My Quran Lesson is an easy way for you and your kids to learn the Holy Quran. All you need is a PC, headset with a microphone and a broadband internet connection.
Hopefully I am not going too off topic, but the overlying processes you suggest wherein people and situations are decoded according to double standards reminds me of an essay by Stanley Fisher, a literary critic, titled “Interpreting the Variorum.” It’s basically about how literature and literary symbols are interpreted in different ways depending on the interpretive community you come from. If I come from an Arab background and am bringing my learned interpretive strategies as an Arab to the table, then when a poem mentions wind, I might begin to think of the poem in terms of love and romance. On the other hand, as one familiar with English literature, I would take wind to be a harsh force which wears away at something. It sort of ties into Edward Said’s ideas about how novels seem to indicate different things to different readers across the world. In other words, our interpretations of symbols, texts, events, and people are determined by our interpretive strategies and these strategies come out of whatever interpretive communities we’re from. When it comes to how we perceive of the so-called other, the media plays a huge role in forming an interpretive community and informing our immediate interpretations. As a symbol, for instance, the soldiers have been systematically given significant meaning, whereas the victims have been translated into statistics. Let me give you an example:
— We are in a Middle Eastern country run by Sharia Law. A couple has just been sentenced to death. Their charge: adultery. The camera zooms in on the face of the woman. She is terrified. A sack is put over her head. She is stoned to death. Someone picks up her limp, bloody body and carries it away. The scene flashes back to the newscaster.—
I am sitting in my room watching the footage from a television screen in America. Instantly, I am overcome with an aversion for the policies of Sharia Law. The practice of stoning is barbaric. They brutally murdered a woman for having an affair. They are cruel and misogynistic and they disgust me. I wonder how this society could be at such a remove from the progress of history. My heart goes out to the woman that has suffered because of their archaic mode of governance. I think of all I have seen from these Middle Eastern countries: war, terrorism, lack of technology, the burka, the hijab, the repression and oppression of women.
Suddenly, I remember that I am a Middle Eastern Muslim. I recall that I have never been repressed or oppressed. I think of what the hijab means to me: liberation. The image of the limp, bloody women comes back to me. What was her crime, I ask myself, that she had to die such a gruesome death? My thoughts are interrupted by a faint memory: she did not die alone. A man died as well for the same crime – where is his air time, why isn’t he humanized? I think about how the western media has a double standard when it comes to the plight of men.The fact is two people died that day, but only one of their lives was valuable enough to make history.
I still cannot understand why both individuals were being punished for committing adultery with death. Adultery is not a crime; it’s an unfortunate force of nature. Or is it? Or should it be? My mind travels back in time. My mother had a friend a very long ago and I recall her story clearly. She was married for 10 years to one man, one man who had an affair without her knowledge. She learned of his liaison when the doctor informed her she had Aids. Other stories come to mind then, stories of men and women I know who compromised their vows or dealt with a situation where their spouses broke theirs. I remembered the tears, the long nights of comforting, the accusations, the humiliation, the disintegration of the family unit, the risk of bodily sickness, and the betrayal. Finally, I asked myself, why shouldn’t breaking this sacred oath be a crime?
Two people had been stoned to death for the crime of adultery. Reflecting on the footage, I realized that now I saw something very different in it than I had before. What I had watched was not barbarism or female oppression, but a picture of a society that considers adultery to be as grievous an offense as we see murder here in the west. This society is concerned with the victims of the crime, the wife or the husband, and whatever children they may have. Gender is irrelevant to the penalty. Just then, I could see within and beyond the footage to understand that the way I perceive is determined by the way I have learned to interpret reality. Depending on the interpretive strategy that I used to decipher the video footage, I would have seen into only one box or another. I had adopted my strategies from many very different interpretive communities.
Anyway, my point is that if we want people to break away from the interpretive strategy they have been conditioned with, we have to give them new ways of reading reality. It’s hard to do when for most ppl the primary ‘book’ that constructs meaning is the television, with its many different chapters, or channels, and its media outlets which normalize double standards. As Muslims, the Qur’an invests history,place, life, and people with meaning and morality that transcends time. Killing one person, any person, is equitable to the killing of all humanity. This interpretative strategy leads one who follows it to humanize all people. Just another reason why the Qur’an, as an interpretive community, is still and will always be relevant.
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