I’m sure they’re getting right to that in Riyadh at this very moment. Actually, the article below shows a mixture of dissimulation and religiously- and culturally-loaded notions like the “dignity” of women, which can mean very different things depending on whether you’re talking to a Quaker from Harrisburg or an imam from Jeddah. “Theologians call for gender equality at Saudi inter-faith conference,” from Agence France-Presse, July 17:
MADRID (AFP) Women have historically suffered discrimination in the name of religion, and the world’s great faiths must do more to encourage gender equality, theologians told a seminar at a Saudi-organised conference Thursday.
“Women have been forgotten and marginalised in religions,” Juan Jose Tamayo, director of theology at Madrid’s Juan Carlos III university, told a roundtable on the second day of the World Conference of Dialogue in Madrid, aimed at bringing the great monotheistic faiths closer together.
“They are organised hierarchically and patriarchically, excluding women in all fields of knowledge and religious matters.”
Now, at the start of the 21st century, all men, but especially clerics “must restore the dignity of women.”
He said the holy books of the world’s great religions have been “distorted by men.”
“We must go back to the respective holy books of our religions to restore the idea of equality and non-discrimination.”
Ahmad Ibn Saifuddin, a Saudi professor of theology, agreed that the role of women was misunderstood, and that religious leaders must reread their holy books to clarify the position of women.
“Eve was born from Adam, so women and men are the same,” he said.
But at the same time he said Islam puts women “on a high level” because they are mothers.
Esther Ruiz, a Protestant pastor and theologian, said that “doing the will of God is confused with doing the will of men.”
In Christianity, there is “repression and discrimination, which is expressed in the limited possibilities for women to fully develop the gifts God has given them…”
“Often religion and culture have been used to justify this attack against the will of God to create a free human species, and to impose a partial, masculine and patriarchal vision of what God intended.”
See also: Saudi Arabia, just for starters.
Amparo Ruiz, a lawyer and director of the Buddhist Centre, told the seminar that Buddhism “makes no difference between men and women.”
The World Conference on Dialogue is organised by the Muslim World League from an initiative by Saudi King Abdullah, whose country hosts Islam’s two holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina.
Around 200 participants are attending, including representatives of the world’s major religions.
Among them are the secretary general of the World Jewish Congress, Michael Schneider, and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who is responsible for dialogue between the Vatican and Muslims.
The conference opened Wednesday with a speech by King Abdullah in which he called on the world’s major religions to turn their backs on extremism and embrace “constructive dialogue.”
The conference ends Friday with a final communique.
Here’s what it will say, at least in part: All major religions seek “peace” and condemn the killing of “innocents.” All major religions also “respect” women, and seek “justice” for all of humanity.
As for the definitions of those terms, well, you know, the devil is in the details. The important thing is that the Saudis look progressive, understanding, and open-minded, and deflect attention from the entrenched oppression and injustice in their own country.