Okay, so Masjid At-Tawhid is establishing a community center in the Fifth Ward. The center will offer hot meals, free monthly clothing giveaways, and tutoring in math and reading, along with streaming video seminars on family strengthening and self-esteem -- these are the kinds of places that can make a difference in the lives of kids and their parents who may not otherwise have access to this kind of care. All good.
"This neighborhood is the type of neighborhood I grew up in. An impoverished neighborhood, but the people had a lot of pride. When I look at the Fifth Ward, I see me of yesterday," Imam Oasim Khan said.
Khan, originally from Pittsburgh, settled in Houston about two years ago. When he came across a building that used to be a Baptist church in the Fifth Ward, he decided it would be a good place to start a community center, he said. Again, all good things.
They'll also offer sewing and self-defense classes for girls and "motivational leadership training" for boys. This is the point where Hair Balls went from nodding appreciatively while reading the news release Khan sent out on the opening of the center to sighing, just a bit, because it seems so, well, typical.
Sewing is awesome. It's a highly valuable skill. Over at Hair Balls, we have never had a reason to use the high school algebra our math teacher assured us we'd be glad we knew about one day (never, not once), but the time spent learning how to thread a needle, drop some stitches and sew on a button has proved invaluable. It just seems kind of unfair to offer sewing lessons to the girls when it's a proven fact that boy trousers tear, buttons break and boys could use some lessons with a needle as much as girls.
What if the guys get all this leadership training (which really is such a great idea) and then they find themselves out there in the middle of the jungle, you know, leading, and their leadership value all comes down to whether or not they can sew on a button? Granted, we're not entirely sure how this scenario would actually come into being, but the point is, boys deserve to be as prepared as girls do for that great wide world out there.
This brings us to the flip side of this program. So the guys get leadership training but the girls don't? Yes, the American people have yet to elect a woman president, but it's not like history hasn't shown us that women can be damn good rulers and leaders, even though historically they've only recently been allowed to vote.
So we asked Khan about the setup, and he had a different take on things. The girls will learn leadership from their female teachers during the sewing and home economics classes while the boys will learn that leadership includes respecting women from their male teachers, he said. He said the classes are divided so that students will focus on what they are supposed to be learning and won't be distracted by the opposite sex.
The boys will have the option to learn to sew if they wish, Khan said, but he noted that girls are the ones who are most excited about sewing (Sewing seems to be the girl equivalent of power tools in this equation -- oops, look, we went and used a little algebra there.)
Khan said the center is focusing on leadership classes for the boys so they will learn how to respect women as part of leadership and will have those values instilled early on.
"We don't want to do things the way they've been done before. Just put everybody the same and put everybody together and say, 'We're all the same. We all work together.' It doesn't work that way," Khan said. "Men are superior to women in their role as men and women are superior to men in their roles as women."
Basically, he's saying they are keeping the girls and boys separate so, you know, they can learn how to be proper young ladies and gentlemen. But we still kind of think it would be cool to teach guys to sew and to teach women about the ins and outs of leadership without requiring them to have a needle or spatula in hand.
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After all, being good with a needle can help you leave your mark on a country. Way back in the American Revolution days, Betsy Ross both sewed and designed the U.S. flag, earning herself a place in history with her needle. And George Washington's natural leadership ability was part of what got him elected president.
Also, Khan's explanation reminded us how Fox News said pretty much the same thing when an all-male panel got together to talk about how sad it is women are becoming the primary breadwinners, according to a study from Pew Research.
"When you look at biology -- when you look at the natural world -- the roles of a male and a female in society and in other animals, the male typically is the dominant role. The female, it's not antithesis, or it's not competing, it's a complementary role," Fox News Contributor Erick Erickson said.