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autumn 2011 vol 2 no 1


THE STANFORD JOURNALthe ON MUSLIM AFFAIRS stanford journal on muslim affairs 1


AUTUMN 2011 VOL 2 NO 1

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Irteza Binte-Farid ’13 ASSOCIATE EDITORS Hana Al-Henaid ’14 Izzah Farzanah ’15 CONSULTING EDITOR Sahar Khan ’13 DESIGNER Justin Calles ’13 WEBMASTER Salahodeen Abdul-Kafi ’12

Avicenna—The Stanford Journal on Muslim Affairs would like to thank the ASSU Publications Board for their support. All images in this journal are in the public domain with Creative Commons copyright licenses unless otherwise noted. More information about these licences can be found at Front cover: Badshahi Mosque, Lahore, Pakistan, by Waqas Mustafeez (Ph.D. Candidate, Electrical Engineering) Back cover: Lamps in Istanbul by Ayesha Rasheed ’14





Aljamiado Poem in Praise of Muhammad A poem translated by VINCENT BARLETTA


Comparing the Emergence of Nations and National Projects in the Middle East SAHAR KHAN


Shams Kasma’i: Female Pioneer of Modernist Persian Poetry DOMINIC PARVIZ BROOKSHAW


Determinants of Delayed Male Marriage in Egypt MIRIAM MARKS


Images of Lahore WAQAS MUSTAFEEZ


Wearing the First Amendment on My Head ARIN MANGO


Ceramic Art by MARK PIERCY Stanford Ceramics Instructor

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Editorial Note “Discourse is imaginatively creative which can influence the soul to the point that it will rejoice or be anguished by some things never before seen, thought of, or chosen. In short, the soul will be affected psychically.” —Avicenna, in his “Commentary on the Poetics of Aristotle” c. 1001. The anguish and rejoicing of the soul that Avicenna speaks of shakes us from the mundaneness of our everyday existence and from our self-centered approach to the world. Through poetry, art, and expressions of creativity, the soul learns to view the world through fresh, contemplative lenses that counter the dogmatic stagnancy that characterizes much of the corruption-ridden, povertystricken world in which we live. Yet, doesn’t it seem unrealistic to claim that art can change the world? According to the Persian polymath and physician, Avicenna, not at all—in fact, the claim that art can change the world is not only possible but entirely logical. The experiences needed to produce art and poetry, and the ability to share it with others, transforms not only the artists themselves, but the communities in which they live. The process of thinking, creating, and sharing art and literature allows the artist to develop cognitive and problem-solving skills, which they can apply in any aspect of their lives. Whether as artists, citizens, educators, workers, or leaders, art opens up individuals’ minds and allows them to place more value on creation rather than destruction. And in truth, isn’t valuing creativity ever more necessary in a world that seems to be falling apart at its edges? Increasing poverty levels, political warfare, genocide, hunger, overpopulation, environmental degradation, terrorism, and a host of other factors presents a formidable challenge to young reformers and solution-seekers in our world today. Religious and xenophobic fears have also gained prominence in the last ten years, especially after 9/11. Isn’t it time we tried to solve such monumental problems through monumentally creative solutions? Perhaps Avicenna is our attempt to fulfill such a need. In the context of fear and misunderstanding, especially in regards to Islam, it is necessary to dispel many negative stereotypes and myths surrounding this religion and its adherents; Avicenna attempts to do just that. By creating a space for discussion of social, political, cultural, and artistic facets of Islam and the Muslim world, Avicenna hopes to bridge the gap of understanding between the East and the West, much the same way that Avicenna, the man himself, worked hard to create understanding between Muslim, ChristianLatin, and Jewish societies of his time. As much as he was a philosopher, polymath, physician, and writer, Avicenna (Ibn Sina, 980–1037) was also a proponent of the arts because he truly believed that art could change the world. He was highly influential in stimulating the production of Persian arts in 11th century, and in this issue of Avicenna, it is fitting that we have a selection of Persian poetry by Shams Kasma’i, a Persian feminist poet. Though translated, the beautifully crafted poem still remains a testament to the rich heritage of Persian poetry and literature. The beauty of words is also captured in the Aljamiado poem from the late sixteenth century, which was written by the Moriscos in Spain, in praise of the Prophet Muhammad. In addition to such works of poetry, photographs and sculptures play a major part in embodying the artistic motif of the Autumn issue of Avicenna. Thought-provoking mages from Lahore, Pakistan, capture the deep-seated spirituality and charm of this city, while an image of lanterns on the back cover emphasizes the vibrant and colorful atmosphere of Istanbul, Turkey. In addition, the ceramics and sculptural pieces featured in the following pages attest to the multi-faceted 4


nature of art and accompany the diverse articles included in this issue. Whether from a historical standpoint, from a public policy angle, or from a creative perspective, each of the works address an aspect of the Muslim world that we felt was worth emphasizing. The diversity of topics that need to be studied within the ‘Muslim world,’ however, is never exhausted, ensuring that there will always be issues to debate and analyze. We hope that Avicenna continues to create a space in which these issues find voice. Yet, even as these issues find expression in the compelling articles and pictures we present here, it remains to be seen whether they truly shape the perspectives of our readers in a positive light. Whether these works of art and literature produce analytical thinkers and productive citizens, as Avicenna had hoped, also cannot be determined. However, what can be ascertained (if not measured) is the fact that art and literature continues to make us more human. By tapping into our consciousness, art brings forth our compassion and our humanity and makes us more aware of the world outside ourselves. By understanding and appreciating art, we learn to think outside restricted boundaries and cloistered spaces, freeing our souls along the way. Such lofty ideals do not and will not come easily, but it is time that we begin to strive towards such a utopian perspective of peace and understanding. We may never reach this utopia, but that doesn’t mean that we are absolved from our constant struggles to reach it. Because, ultimately, the fact of the matter is: if we don’t try, then who will? Irteza Binte-Farid ’13 Editor-in-Chief

“Avicenna (Ibn Sina) II”—photo taken at the Ibn Sina Museum in Afshana, Uzbekistan—by Flickr user night_eulen

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Aljamiado Poem in Praise of Muhammad Introduction and Translation by Vincent Barletta Professor of Iberian and Latin American Cultures Stanford University

Despite the steadily declining political power of Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula and the overall importance of Granada’s fall in 1492, the end of Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula did not mean the end of Muslim life and culture there. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, eight years after Granada’s fall, nearly half a million Muslims were still living under the Catholic Monarchs’ power (out of a total Iberian population of roughly nine million). These mudéjar (i.e., Muslims living under Christian rule) communities were centered to a great extent in and around Granada and Valencia, though there were also sizeable communities in Aragon and smaller, more assimilated groups scattered throughout Castile. Shortly after the start of the sixteenth century, however, the fortunes of Castilian and Aragonese Muslims began to change. In 1502, King Fernando and Queen Isabel issued an order requiring all Muslims in Castile and León to convert to Christianity or leave at once. The same law would reach Navarre in 1515 and Aragon in 1526. The royal order was widely enforced (executed in large part by mass baptisms and coercive tactics), and by the end of the first quarter of the sixteenth century, the official Muslim population of Spain had been reduced from nearly half a million to nearly zero. The converted Muslims were commonly referred to as moriscos. 6


Of course the speedy, mostly nominal conversion of Iberian Muslims to Christianity (the Muslims and Jews of Portugal had been expelled from that kingdom in 1497) does not tell the whole story. Because the overwhelming majority of these conversions were performed by coercion and under duress, whole communities of Muslims (now nominally Christians) continued to practice Islam as they had before, some even doing so openly. One important and effective means by which the moriscos were able to maintain their religion and culture was the production of handwritten books that were actively recopied despite their illegality. Many of these books were copied out in Castilian and Aragonese (with varying amounts of intercalated Arabic) using an adapted form of Arabic script known to modern scholars as aljamiado. Texts in aljamiado, produced in a wide range of forms and genres (including lyric poetry), played a number of very complex and important roles within morisco communities, roles that were neither negatively defined nor instantiated without a keen first-hand sense of the frequently dire situation in which the readers of these texts, and their scribes, found themselves. The following text is an anonymous poem in praise of Muhammad. It is found in a handwritten codex held in

Madrid by the Biblioteca de la Real Academia de la Historia (MS 11/9414 (olim T-18) ff. 189v-192r). The codex is a miscellany that was copied out in Western Aragon during the late sixteenth century

and hidden away under the floor of a house at the time of the Moriscos’ expulsion in 1609. It was rediscovered in the late nineteenth century as workers were demolishing the house.

All praise goes to God, on high All praise goes to God, on high; He is true, honorable and complete, a righteous Lord, Lord of all the world, one alone and illustrious, a generous, powerful, and sound orderer of things;1 It is to Him that I turn to request help and favor, and forgiveness for my sins, for my grave shortcomings and errors; may He also forgive the errors and sins of my father, my mother, and all my brothers and sisters.2 And turning back to speak, what I intend to do is praise and exalt he who so merits it, as because of his birth we were redeemed, and we were all released and saved from perdition. I do not feel adequate to declare all this, because I am very clumsy and coarse to be speaking of such a high creature, a clear and beautiful moon. He, the one of great beauty, sun of highness and clarity. But I wish to recite what is well established and to be the truth that was prophesied. For our Lord on high swore, on that great day, that if not for our beloved,3 nothing would have been created. He was later sent with relief and blessings to the people and was a great consolation, and with a very clear law declaring the truth, undoing the lie regarding the Trinity. And as he came into the world, he demonstrated his great goodness, and later he knelt down before the true King on high; he then raised his head, signaling with his finger that He was one, and that He alone was the true King on high. He also asked his Lord for forgiveness on behalf of his people, and he spoke with much care and love. He kept us in mind with all of his petitions, and this is reason enough for us to place him in our hearts. He wished to show Him in all his high majesty; these are things that are so excellent that they defy narration: all idolatry was soon torn down, and the house in which he was born surrounded by angels. As is apparent from the original, this poem was composed in cuaderna vía, a stanza form composed of four monorhymed, fourteen-syllable verses known as alexandrines. This stanza is a translated Arabic du’a, or supplication to God. 3 A reference to Muhammad, whose name in Arabic literally means “beloved.” 1


the stanford journal on muslim affairs


The birds took wing, the mountains resounded, heaven opened up, and the angels descended. And the fish of the sea, in the waves where they were, and the brute animals in the forests where they lay. All of these are around him, too many to count, saying: ‘May He who has sent him be exalted; through his birth we were all put right by this beloved, holy, and blessed friend.’ He was quickly taken without delay, circling the entire world over land and sea, so that all would see that he was the one sent, the one who was promised, written of, and prophesied. He was then returned with great respect when his journey was complete. All the women came wishing to raise him, but in the end it was Halima, she of that high place. She heard a voice that cried out and said: ‘Praised be the woman who gives him her milk; People, if this blessed light enters among you, we will all be freed and saved from perdition.’ Then everyone quickly left the town and a went to Mecca happily and with great haste. And none of them saw this blessed one save the noble Halima, as it was ordered to be this way. When she arrived with him in Mecca, she went without delay to her mother’s house. Her grandfather was content that they should raise this beloved prophet [ . . . ] Halima then took him to let him suckle her; she gave him her left breast, but he refused to drink from it. He had been sent to the world to lead from the right; she had a son who would drink from the left. To recount the virtuous way in which he grew up is a pleasure for the eyes and a happiness for the heart; never did any obscenity or rudeness come from him. He was as beautiful as the moon, but from his goodness and virtue. Turning to relate what happened afterward, it breaks my heart and greatly disturbs me that I should be so daring as to speak of these matters; but with His power and help, I must speak of a few of them. Muhammad returned the world with great rightness to the Truth, and removed the blindness of falsity and evil. He left the world well situated; although he found it alone, he left it highly praised.



His heart was without doubt removed from his body. Washed and cleaned, it was then returned to its place; and the moon came to him smiling and in all humility, praying before him, it said: ‘Muhammad, Tell me what you want me to do without delay, my beloved friend, who has honored this place; for the true King on high has ordered me to be obedient to you in all things and completely.’ In the cave he was saved when he was being persecuted:4 the spider spun a web over where they had entered and the dove made a nest to hide the opening5 so that he and his good companion6 would not be found. The rock spoke to him, telling him to speak to it;7 the tree uprooted itself, telling him to look at it; the trunk flattered him, saying: ‘Much Beloved! Why have you left me, leaving me so sad?’ The lizard spoke to him and said that all those friends and beloved ones that followed and loved his path and course would achieve glory. Many heard him say this, and it was proven to be true. The wolf spoke to him smiling and with great happiness and said to him: ‘Messenger of God, a shepherd to whom I have shown the truth will come to you; he will believe in your Lord, and may he come happily and with no fear.’ Soon afterward, the shepherd came to our friend who loved of rightful speech, and said to him that he wished to convert to the faith, because it was the greatest law sent from the Essence. Now to recount the miracle of his great purification, with great respect, in the celestial court. He passed through the seven heavens in one moment and arrived to his Lord where they spoke of great things. Nobody can imagine the excellent secrets that his Lord shared with him on that night, as he had arrived at a place where no one had arrived before, and everything that was there was shown to him very certainly.

4 A reference to a popular legend, contained in Abu al-Hasn al-Bakri’s Kitab al-anwar [Book of Lights] (ca. 1275 CE), the most direct source for this poem, which recounts the journey of Muhammad and his companion Abu Bakr to Medina. While on their way, the two men were told that some polytheists from Mecca were looking for them with the intention of harming them. Muhammad and Abu Bakr took shelter in the Cave of Thawr. Once inside the cave, a spider spun a web across the entrance to hide them. When the men from Mecca arrived at the cave they assumed that there was no one in the cave because the spider’s web had not been broken. This episode is generally understood to be one more example of the ways in which God protected his messenger from harm. 5 Some versions of the cave story include a dove who covers the small opening of the cave with its nest. 6 That is, Abu Bakr. 7 In this stanza and the three that follow are found examples of legends revolving around Muhammad that come from al-Bakri’s Kitab al-anwar (or, more directly, an Aljamiado translation of this work).

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And all the angels came with great honor and happiness to receive him and keep him company; he was visited by all with pleasure and given a great welcome, and they said to him that he was certainly blessed. They also said that Allah had not created anything of greater worth, and that he was the prophet, the treasure, and the knowledge; and that he was certainly the greatest of those that were in the world, and the most praised one of faith that had ever been born. The flowers and their smell were born of his sweat, and on the day of judgment he will certainly pray for us; without his prayers none of us will escape and none of us will be freed from sadness. From his hands were born springs of holy water when he was in the desert and the people in perdition; Oh, chosen one and beloved, clear and happy moon! My Lord, with you I defend myself at night and at day. Since my sins come from my own lack and error, and in all the land there is no sinner more graceless than I, clumsy, miserable; may you forgive me and through your prayer to Him may you wish to help me to escape. And I find that there is no one who can sing his graces and marvels, or recite them; it is enough that he is the greatest that has been sent to the world, the faithful one most devoted to prayer on the day of tribulation. Let us, without delay, pray endlessly over him, both at night and day; Let us pray to God that He saves us together with him on the Day of Judgment, behind him and among his followers. And through his great excellence, may he wish to aid us and allow us to develop fully in this excellent faith; and at the end of our lives may he allow us to give testimony to that noble word, so that we may be saved. And upon entering the grave may he give us a strong heart so as to respond well to temptation, which is so difficult and bitter that I don’t dare to speak of it, thinking of and looking to Munkar and Nakir.8 I do not want from this any payment from this world of sadness, nor do I wish for excessive vanity or any sort of worldly beauty; because what I have spoken is the grace of my Lord and no wit of my own, clumsy sinner that I am. It is enough payment for that company that followed Muhammad in his torment, and all of his followers, and to my honored Lord, and to all Muslims for their honor and estate. Munkar and Makir are two angels that visit the deceased in the grave and interrogate her or him regarding questions of faith. Those who answer correctly (in their hearts as well as in their words) will spend the time before the Day of Judgment waiting patiently, while those who do not answer well will spend their afterlife being punished until the Day of Judgment.


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Las loores son ad Allah, el alto, verdadero Las loores son ad Allah, el alto, verdadero honrado y conplido, Señor muy derechero, Señor de todo el mundo, uno solo y señero, franco, poderoso, ordenador sertero; Al cual pido y demando su ayuda y favor, y perdón de mis pecados, de mi gran falta y error, y a mi padre y a mi madre y a todos mis hermanos Él nos quiera perdonar nuesas yerras y pecados. Y tornando a declarar, lo que tengo en intinción de alabar y ensalzar a quien es tanta razón, pues que por su nacimiento fue nuesa redención, y fuimos todos librados y quitos de perdición. No me siento yo complido para esto declarar; porque soy muy torpe y rudo para haber de hablar en tan alta criatura, luna clara y de beldad. El de la gran hermosura, sol de alteza y claridad. Pero quiero declarar lo que está bien asentado y se halla por verdad que estaba profetizado; que juró nueso Señor, el alto, de la gran día, que si no por nueso amado, cosa criado no habría. Así fue luego enviado con descanso y bendición al reparo de las gentes y muy gran consolación, y con ley muy clara declarando la verdad, desfaciendo la mentira de toda la Trenidad. Y como al mundo salió, demostró su gran bondad, que luego hizo obediencia al Rey alto de verdad; alzó luego su cabeza, aseñando con su dedo que era solo y sin segundo el Rey alto, verdadero. Y tambien pidió perdón por su al-umma a su Señor, lo segundo que habló con cuidado y con amor. pues que nos tuvo en memoria en todas sus peticiones, razón es que lo tengamos puesto en nuesos corazones. Pues lo quiso demosar en su alto puiamiento, son cosas tan excelentes, que no tienen ningún cuento; que toda la idolatría fue luego derribada, y la casa en que nació de almalaques rodeada. Y las aves revolando y los montes relumbrando, y los cielos bien abiertos almalaques deballaban. y los peces de la mar, en las ondas donde estaban, y las alimañas brutas, en los bosques do posaban. Todos están al rededor, que no se pueden contar, diciendo: ‘Sea ensalzado Él que lo quiso enviar; que por su nacimiento fuimos todos reparados de este amigo amado, santo, bienaventurado.’

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Fue tomado muy aprisa sin tardanza ni vagar, rodeando todo el mundo por la tierra y por la mar; porque todos lo viesen que era el enviado, el que estaba prometido, escrito y profetizado. Fue luego tornado con muy grande acatamiento, cuando fuere complido todo su excitamiento; todas a él venían por haberlo de criar, mas al fin fue Jalima, la de aquel alto lugar; Que oyeron un clamante que clamaba y decía: ‘ensalzada será la que leche le daría; pueblo, si en ti entrara esta luz de bendición, seremos todos librados y quitos de perdición.’ Luego salieron aprisa del pueblo que ha hablado, y todas se fueron a Mecca de gran prisa y de grado. y nenguna lo vido a este bienaventurado, sino Jalima la noble, que esto le fue mandado. Como fue llegada a Mecca , fuese luego sin tardar a la casa de su madre, ad haberlo de tomar. fue contento su agüelo de este profeta amado que lo hubiese de criar [ . . . ] Tomóle luego Jalima para darle a tetar; púsole en la teta izquierda, mas non la quiso tomar; mosando con la derecha al mundo fue enviado, que tenía un hijo que venía de aquel lado. Pues contar aquella limpieza que fue en su criazón es descanso a los ojos y alegría al corazón; jamás de él salió suciedad ni rudeza. de la luna de beldad, mas de bondad y limpieza. Tornando a declarar lo que se siguió adelante, se me rompe el corazón y me pone solevante, en ser yo tan atrevido en sus cosas de hablar. mas con su poder y ayuda algunas he de contar. Que volvió con gran derecho la tierra de gran verdad, y quitó aquella ceguera de falsía y de maldad. hasta en tanto que dejó la tierra bien asentada; aunque la halló sola, la dejó muy alabada. Su corazón fue sacado de su cuerpo sin dudar. lavado y alimpiado, luego vuelto a su lugar; y la luna vino a él riendo y con humildad, haciendo el sala sobre él, diciendo: ‘Ya Muhammad, Dime lo que quieres que haga luego, sin demás tardar, ya mi amigo amado, quien honró este lugar; que mandado me ha sido del Rey alto, verdadero, que te sea obidiente en todo y por entero.’ En la cueva se salvó cuando fue reacosado, la tarataña tesió luego por donde hubo entrado, la paloma hizo nido por cerrar el agujero, porque no fuesen hallados él y su buen compañero. 12 avicenna

La peña le voceó, diciendo que le hablase; el árbol se arrancó, diciendo que le mirase; el tronco le halagaba, diciéndole: ‘¡Muy amado! ¿por qué te has ido de mí, que tan triste me has dejado?’ El ardacho le habló y dijo de esta manera: que siguiendo y amando su camino y carrera, que la gloria alcanzarían todos amigos y amados, donde muchos lo oyeron que estaba cierto probado. El lobo con él habló riendo y con alegría, y le dijo: ‘Mensajero, a ti un pastor vernía, que yo lo he desengañado, que creerá en tu Señor, y que a ti venga de grado, luego sin nengún temor.’ Luego vino el pastor sin nengún detardamiento a nueso amigo amado a muy gran razonamiento, diciendo que él quería tornarse a la creencia, porque era la ley mejor enviada de la Esencia. Pues contar aquel milagro de su alto puiamiento a la corte celestial con grande acatamiento, que todos los siete cielos los andó en un momento, y llegó a su Señor a muy gran razonamiento; Que nadie puede pensar el secreto tan excelente que con su Señor pasó en aquella noche presente; que llegó a una grada donde nadie había llegado, y todo lo que allí había le fue cierto demosado; Y todos los almalaques con honor y alegría lo salieron a recebir y hacerle compañia; de todos fue visitado con placer y albriciado, diciendo que él era cierto el bienaventurado. Y que Allah no jalecó cosa de más valer, y qu’él era el Profeta y el tresoro y el saber, y qu’él fue cierto el mayor de los que en el mundo fueron, y el fiel más ensalzado de todos los que nacieron. Las flores y las olores nacieron de su sudor, y el día del judlcio cierto él será rogador; que sino por su rogaría nadie fuera escapado, y de su tristeza de él nadie seyera librado. De sus manos nacieron fuentes de agua de bendición cuando estaba en el desierto y la gente en perdición; ¡oh, escogido y amado, luna clara y de alegría! Señor, con ti me defiendo en la noche y en el día. Que según son mis pecados de mi gran falta y error, que en todas las belades no hay más torpe pecador que yo, torpe, desdichado; tú me quieras perdonar, y por su rogaría dél tú me quieras escapar. Y pues hallo de mi cuenta que no hay quien pueda cantar sus gracias ni maravillas, poderlas declarar, basta que él es el mayor que al mundo fue enviado, el fiel más rogador en el día atribulado. the stanford journal on muslim affairs


Hagamos el sala sobre él, que no se pueda contar, en la noche y en el día, luego, sin demás tardar; roguemos ad Allah nos saque juntos con él en el día del judicio, cabo él y en su tropel. Y por su alta excelencia él nos quiera amparar, y en esta alta creencia nos deje bien acabar, y al fin de nuesas vidas nos deje testimoniar aquella noble palabra, que nos podamos salvar. En la entrada de la fuesa nos dé fuerte corazón para bien le responder en aquella tentación; que es tan recia y tan amarga, que no lo oso decir, pensando y mirando en Moncarón y Nathir. No quiero de esto paga de este mundo de tristura, ni tampoco vanagloria ni nenguna hermosura; porque lo que yo he hablado es gracia de mi Señor, y no cierto agudeza de mí, torpe pecador. Y cumple de apaganza ad aquella compañía que siguieron a Muhammad en aquella agonía, y a todos los seguidores y a mi Señor honrado, y a todos los muslimes por su honra y estado.

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“Neo-Attic Vase” by Mark Piercy

the stanford journal on muslim affairs


Comparing the Emergence of Nations and National Projects in the Middle East Sahar Khan History ’13

In spite of the pervasive European presence in both Egypt’s and the Levant states’ emergences and subsequent national projects, there was a difference of kind (rather than merely of degree) in the nature and extent of this colonial impact. This is because foreign agreements (e.g. Sykes-Picot, Husayn-McMahon, Balfour Memorandum 1919) created the Levant states whereas Egypt already existed as a national unit when it was granted conditional independence in 1922. Hence, the way in which the Levant states emerged rendered their subsequent national projects doubly demanding. Whereas Egypt only had to build a nation-state, the Levant states had to build a nation-state and simultaneously foster a supplementary national identity. Although both national projects were led by upper class intelligentsia/ruling elite and had their respective illiberal elements, the latter’s more demanding national project necessitated greater discipline and rigor. Hence, there was a difference of degree whereby the Levant states’ national projects developed with relatively more authoritarian and illiberal tendencies than Egypt. Egypt, with a 5,000-year old political life and quasi-autonomous status within the Ottoman Empire was a nation-in-themaking even before it was officially recognized as a nation. However, the making of the Levant nations really only got underway after their national identities of Lebanon, Transjordan, Iraq and Syria were imposed upon them by European pow16 avicenna

ers. The politico-national unit of Egypt existed before the British declared Egypt a protectorate in 1914. Thereafter the antiimperialist demonstrations and strikes of 1919 took place, which according to Gelvin, “spread from students and labor activists to artisans and civil servants and even the urban poor.”1 The cross-cutting nature of this demonstration indicates a nascent national cohesion in Egypt. This cohesion may not have necessarily existed by design but was how things naturally played out. Later in 1922, the British Milner Commission granted Egypt conditional independence. When Egypt emerged as conditionally independent, it already had a national precedent of anti-imperialist struggle that strongly anchored subsequent efforts to turn the conditional into substantive and unconditional independence. Not only this but Egypt developed some forerunners to national structures of economics, politics etc. One example of such a forerunner in the economic sphere is Talat Harb’s establishment of Bank Misr in 1920. These kinds of pre-national structures and an already emergent anti-imperialist consciousness amounted to the kind of national groundwork/identity that eluded the Levantine states. Not only this, but even the Arabist identity that was present in the Levant was abruptly disrupted by the strategic imperialist drawing of the fraction-ridden states of Lebanon, Transjordan, Syria and 1 James L. Gelvin, The Modern Middle East – A History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 187.

Flags at the Arab American Festival in Orlando, FL (photo by Flickr user 3ammo)

Iraq. The fractious nature of these states further undermined the kind of cohesive Egyptian identity that preceded Egypt’s independence and made the transition to its national project more natural and less abrupt. Rashid Khalidi’s chapter “Ottomanism and Arabism” explores the importance of Arabism in Syria/“bilad al-sham.” Specifically, he talks about how Damascus became the “capital of Arab nationalism – ‘qalb al-‘uruba al-nabid’ (the beating heart of Arabism)” and mentions Beirut as another major center of Arabism.2 Hence, it is evident that an Arabist identity that was emergent did not experience continuity as the lines drawn by the mandatory European powers in the Levant did not coincide with the lines of this intellectualcultural current. Damascus was promised to King Faysal as a part of his Arabian naRashid Khalidi, “Chapter Three: Ottomanism and Arabism in Syria Before 1914: A Reassessment,” in Rashid Khalidi et al, eds., The Origins of Arab Nationalism, pp. 50-69 (New York: Columbia University Press), 55.


tion in the Husayn-McMahon Correspondence.3 However, after Faysal was proclaimed King of Syria in 1920 due to his capture of Damascus, the French forcibly ousted him in the July Battle of Maysalun. There was little British opposition to this French takeover as the Sykes-Picot agreement4 (1916) posited that Syria would be in the A-Zone, under French influence. This shows a complete disregard for local Arab nationalistic demands. Hence, from the outset these nations were divided in a way that undermined Arabist identity. The Arabist identity could have offered the kind of cohesive grounding that Egypt benefited from. King Husayn and Henry McMahon, HusaynMcMahon Correspondence, first 4 items (19151916), from George Antonius’ The Arab Awakening (1938) < htm> (accessed 25 April 2011). 4 Sir Mark Sykes and François Picot, Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916), Yale Law School – Lillian Goldman Law Library, < edu/20th_century/sykes.asp> (accessed 25 April 2011). 3

the stanford journal on muslim affairs


Whereas Egypt had incipient national organs before its national independence, Lebanon, Transjordan, Syria, and Iraq’s national projects were stunted by the fact that their boundaries were drawn in an economically, politically and socially debilitating way. Even though Balfour claims that “frontiers should be determined by economic and ethnographic considerations rather than strategic”5 this was clearly not the case. Leaving aside the cultural connection of Arabism, Gelvin says that Greater Syria’s cities of Damascus and Beirut also formed a “distinct economic unit”6 and were joined by rail. These two cities went to two separate nation-states (Syria and Lebanon respectively). This economic unit that could have continued to flourish after 1922 was broken up by the Mandate system. Jordan was a country with virtually no economic resources, and Iraq was and still remains a highly sectarian state. The Assyrian massacre of 1933 in Iraq, which caused approximately 3,000 casualties is just one incident that exemplifies the sectarian nature of the Iraqi state. Unlike Egypt, Iraq did not have a national identity. National identity started to be molded in terms of opposition to religious minorities which in Kanan Makiya’s words meant that “Killing Assyrians, however nonexistent their threat might have been, was perceived as enhancing the prospects of Iraqi unity.”7 Because of the creation of these unnatural nations, very perverse forms of unity-creation emerged whereby illiberal and militaristic practices became deeply rooted in the Iraqi political culture. Hence this is just one example of how the extremely demanding national project of Iraq (to build a nation-state and a national Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939, Balfour Memorandum on Syria, Palestine and Mesopotamia (London, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1952), 346. 6 Gelvin, The Modern Middle East, 200. 7 Kanan Makiya, Republic of Fear: The Politics of Modern Iraq, 166-175 (California: UC Press, 1998), 171. 5

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identity) that was imposed by mandatory boundaries lead to a militaristic and inhumane treatment of minorities in the name of their national projects. One possible reason why Egypt’s national project was less illiberal was the political heterogeneity that developed before Egypt emerged as a substantively independent nation. Gelvin discusses that the narrow upper class interest of the mainstream Egyptian national movement “failed to encompass or even control the totality of the Egyptian public sphere” and so it “left the door open to a host of other political movements that posed alternatives to the mainstream nationalist movement.”8 Liberal/progressive political alternatives to the ruling elite were also present in Iraq in the form of the Al-Ahali group and the Communists. However, these groups were not able to gain traction. Al-Ahali did not become an opposition force that could guide the Iraqi political culture in a progressive direction because it was co-opted in the military coups of Bakr Sidqi (1936) and Kaylani (1941). In doing so, the Al-Ahali group “drew attention to the need to strengthen the army and foster patriotism among the soldiers” and they claimed, “Iraq had reached a state of tyranny that allowed no other option but violence.”9 Hence, it can be seen that the exigent conditions of the national project eclipsed even the democratic fervor of this liberal group. The reason why they did not gain traction is that the urgency of the national project that Iraq had to undertake in order to ensure its security negated the kind of pluralistic political culture that would be needed for oppositional groups to effect the national project. Whereas Egypt’s pluralistic forces took root before independence, Iraqi pluralism emerged at a time when there was a greater Gelvin, The Modern Middle East, 188. Orit Bashkin, The Other Iraq: Pluralism and Culture in Hashemite Iraq, 52-86 (California: Stanford University Press, 2008), 70. 8 9

perceived need of strong leadership that lead to a more top-down national project. Orit Bashkin discusses at length the Iraqi elite’s preoccupation with cultivating an Iraqi cultural and national consciousness. The fact that Iraq’s national project was relatively more top-down and less people-based than the Egyptian one is evident in Husri’s explanation of how the “Iraqi people” were ignorant of collective consciousness: “Husri explained that many Iraqis remained indifferent to the activities of such organization as a result of being unaccustomed to a social life and to communal projects. The Iraqis’ compassion and sense of solidarity thus remained individualized, limited to their own families and local settings…….Iraqis, in other words…had not become modern in the sense that they could not overcome anonymity through a sense of belonging to a larger unit, such as a city and a nation.”10 In the Iraqi national project, there was definitely a greater break between the ruling elite and peasant, working class, and other sections of Iraqi society. This break can be attributed to the lack of a binding force that would be a nationalistic culture. On the contrary, the peasants and workers in Egypt had developed allegiance to the Egyptian nation through involvement in the national economic activity of cotton-growing, the beginnings of which can be tracked as far back as the 1860s. Whereas for the Iraqis part of the national project was creating a national consciousness, this consciousness had already evolved organically for Egypt, so Egypt only had to focus on building the nation-state and completely freeing itself of imperial influence. In Lebanon, the French policy of divide and rule undermined the national cohesiveness needed to build a nation-state. The French 10

Ibid., 57.

declared themselves the protectors of the Christian minorities, specifically the Maronites of Mount Lebanon. They empowered these minorities at the expense of the Muslim majority, hence emphasizing and stoking religious identities that were at odds with a prospective Lebanese national identity. The sowing of these kinds of divisions were also what enabled the French to justify their prolonged mandate. Other than the difficulties that the mandate system had beset for the Levant nations, in the event that there were revolts like the Iraqi revolt of 1921 and the Syrian Revolt, the British and French respectively suppressed them. On the other hand, the response to the widespread Egyptian revolt in 1919 was a British concession (even though half-hearted) of conditional independence to Egypt in 1922. In conclusion, it is evident that in the case of both Egypt and the Levant states, the role of foreign powers is undeniable. However there is a major difference in how these foreign powers influenced these two entities. In the Levant, the foreign powers carved out nations that did not have underpinning national cohesion, which made the national project far more difficult. This, coupled with the de-unifying and debilitating elements foreign powers had sown into the make-up of Lebanon, Transjordan, Iraq and Syria, rendered some of these nations (especially Iraq) susceptible to militaristic and illiberal means to deal with the difficult demands of their national project. On the other hand, Egyptian national identity had developed over the years due to gradual interaction with Ottoman and Western imperialist forces, which set up the nation for a more natural transition to independence. Hence, although the national projects of all the countries discussed were heavily led by urban intelligentsia/elite, Egypt was less authoritarian and top-down because the ease of this transition did not require the harsh discipline necessitated in the Levant states.


the stanford journal on muslim affairs


Shams Kasma’i: Female Pioneer of Modernist Persian Poetry Dominic Parviz Brookshaw Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Persian Literature Stanford University

Shams Kasma’i was born in Yazd in 1883, lived in Russian Turkistan from 19081918, and following the Russian Revolution returned to Iran (to Tabriz), where she pursued her passion for poetry in earnest. Kasma’i knew Russian and Turkish well, a fact which brought her into contact with modern poetic styles as practiced beyond the borders of late Qajar Iran. When Kasma’i moved to Tabriz, the city was a centre for reformist political and social activism, and also home to the first group of Iranian poets who sought to break with the neoclassical tradition and write Persian poetry without rhyme and metre. This new style pioneered by Kasma’i and her male counterparts circa 1918-1920 eventually developed into what came to be called “new poetry” or she‘r-e no. In the course of their

literary revolution, these Tabriz-based, reform-minded poets were attacked by the conservative literary establishment for what they deemed their violation of the lexicogical and stylistic conventions established over almost a millennium of Persian poetry. Kasma’i, the only woman among the group, received the most damning criticism. The poet’s rebellious acts were not simply confined to the literary world, though. Almost two decades before Reza Shah’s law of forced unveiling (Kashf-e hejab; 1936), Kasma’i refused to wear the customary full-length black veil (chador) and white face cover in public, and she audaciously recited her poetry unveiled before segregated audiences in Tabriz. Kasma’i is believed to be the first Iranian woman poet to employ both modern forms and modern imagery.

Persian tile work at Imamzadeh Mahruq in Neyshabur, Iran (photo by Flickr user Elias Pirasteh)

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The poem, “Parvaresh-e tabi‘at” (“Nurturing Nature”; translated below) dates from 1920 and is one of the first examples of modernist poetry ever written in

Persian. The piece reads as an attack on the outmoded clichés, standard conceits, and tired tropes of the neoclassical Persian ghazal:

From an excess of the fire of love, coquetry, and flattery, From this intense heat, light, and sunlight, The rose-garden of my thoughts has, alas, Become ruined and disturbed. For the depressed flowers of my virgin thoughts Have lost all their beauty and freshness, and they now despair… Yes, I sit with legs crossed, head on knees, For I am trapped like a half-wild creature in this land. I have no ability to do good; No power to act shamefully. I have neither arrow nor blade; no sharp teeth; No feet on which to flee. This is why I am pressured by my own kind, Set apart from the world and the ways of those who worship it. I am planning to emerge from the lap of a kind mother! After leaving Tabriz, it would appear that Shams Kasma’i either abandoned her avantgarde literary experiment and reverted to a more conventional form of poetry, or else, that her later modernist poetry was not collected (and has now been lost to posterity). In the following poem entitled “Falsafeh-ye omid” (“Philosophy of Hope”; also from

1920), Kasma’i paints an impressionistic, metaphorical picture, one which owes little to neoclassical Persian poetry, and which instead echoes the sentiment of the early modernist Persian poetry of the poet Nima Yushij (1895-1959), a younger contemporary of Shams Kasma’i who is commonly referred to as the father of new Persian poetry:

We, in the five days of our time, How many fields we saw! Fortunately, we gathered many ears of corn Planted from the soul by people before us. We were the farmers of the past; We also own the field of the future. Sometimes the takers; sometimes the givers; Sometimes gloomy; sometimes shining bright. Whether we are together, or else dispersed, In nature, which is ever-lasting, if, momentarily, We are erased, We still exist. Translations are © D P Brookshaw the stanford journal on muslim affairs


Determinants of Delayed Male Marriage in Egypt Miriam Marks B.A. Economics/Public Policy ’11 M.A. Public Policy ’12 Abstract Male age at marriage has risen noticeably in countries across the Middle East. This trend, coupled with the regional effect of a demographic youth bulge, has created a large cohort of young, unmarried, and often unemployed men with mounting social, political, and economic frustrations. Are these men more likely to engage in forms of high-risk political activism? Using data from Egypt, I provide empirical evidence which suggests that married males are less likely to engage in high-risk political activity than their unmarried

counterparts, even after controlling for a number of relevant co-variates. Next, in order to consider the range of possible policies that may help ameliorate the marriage crisis, I explore the socioeconomic factors responsible for delayed male marriage using a hazards model framework. Contrary to the existing wisdom, I find that broad societal trends, such as increasing female education rates and the decline in marriages between relatives, may be responsible for the ongoing increase in male age at marriage.

Introduction “And so, that is how we shut down Black September and eliminated terrorism.” —Former commander of al-Fatah Gaza City, 2001: in a hot, dusty office, an anonymous former commander of alFatah related a surprising story to Bruce Hoffman, then Director of the RAND Corporation’s Washington DC site. The tale was of the demise of Black September, a Palestinian militant group widely regarded as one of the most feared terrorist organizations in the world. Formed as a special-operations unit of the Palestinian faction al-Fatah by Yasir Arafat in 1970, the primary aim of Black September was to combat Israeli occupation and the expulsion of thousands of Palestinians from Jordan, but also, and perhaps more 22 avicenna

importantly, to garner worldwide media attention for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The group succeeded; it assassinated Jordan’s Prime Minister in 1971 and seized Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972. However, by that time the PLO had no more political or strategic need for a group of determined extremists, and so Arafat gave to the senior officials of al-Fatah the task of eliminating Black September. After much deliberation they arrived upon a rather unorthodox solution: marriage. Several hundred young, attractive Palestinian women were brought to Beirut and introduced to the members of Black September in a sort of speed-dating extravaganza. In exchange for their membership in the organization, the men of Black September were offered

not only love and the promise of a family but a small stipend, an apartment, and employment in a nonviolent capacity through the PLO. No one refused the offer. Years later, when offered financially attractive assignments far from home, all men adamantly refused to leave their families. While marriage is not often thought of as a tool useful in counterterrorism policy, the scenario above highlights its potential impact upon young men driven to extremism. In light of this, the increase in male age at marriage across the Middle East, commonly deemed a “marriage crisis,” is a worrisome trend, especially given the ongoing political violence and upheaval in a number of Arab countries. The host of demonstrations, protests, and revolutions that began in Tunisia in December 2010 and have since swept across the Middle East showcase the frustration of young, unmarried males, such as Mohamed Bouazizi, the 26 year-old victim of self-immolation who ignited the Jasmine Revolution. Even as these youth voice their disapproval of authoritarian regimes and corrupt governments, marriage is not an issue far from their minds. Rather, it is perhaps the most important institution in the life of a young person, and its relevance to political activity and even extremism should not go understated. Thus the intersection between Arab Muslim marriage and matters of political violence is a particularly relevant topic for policymakers

interested in the sources of societal unrest and political instability in the Middle East. This paper seeks to explain the matter of delayed male marriage in Egypt, first by examining its relationship to males inclination’ to participate in political activity and next by determining the factors that explain the increase in male age at marriage. I begin with a discussion both of the unique cultural aspects of an Arab Muslim marriage and the demographic youth bulge in the Middle East. Next I address the importance of marriage in influencing male behavior, reviewing the literature on its relationship to crime and empirically examining its effect upon males’ willingness to participate in high-risk political activity using survey data from Egypt. In the second section, I examine the causes of the rise in male age at marriage, first by reviewing the literature concerning male marriage timing, with which I obtain variables for and conduct a proportional hazards model analysis of the socioeconomic factors that affect male age at marriage. Afterwards I interpret my results and provide a discussion of improvements for the model. The paper concludes with a review of existing policies designed to facilitate marriage in the Middle East and provides several additional recommendations based on my empirical results that are designed to ameliorate the problem of delayed male marriage in Egypt and across the broader Middle East.

Marriage In The Arab Muslim World (Excerpt) From a socio-cultural perspective, Arab Muslim marriage differs significantly from Western marriage, primarily in terms of the behavioral practices expected of those who are unmarried. Casual dating, premarital sexual activity, and cohabitation before marriage are all regarded as strict

social taboo in most Middle Eastern countries, while some societies have even more severe social norms. In conservative Iran and Yemen, for example, even friendship between a man and a woman before marriage is considered shameful (Holmes 2010). As a result, although it the stanford journal on muslim affairs


is not a subject widely addressed in the literature, Mensch, Singh, and Casterline (2005) suggest that delayed marriage may be a source of frustration and anxiety for men specifically because premarital sex is not condoned in Arab Muslim society. Similarly, Thayer and Hudson (2010) consider a biological framework in their analysis of Muslim marriage and argue that marriage is the ultimate attainment of masculinity because unmarried men are considered adolescents until they have had sexual relations with a woman.

societal expectation but also as a religious obligation (Thayer and Hudson 2010, Singerman 1995, Hoodfar 1997). Family members are intimately involved in the process of selecting marriage partners, and advantageous marriages are actively pursued and seized with all haste because marriage is frequently viewed “not as a partnership between individuals but rather as an alliance between two families” (Hoodfar, 56). Marriage for young men in Egypt is as much a personal as it is a familial and societal imperative.

Sex aside, marriage is generally considered a signal of entry into adulthood because it affords to a newlywed couple the responsibility of establishing a household, managing their own finances, and starting a family. The case in Egypt reflects these general trends and further emphasizes the importance of marriage as a very much expected and highly sought after social institution. In Egypt, marriage is regarded not only as a

In the Arab Muslim world, marriage is perhaps the most important life-course transition for any youth. It permits young people to have sexual relations, indicates assumption of the responsibility that comes with managing a household, and marks the symbolic threshold from adolescence to adulthood. As a result, there is great pressure upon young men to marry, a force that magnifies the emotional consequences of delayed marriage.

Discussion Interpretation of Results (Excerpt) My results are consistent with several findings from the literature. As other qualitative studies have suggested, I confirm that males who are not related by blood to their spouses see lower hazards of marriage, as do males who are setting up a new household with their spouses as opposed to inhabiting the residence of another relative. These variables are not only significant at the 1 percent level but also rather large in magnitude. Men living alone after marriage were approximately 12 percent less likely to marry at a given age, and those in consanguineous marriages were more than 16 percent likely to marry at a given age. In other respects, my findings differ 24 avicenna

from previous studies. Like Assaad, Binzel, and Gadallah (2010), I find that males’ labor market trajectory is significant in explaining male age at marriage, but this relationship is very small in magnitude. For each one-year increase in age at entering the labor market, the likelihood of marriage at a given age decreases by less than 3 percent. This again may be due to the fact that, while some men enter the labor market at younger ages in order to amass their savings over time, they do not necessarily earn high incomes at these jobs. As Assaad and Ramadan noted, more educated men are sometimes willing to remain unemployed in order to eventually obtain higher-paying employment. Thus, while males’ labor market trajectory is undoubtedly of

importance in male marriage timing, it is difficult to fully express all the individual complexities of this trajectory merely with the variables of age at labor market entrance and stability of first job. While both media outcry and the literature pertaining to Egypt have emphasized the importance of the bride price, the cost of housing, and to a lesser extent the time duration between stages of marriage, my initial results suggested that none of these variables significantly explain male age at marriage in final models. In particular, when controlling for other cost co-variates, the bride price was rendered completely insignificant. In the final model, the previously significant costs of housing and other marriage preparations were also rendered insignificant. This echoes Singermanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s finding that, controlling for inflation, marriage costs in Egypt have not changed significantly; thus the root of the problem may indeed be with the rising standard of living. And aside from costs, housing availability may be a more important consideration in male marriage timing as indicated by the significance and magnitude of the variable for whether couples live alone after marriage. Still, this variable also does not fully capture the importance of housing costs, for those who opted to live with a relative after marriage may have either been unable to locate available housing or unable to afford the costs, while those who did purchase new housing were already able to afford it. Other literature has not empirically examined the effects of female marriage age upon male marriage timing. The hazard ratio for female age at marriage in Table 9 reveals that males were more than 9 percent less likely to marry for each additional year in the age of their spouse, controlling for the other variables. This suggests an interesting causal mechanism by which changing trends in female age at marriage may be of importance in ex-

plaining male age at marriage. Given that males are likely to marry at an older age if their bride is older and that average female age at marriage is increasing across Egypt, the delay in male age at marriage may be in part attributable to rising female age at marriage. This suggests the possibility, as hypothesized earlier in the paper, of a demographic marriage squeeze. Discussion of Findings (Excerpt) The significance of both female marriage age and the consanguinity of marriage are particularly worthy of analysis in light of wider societal trends concerning these characteristics. Average female age at marriage has increased even more so than male age at marriage in Egypt. A likely explanation for this trend is the rise in female schooling, a trend visible across the developing world and a factor that some have argued may be exogenous to male age at marriage. A number of sources find that female educational attainment both in Egypt and the Middle East as a whole has dramatically risen in the past decade or more (Amin and Al-Bassusi 2004; Rashad, Osman, and Roudi-Fatimi 2005; Singerman 2007). In fact, Rashad et al (2005) find that more couples in Arab societies now feature women with levels of education equivalent to or higher than those of their husbands, especially in Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. This is not because females have ceased to drop out of school, but rather because more girls are enrolling in school as a result of a global emphasis on womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s education. In an analysis of Egyptian youth, Mensch et al (2000) find that once a girl is initially enrolled in school she has an almost equal probability of remaining in school as that of a boy. In light of this, the notion of increased female enrollment suggests that more Egyptians accept and encourage femalesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; educational attainment. Rising levels of female education are an the stanford journal on muslim affairs


important factor in accounting for rising female age at marriage, in part because enrollment in higher levels of education would preclude girls from marriage at younger ages when they are still students. But more likely, and as postulated by Becker (1973) and observed by Rashad et al (2005), better-educated women tend to marry at later ages than their less-educated counterparts, not simply because they are in school, but because they are more selective in their choice of spouse. While these women certainly face societal pressures to marry, there is an increasing trend to characterize older, unmarried women as either voluntarily single or unable to find a partner due to the limited pool of suitable candidates. The popular 2008 blog turned book “I Want to Get Married,” by young, single author Ghada Abdelaal, speaks to the concerns of educated young women who face undesirable suitors. Her book, which has also spawned a popular sitcom, portrays such caricatures as a long-bearded fundamentalist, a pathological liar, and a paranoid police officer offered as potential suitors to horrified young women (Abdelhadi 2008). The widespread appeal of her work suggests that Egyptian society recognizes

the plight of the educated woman whose suitors are not quite up to par. The decline in consanguineous marriage is a trend decidedly exogenous to male age at marriage. Figure 6 below suggests that the percentage of consanguineous marriages out of total marriages declined from roughly 42 percent to between 25 and 30 percent in the years 1975-2005. This trend is surprising because, if consanguineous marriages indeed see lower costs and enable bride and groom to marry at younger ages, one would expect that more couples would opt for consanguineous marriage. More likely, the decline in proportion of consanguineous marriage can be explained by increasing knowledge about the medical complications that arise in this type of marriage and an associated, wider cultural shift away from traditional norms. Regardless, a decrease in consanguineous marriages would imply that those couples shifting away from this practice will experience higher ages at marriage. As a result, because fewer men are marrying relatives at younger ages, there may be a societal perception that male marriage age is increasing, although this increase would not be attributable to changing economic factors.

Current Policies And Conclusions “Any young man or woman aspires to have a home and a family.” —Mona Adam, sister of a mass wedding participant in Egypt Governments concerned by the difficulties associated with marriage have not failed to combat hurdles to marriage with a number of policies. Most importantly, housing and rent control policies particularly in urban areas can assist newlywed couples in acquiring new apartments. In Egypt, housing has long been difficult to obtain 26 avicenna

because of unfavorable rent laws even as 9.9 percent of all dwellings were reported to be vacant in the 1996 census. Rent policy changed in 1996 with the Law No. 4, which made rental contracts for apartments more flexible, encouraging landlords to put their property on the market, and in turn facilitating property rentals by newlywed couples. Assaad and Ramadan postulate that this had a marked effect upon male marriage age, and while I do not see this reversal in male marriage age, such policies likely still benefit those new-

lywed couples looking for new housing. In 2006, Iran introduced legislation for the formation of Reza’s Compassion Fund, a proposed $1.3 billion-fund to help young people buy their own homes, a response to the cost of urban housing; the fund was rejected by parliament in the year of its proposal. While the reason for this rejection is unknown, it may be financial in nature. Thus, structural legislative reforms may be the most effective means of assisting young couples in their housing pursuits, for direct government subsidies can be costly and often fail to address the root of the problem. In a more popular maneuver, governments and private organizations alike have stepped in to ease the economic burdens of marriage with mass wedding ceremonies, subsidized marriages, and dowry systems. These practices are intended to address not only the economic but also the societal concerns associated with delayed marriage. Iran began to host mass weddings in the mid-1990s, in part to assist the poor but more likely to prevent young people from engaging in premarital sex by encouraging earlier marriage (Holmes 2010). Yemen has followed suit also for fear that unmarried men will look elsewhere for sexual relations and saw its largest mass wedding to date in October 2010, in which 1,600 couples were wed in a ceremony that filled a sports stadium in the capital city of Sana’a. As are a number of mass weddings across the Middle East, the event was sponsored by generous donations from a private individual, in this case the Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz. While beneficial to those desirous of marriage, these government practices may also come with a political agenda. In 1992, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) established a national Marriage Fund, a governmentsponsored agency that provides marriage

grants and sponsors group weddings for successful applicants, giving highest priority to those with lower incomes. However, restrictions on fund applicants allow only Emirati couples to apply for these subsidies, revealing the primary purpose of the Fund as an effort to balance demographics within the UAE by discouraging Emirati men from marrying foreign women (Olidort 2008). The Fund provides an average of 3,000 grants per year at an amount of 70,000 dirhams per couple, roughly US $19,000, which is handed out in two installments, the rest provided at the announcement of marriage and the remainder once marriage preparations have begun. In addition, the Fund offers groups weddings as well as lectures to couples prior to marriage on the topics of married life and sexual relations. A number of mass weddings also happen outside the auspices of government policy. In Yemen, some private companies have begun to offer mass weddings for their local staff as an innovative form of corporate social responsibility. For the past few years, the South Africa-based telecommunication company MTN has put on an annual mass wedding for its Yemeni employees in order to “make employees loyal to the company and to raise morale” (qtd. In Holmes 2010), in the words of a senior development manager. Other mass weddings are put on by private organizations and charities in the Middle East. For example, in December 2010 the Charitable Organization for the Relief of the Palestinian People in Gaza staged a mass wedding of 100 Palestinian couples as part of its mission to build and support young families in an area plagued by high costs and youth unemployment. However, in the event that the government or another organization cannot provide a charitable mass wedding, more extremist the stanford journal on muslim affairs


political groups have begun to seize the opportunity in order to garner popular support by satisfying demand for cheaper weddings. This provision of marital services is essentially an example of the club model proposed by Berman and Laitin (2008) in their characterization of terrorist organizations, in which the failure of the government to provide a social service may cause an extremist group to do so in order to muster support from its followers. Similarly, the Palestinian militant group Hamas has realized the potential of offering nuptial services to its supporters, sponsoring nearly a dozen mass wedding ceremonies in 2008. As a specific service to its membership, these unions are often between unmarried male fighters of Hamas and the widows of other fighters. The ideological underpinnings of these marriages are all too evident. Muhammad Yousef, a member of the Qassam Brigades and married in a 2008 mass ceremony, insisted that, “Marriage is the same as jihad. With marriage, you are producing another generation that believes in resistance” (qtd. in El-Khodary 2008). Hezbollah, the Islamic extremist group based in South Lebanon, has not reportedly organized any mass marriages. Its ideological philosophy now advocates for and strongly encourages a different type of sexual service to its supporters in the practice of mutaa, a form of temporary marriage only acceptable within Shiite communities, which permits couples to have religiously sanctioned sex for a limited period of time (Ghaddar 2009). This time period, free of commitment and the involvement of religious groups, can range between one hour and a year in length and is subject to renewal. Since its 2006 war with Israel, Hezbollah has actively encouraged mutaa marriage to maintain its support base and keep Lebanese Shiites under its control. As Mohammad, a 40 year-old Lebanese Shiite living 28 avicenna

in Beirut, comments, “You could create the most loyal army by providing political power, social services and fulfilling the desires of your men, namely, sexual ones” (qtd. in Ghaddar 2009). The strategy employed by Hezbollah, of satisfying these sexual wants without actually requiring marriage, would more likely ensure that these men do not lose their inclination to engage in violent acts, as my earlier analysis suggests. Regardless, membership in extremist groups will grow increasingly appealing if such groups are able first to provide an outlet for frustrated and unmarried young men willing to engage in violence and subsequently to provide sexual relief or marriage to these men. Thus it is up to state organizations to provide the marriage services that will take away extremist groups competitive advantage in providing sexual and marital opportunities. This can be done in any number of ways, by offering these services through the government, encouraging charitable organizations to assume these responsibilities, or fostering an environment in which corporations and individual donors undertake these endeavors. But while subsidized marriages and mass wedding ceremonies can somewhat alleviate the financial burden of marriage for those able to benefit from these services, the results reported earlier in this paper suggest that greater social and demographic trends may be responsible for the delay in male marriage, such as the changing nature of female education and the move away from traditional cultural norms in the form of consanguineous marriage. As the number of consanguineous marriages in society decreases, as couples choose to establish new homes rather than live with relatives, and as females delay marriage in order to enroll in higher education, the shift to an older male age at marriage seems inevitable. And as societal peer

pressure to have an extravagant wedding increases commensurate with male unemployment and standards of living, marriage will of course become more difficult. Furthermore, when coupled with the youth bulge, the marriage crisis also seems more acute, for with a greater population of youth, more of these youth will be unmarried. This is not a crisis due to prohibitive costs, increasing dowries, or unattainable housing as much as it is a characteristic of larger demographic changes and the changing roles that women play in Arab Muslim society. Thus there

may only be so much that government policy can do in facilitating marriage, and in the meantime the current generation of young Arab Muslim men will feel the marriage squeeze. In recent months, these young men of Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and Syria have expressed their frustrations in a variety of ways that have culminated in protest, revolution, and even civil war. Hopefully these men will find marriage sooner rather than later, and in the meantime the combined repercussions of youth bulge and rising male age at marriage will continue to reverberate across the Middle East.


References (Abridged) Abdelhadi, Magdi. 2008. Spotlight on Egyptâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Marriage Crisis. BBC News, 12 August. Online at east/7554892.stm (March 25, 2011) Amin, Sajeda and Nagah H. Al-Bassusi. 2004. Education, Wage Work, and Marriage: Perspectives of Egyptian Working Women. Journal of Marriage and Family. Vol. 66, No.5, pp. 1287-1299. Assaad, Ragui. 2008. Unemployment and Youth Insertion in the Labor Market in Egypt. Chapter 5 in The Egyptian Economy: Current Challenges and Future Prospects. Assaad, Ragui, Christine Binzel, and May Gadallah. 2010 Transitions to Employment and Marriage Among Young Men in Egypt. Middle East Development Journal. Vol. 2, Iss. 1, pp. 39-88. Assaad, Ragui and Mohamad Ramadan. 2008. Did Housing Policy Reforms Curb the Delay in Marriage Among Young Men in Egypt? Middle East Youth Initiative, The Brookings Institution and the Dubai School of Government. Assaad, Ragui and Sami Zouari. 2002. The Timing of Marriage, Fertility, and Female Labor Force Participation in Morocco. Economic Research Forum 9th Annual Conference. Becker, Gary S. 1973. A Theory of Marriage: Part I. The Journal of Political Economy, Vol.81, No. 4. pp. 813- 846. Becker, Gary S. 1973. A Theory of Marriage: Part I. The Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 81, No. 4. pp. 813-846. Berman, Eli and David D. Laitin. 2008. Religion, Terrorism and Public Goods: Testing the Club Model. Journal of Public Economics, Vol. 92, Iss. 10-11, pp. 1942-1967. Ghaddar, Hanin. 2009. The Militarization of Sex: The Story of Hezbollahs Halal Hookups. Foreign Policy, November 25. Holmes, Oliver. 2010. Mass Weddings Grow in Ye-

men. Al Jazeera English. 15 November. Online at 20101031145751586410.html El-Khodary, Taghreed. 2008. For War Widows, Hamas Recruits Army of Husbands. New York Times, October 30. Mensch, Barbara S., Barbara L. Ibrahim, Susan M. Lee, and Omaima El-GIbaly. 2000. Socialization to Gender Roles and Marriage Among Egyptian Adolescents. Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America, No. 140. Mensch, Barbara S., Susheela Singh, and John B. Casterline. 2005. Trends in the Timing of First Marriage Among Men and Women in the Developing World. Working Paper 202, Population Council. Olidort, Jacob. 2008. The UAE Marriage Fund: Addressing Marriage Mores with a Traditional Remedy. Middle East Youth Initiative, Dubai School of Government, September. Singerman, Diane. 1995. Avenues of Participation: Family, Politics, and Networks in Urban Quarters of Cairo. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. Singerman, Diane and Barbara Ibrahim. 2003. The Costs of Marriage in Egypt: A Hidden Dimension in the New Arab Demography. New Arab Family, Cairo Papers in Social Science, Vol. 24, pp. 80- 116. Singerman, Diane. 2007. The Economic Imperatives of Marriage: Emerging Practices and Identities among Youth in the Middle East. The Middle East Youth Initiative Working Paper, Wolfensohn Center for Development, Dubai School of Government. Thayer, Bradley A. and Valerie M. Hudson. 2010. Sex and the Shaheed: Insights from the Life Sciences on Islamic Suicide Terrorism. International Security, Vol. 34, No. 4, pp. 37-62.

the stanford journal on muslim affairs


Images of Lahore Waqas Mustafeez (Ph.D Candidate â&#x20AC;&#x2122;12, Electrical Engineering) documents his travels through Pakistan

Badshahi Mosque â&#x20AC;&#x201D; An old man contemplates before the dusk prayers

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Badshahi Mosque â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Built 1673 by Mogul King Aurungzeb, was the largest mosque in South Asia until 1986

Wazir Khan Mosque â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Built even before the Badshahi mosque in 1635, features prominent art work by Wazir Khan from Chinioti. Chiniot is still known for excellent craftsmen and delicate work in wood and stone

the stanford journal on muslim affairs


Delhi Gate â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Once a walled city, now the various entrances to the old town have turned into bazaars. Incidentally there is also a Lahore Gate in Delhi, India

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Faqir Hussain spends the chilly evenings on the street trying to keep warm by burning garbage

the stanford journal on muslim affairs


Wearing the First Amendment on My Head Arin Mango M.A. French Language and Literature Stanford Affiliate

“My mom is wearing a ponytail like yours today,” my son announced, as he entered his kindergarten class hand in hand with his ponytail-wearing friend. “But you can’t see it under the scarf,” he clarified. A mom tilted her head to the side, declaring that his matter-of-fact statement was “so cute.” Other parents rushed to clamp their hands onto their mouths to suppress the escaped snickers. Some of my kids’ friends are intrigued by my headscarf. As they ascend from grade to grade, I update my script with an ageappropriate response to the most likely question “why.” Surprisingly, to this day, this question has never been asked. Their inquiries have so far reflected only either genuine concern: “Does she wear it in the shower?” or thoughtful strategies: “if a bee gets stuck in...” Of course, there is the classic conundrum of whether I keep it on or off for Halloween. I have always appreciated these witty yet valid concerns, mainly because I have pondered most of them myself. As parents bade each other good day, the teacher reminded me of my upcoming visit to the class to talk about the Eid holiday that Muslims recently celebrated at the end of the month of fasting. I agreed to come prepared for the following week for my presentation, and as I walked away, I reflected on how lucky my kids were to go to such a diverse school. 34 avicenna

My kids’ school in the Palo Alto school district takes pride in its multicultural environment. Their school does not simply accept students’ various backgrounds; they embrace them. Religious or non-religious events are celebrated and discussed. During the holidays, Hanukkah Menorahs, Ramadhan lamps, and Kwanzaa kinaras are common sights in their classrooms. The teachers encourage kids to retain their language and cultural traditions. Kids learn to appreciate diverse cultures through sharing their friends’ experiences or exploring the library’s rich religious and cultural collection. However, even as I reflected on such positive experiences of religious and cultural freedom, I halted in my tracks as the baritone voice of the morning news announcer replayed in my head: “Today the first woman was convicted in France for wearing the Islamic face veil.” As I crossed the lush school campus, my thoughts started racing: it just suddenly hit me how much we take our freedoms for granted in the United States, and how in France I would not be allowed to drop my kids off at their classrooms, or even set foot in the school with my headscarf on. It saddened me to visualize myself, along with a veiled Christian grandmother and a kippa-wearing Jewish dad, forbidden from peeking at our little ones and catching one last kiss through the classroom window on their first day of school. It saddened me to think

about how we wouldn’t even be able to attend our kids’ high school graduation if we were to live in France. All this suffering, simply because we choose to exhibit our religion prominently—all this political punishment simply in the name of the All-Mighty system of secularism, widely referred to as laïcité. The face veil ban is not a shock to anyone who has been following the news in France. It is definitely not the first law that targets the sartorial preferences of Muslim women. In 2004, the French government decided that the Islamic headscarf, and any religious symbolism, threatened the model of ‘Frenchness’ it expected from its students. The true French were expected to hide their religious identity in public and would be denied education if they dare to reveal it in schools. I myself do not don the face veil, and I would be at the rear of any queue defending its Islamic validity. Nonetheless, having lived most of my adult life in the land of the free as both an unveiled then later a veiled woman, I can confidently say that veils, moustaches, chintaches, tattoos, tongue rings, or any form of self-expression and differentiation from the masses are equally fine by me. Enjoy in good health! The notion that a certain dress code is a crime, in a country that claims to be a liberal democracy, troubles me deeply. A block away from home, it started to drizzle. I tucked in my headscarf, slowed my pace and took pleasure in the sight of people scurrying to shelter, while I also continued forward, feeling the warmth of the First Amendment over my head. You better look French or else! The French government insists that the face veil stands out as a religious symbol of

oppression. Thus, it contradicts the principles of The French Revolution: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, and The Declaration of the Rights of Man. The government declares that the veil is oppressive because a free woman would naturally choose to do away with religious beliefs and embrace the ideas of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, by taking off her veil. Can we take these assumptions at face value? Certainly not. Let’s take a quick stab at the first canard. The 10th article in The Declaration of Rights of Man and of the Citizen, based on The French Revolution tenets states that: “No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.” We can easily see from the above that whether an individual’s dress code expresses religious symbolism or not, is irrelevant—all governments should be normatively agnostic in protecting a citizen’s Liberty to dress as he/she pleases. The citizen should be granted the Equality and Fraternity to choose their modes of selfpresentation instead of submitting to the arbitrary dictates of the state. The genuine values of the Enlightenment in the 18th century were about emphasizing reason, and rejecting dogma, and the out-and-out denial of religious expression has become a dogma in itself. Come one! Come all! It’s Veilophobia! In order to further defend the face-veil ban, French politicians could not help but shoot themselves in the foot, time and time again with more obfuscation. When presenting the bill, the Minister of Justice insisted that “it is not a question of religion.” She explained that “The Republic lives with its face uncovered,” but stopped the stanford journal on muslim affairs


short of elaborating on the color of that face or the possibility of it sporting any tattoos or piercings, since no one has banned these articles yet.1 The list of arguments goes on: the debate over veiling addresses issues of female equality, secular traditions, and even fears of terrorism. The face veil became the specter for all xenophobic fears and the symbol of terrorist action. All the French had to do was follow the line of (un)reasoning to its natural conclusion. Ultimately they bought the legislation like a fresh baguette on a Sunday morning, and the ban on face veils was supported by a margin of more than four to one, according to the PEW Global Attitudes. With the new law affecting two thousand Muslim women in a country of 62 million people, the French law unabashedly announces to the Muslim world and the larger global community, that in the modern 21st century there are only two choices: either take the French way or the highway. Since the ban took effect, many European nations raced to snatch the Olympic scepter of Veilophobia from the claws of the Gallic rooster. Countries like Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Netherlands, Denmark, and England have all been inspired and have considered following suit. However, at least some voices spoke out against this violation of religious freedom. Amnesty International condemned the ban saying that the rights to freedom of religion “cannot be restricted simply because some—even a majority—find a form of dress objectionable.” President Obama was not mealy-mouthed about the French hegemonic imposition on Muslim women either. When Sarkozy called the face-veil a “sign of debasement” in June of 2009, Michele Alliot-Marie, XIIIe législature. Session extraordinaire de 2009-2010. 6 July 2010.


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Obama declared in the same month that western countries should not be “dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretense of liberalism [….] I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal.” Oppression sine qua non of the veil? Many French politicians argue that veils “undermine” women. They assert that the ban ensures that these ‘oppressed’ women are not forced to wear it by the men in their family. Yet what about forcing women to take off their veil? Few seem to realize that the concept of men forcing women to veil and politicians forcing women to unveil are two sides of the same coin. This notion of protecting women’s freedoms through unveiling would be comic were it not so tragic and hypocritical. France has made it clear that it only targets aspects of non-French culture, ie. telling Muslim men, “You don’t tell your women what to wear, only we do.” Many have gone further to make the argument that even the Muslim females who think they wear the veil by choice have, in fact, conformed to their community’s ideals of modesty. In other words, these women had no agency—their communities made the choice for them. Considering the pressure that the French patriarchal society puts on women to dress seductively and conform to fit to its ideals of beauty, this argument seems highly flawed. Why is it that Muslim women have no agency, even when they make a choice to wear the veil, while all French women clearly have choices, even when that ‘choice’ consists of objectifying their bodies? One sincerely hopes this argument doesn’t fly high or everyone soon will be running around in their birthday suits. And while the govern-

ment is at it, shouldn’t they straighten up their priority list and buckle up all the ladies with chastity belts to ensure sex is not forced on them too? That would guarantee a major drop in the alarming rape rate in France and address one of the real issues that the country has to face. Unveiling Sexism: “Be pretty and be quiet!” Prior to the arrest of the International Monetary Fund Director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, on charges of sexually assaulting a New York hotel maid in May, the French media prided themselves on not delving into their politicians’ private lives, operating on the basis that a statesman’s woman du jour is not the public’s business. On the other hand, the Muslim face veil became one of the major feminist issues in France. The “oppressive” wardrobe has been reserved a secure spot in the headlines and parliamentary agenda for decades. While French society often incorrectly portrayed Muslim women as victims of patriarchy, through the supposed ‘imposition of women’s veiling’, after the Strauss-Kahn scandal, countless non-Muslim female voices spoke up about their own assault at the hands of the patriarchal French society at large. For the first time, feminists openly discussed issues of sexual harassment among politicians and other white-collar professionals. Important women rights’ issues, after having taken a back seat to the Muslim veil issue, suddenly surfaced everywhere: 75,000 French women raped yearly, a gender salary gap of 17%, and the death of one woman every three days due to domestic violence. Many intellectuals in France and beyond recognized the hypocrisy of French legislators and hinted at the necessity of re-prioritizing their action lists. Cécile Alduy in Le Monde criticized the coun-

try that “want[s] to emancipate Muslim women [by] forcing them to lift their veils” and advised that “it may be time to emancipate the French women from the fear of other forced undressings.”2 Despite such opinion, however, many politicians continued to hide behind the rhetoric of “freeing Muslim women,” in order to ignore the underlying problems of sexism and gender discrimination within society. Even women politicians experienced such sexual discrimination. The sports minster, Chantal Jouanno, did not dare to wear skirts at the Assembly for fear of being whistled at; yet a female MP responded to those claims by stressing the importance of staying focused on “the very important issues: how in those neighborhoods [of Muslim and African minorities] one cannot wear a skirt, not here at the parliament”. Though this MP clearly suffers from fears of gender discrimination at her own workplace, she fails to acknowledge this situation and instead works to “free the Muslim women.” Confronted by the media about their own experiences with sexism and harassment in the National Assembly, a number of female MPs, such as, MP Bérengère Poletti, denied that being a woman makes their experience any different from their male colleagues. She warned that those claims that “tarnish the image of the parliament” do not help those women “who say they have to wear big sweaters and veils on their heads [Muslims]” and were waiting to “dress like a real woman…” Bottom line: don’t critique “liberated French women” when so many other women wearing big sweaters and veils are clearly more oppressed. “Pour en finir avec le sexisme,” Le Monde, 26 May 2011.


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These ladies, who cheered the veil ban with all their might, do not realize that they cannot have their gâte­­au and eat it too. When the nation who gave the world the word “chauvinism,” measures women’s freedom by yards of fabric she (un)dons, all its citizens, but especially the women will pay. Sexism and female objectification will continue as long as men and women are allowed to deny personal or religious freedom to any group; such actions will only prevent France from realizing their dreams of true equality. Let them eat cake, and take off those darn veils! My daughter takes special pride in sharing her birthday with Bastille Day. One of her favorite books that illustrates the French Revolution, has had a permanent spot on her nightstand for years. The silly, yet historically accurate book about “brave people” who got rid of the “mean king” never fails to fascinate her. “Are you super-duper sure it’s a real story?” she often asks. Recently she made a new observation, “How come these women are wearing all sorts of fancy things on their heads?” pointing at the women in the book donning fancy headscarves, colorful hats, or plain caps. I showed her a picture of my friend Dina in the demonstrations in Tahrir square in Egypt few months ago, with her headscarf as usual, and told her that everything those French and Egyptian women did 200 years (or days!) ago didn’t really have much to do with what’s on their heads but rather

38 avicenna

what’s in them. They changed history from within, regardless of their headgear or fashion. When she asked me if we can one day go to Paris, “if the king and queen are nowadays nice to people,” I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that the Kings of France do not like her mom’s veil. That for her mom to be admitted to the museum of Carnavalet, in order to admire the artifacts of the French Revolution that liberated people from the whims of the ruling elites, she might have to shed her veil. Though modern historians cast doubt on the story, I was disappointed that the book did not include Marie Antoinette’s response to the riots. Her famed “let them eat cake” did not only capture the essence of a selfish air-headed royalty. It exposed the inability of alienated rulers to address the real issues of their times. Today’s ruling elite in France knew early on that dangling “Muslim women’s oppression” on a stick would go down better with the French electorate than fighting real issues of sexual objectification, blatant discrimination, or gender inequalities. By legislating the suppression of the minority by a majority, and by curtailing the minorities’ rights to religious and cultural expression, La Belle France is guillotining the very ideals that thousands of men and women fought to achieve during the Revolution. Only time will tell whether France will be able to overcome its obsession with a piece of cloth and once again become a nation where ideals of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity can be experienced by all its citizens.


“Structural pots” by Mark Piercy

the stanford journal on muslim affairs


A P E O P L E ’ S P U B L I C AT I O N

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Avicenna: The Stanford Journal on Muslim Affairs: Volume 2, Number 1  

The Stanford Journal on Muslim Affairs. Our second publication: Volume 2, number 1. Published on November 28th, 2011.

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