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Ultra-Orthodox Judaism: an oppressive Abrahamic religion?

by Tegan Mazur - Copy Desk Chief
Tue, Sep 19th 2017 08:00 pm

Judaism, Christianity and Islam are three religions in the world that have been influential for thousands of years. For three religions that are supposed to get along more than any other, they are always stirring up drama amongst themselves and, sometimes, by themselves.

In western culture, particularly the United States of America, there is the notion that Islam, more so than the other two, is an extremely regressive religion, treating its women followers lesser than men. The most prevalent example of this is of course the various types of headdresses that many Muslim women wear, including the burqa, hijab, niqab, chador and khimar.

This stereotype takes focus away from the same characteristics that Christianity and Judaism share. Judaism has a sect just like Christianity and Islam that harbors more traditional values. A specific sect, located in Israel, is known to the world as ultra-orthodox Judaism.

This particular sect has become more and more well-known because of its infamous reputation of spousal abuse. The men in this sect of Judaism have an unnatural control over their wives and children, and abuse it to an inhuman level. According to The Washington Post, women have gone to great lengths to escape this life with their children. In one such case, a woman known as Reut gave birth to her fifth child and then two days later took a taxi immediately to a women’s shelter with the child to escape her husband. She stated that he was so controlling that he even determined when she could go to the bathroom, which forced her to wear a diaper.

As much as I am one for respecting beliefs, especially religious ones, it won’t stop me from pointing out the obvious flaws of them. Any religion that takes its understanding of the universe from a book written centuries ago has got some serious flaws, not the least of which is that they are taken accounts that have survived through the years by being copied  by hand countless times.

The issue here, however, is one of women and one of women being abused. Any religion that takes a group as general and large as women and degrades them needs a good long hard look in the mirror. People have the right to worship, certainly, but I have just as much right to tell the world that I think religion is an antiquated viewpoint and that we should respect women. Now I know that last point there might be a bit controversial, respecting women and everything, but I think we can do it if we really try.

Now, just as Islam has suffered criticism and stigma over the many years of its existence, Judaism too has not had the best of times. That in mind, I want to make it clear that this is not an attack on Judaism. My personal feelings aside on the subject of religion, this is an issue about men abusing women. 

As I said at the beginning of the article, no religion is free of problems within its ideology; the issue here is not Judaism. After all, you don’t see Ultra-orthodox Jewish women doing terrible, unspeakable things like cutting their husbands heads off, though at this point I wouldn’t exactly blame them for wanting to. Though this did happen to a women in the Ultra-orthodox sect, according to The Washington Post, a husband killed his wife and cut off her head, carrying it through town because, allegedly, God had told him to do so.

However, despite all this abuse and control, women are not as easily suppressed as that. The Washington Post reported that there are two women in particular who are fighting for women’s equality in that part of the world. Esty Shusan and Estee Rieder-Indursky have been fighting for women’s rights in this harshly misogynistic environment. The two have been fighting in the political ring, trying to lessen the male driven Ultra-Orthodox influence in the region. 

They have recently gone to Israel's Supreme Courts in order to evoke change. They've argued to the couts that the political systems should not be allowing such discrimination to flourish. It seems this is less an issue of religion and customs, and more one of women, feminism and politics.

So what do we walk away with here? In this day and age, it’s good to remember that Islam and Judaism should not be our scapegoats for our problems. Women are abused often and brutally in this world and we come up with endless excuses for why it happens. 

Pulling the veil of religion away here is important. Religion is a very easy scapegoat; we have to respect religious freedom, of course. However, we cannot let it become an excuse for those evil souls in the world who would use it as a both a shield for themselves and a weapon against innocent people. 

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