Saturday, February 19, 2005

Good morning..
i liked this email from my friend Roberta..
and i promised her to put it on my blog.
i really loved her grandmother !
may God bless her soul.

Hello Faiza,

It has been so long since I have written to you, but I have been reading and following your adventures from Cairo to Amman-- and though I know how much you must miss home, I must say I am happy that you are safe and comfortable for the moment in Amman and am happy to read that evidently you will be staying there for awhile. I sometimes feel when I read your blog that I am having a conversation with you so I want to do my part and offer some comments on what you are writing these days. I applaud you for talking about women, society and religion in your blog and I identify with many of the things you say.

I was very moved by the emails from the mothers of dead American soldiers that you posted. The depth of their anger and sorrow touched me as a woman and a mother. We mothers are a universal sisterhood. American mothers who lose soldier sons to car bombs and Iraqi mothers who lose children to bullets from an American soldier's gun feel the same terrible pain. It is ironic that in a mother's pain there is no enemy or friend-- no good or bad--no right or wrong--just a single universal grief.

As for the condition of women, well, I don't think it is a simple thing in any culture or religion. Let me tell you a little story about my maternal grandmother, now gone from this world, whom I loved and admired very much. She was a very intelligent woman who was orphaned at the age of four and raised by her grandmother and a maiden aunt in a small town in Eastern Kansas. She graduated first in her class from high school at a time when many women did not even finish that level of education and then wanted to attend University and earn a Bachelor's degree. Her grandmother and her aunt refused, saying that they would send her to a teacher's training school where she could become certified to teach young children. My grandmother insisted that she wanted to go to the University and use the money that had been left by her father for her education. Her desire for further education became the talk of the small town she lived in. This was in the late 1890's when very few universities even accepted women students. Well, one Sunday, in church, the minister preached a whole sermon about the spiritual dangers of higher education for women( I guess he had heard the local gossip about my grandmother!) He talked about how women's brains were smaller than men's and they were more delicate and not suited for the rigors of higher education. He spoke of how women needed to be protected and respected and that no respectable women would want to over- educate herswelf. He warned that a girl would lose her health, her mind and probably her virtue if she went to University and would be unfit to be a wife and mother. His talk so angered my grandmother's grandmother and aunt that they changed their minds and let my grandmother go down to the newly opened University of Kansas which did accept women students. She went, and in 1904 graduated with a B.A. in Latin and Greek. She also met my grandfather while she was there and married him the following year. She used to say that the very same people who had been so against her going to the University shook their heads when she announced her marriage and said" what a pity, all that education wasted" My grandmother always said that education was even more important for a woman than for a man because it made her a better wife and mother and that when you educated a woman you educated her future children as well. She told me when I was small" you never know what is going to happen in life and a woman must be able to take care of herself and her children and a good education gives her more tools for facing life" It was assumed from the time I was a little girl that I would get a University education. Had I wanted to marry after high school, my grandmother would have been very disappointed. Oh yes, and one more thing-- when my grandmother graduated from the University of Kansas, women could not vote. American women didn't get the vote until 1920 so imagine this--my university educated grandmother could not vote, but a man who could not read or write could, just because he was a man.

And now-- on the subject of religion-- I saw a documentary on Saudi Arabia the other night on TV. One of the people interviewed was a conservative Muslim clergyman( sorry I don't know the correct word) Anyway he was very upset because 47 Saudi women had staged a demonstration by driving their cars and I thought as I listened to him talk that he sounded just like that Christain clergyman who preached against higher education for women in my grandmother's church all those years ago. He basically said these women were evil for wanting to drive and for disobeying the law and he suggested that their male relatives punish them(like children?). He seemed to feel very threatened. I don't think that either Christianity or Islam is hostile to women but it does seem to me that some men of both religions need to keep women down and seem very frightened of female power of any kind. I don't know why. This does not seem to change much from generation to generation or from country to country.

It seems to me, Faiza, that though you are a Muslim and I a Christian, we are both in the hands of the same merciful God and if our religions disagree on the details, it isn't important. We are like two people standing on opposite sides of a great mountain and gazing up at it. We each see the mountain from where we stand and each have a slightly different view--but the mountain is still the mountain, it does not change. We just have a slightly different view of its landscape. God is God and we are women--sisters in our humanity with more that unites us than divides us. May the God that created us both help us all in these troubled times.

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