Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

Ms. Pollitt, have you ever studied Sharia? Do you know what sort of rights women have? Then have you compared that with the rights women have in the West? I find it quite amusing that you base your views about Islam from others' experiences--homeschooling articles and Sharia-proliferation rhetoric--and you bring nothing about your personal experience with regards to Sharia and women.

Wherever Sharia is practiced, Muslim women are highly respected. Yes, some countries treat women inhumane and that has nothing to do with Sharia, but a lot to do with those law-makers’ incompetence. Law is always the same, it's the people that change it or interpret it to fit their own needs, however extreme that may be. But so what? If you're living in the states and you condemn any sort of violence against any group, go stand up against what's happening in Guantánamo, take care of the gap between the poor and the rich, make sure that blacks and other minorities are treated as equally as anyone else. There're lots of injustices going on around the world, and to cherry-pick the ones related to Islam and Muslims--who are suffering more and more due to the pseudo images of their religion painted in the media by people such as yourself--is misplaced.

Believe me, Muslims will be (and are) the first ones to stand up against any sort of violence in the name of their religion. If you’ve failed to notice, they’ve already done so--just open your eyes and ears a little wider.

Asma Nemati

Concord, CA

Apr 22 2008 - 4:45pm

Web Letter

When I was in high school (a public high school) men and women had separate gym and swimming classes; in swimming men wore no bathing suits, allegedly because the woolen threads would clog up the drain. Women swam in bathing suits, they told me. Were men discriminated against because they had to be naked? I know someone who got excused with a physician's note because his testicles were not fully distended yet (some of us were under 14 years old).

Norman Ravitch

Savannah, GA

Apr 21 2008 - 2:44pm

Web Letter

I was glad to see this nuanced column. Here's another piece of the conversation. Given the astonishing difference that women's sports have made in the lives of women and girls since Katha Pollitt and I were that age, is it better for Muslim women to participate in sports and gym work-outs, or to avoid them because of modesty concerns?

My daughter was co-captain of the Radcliffe (they decided not to change to "Harvard") Rugby team. One of her teammates, from Pakistan, attended practice in a neat headscarf and head-to-toe long-sleeved black shirt and pants. I asked her how that worked with the uniform, and she said the coaches and USA Rugby had said it was fine for her to wear the scarf as long as she put a regulation cap over it. That seemed reasonable. At home, of course, she would never have been able to play at all, and I'm not sure she had told her parents.

For some women who honor the Islamic dress and modesty codes, the choice is either women-only hours at the gym, or not going at all. I'd rather see them able to do the activities, and commend Harvard for making that possible.

Betsy Cazden

Providence, RI

Apr 17 2008 - 11:37am

Web Letter

Katha, please tell your daughter and her friend that setting aside special "woman only" time in the gym is no different than setting aside "white only" time or, as you mentioned, "men only" time. The list could be endless. Couldn't any group of people truthfully claim that they would be more comfortable working out with members of their own community or group? Is this what progressives fought so hard for: the right to be together so we could choose to remain apart, in public places or institutions? I think not. I hope not.

It may only be six hours a week, but how many hours will there be for people to interact if each group demands their own six hours? If life is so hard for Muslim women, and I don't doubt that it is, the best we can do is provide a safe, harrassment-free environment for them to exercise. But not by giving them separate time. As you put it so well. "separate usually doesn't mean equal."

Mark D. Bolton

Leesburg, NJ

Apr 16 2008 - 10:30am