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I am a mystic madman, a wandering wildman, scholar of esoterica, dilettante sadhu, dready-headed hippie (only have a few jata on the back of my head right now, though more be forming of this third set of knotted hair), gentle yogi, fierce foe of falsity. I was a preacher, but I renounced that. I was married, but she renounced me. I was a grad student at one of the top universities in the world on my way to becoming a professor, but I realized they taught lies there too. I am protector of souls, lover of mountains, smoker of herb, fond of hot springs, oceans and lakes and rivers and rain and sunshine, devotee of Devi.

Hindu Gods and Goddesses

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Human Rights, Bodies and Culture: Compare and Contrast

Woman jailed for having coffee with a man in Saudi Arabia:

Woman arrested for being pregnant and falling down stairs in America:

Advertizing in America exploits women's bodies:



Burkha-clad wrapper from India:

It's quite easy for an ill-informed American to criticize the mores in Islamic countries for their draconian restrictions on women. That said, let me now state with no lack of clarity: I do not support the oppression of women whatsoever. Let me also state, however, that there is much more to the story than a simple, "Us good, them bad, ugh!!"

Many Muslim women feel the "Western" attitude towards women's bodies is degrading and exploitative, and that wearing traditional Islamic garb prevents the objectification of women. There are Muslim women with PhDs who chose to wear traditional garb.

As a sadhu (if somewhat of a dilettante of one), I cannot walk around naked without fear of arrest, despite the fact that the religious tradition of the naga babas (naked sadhus) is the oldest continuous religious tradition in the world, and despite the fact that the more general religious traditions of India are whence Judaism, Christianity and Islam all find their truest source.

What I am proposing with this brief yet pointed post is not some loose relativity, but a conscientious understanding that there are nearly always valid counterpoints to any give pointed arguement. And in other words, insofar as one's exercise of freedom of choice is not directly and heinously infringing upon other's rights, there ought to be freedom to cover one's own body as one sees fit, to keep company with who one chooses with appropriate behavior, to express one's religious belief as chosen, and to not be either unjustly coerced nor to be degradingly exploited. Indeed there is a good long ways to go for both the draconianism in both restrictive Muslim countries and exploitative "Western" ones, insofar as mores and religious-based rules and the relations of men, women and whatever other genders, too. May we all learn and be transformed, without losing the beauty of difference, the vitality of variety, and the truth of unity.

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