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Aubrey Mills
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In a recent thread in the 1-Players Guild forums, people were invited to celebrate Eid al-Adha. Someone on the thread responded to the invitation by offering instead to celebrate the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment principles, almost by definition, promote equality. Americans may note that the first post Enlightenment constitution, that of the US, embodies those principles of equality. I was surprised that there were many angry responses to this, including charges of racism.

Systemic gender discrimination is dreadful, and the longer it continues the greater our shame as a race. And yet it is permitted tacitly by those who would wish happiness on those planning a festival with just such discrimination at its heart.

Let’s deal with the racist argument right away. Islam is not a race, but a system of beliefs. Race is synonymous with species and, as human beings, we are part of a one species, not several. Someone who holds Islamic beliefs could, in fact, be my exact twin, speaking the same language, having attended the same school, living in the same town, working in the same office, but having different beliefs about the creation of the world, or the role of men and women, or what we should eat, or what should be forbidden, or how many times we should pray. The only difference between us, in other words, is that set of beliefs, and that set of beliefs do not constitute a racial difference. They are the product of culture. We can verify this by noting two other twins, both of whom were brought up in a Christian household. One of them still strongly believes in Christianity; the other has adopted Islam. In their arguments (which are very heated) the last thing that either can accuse the other of is racism. They are forced to debate exclusively about the values and evidence for their respective beliefs. To sum up, throwing in false accusations of ‘racism’ as a way of avoiding dealing with a charge of religiously based gender discrimination is dishonest.

Islam is far from unique here. There is gender discrimination in many religious practices. I am familiar with ‘churching’ (purification following the ‘unclean’ act of giving birth) and other practices approved by the Roman Catholic religion. The male dominated hierarchy of the Roman church is an historic legacy of a time when women were barely even second class citizens. Some of those who still subscribe to the beliefs of Christian churches are uncomfortable with its male domination, but manage to square it with their consciences.

People often compare saying ‘Happy Eid al-Adha’ with ‘Happy Christmas’, or even ‘Happy Holiday’. Isn't Christmas a similar religious festival? But Eid al-Adha remains a religious festival even as the religious connotations of Christmas have evaporated for many. And even then I certainly would not wish ‘Happy Christmas’ to some fundamentalist Christian who I discover discriminates against the unfortunate women in his power. Times have changed. A family with zero religious beliefs celebrates Christmas while feeling no interest or pressure to join the annually dwindling numbers of those attending mass. Christmas has become for many a time for the family to get together, to give gifts and to enjoy dining together around the table. A woman enjoys the day on exactly the same footing as any male. Women are not treated differently in our house, or the house of any of our friends. Are people suggesting that Eid al-Adha may be celebrated by an Iranian family without observing its ceremonies or rules? I think we all know the answer to that. When women are free I shall be the first to wish happiness to all.

There is another important point at issue for board game players here. My own contribution to the 1-Player Guild was to point to a current news item about women chess players objecting to the holding of the major women’s chess competition in Iran, a country whose laws oblige women to dress in a specific way. Americans should note that, for that very reason, their own US women’s champion will not be attending it, and that there are calls for a boycott.
http://www.therebel.media/_i_will_not_wear_a_hijab_and_suppo...
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37560768

Quote: "I have never experienced the freedom of not wearing a veil without the fear of the morality police," wrote artist and activist Atena Daemi in an emotional Facebook post.

I have not the slightest doubt that, if men in Iran were obliged to wear the hijab, the equivalent competition for men would not be held there. Arguing that ‘many Muslim countries have actually been quicker to elect women to parliament than many western countries’ is no support for Islamic notions of gender equality, but merely supports the view that women desire equality and will achieve it in due course, and that ignoring now their wishes, their rights, and their desire for equal treatment, is delaying justice and supporting repression. Paying lip service to any 'happy' holiday that currently embeds genderist practices does us no credit. Board games are inherently about equality between participants.
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