OK, this is perhaps not quite accurate as a headline – much of what we call “Islam’s” attitude to women and their place in the home and workplace is actually little to do with Islam. Rather more to do with more basic cultural attitudes, Islam simply being the religion in parts of the world where those attitudes pre-existed and still do so. The segregation of women out of any life beyond the home in Saudi Arabia – to the extent of not being allowed to drive – is much more to do with Saudi Arabia than it is anything about people being Muslim.
Qatar Airways’ chief has sparked disbelief by saying his carrier was led by a man because “it is a very challenging position” – even as airline bosses admitted more women should be in top roles.
Akbar Al Baker said his airline had taken steps to address gender equality, but when asked why it was led by a man, he replied: “Of course it had to be led by a man because it is a very challenging position.”
Yes, sure, we can just dismiss him as being some cultural dinosaur and leave it at that. We could even go on to shriek that he’s evidence of all that is wrong with the word. But:
Last year, Mr Baker was forced to apologised “unreservedly” for his unflattering description of US flight attendants as “grandmothers”. In contrast, he had said the average age of Qatar Airways cabin crews was 26 in comments criticised as both sexist and ageist.
He doesn’t sound like quite the Wokest Bae there, does he? However, there is still a great truth in what he actually said:
At a press conference in Sydney, where the International Air Transport Association (Iata) held its annual meeting, he was asked what could be done to tackle the lack of women in Middle East aviation.
Al Baker replied this was not the case at Qatar, before adding: “Of course, it has to be led by a man, because it is a very challenging position.”
Note what he said, that Qatar Airways had to be run by a man. You know, Qatar. An Arab country, somewhere between an absolute and constitutional monarchy. where at times a woman’s testimony is still given half the weight of a man’s. Where miniskirts aren’t allowed?
Yes, it probably is true that the CEO is going to have to be a man, isn’t it? Especially given that the owners are the government, the Al Thanis effectively, those people who run the absolute to constitutional monarchy and also impose all those laws?
We can, if we wish, insist that this is just evidence of the more general misogyny out there. But it’s probably true that in this one specific instance, running an airline in a conservative Arab country is a job only a man can do.