Today I read an article in The Nation about an effort by the Christian Right to encourage "natural families" and overcome a "demographic winter" due to a declining white, European birth-rate.
I also ran into this article about shariah law in the wake of the Archbishop of Canterbury's suggestion that the British legal system may need to accommodate shariah. The comments are enlightening, as at least one commenter named Moody has described the rights and obligations of men and women under shariah. One example:
In Islam a woman has no financial obligation and the economical responsibility lies on the shoulders of the man. Before a woman is married it is the duty of the father or brother to look after the lodging, boarding, clothing and other financial requirements of the woman. After she is married it is the duty of the husband or the son. Islam holds the man financially responsible for fulfilling the needs of his family. In order to do be able to fulfill the responsibility the men get double the share of the inheritance. For example, if a man dies leaving about Rs. One Hundred and Fifty Thousand, for the children (i.e one son and one daughter) the son inherits One Hundred Thousand rupees and the daughter only Fifty Thousand rupees. Out of the one hundred thousand which the son inherits, as his duty towards his family, he may have to spend on them almost the entire amount or say about eighty thousand and thus he has a small percentage of inheritance, say about twenty thousand, left for himself. On the other hand, the daughter, who inherits fifty thousand is not bound to spend a single penny on anybody. She can keep the entire amount for herself. Would you prefer inheriting one hundred thousand rupees and spending eighty thousand from it, or inheriting fifty thousand rupees and having the entire amount to yourself?
There is more where that came from. What troubles me are the assumptions made about the role of men and women in Islam. Those assumptions date back well over a thousand years. In some ways the holders of these assumptions are not unlike the proponents of the "natural family" who see women's primary role as mothers and help-mates to their husbands. Muslims in the West who are unable to move past the cultural context of their religion, established so long ago, are not unlike their Christian counterparts, who fail to recognize the context of their own holy writ, which dates back as far or farther.
Both sides seek to narrow the boundaries of human relationships to fit a preconceived notion of what is acceptable. They are unable to cope with the social and cultural realities of the day. Rather than revisit and redefine what makes for 'good' relationships in view of what we now know about humans and our history, fundamentalists in both religions would fall back on ancient constructs that rely on a patriarchal, transcendent Being whose approval we must obtain if we are to be accepted. In the case of radical Islamists, the ancient constructs become a stalwart pillar of strength in a world that otherwise denies the adherents power.
Whether they realize it or not, the proponents of "right" babies are every bit as bigoted and backward as their Muslim counterparts that they fear so much.