Palace walk

6 June 2016

Patriarchy in simple terms can be defined as a system or government in which men hold the power and status, in comparison to women who are largely excluded. Throughout this assignment, particular attention will be placed upon issues surrounding patriarchal culture and the effects of the British colonial rule. Furthermore, the manners in which patriarchy manifests itself in regards to human relationships and behaviour will also be discussed, as well as the effect of power relations on the ability of people to self-actualise.

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Examples of two of the characters from within the book ‘Palace Walk’ will be used, in order to assist our understanding further on situations which relate to patriarchy. Other points which will be taken into consideration will focus on the secular and religious challenges faced by Muslim intellectuals, activists and reformers. The views and ideas of Ramadan, Ibrahim, Mahmood and Badran will be looked into and discussed throughout this assignment, alongside other theories/theorists relating to these issues.

Research carried out by Millet (2000) suggested that hierarchy is described as a structure within society, in which women are placed firmly in a subordinate role. The hierarchal rule `proposes that the man possesses more power in comparison to the woman and this suggestion is carried on into the patriarchal system. Lerner (1986) also agrees with the idea that patriarchy refers to the male being in a position of authority.

This assumption forms the basis of society and shows how society as a whole places men and women in to roles which they deem accordingly. Work carried out by Millet (2000) implies that men and women are actually socialised into certain roles from early childhood. In regards to boys, the role of playing a figure of ‘leader’ through play association and the influences of other male family members unconsciously places the child in a position of dominance.

On the other hand girls are assumed to possess the ability to take part in a so called ‘caring’ role. Millet (2000) agrees with Lerner (1986) that through patriarchy, the male species is placed in an authoritative position and this allows the male to assume ownership over the female. Millet (2000) goes on to explain further that this position of authority and dominance may have a negative effect in certain cases and can allow situations such as emotional and physical abuse to take place.

An example of patriarchy can be extracted from the book ‘Palace Walk’ in which Fahmy, the son of Ahmed, finds himself in a subordinate position within the home. His father Ahmed uses his power gained through the association with patriarchy to keep his family in line.

This has led to Fahmy being unable to self-actualise as Maslow (1943) says is possible through the attainment of certain needs. In the case of Fahmy, his ability to self-actualise has been impeded by his father and his father’s religious beliefs thus not allowing him the freedom of choice with regard his place in society nor allowing him the freedom to choose his bride. The same can be said for Ahmed’s other siblings they have all been deterred from self-actualisation by the implementation of Islamic beliefs and values upon them, and their inability to have a choice in how they pursue their lives.

Fahmy is subjected to emotional strain just from the tone of his father’s voice when being spoken to. Ahmed relies on being a disciplinarian as a means to controlling his family and asserting his status within the patriarchal family. Ahmed’s expectations from his family require them to respect him at all times and this is done by evoking fear within them, as a means of keeping control of his family.

Ahmed’s family are expected to behave in an extremely devout way, worshiping him just as they would their religion. This type of discipline and strain is the reason why his wife and siblings keep a lot of what goes on in their lives from him. Lies and being evasive about their lifestyle is evident, however this provides them with a comfort zone from their authoritarian ruler but deters their own self-actualisation.

In reference to patriarchal culture and colonialism, the western society perceives them-selves to be the more dominant force within civilisation and aim to maintain their role as the holder of power within the hierarchal structure through the use of dominance. The notion of white males being more superior in contrast to blacks or other cultures has provided a false belief of power.

The East are led to feel that taking on the persona of the white man has caused them to lose their diversity of culture and traditions and has in turn led to resentment and hatred towards the western cultures and values. These influences in power have led to attempts at colonialism by Eastern populations over their Western counterparts.

The aims of the British to assume power over Egypt many centuries ago has influenced how the East perceives the West, and how this has led to the eastern communities’ response to colonialism as a whole. This hierarchical approach led the way to British dominance, and the loss of identity for Egypt. The more control taken by the British, the more British Egypt became.

The whole issue of colonialism was formed around the Western idea of power, money and business and the need to accumulate wealth. Traditional responses to colonialism can be seen within Palace Walk (1991). Firstly the response of Ahmed was to support the nationalist movement by payments to the cause. However, Ahmed did assume that his time was more important and he should devote this to his work and family rather than nationalism. In contrast Fahmy, the son of Ahmed, was a devout nationalist supporter, dedicating his time to the cause, distributing pamphlets and ultimately sacrificing his life in an attempt to over throw colonialism in Egypt.

The more common responses to the protectorate of the British being in place are the formation of revolutionary organisations which claim to protect the identity of Islam. They are well known for their use of violence to educate the public in their beliefs. The Muslim Brotherhood began life as a religious organisation, educating those who could not read and write, and teaching Islam. During the time of British rule the Muslim Brotherhood, founded by Hassan-al-Banna saw an increase in interest in its beliefs, as they began to oppose British rule.

Egyptian nationalists have often blamed the Muslim brotherhood for violence during this era, and have often held them responsible for atrocities which took part. The Muslim Brotherhood are responsible for the organisation of Hamas, an Islamic movement created as a means for resistance to British and Western control of the East. Further groups have been founded besides the Nationalists however these have had varying degrees of effect, and have resulted in terrorism being used in the name of Islam and the Arab nations.

Western cultures have spread across the Middle East along with western
economic and political control. By introducing these Western ideas has only lead to the growth of Arab nationalism. Their powerful influences towards education have led to improvements in medical care and by introducing techniques from the west in agriculture and industry. However, the Arab world has felt the domination from the West was in favour for the nations of Europe at their expense.

Arab intellectuals have debated whether modernization of Islam would be a positive and effective route to take for the removal of Western domination. Ramadan (2004) has stated that western democracies will not survive if the West keeps on defining opposition to Islam. He says that we need to create a world where difference is valued. In doing so it is up to the ordinary people to create interpersonal dynamics that foster ‘knowledge, respect and trust’. Ramadan (2004) suggests that encouraging all Muslims to think critically will contribute to radical reform, which will lead them from struggling to find a way forward to a creative transformational reformation of Islam.

In order to build this radical reform, Ramadan (2004) has devised an approach which is known as the ‘Seven C’s’. He suggests that Muslims need to have confidence in themselves about their contribution to history through education in order to develop better knowledge of one self. Through consistency they need to have the capacity to critique Muslim societies and practices and not idealize one’s values by contributing and helping Europeans and fellow Muslims move beyond integration. Having a creative mind will increase their capacity for initiative and risk, which leads onto communication by defining concepts in showing intellectual and cultural empathy to themselves and others.

They must also contest to where they feel there are unfair practices, for example within the home, religion or secular societies which then leads to compassion for oneself and others. Ramadan believes that by living out this framework, Muslims can promote discourses that advance peace, critical reflection, dignity, freedom and justice. ‘Demand justice and give love’. (p89). According to Ramadan (2004) Islam does not take a one dimensional approach. Islam respects the views and opinions of other western and European cultures whilst remaining faithful to its fundamental religious principles.

The East wishes to keep their traditions and culture however they feel that their approach must be modernised. Islam according to Ibrahim (2007) has not been critiqued for over a thousand years and must be looked at from all angles and changed to reflect modern societal requirements. Ibrahim suggests that to understand Islamic thinking, one has to take a historical approach. In doing so he says that when reading the Qur’an, you need to understand the basic heritage of Islam so that this will enable the youngsters of the 21st century to develop modern Islamic thinking and be faithful to their religion.

Ibrahim (2007) emphasises the need to respect history and use this as a foundation to move forward, but this must be combined with political minded thought. The dispute between the factions of government and religion has resulted in the manipulation of the Eastern society to benefit the aims of either party. This can be seen as a patriarchal approach, the need to gain superiority and domination of society and influence others through your own beliefs. As discussed briefly in this piece Ibrahim (2007) says that the way forward is to modernise Islam.

Ibrahim (2007) also argues that freedom is a core Islamic value and is mentioned within the Qur’an, and the use of this central value to form the basis of society is imperative in creating a society which is based on solid Islamic culture. However in comparison to this theory Badran (1995) states there has been a lack of education for women and young girls throughout the East for many centuries, influenced by the issue of patriarchy, placing them firmly within the home with no economic use to society.

Women have been deterred from taking up employment as this is seen to be a challenge to the patriarchal norms of society. Their role as discussed by Miller (2000) is firmly within the home, socialised into subordination. It is often forgotten that Universities and schools have only appeared in the U.S over the last 100 years and in many other western countries barely over 50 years. Women’s feminist movements have used this issue as a basis for their argument for the right of women to an education. The Statute of Women’s Rights, was changed in order to give women some rights within society, for example the right to education, however, was not extended to include situations within the home.

Badran believes that Muslim women have created original forms of feminism, but still the West is sceptical as they believe the existence of such in Islam is impossible to achieve. It is the element of patriarchal power that women have been attacked for when they have tried to fight against this suppression. But today there is a growing movement amongst Muslim women steering away from the inherited patriarchal Islam towards egalitarian Islam.

It has been talked about how the Qur’an mentions gender equality in Islam. Activists are using these new practices within societies in order to support a reformation of Muslim family law. Islamic feminism rejects the opposition between secular and religious and the east and west. They want to separate religion and state by the upholding of a secular state which can guarantee freedom of religion. Just because people identify themselves as secular does not necessarily mean that they are not religious or anti-religious. Ramadan spoke of the “importance of a constructive dialogue on shared values”. Islamic feminism has a lot to contribute and in order to promote further involvement of shared values one needs to rest assured that the values being shared are egalitarian values and not patriarchal ideas.

In the 1970’s the women’s mosque movement began. The movement had a transformative effect on Egyptian society. The main goal of the women in the mosque movement was to ground everyday life in the practice of Islam by allowing oneself to control which direction they wanted their society to move in so that they didn’t lose sight.

The contemporary piety movement in Egypt required the members of the community to teach one another the correct Islamic codes. It also brought the following changes such as providing services for the poor, the forms of public debate to financial management of households. As Mahmood (1962) discusses the mosque movement arose because there were perceptions that religious knowledge had become marginalized due to modern structures of secular dominance.

Muslims have asked why the West has moved forward and we have been left behind. Three common responses are as follows. Firstly we as Muslims have strayed from the path of Islam. Secondly, we have failed to maintain our status as a world power relinquishing our power to the West. Alongside this issue is the Eastern inability to maintain an equal status with the West and the future development of science, technology and politics. However, of most importance we have been unable to maintain an economic status resulting in the East being dominated and influenced on a large scale by Western values and business. This has resulted in the loss of cultural identity and mainstream values associated with Islam in favour of a less stringent approach which is dominated by political influence.

Ibrahim (2007) puts forward the impression that in order for Islam to move forward there must be a separation of politics and religion. Religion may be used to influence society and individual decisions and tradition however politics are required to have no religious intervention but be based solely on the requirements of a nation and their future as a world power. The third response is to choose between reverting to the Golden Age of Islam based on Islamic values which have been seen as a stable setting for Eastern society, or move forward in an attempt to maintain equal power with the West by modernising Islam.

These answers can be useful to a certain degree in analysing Eastern responses to colonialism. A move towards the Golden Age of Islam as seen by some Muslims as the way forward is often used to demonise the west and cause conflict. Freedom is a core Islamic value and is used by some factions as a reason for the use of terrorism in defence of their nation.

The influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas has been substantial. Their revolutionary stance uses violence as a means to protect Islamic values. These groups have interpreted Islam for the benefit of their cause. There are many varying factors which need to be looked at for Islam and the Arab world to move forward in contemporary society. When such issues are addressed they will lead to a unified nation which is capable of maintaining itself as a world power alongside the West, although of greater importance will be the unification of its people in their aim for democracy and equality.

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