Let’s not rush into anything now

Ho hum – a woman says women are equal, male clerics pitch fits.

Zeinab Radwan…announced during a conference on “Citizenship” that “the testimony of a woman is legally equal in weight with a man’s testimony.”…Clerics were swift to condemn Radwan’s statement, as expected. Gamal Qutb, former head of the Fatwa council in Al-Azhar, impugned Radwan’s credibility on Islamic Jurisprudence and warned against tampering with the Shari’a. In his view, it would be insane to continuously alter interpretations of the Quran every time conditions in society human behavior changed.

Oh well quite. Exactly so. It would be stark staring insane to keep on and on and on forever changing interpretations of the Koran simply because conditions changed – what could possibly be madder than that? Because conditions change all the time, society changes, human behavior changes, all those things are fickle as windmills, they’re always whirling up and down and round about, first one thing then another; one minute it’s slavery and hierarchy and violence and the next minute it’s equality and freedom and peace, up down, up down, skirts long, skirts short; it’s all so arbitrary and whimsical and meaningless, there’s no way to choose among them, of course the only thing to do is have one interpretation of one book written fourteen centuries ago and then stick to it like death forever after no matter what. Because who cares if people grow and learn and change, who cares if we gradually collect data and explanations and experience that indicate that some ways of life are better for more people than other ways of life are? A pox on all that; what we want is stability and continuity and certainty and above all predictability – we want to know that women were inferior yesterday and they’re inferior today and they’ll be inferior tomorrow. We want to know where we are. We want to be able to find our way around with our eyes shut because it’s too god damn much trouble to open them.

While being interviewed by Al-Jazeera yesterday, Qutb lashed out at the Western world for “having molded such speakers to serve their interests and who are being guided by the West. Those who live in our midst while representing another culture and regardless of their elevated worldly status are unqualified to speak on religious matters.”

Those who live in our midst while representing another culture – interesting touch – reminiscent of Leon Kass’s ‘All friends of human freedom and dignity—including even the atheists among us’ combined with the convenient genuflection to ‘culture’. Note the contradiction, too – we mustn’t change interpretations of the Koran every time conditions in society change, yet ‘culture’ is a valor-word. On the one hand the timeless and eternal, on the other hand the contingent and situated and mutable. Well that’s clerics for you, any port in a storm.

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