I remember watching a YouTube clip in which Richard Dawkins interviews a Muslim guy, seen here. In this clip, there was one quote that was particularly annoying. I will paraphrase to make the statement neater since it was a back and forth discussion. Essentially he stated that Western men dressed their women as whores. I assume he meant, we let them dress like whores; regardless, it’s still a ridiculous statement.
This statement is rude and offensive due to its sexist slant; however, I will let feminists attack this point. I am more concerned with something more overarching: it is an ignorant and unfair comparison.
Ignorant because Muslims who make these kinds of statements don’t realize why it is an unfair comparison.
The explanation of its unfairness of this comparison may not be intuitive; however, once dissected, it is quite easy to notice. There are many aspects of culture, and for this reason, it is quite easy to compare apples and oranges without realizing it.
In this instance, the Muslim being interviewed is comparing modern Western culture with traditional Islamic culture. This is not fair. Of course there are traditional Western women who never reveal their bodies in a sexual manner. Of course there are Islamic women who dress provocatively and behave sexually (there are brothels in Islamic countries).
Now, of course women in Western countries are more likely to dress provocatively, but why is this? Is this what Western culture was like traditionally? No. Not at all. The reason why more Western women dress this way is because they can. Specifically, it is because of the continuous fight against the oppression of women in Western culture. In modern Western societies, women are free to dress as they please with little risk of being given dirty looks and no risk of being imprisoned or beheaded.
This same fight against the oppression of women has not happened in Islamic countries. This is not something to brag about. This is something to be ashamed about.
The same advancement of the rights of homosexuals and religious minorities has not occurred in Islamic countries either and we see the same desire by many Muslims to be proud of this lack of advancement. This can be illustrated by the infamous quote by the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, “Our country doesn’t have homosexuals.” Again, was this always the case in Western societies? Have Westerners always loved homosexuals and religious minorities? Again, no. The acceptance of the rights of these aforementioned groups are not Western ideals: they are universal ideals.
So, when a Muslim compares Western and Islamic cultures, they should either compare modern Western women and modern Muslim women or traditional Western women and traditional Muslim women. Muslims have no reason to be proud of comparing traditional Islamic culture with modern Western culture. This is an unfair comparison.
Moreover, this is desire to brag about how “modest” Muslim women are in Islamic countries is actually something to be ashamed of, not proud of, since it illustrates how backward the rights of women are in their country. That is, Islamic countries have failed to discover these universal ideals.
There is no evidence that women in Islamic countries innately desire to cover themselves more than any other women. They are products of the society in which they live and these products have not been taken care of. So, whenever a Muslim asserts that their women are more modest than Western women, it is our duty as global citizens to criticize this behavior for the protection of minorities everywhere.