"Now that the joke has
It was good to learn that Richard Shweder and his Ph.D.
students will be studying Muslim communities of different
nationalities and cultural heritage ("Investigations,"
August/02). Sadly the media in the United States (including
the University of Chicago Magazine, unfortunately)
tend to portray Muslims as all being of one mind, and
of one which is very, very conservative, especially where
women are concerned. The comparison in the Magazine
with Hasidic Jews and Christian Amish is in this view,
as is the highlighted question "Could a woman forgo
the veil and still be Islamic?"
Many of the habits we characterize
as Muslim are, in truth, cultural customs of various countries.
Egyptian women, of course, have not been veiled for almost
a century, despite their Arabic cultural heritage. Would
you consider Indians, Nigerians, Ethiopians, and French
all to be of the same mind because they are all Christians?
Of course not. Why then does this blind lumping together
of different ethnic and cultural groups occur when they
share the Islamic faith?
I hope that Professor Shweder's work
will help in differentiating the various Islamic groups
and destroy the myth that Islam is the primary menace
to Western democratic values.
Sarah L. O. Smith, AM'68