In honor of today's Muslim holiday,Eid al Fitr (Eid Mubarik to you all!),I wanted to welcome the newest member of the conservative Muslim faith: VP candidate Sarah Palin.I know we all thought that Sarah Palin was aconservative/Evangelical Christian,but based on her recent actions,I think she must be a conservative Muslim too.For starters,as Fareed Zakaria aptly termed it,she's been inmedia purdahfor several weeks now.
Purdah is the extra-Islamic tradition of Muslim women being hidden from men and prying eyes.I don't believe in it,but many conservative Muslims do,resulting in gender-segregated prayer and living areas.Sarah hasn't taken it that extreme (she is still seen by men),but,as far as her handlers are concerned,she is in general purdah from reporters.
Sarah is also reinvigorating a traditional Islamic practice by essentiallyarranging the marriage of her daughter Bristol.Although Bristol made a mistake,don't compound it by making her a teenage wife!Even in Muslim countries,arranged marriage is declining,as young women (with their parents' blessings) prefer to at least start college before entering wife-dom.When I think of all the opportunities the bright,young Bristol will miss because she's doing her husband's laundry,I just shudder.
Lastly,poor Sarah had to endure thepatriarchal flirtingof the Pakistani President (and,incidentally,widower of legendary strong Muslim woman Benazir Bhutto),Asif Ali Zardari,when they met at the United Nations last week.All that's missing for Sarah now to earn her Muslim woman-stripes is a territorial mother-in-law.
I was really excited when Sarah was first picked and still am.But I wonder if some of her actions just reinforce the patriarchy already present in the male worlds of politics and society.She doesn't have to burn her bra,but I think she should at least tell the handlers to back off and let her be herself.I (and many Muslims) know the Muslim world cannot advance without the full participation of its women.The same is true of American society.