“Political science professor Michael Ross argues in a new paper that oil booms put more men than women into the workforce and decrease women’s political representation.
“As a result, oil-producing states are left with atypically strong patriarchal norms, laws, and political institutions,” writes Ross, a professor at the University of California Los Angeles.
Ross argues that strong oil economies put women at a disadvantage because the sectors most in need of employees, especially construction, favor men, while textile and other manufacturing industries that traditionally preferred female employees become less vital in the import-rich nations. Ross’s paper, “Oil, Islam, and Women,” was published in February by the American Political Science Review. — from this news article
In the annals of idiocy, has there ever been anything quite like the various attempts, each more comical than the next, to “find the real killer” — that is, the “root cause” of Muslim terrorism — by attributing such terrorism to everything under the sun except to the ideology of Islam? And as part of those annals, has there ever been anything as idiotic as the misattribution, to something other than the ideology of Islam, of Muslim mistreatment of women, or Muslim mistreatment of non-Muslims?
Here we have a Professor Ross, who has discovered, so he thinks, that it is “oil” and not Islam that explains the mistreatment of women. He fails, in the first place, to notice the most obvious thing of all: the very high proportion of oil states that are also peopled by Muslims (10 of the 11 members of OPEC are Muslim or, in the case of Nigeria Muslim-dominated, states).
But here are two other questions that Professor Ross, or “Professor” Ross, failed to consider, and they were the most obvious ones.
The first question he ought to have asked is: Are there any oil states where women are NOT mistreated? That is, are there any oil-producing countries, or oil-producing countries within countries, where women are treated well? And if so, do they share some distinguishing feature? Yes, there are such places, and the distinguishing feature they share is that none of them is a place where Islam rules.
There is, of course, Texas. There is Scotland which, when the North Sea Oil boom was in full swing (and the menfolk were out there enjoying work, while the women presumably did not) nonetheless saw no worsening in the position of women. There is Alberta, in Canada, where roustabouts and workers of every (male) kind can now find work, but curiously, no change in the status of women has been detected. There is Norway, a state that is taking in a fortune from its oil deposits — same failure to observe any change in the status of women. There is Russia, ditto. There is Ecuador, which when it was an oil-producer did not experience any sudden mistreatment of women. Clearly, the experience of non-Muslim oil states suggests that “oil” does not explain the mistreatment of women.
The second question Professor — or “Professor” — Ross ought to have asked himself is: Are there any countries, or regions within countries, where the position of women is noticeably bad, as bad as it is in the oil states, or rather in the Muslim oil states? And yes, there are.
The most obvious such place is Afghanistan, where girls and women are forced still to wear burqas, and routinely denied education — despite the best efforts of the Americans and the other NATO troops, schools for girls are routinely burned down and teachers at such schools threatened or killed. And the reason for this mistreatment of Afghan women is Islam, and not oil, for there is no oil in Afghanistan. And the worst mistreatment takes place wherever those who take Islam most to heart as a Complete Regulation of Life, that is, members of the Taliban, rule, or at least can make their power felt.
Another such place is Pakistan, like Afghanistan a Muslim country without oil, and a place where the condition of women may not quite be as bad as it has been in Afghanistan, but it is certainly bad by any reasonable Western standard.
And another such place is Bangladesh, a Muslim-dominated land that has no oil, and a place about which Taslima Nasreen has written so eloquently, and for her pains, has been threatened with other kinds of pains, including that which accompanies decapitation.
Yet another such place is the Sudan, which may now be producing oil, but until recently could not have been called an oil state. And it is in the Muslim parts of the Sudan where women are treated, or mistreated, most disturbingly. And the same is true in Nigeria. In the southern lands, where Christian Ibos and smaller tribes live, and the Shari’a does not apply, women live as equals to men. But in the Muslim north, where the Muslim Hausas dominate, women are mistreated, legally, and mistreated most in those states that have decided to impose the Shari’a.
And if one went systematically through a list of the Muslim states, and separated out the oil-rich states from those that have no oil, one would find that the same kind of mistreatment can be observed in both kinds of states. To the extent that local conditions have enabled the local government to constrain Islam — as Kemal’s reforms did in Turkey, or as Bourguiba’s reforms did, to a lesser extent, in Tunisia — then, to the same extent to which Islam has been tamed, women are mistreated less severely, and accorded equality before the law that, while it may not always be honored, remains the ideal.
Still a third question proposes itself, which is: what were all these places like before the oil bonanza, a century ago, or two centuries, or three? And the answer is: the condition of women was, by Western standards, awful in all of these Muslim countries. The fact that women in the West had not yet achieved the full legal equality they now enjoy, does not mean that they were not already on the path of such achievement, or that their condition ever was akin to that of women in Muslim lands. Professor Ross seems to have no notion that he needs to conduct a diachronic as well as synchronic study, to see through history how women have been treated, in Muslim and in non-Muslim lands. He does not possess a historical sense, and he appears to believe that this lack is acceptable, this lack is not a defect, and he need not study, or account for, the evidence that the past provides in such rich profusion.
Ross asked none of the most obvious questions: what is the position of women in non-Muslim oil states (fine)? What is the position of women in Muslim non-oil states (terrible)? What was the position of women in Muslim lands before oil was discovered and how does it compare to the position of women, in the same centuries, in non-Muslim lands?
It’s what social scientists mean when they say that so-and-so’s “methodology is flawed.” Yes, Professor Ross’s methodology is flawed.