted the right. It was only in 1928 when all British men and women over 21 were allowed to vote, regardless of their property ownership.
It may surprise many to learn that some majority Muslim countries granted women the vote long before some of their western counterparts. For instance, women could vote in national elections in Turkey in 1934, whereas the same rights were not achieved by women in Switzerland until 1971.
We sometimes view the male subjugation of women as a particularly Islamic trait, but it was not long ago that western societies had the same or worse views of women.
Wikipedia quotes a barrister in 1863 in relation to commercial law:
“By marriage, the personal identity of the woman is lost. Her person is completely sunk in that of her husband, and he acquires an absolute mastery over her person and effects. Hence her complete disability to contract legal obligations; and except in the event of separation by divorce, or other causes, a married woman in the United Kingdom cannot engage in trade.”
It was not very long ago, in Australia, that any woman who went into a bank to get a loan was told to come back with her husband or her father. Now, we would see this as discrimination.
Whilst we may be infuriated by the treatment of women and animals in some Muslim countries, we must remember that Australian society has its own shameful issues even now.
A 2004 Australian survey showed that 57% of women had been physically or sexually assaulted.
We only need to look at our treatment of animals in the live export trade, in which over 450,000 sheep and 12,000 cattle have died whilst aboard the floating dungeons they call ships, to see one particularly shameful issue.
Can the intensive factory-farming practises in Australia, in which millions of animals are confined in misery for their whole lives, be considered an improvement on the lot of those which suffer at the hands of Muslims for a few hours, days, or weeks?
In Australia, we now have freedom of speech. We can cast aspersions against any religious figure or God herself, if we wish, without legal repercussions, but this hasn’t always been the case, here or in other western countries. The last prosecution for blasphemy in Australia was in 1919, but in Britain it was 1977.
Whilst there is a concern that blasphemy laws in some Muslim countries have been used to oppress people of minority religions and to silence dissenters, powerful figures in Australia have been known to use defamation laws in a similar way. Admittedly, the penalty for defamation is not death.
My aim in this blog, is not to be an apologist for Islam.
I have learned that there are many positive aspects to Islam, but I believe that the religion today has been hijacked by those who would like to return it to its original glory days. What they fail to realise, in my opinion, is that, until they embrace the feminine side of God, the feminine side of their society, and the feminine side of their patriarchal religion, Islam is heading, not towards another golden age, but a dark age.
My aim in this blog, conversely, is not to defend the lack of rights and freedoms endured by those in Muslim countries, but to bring our rights and our freedoms to our attention.
We have the right to dance, to sing, to drive, and to love whomever we choose. We have the right to wear what we like, regardless how risqué others think our outfit is.
We have a right to speak up about those things we don’t believe in. We have a right to try to convince other people and our elected representatives of our own beliefs. We have a right to vote for those candidates who best represent our beliefs. We have a right to complain bitterly when any of our rights are eroded.
The rights and freedoms of people throughout the western world have been eroded steadily since September 11 2001. While Guantanamo Bay in 2014 continues to imprison people who have never been convicted of any crime, it is a symbol of the denial of human rights by a country which once considered itself “the land of the free”.
Freedom-restricting security measures based on fear of terrorism in the western world are no less egregious than those laws restricting the movement and exposure of women based on fear of their seductive power in the Muslim world.
I call on all people of the western world to peacefully defend their rights and freedoms by using their freedom of speech to loudly denounce any erosion of their rights, and to call for a resumption of the values on which those rights are based. I believe that the values on which Australia was based would not allow for the suffering which we currently inflict on animals in pursuit of the mighty dollar.
I call on all people in the western world to use their freedom of speech to stand up for the freedoms denied to so many others throughout the world.
I call on all Muslims who reside in countries which uphold their freedom to help Muslims in other countries to understand that freedom is one of the greatest attributes of Allah, and therefore a necessary requirement for those who wish to emulate Him.
The greatest attribute of God, however, is love, and I call on all people of the world to emulate Her by basing all of their thoughts, words, and deeds on love, rather than fear. If we can do that, then we can welcome a golden age, not only to Muslim countries, but to the entire Earth.
Image of hand on wire courtesy of worradmu / FreeDigitalPhotos.net