In Islam, the man has been declared as the head of the family; the maintainer, the provider, the caretaker, the leader. He is the one who disciplines his woman if she goes astray.
Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband's] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand. (4:34)
I am conflicted over this verse. Firstly, this sounds more fair than what is normally practiced; men hear something unpleasant to their ears about their women, the first thing they do is hit them (oftentimes without even validating). They hit them so hard that it leaves the women black and blue. They hit them on their face as well. All commentary so far unanimously agrees that a man must not hit a woman on her face, and that the act must not leave a mark on her body. So what is the penalty for a man who doesn't follow the proposed way?
What is this then?
Secondly, what action can a woman take if her husband goes astray? It is irrational and illogical to believe that women cannot feel as angry as men, or that in their state of anger they don't have destructive thoughts as men do. So how do they show this anger? All she can do is take divorce, or forgive. Believing for a moment that a man's rage is far worse than that of a woman's, I fail to understand how the authority of divorce is in the hands of the husband, since in the advent of such an occurrence, it is the woman on the receiving end.
Divorced women shall wait concerning themselves for three monthly periods. Nor is it lawful for them to hide what Allah Hath created in their wombs, if they have faith in Allah and the Last Day. And their husbands have the better right to take them back in that period, if they wish for reconciliation. And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree (of advantage) over them. And Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise. (2:228)
This constant reminder of how a man is superior, has a degree of advantage, is more knowledgeable, has more control, is more trustworthy, is more powerful, is not at all making me feel very useful. Perhaps to those who like submission, and who like to believe that they are worthless. But would that kind even exist by default? Or is it a character-trait that has been ingrained in our genes?
For all such Islamic characterizations of a man, it has been argued that a man is capable of maintaining control in his interfaith marriage; retaining his religion, and also making sure his children are brought up as Muslims. This makes me wonder. What right does this non-Muslim wife/mother have in such a relationship? She is obviously allowed to practice her religion, and any force on her to convert is haram. Is she an outsider in this marriage who prays separately, joins her family in her religious celebration, and most certainly has a different appearance than that of a Muslim woman? Would not the kids from this union be intrigued as to why their parents are different from that of other kids in the neighborhood, or in school? Or is this oppression a form of making the woman feel bad and disconnected, and thereby unconsciously self-forced into converting?
Taking this similar scenario with a Muslim woman married to a non-Muslim man, what the Islamic clergy fears is the similar unconscious submission of the Muslim woman by either giving up her faith or converting. One thing I absolutely do know, women who believe in Islam, have not given up their faith prior to falling for a non-Muslim man, know for a fact that turning back on Islam is a big sin, it is absolutely unacceptable. Under no circumstances will she convert or leave Islam, unless she becomes doubtful of the Text at her own account. Saying that it is inevitable that she becomes doubtful is not a legitimate argument because her doubts will arise from the behavior of the society around her and her culture, of how difficult they make her life. While non-Muslim women may easily consider converting for her Muslim partner for the sake of marriage.
Keeping our talk to the present times, we know that there are many non-Muslim women who end up hurt, forced and misused by Muslim husbands. I agree that many Muslim-woman/Non-Muslim-man marriages also end up in the dump. We all also agree that intra-faith marriages also fail, and the percentage of which continues to rise. Marriage is a gamble. You cannot guarantee success unless each of the involved parties put their egos and prejudices aside.
Do not do to others, what you would not have done unto you. As Karen Armstrong quotes repeatedly, is the golden rule for success at any level. Dethrone yourself, and put the other in that position.
There are more men in the Islamic world who are not excited over equal rights in comparison to those in the non-Islamic world. Islamic cultures are unjust towards their women. These women kill personal desires only for the sanctity and well-being of her husband and family. She reduces herself to a nobody; a nobody who keeps giving. In today's world where there are so many challenges and opportunities, why would a woman feel happy with becoming a nobody? Scholars argue that Islam gave women respect and the Western world has sexually objectified their women and turned them into social butterflies. Sorry, but they aren't being forced into doing so. I am not glorifying Western culture at all, I only see it as a stark contrast to Islam, and I am desperately seeking the mid-culture, the mid-road, where things aren't so black and white.
Regardless of how wonderful Islam is or isn't, that fact of the matter is, Islamic cultures are oppressive, they deprive the women of her rights. When her rights in her own culture aren't being met, what difference does it make if she marries a Muslim or a non-Muslim. So what if her husband isn't fasting with her or praying with her? I read somewhere, What can a Christian husband do for a Muslim wife? What is the Muslim husband doing for a Muslim wife? At least in the non-Muslim world, her rights are protected by the state, and she won't go hungry and naked in case of a divorce, where otherwise all she has is a few hundreds from the haq mehr.
They keep shouting and screaming, it's not Islam, it's the Muslims. Well I really don't care, because it is effecting me largely and negatively either way. Everywhere in the Quran the first command is for the man, and then to the woman. Every cause has an effect, every action has a reaction. So when the first order isn't being implemented, it is damn right going to effect of how women then implement it. It's a balance that needs to be maintained; the crop isn't going to grow if it isn't being taken care of.
It is seriously fucked up of how Muslim women are expected to follow their orders down to the last letter, while the Muslim men run around like horny horses with nobody to answer to.