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Islam, Women and Feminism

Unlike other countries in West Asia, Syria is the only Arab country that has not closed its borders with Iraq. In fact it continues to extend sympathetic support to refugees fleeing from death and persecution in that war-torn nation. But the high numbers of refugees has put a significant strain on Syria's economy as well as on its education and health infrastructure, which are open to all refugees. "The Iraqi refugees have all basic rights except for two - the right to vote and the right to work," says Kinda, a former registration clerk at the main Refugee Registration Centre situated on the outskirts of Damascus. "Unable to work legally, they can get exploited and the most vulnerable are the women and children who are forced into survival sex or child labour," she observes. -- Nitin Jugran Bahuguna

 

Unfortunately, the pressure generated by Muslim fundamentalists through ‘secular’ media effectively compelled Katju (Supreme Court judge) to publicly backtrack from his progressive position….The debate over religious symbols in secularized classrooms has been hugely problematic for the secular state of India. Authorities have feigned helplessness in their inability to strictly enforce secular ethos in a highly religious society. Such argumentation is actually a smokescreen for hiding the intimidating instincts of Semitic faiths who unlike Hinduism theoretically and otherwise do not differentiate between public and private spaces.

 Islamists including India’s first education minister, Maulana Azad used to gloat on how their presumably totalitarian religion controls not only every aspect of life but also politics. No wonder, the sense of ‘denial’ of their religious freedom in secularized spaces emerges most vociferously from Muslim quarters. ‘Secularists’ and ‘liberals’ reinforce such regressive attitudes by politics of appeasement. In contrast, majority Hindus whose children of all ages routinely face hostility, abuse and even corporal punishment for wearing anything from bindis to kumkum in certain Christian institutions have not shown any willingness for organized protest. Neither have any liberals spoken for them. -- Saurav Basu

 

The building consensus against Muslims in Europe is legitimized by the notion that European modernity has to be defended against a medieval religion and its violent adherents. Since racism and religious bigotry aren’t respectable any more, white Europe is now defended in the name of the Enlightenment. Muslims and their faith are unwelcome intrusions because they don’t conform to rationality, to democracy, to science and most of all because they deny the West’s greatest modern achievement, the emancipation of women. -- Mukul Kesavan

 

We find even more shocking ahadith ascribed to the Prophet regarding women. One such hadith found in Sahih Bukhari and narrated by Sahl ibn Sa’d which says “Evil omen was mentioned before the Prophet (PBUH). The Prophet (PBUH) said, “If there are evil women in anything, it is in the house, the woman and the horse.”

This was prevailing social attitudes of men towards women which made them create such ahadith so that they could rule over them and women could not use Qur’an to claim equality with men. Qur’an was revealed to the prophet so that he could give equal dignity and status to women but society was not prepared for this in any case and sought to lower the status of women by producing such ahadith as they could not temper with the Qur’an they used another weapon to bring down status of women.

It is unfortunate that still our Ulama are not prepared to critically evaluate these anti-women ahadith. On the contrary they keep on quoting them to keep status of women lower in the society and under the thumb of women. It is precisely for this reason that non-Muslims think very adversely about Islam and how Islam has ‘suppressed’ dignity and status of women. -- Asghar Ali Engineer

Studies show that it is better to have a quota for women in Parliament

In the current Pakistani Parliament, there are 75 women in the 342-seat National Assembly — 60 through the quota and 15 in general seats. At nearly 22 per cent, this is better than any other Asian democracy and is more than several western democracies, including the United Kingdom and the United States.

The statistics are interesting. According to the Aurat Foundation, the 73 women members in the last Parliament moved 42 per cent of the private member bills and 27 per cent of the total number of questions. There were 3,698 interventions by women legislators; they asked 2,724 questions; participated in debates 380 times; raised 306 points of order; moved 101 private member’s Bills, 99 calling attention notices, and 69 adjournments and privilege motions. -- Nirupama Subramanian

 

Assiya says she was inspired by Mukhtar Mai, a young woman from this remote village of Meerwala who was gang raped in 2002 on the orders of a village council. Mukhtar prosecuted her attackers and used the compensation money to start a school. I decided to prosecute because I don’t want the same thing to happen to anybody else.

Assiya’s mother, Iqbal Mai, told me that in her despair, she at first had prayed that God should never give daughters to poor families. “But then I changed my mind,” she added, with a hint of pride challenging her fears. “God should give poor people daughters like Assiya who will fight.” -- Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times

Dar ul-Ulum at Deoband issued a fatwa forbidding Muslim women from contesting elections. Shortly after, however, he rescinded this fatwa and issued a fresh one, declaring it permissible for Muslim women to participate in elections. I do not know why, and on what basis, he changed his opinion, but this case illustrates the fact that, slowly, the views of some traditional Indian ulema on issues related to women are beginning to change. Today, however, we have an increasing number of younger ulema who are more socially engaged, have knowledge of contemporary issues and an awareness of the demands of modern world. They know the concerns and problems of the new generation—and this includes the issue of women’s employment—and desire to provide appropriate leadership to it. I am optimistic that these ulema will come to play an important and more socially relevant role, including as far as women’s issues are concerned, in the coming decades. -- Maulvi Waris Mazhari (Translated from Urdu by Yoginder Sikand)

Much to my amusement, I find men very vehement in their fight for female "modesty and rights" in choosing to wear the burqa. But sadly, their voices seem to choke when it comes to family planning, triple talaq, a widow’s right to the guardianship of her minor children and other such matters. ...

I have heard since childhood that Islam is more about intent – to become a good, god-fearing human being – rather than the peripheral rituals that change from place to place and culture to culture. When, for instance, one is praying to god almighty, it is actually the connection with the supreme creator that is at the centre of it all. The way one prays is perhaps of lesser consequence but a certain method and manner have evolved over the years for the sake of uniformity and possibly even for the health benefits to be reaped from the exercise. -- Zohra Javed

What the Muslim women really need to cudgel against is the gender bias prevalent in Muslim societies. They must realise that the Muslim patriarchy rallies around them when they demonstrate against issues such as the proposed ban on burqa (which could be easily circumvented), but the support of the clergy is conspicuously absent when it comes to pressing problems like instant triple talaq, hedonistic polygyny or child marriage. -- A. Faizur Rahman

Above all, to question the veil, Muslims must challenge what the US-based academic of Hyderabad origin, Muqtadar Khan, calls the “epistemological hijab”, the curtain that the male Muslim clergy has kept between Islamic scripture and women. Muslims engaged in ripping apart this epistemological curtain can see that during the lifetime of the Prophet and for a while thereafter, the Muslim woman was acknowledged as an autonomous human being. She was considered a person in her own right, not just a mother, sister, wife or daughter. Over fourteen centuries ago, it was both an obligation and a right of Muslim women to participate actively in the religious, economic, social and political life of the community. The clergy must explain how it happened that the female sex subsequently got pushed out of the common public space. The “pious burqa” is but a manifestation of this subversion of early Islam. -- Javed Anand  

I have to confess that I don’t get it when some women say that being behind a veil liberates them from the prying eyes of the male gaze and makes them feel safer. It’s become just about the most clichéd explanation. ...Essentially, classic western feminism hits a dead-end when it comes to a complex word called choice. Traditions that seem patently unequal find refuge in the argument of choice. And we can debate forever whether it’s about free will or socialisation by a patriarchal regime, but there’s not much you can say to a woman who chooses to drape herself in swathes of black cloth. I still remember Kamala Das, the eccentric — but fiercely independent — poet arriving on my television show in a burqa. She had recently converted, and this she said, was her choice. How could anyone argue against that? -- Barkha Dutt
A reproduction of the Taliban dress code The reality of the matter surpasses the burqa itself. This is seen clearly in the fear that swiped France in reaction to the burqa, which appears like a reproduction of the dress code imposed by the Taliban on women in Afghanistan. the reality of the matter surpasses the burqa itself. This is seen clearly in the fear that swiped France in reaction to the burqa, which appears like a reproduction of the dress code imposed by the Taliban on women in Afghanistan. The historic implications of the burqa are those of radicalism and extremism, thus the stir is not an expression of racism against Muslims, as some claimed, but simply a fear of a drift towards sectarianism. There is no doubt that immigrants, in general, are subject to injustice and restrictions in France for many reasons not related to the burqa, but to the country's economic and social situations. Surely, there are some fanatics in France, but they remain a minority, just like in all other countries. -- Mohammad Makhlouf

 

I am wearing this out of choice. If somebody forced me to wax my legs and wear a bikini, I would have been a prisoner. My hijab lets people just focus on my work and my values, than on my body.” Shaista says, “I think those who are forced to wear the hijab are enslaved.” But banning any kind of clothing, says Maria, is a “violation of human rights” and such statements are “irresponsible”. “Sarkozy should know if such practice is being followed for thousands of years, it has some use, otherwise it would have died out,” she says. -- Irena Akbar

Should Mr Sarkozy ban the burqa from France? Definitely not. Because bans are undemocratic and an unqualified attack on individual freedom. Should we however use this opportunity to question the efficacy of the burqa, the chador, the veil or what you will? Definitely yes. Specially since the burqa isn't just another piece of cloth but has a lot of ideological and cultural connotations to it. The French President himself has termed it a symbol of subservience which has no place in a secular state.
Doesn't it have religious connotations, you may also ask? But hey, just let's keep religion out of this. Primarily because, as scholars point out, the Quran makes a mention of modesty rather than the word 'burqa' when it comes to women's apparel. The veil has more a cultural significance in Islam than a theological one. The Quran categorically mentions that "the best garment is the garment of righteousness." (7:26) And righteousness may or may not be interpreted as the burqa, depending on the personal choice of the person. -- Nikhat Kazmi  
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Burqa is integral to Muslim identity  First part of Sarkozy's statement. The burqa is not a symbol of religion. The burqa, in fact, is integral to the Muslim identity as laypersons know it. But do the scriptures, the Koran, in particular say that women must wear burqa? I spoke to a couple of friends and Sarkozy's so wrong. The Prophet certainly advised Muslim women to protect their dignity. That a woman's dignity lies in her own hands and it is best that she have a chador when stepping out of the house…. Conditioning or choice, many Muslim women bond with their burqa. It's as much a style statement as a proud marker of identity. It gives them ‘security’, they say in a world that has become overtly sexualised. It's their choice to wear their identity on rather long sleeves, but that's none of my business. -- Nandita Sengupta

The irony cannot be lost on anyone today when they see what is done to women in the name of Islam. For, the first Muslim was a woman: ‘Tahira’ whose real name was Khadija, whose husband was none but the Prophet Muhammad. She believed in him when nobody did. -- Renuka Narayanan

A deeper probe into the psyche of most of the narrow-minded radicalized jurists would reveal that their interpretations are based on traditional tafsirs (commentaries) written by patriarchal males representing only the experiences of men with either the total exclusion of experiences of women, or their interpretation through the coloured vision of men. This has resulted in women being brought under the control of men to be exploited at will.  -- A. Faizur Rahman

Cultural mores, not Islamic ideology to blame, claim Sisters

Women activists advocating for an Islamic political system through the Brotherhood believe that Islam brought justice to women. Their lack of equal rights presently, they insist, has to do more with the cultural, political and social realities in which their movement functions than with the movement itself.

Still, more and more female members of the Muslim Brotherhood are becoming restless about the lack of representation and are seeking ways to increase their numbers in senior positions in the movement itself and, in time, to participate more in the country’s politics. Primarily, these women want a formal consultative position in the Muslim Brotherhood hierarchy. -- Omayma Abdel-Latif

 

Those who study the Qur'an know that Islam elevated the rights of women beyond anything known in the pre-Islamic world. In fact, in the seventh century Muslim women were granted rights not granted to European women until the 19th century, such as property ownership, inheritance and divorce. That said, Muslims who codified the Qur'an and Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) into Islamic law did not succeed in expunging the patriarchy of the pre-Islamic world from their practices. This distinction between the faith and the various manifestations of its practice is a subtle but extremely important one. -- Amal Mohammed Al-Malki

 

Before reading this article I should warn you that it might be considered subversive. It may lead you into the paths of disbelief. Beware dear reader, for we are about to discuss Valentine’s Day. -- Shelina Zahra Janmohamed

'Islam must not be used to discriminate against women' by SHAHANAAZ HABIB

Militant group issues Valentine’s Day threat through emails

Their Islam versus Our Islam: Hasan Kamaal deplores Talibani Islam
Hasan Kamaal Tr. by Raihan Nezami, NewAgeIslam.com

Taliban cannot be taken as the representative of 1000 million Muslims all over the world.  I think it’s my duty to inform the world that the anti-women attitude of Taliban is absolutely un-Islamic; rather it is an insult to the religion Islam- which practically introduced the concept of “Women ‘s Rights ” to the world – which gave women for the first time in human history the right to property and asked them to manage their own property by themselves. It also gave them permission to engage in trade and business. – Hasan Kamaal

Translated from Urdu by Raihan Nezami, NewAgeIslam.com

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An Indian Taliban slams mainstream Muslim view


Taliban are fulfilling the role of liberators of their country, from the clutches of foreign hegemonists


Hasan Kamaal, with other Marxists like Javed Akhtar and Javed Anand, had formed a paper organisation called Muslim for Social Democracy… Of the trio in MSD, both Javed Akhtar and Javed Anand are professed agnostics, if not atheist and the group has now taken up the noble mission of projecting their version of Islam as the true Islam. Can there be any more flagrant travesty of fact, that those, whose professed beliefs are against Islam, should now have the audacity to become the votaries of 'true' Islam of their own concoction. --- Ghulam Muhammed

CAIRO, Egypt - Amira Khairy is mobbed by housewives kissing her cheeks in greeting as she arrives to give a lesson on reciting the Quran to women at the Al-Sedeeq mosque in a Cairo suburb. Students set up chairs for the class, and soon the hum of chanting female voices fills one of the building's larger chambers. Up to a 1,000 women may show up for the Quran lessons or twice-weekly religious lectures by women. On any given day, several hundred women buzz around the mosque, organizing clothing drives, cooking meals for the poor or teaching women to read. Al-Sedeeq also has medical clinics and a day care center for children of women who do volunteer work at the mosque.

All the activities are organized by women — not the mosque's male administrators. On one recent day, the only men seen in the building were workers doing renovations and worshippers who popped in to perform one of the five daily prayers required by Islam.-- HADEEL AL-SHALCHI

Islamic law can be brutal; no amount of cultural theorizing erases this fact. But as a faithful, feminist Muslim, I know that seventh-century cruelty is not inevitable in the 21st century. Human interpretations of divinely inspired words are exactly that—human, fallible and subject to reversal. In October, during the United Nations' annual debate about children's rights, Iran announced its intention to reduce juvenile executions. Campaigns in more than 80 countries and local activists prodded Tehran to that point. The next step is follow-through, and savvy pressure by the United States and other nations can help. The trick for Washington is to listen and learn: listen to dissidents who seek support, respect those who do not and learn from those with a track record of triumph. -- Irshad Manji

Because they say "it's important to hear women's voices," a local group called Feminists in Faith has formed this fall to discover how religion enriches feminism-and vice versa.

The group, which meets at the University of St. Thomas' Luann Dummer Center for Women in St. Paul, has engaged Christian, Jewish and Muslim women trailblazers, including Dr. Corrine Carvalho, Rabbi Amy Eilberg and Dr. Fatma Reda, to lead the discussion. Touching on everything from the language used to describe God to the ordination of women, they argue that their religions embrace feminism at a basic level, despite the legacy of patriarchy that characterizes each tradition.

One thing the group has set out to do is trace the curvature of feminism, its successes and failures, within each religious community. That line isn't easily drawn, with prevailing thought being tied to the cultural backdrop that is shifting all the time. "As women assert themselves in all walks of life, it is logical that they take a larger and larger role in the faith tradition that nourishes their spirits," said Linda Hulbert, an administrator for the St. Thomas libraries who belongs to the group. Article by Anna Pratt

Also: Leaders’ fury over arrest of 76 Muslim women By Patrick Beja and Westerners Welcome Harems By Daniel Pipes

 
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