March 26, 2004

ASK AN IMAM:

A Muslim preacher in eastern Turkey says he is being boycotted for telling local men to help their wives with the housework, Turkish media reported.

“Women do all the work in this village. All I said was men should at least carry the water (from the local well),” Mustafa Platin told Sabah newspaper.

His angry flock, who stopped attending the mosque, have asked authorities to remove the preacher.

That it’s an issue at all is probably a sign of progress.

UPDATE: A Muslim student from Northwestern emails:

I enjoy your website a great deal and check it frequently. I just wanted to drop a quick note regarding one of your posts. The story of the Imam who was boycotted for advising men to help in their wives’ housework is most certainly a travesty. It is a well-established part of the Islamic tradition that the Prophet Muhammad mended his own clothes, cleaned his own living space, and never requested domestic assistance of anyone. The Prophet literally implored men to assist their wives and worked to elevate the status of women at a time when they were treated as chattel. Because men who call themselves Muslims today choose to flagrantly disobey a firmly established aspect of Islamic history in the name of advancing their own chauvinistic interests, does not make it Islamic (this is also painfully obvious in the communities who turn their backs on Imams who rightfully condemn suicide bombings as impermissible and sinful; again, the racism and chauvinism that bring about these feelings are not Islamic, as the Prophet prohibited the killing of innocents, use of fire in war, destruction of the land and livestock—the evidence is overwhelming, and I’d be happy to engage you on that topic as well).

I have attended, and led, many prayers here in the States and abroad, and never have I encountered a community of men who would become angry with an Imam for advising them of something so consistent with the Islamic tradition as helping their wives. That these men in Turkey did so is repugnant.

If you perceive this email to be a worthy contribution of information, feel free to post any part of it. If possible, just refer to me a as a Northwestern University Law Student.

It’s certainly true that many who call themselves Muslims follow something other than the teachings of Islam, and that many kinds of sexism popularly associated with Islam — even by their practitioners who call themselves Muslims — are actually rooted in tribal traditions or simple prejudice.