In his Jan. 18 Opinion piece, "To progress, Islamic countries must advance women's rights," John Hughes argues that Muslim countries are underdeveloped because narrow interpretations of sharia (Islamic law) are somehow hindering their moves toward emancipation.
This cultural determinism is outdated. Repression is basically a matter of economics. The oppression of women in the conservative countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other oil-rich countries is basically the result of a patriarchal culture reinforced by the availability of resources. These wealthy states chose to empower men and subordinate women. The latter became dependent on the existing expatriate workforce, which caters to and provides them with all services, from cooking to babysitting.
Prior to the discovery of oil, women in Arabia had more freedom than today. In countries with fewer resources such as Algeria, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Egypt, women tend to have much more control over their lives because of the economic necessities that forced a large percentage of women to work, and therefore to gain access to power and decisionmaking.
Economic necessity is the basis of social transformation. As long as the price of oil is on the rise, and population growth can be sustained, then women in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states will remain behind doors.
Regarding the Jan. 19 article, " 'Potty parity' aims to remedy long lines": I have a bold proposal. Make all restrooms available to both sexes. Both men and women will have an equal access to all facilities, and neither a man nor a woman will have a higher likelihood of finding the next available toilet. In Sweden where I live, many businesses have unisex restrooms. The stalls have floor-to-ceiling doors, too, so privacy is not a concern. Where much drink is consumed, a separate room with urinals for the men is often available, too. This system is fair to everyone and doesn't discriminate on the basis of sex.
The Jan. 19 article, "A new gust of wind projects across the US," states that the possible installation of 9,200 megawatts of wind power would equal "less than 1 percent of US power generation."
According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), a wind power plant requires about 60 acres of land for every megawatt of power it produces. So the AWEA is talking about industrializing 552,000 acres (more than 860 square miles) of our remaining rural and wild areas to generate less than 1 percent of our current supply. Trade-offs must always be considered, but this one seems way out of proportion.
East Hardwick, Vt.
Regarding the Jan. 10 article, "Choice in channels? Debate heats up.": The concern expressed by minorities and religious groups about the loss of programs because of popular choices made by cable subscribers is certainly a concern. This is why public-access channels should be guaranteed by the FCC and Congress. Public access is the primary guarantee of the right of expression in the electronic media. Let people choose, but require the maintenance of public-access channels for all packages, including satellite and other systems.
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