Post number 100....I'm pretty sure that's a sign I have too much to say. Someday I'll learn to shut up. But not today!!!! =)
So the class at UW is going fairly well. We have talked more about this second book, Palace Walk than we did about Leo Africanus and I feel like I understand it more, but we keep getting sidetracked onto random discussions and disagreements between one woman and the professor about the differences in Pakistani and Egyptian culture. Well, of course they're different, one is in Asia and one is in Africa, and possibly the only similarity they share is that they both happen to be mostly Islamic. And most Americans could tell you that not all Muslims agree about MOST things. So it all seems rather pointless. This same woman has the irritating habit of only saying half her sentence before starting on the next one or trailing off into nothingness. So I doodle a lot. I actually did math today...I figured out the equation to tell me how many sashing strips and squares I need to make any t-shirt blanket.
When we are on topic, I learn interesting things, like how Egypt and Britain handled the transition of power in the 1920s and 1930s, marriage and divorce traditions, inheritance procedures, and the private attitude of many Arab nations towards Palestinians. This last one was especially interesting. One of the major themes in Palace Walk is the attitude of the men about the women. See here for my take on it. The professor pointed out that this is an attitude that is somewhat apparent throughout all the novels we are reading and also is an attitude that is more or less apparent to Westerners as well. We talk a lot about giving freedom to Afghan women and how terribly the women in Iran are treated and so on. We are very concerned with the treatment of women in other places, especially places where women are treated differently than in the US.
It is true that women in most Muslim countries are generally treated very differently than women in any "western" nation. I would hesitate to use the word "cruel," at least not as a generalization, but that is the perception that we have about the treatment of women in places like Iran and Afghanistan. What is less clear to us is that those specific examples are somewhat extreme. In many places throughout the Arab (and Muslim) world (which, by the way, neither Iran or Afghanistan are considered Arab...by themselves or by others) women are looked on as people that need to be protected from the world. They are the outward manifestations of a man's character. They are his crown, his wealth, his status, and the reason that he is respected. This is a hard concept for us to grasp. Here, women are valuable in their own right and for their own reasons, which they work hard to attain. There, women are valuable because they make a man successful. It is through his children that a man gains worth, and a man cannot have children without a woman's presence in his home. His home is considered incomplete without a woman in it and it is through the women in his life that he gains prestige and respect in his community.
A woman without a man is someone to be taken care of, to be sheltered, to be protected. If a woman is not taken care of or if she chooses to live outside the traditional role of daughter or wife, then she is on her own. If she is not taken care of, it reflects shamefully on the husband or father who has abandoned her. If she chooses to live outside this role, then whatever happens to her is her own fault. So...how does this tie back to Palestine? Much like an Arab community would hate the actions of a rapist but blame the woman for being in a position to allow herself to be raped (she was outside the home, she was not with her husband, etc), the larger Arab community hates the actions that Israel did in conquering Palestine in 1948, but blames the Palestinians for allowing that action (the rape) to happen. Consequently, although there will always be talk from the larger Arab community about punishing Israel, it is very unlikely that anyone will ever do anything about it. Hence the reason that Palestinians have been in refugee camps for 60 years.
Anyway....I hope I don't horribly offend anyone by this, it was just a fascinating aspect that I had not considered about the likelihood of involvement in the Palestinian issue by other Arab nations.
By the way, I set the odometer (tachometer?) this morning before I left the house and it is 23 miles from my house to UW. I watch my gas level fall on every trip...**gulp**