Nzingha has an excellent post on questioning and legitimacy that reflects many of my feelings about apologetics and the unintentional empowerment of repulsive ideologies that we nearly all fall into from time to time. I highly recommend it:http://nzinghas.blogspot.com/2006/02/right-to-question-and-issue-of.html
I suppose it is to be expected that calling a spade a spade is sometimes so complicated by other considerations -- countering islamophobia, practicing tolerance for multiple religious opinions, respecting other women's right to agency, etc, etc, etc. -- but there are times when I just feel like shouting -- this is despicable, stop it NOW!!
I find myself in quandries like this all the time -- I hate niqab (the covering of the face), and view it as a dangerous and extreme interpretation, which has severe negative repercussions for women as individuals and as a group, and for society as a whole. Yet, feel like I should tolerate women who believe it is their duty and choose to wear a face veil; indeed since it is their choice, I should support them in making their own decisions -- I wouldn't want others imposing their interpretations on me, so why should I impose my interpretations on them. And then, yet again, I worry that by tolerating them, it appears as though I'm accepting the notion that this interpretation has a validity in Islam that I do not believe it has. And worse, my silence on the matter, or even support of women who want to wear it, may result in a society where people feel coerced or pressured to adopt it!! I suppose the balance to achieve is a clear rejection and condemnation of the practice while not condemning or rejecting the women who choose to observe niqab. Easier said than done.
This meshes with another one of the Carnival of Feminist posts
which questions whether we should hold women responsible for their actions which support patriarchy -- are they victims or accomplices. For myself, one way to answer this question is that we must hold them responsible when they are in positions of authority -- thus, the wife who does not stand up to her abuser, I absolve, even if her actions perpetuate patriarchical notions among her children -- she is clearly the victim in this case. But the mother who perpetuates fgm because she wants her daughters to be able to find a good marriage partner... she I would hold responsible.
Worst of the lot... all too often, we see well-educated (often white, middle class convert) women voicing interpretations of Islam that 1) would result in untold sufferring and oppression for women and that 2) they do not live themselves. A prime example of this is the female scholar who teaches at a university and travels from conference to conference, leaving behind hubby and children while lecturing on the delights of being a stay at home mom, devoting one's life to house, husband and offspring. The sheer hypocricy of it stuns me; and the irresponsible perpetuation of patriarchy on other women's backs has got to be called out and repudiated.