Kurman Ait and a little bit about gender and Islam

Today is Kurman Bairam, a big Muslim religious holiday. It’s an official day off and according to the tradition you have to cook special ethnic meals today and visit your family and friends. Three people brought food from their homes to my organization’s office today. Meanwhile, I am thinking about gender and religion.  Just to give a glimpse of what visual images I have of Islam.  The picture shows a square full of praying men, this is the usual start of Muslim religious holidays in Kyrgyzstan. Women are not supposed to pray close to men. One of the reasons I know of is that the kneeling may expose parts of women’s bodies (because women are supposed to cover their ‘seductive’ ‘bodies completely, yet it does not save them from ‘revealing’ when they kneel as they are not supposed to wear trousers). 

I am not a Muslim woman and I do not know how it feels not to be able to attend a funeral ceremony at the cemetery or pray at the same square with men on a religious holiday. What I do know is that some intepretations of Islam bring enournous harm to women. Read an article today about sexual relations in Iran, it is scary. 12-year-old women being married, rape in marriage being a common thing and of course a taboo issue. To name some other ways to control women’s bodies: virginity testing in state clinics, stoning for alleged adultery, honor killings of women who allegedly had premarital sex by their families, death sentence for same-sex affection.

It scares me that I see more women in Kyrgyzstan following religious traditions. More women wear head scarves, more men come to the square to pray on religious holidays, some state leaders are openly supported by states with Sharia law.  I do not want women in Kyrgyzstan to experience what their sisters go through in Iran. I would not wish anyone to go through a virginity check or a rape.

4 thoughts on “Kurman Ait and a little bit about gender and Islam

  1. Hi,

    Tell us more about gender inequality in Kyrgyzstan. I am an American and may be moving there soon. Frankly, I am terrified. I was there on a short term assignment once and hated the way women were treated. What is it like long term?



  2. Hi, Patricia!

    The way women are treated in Kyrgyzstan very much depends on their age, ethnicity, social status, income etc. It’d be difficult to generalize. Overall, the society is sexist and puts constraints on women’s freedoms. Yet you can only sense it if you are more or less familiar with a different life for women. The women’s position is taken by women as a their ‘natural’ fate and they usually do not relate to the gender discourse put forward by international organizations and women’s NGOs. As an American you should not be terrified because foreigners are usually treated differently because locals realize that you come from a different culture. So for you it’s nothing to worry about.

  3. The same thing is happening in Western North Africa, more and more women are wearing headscarves, etc. However, women are not married so young, are becoming educated, and are treated well by their husbands and society.

    Dedicated Elementary Teacher Overseas (in the Middle East)

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