Separate Still Not Equal

Making Muslim women cover up and segregate themselves has nothing to do with controlling them, don’cha know. It has nothing to do with restricting their lives in ways that make them more dependent on men, easier to control. It isn’t about subjugation. It’s about modesty.

Including modest libraries:

Students of the Women’s College in Aligarh Muslim University are waging a bitter struggle for a facility their counterparts in other institutions would take for granted-access to the university’s central library.

Now, in a concession to these undergraduate women students, AMU has decided provided them online access to the catalogue of books. The varsity says the girls can choose the books which would then be issued and delivered to them.

AMU Women's College
The 100-year-old Women’s College, a constituent of AMU-a central university which had built a reputation for an enlightened social outlook-is housed in the fortress-like enclosure of Abdullah Hall. Except for professional courses, this is the only college providing undergraduate education to women in the university.

The women boarders of the hall are not allowed out of the college campus except on Sundays, so membership of the university library is ruled out for them. Even day scholars of the college are not allowed into the library, considered one of the best in Asia.

That’s right. The women’s college has its own library because the female undergraduate students aren’t to be allowed to mingle with the men who attend the other four colleges at the university or whomever else they may meet outside the gates. And–no surprise–that library in the women’s college is nothing like the equal of the library they’ve been excluded from.

Nor is that the only inequality these sequestered women face. Go to the Aligarh Muslim University website and find the list of colleges. Click on any of them but the Women’s College. You will see a list of departments next to the standard sidebar for the university.

Click on the Women’s College? You will see the picture above, of Abdullah Hall and the gates behind which the students must live for six days out of the week. If you click on “Courses” on the special Women’s College sidebar, which includes things like “Images”, you can find the degrees offered. They are all languages, humanities, and social sciences.

That is what undergraduate women are offered at Aligarh. An impoverished curriculum to go with their impoverished library. Of course, now the university is promising it will bring more books behind those bars. But what if they don’t? Where will these women go when they–and their educations–must stay so modest?

Separate Still Not Equal
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5 thoughts on “Separate Still Not Equal

  1. 2

    Don’t you both know you’re just being culturally imperialist elitist Westerners? How dare you imply that the great Islamic culture of Whereverstan is somehow inferior to your own because it relegates half of its population to a perpetual prison of cloth (and a confining cage of the mind); that’s their *culture* and *tradition*, and if the women didn’t like it, well, they’d have just chosen to be born in your decadent capitalist pig-dog countries, wouldn’t they?

    I can’t believe you aren’t falling all over yourself with shame for daring to think that Enlightenment values were anything more than parochial Western affectations, and that there could be such a thing as “universality” of rights. Don’t you know that rights are whatever the big brutes with bigger guns say they are?

    Also, too, Iraq.

  2. Pen

    Whereverstan turns out to be India, I think, and I know for a fact that there are other educational options for women there. So… do their families make them go here? Is there an economic or geographical issue? Is it the equivalent of Liberty U?

  3. 4

    Riptide, the cartoonish junk you’re throwing out there is a gigantic straw man and always has been.

    I mean, you are aware of the deep, difficult problems the feminist movement in the US has run into when dealing with non-white people, right? And you have some idea why those are problems? When many liberals talk about this kind of stuff as applied to other countries, we’re trying to avoid that kind of issue from the get-go.

    A school should offer facilities to women as good as what the men get, whatever its religious orientation. But the next question is how you get there.

    If you wanted to combat this kind of thing at Aligarh, what would you do? Who would you talk to? How would you do it? What kind of support or lack thereof is there within the college? I there a group of women organizing to combat it? How does it stack up against other institutions that offer classes to women? Do the more secular institutions engage in institutional discrimination against Muslims, leaving Muslim women with fewer options? I don’t know the answer to any of these. Until I did know the answer, I’d be wary of jumping in and telling the local Indians anything much as I dislike the practices at that school.

    The point has always been that these things do not spring up in a vacuum.

  4. 5

    What garbage. It’s a library. If it’s like most libraries, it buys everything it can possibly afford to buy. There’s no more money left over to create an equivalent library for the other half of the population. They should be allowed to use the library the same as the men. “Cultural issues” should not be used to subjugate women in the modern world. Yes, this is a Western point of view — and I sincerely hope it becomes the norm.

    For the last two years of finishing my thesis, I did not have access to relevant online papers because, as a not-enrolled student, I was not qualified. I had to sheepishly send my advisor emails like “I can’t access paper A, but it sounds like it’s relevant. Could you access it and make me a copy?” I know what it’s like not to have immediate access to the information you need, and it’s painful.

    Women shouldn’t have to be subjected to this just because they’re women, and [expletive deleted] the “cultural” consequences. Cultures grow. They adjust. And some in the Islamic world are desperately in need of growing and adjusting.

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