Islam, Women and Feminism
The woman's head was covered with a sack, her hands were tied and she was tethered to the ground – while a group of turbaned, bearded men hurled rocks at her, breaking her bones and then crushing her skull. According to reports in the press, she had been walking unescorted and was presumed guilty of adultery. The barbarity, allegedly perpetrated by the Taliban in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), was shown on Dubai's Al Aan television. The same footage was televised by a private Pakistani channel on Sept 28 and the story also featured that day in the local print media. -- S Iftikhar Murshed
In early July this year, the Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak announced that two women had been appointed judges in the country's sharia Courts.
Marina Mahathir is well known as a leader in many non-governmental organizations such as SIS and the Malaysian AIDS Foundation "The appointments were made to enhance justice in cases involving family and women's rights, and to meet current needs," said prime minister Najib Razak. And while this move seems to have alarmed some of the more conservative judges in the Syariah Courts, the concerns of women's groups have turned out to be unfounded: at the end of July, a special panel decided that female judges do indeed have jurisdiction over the same cases as male judges.
It should be noted that the Qur'an enjoins judges to use their wisdom to ensure justice, stating that "if ye judge between mankind, that ye judge justly" (4:58). The verse emphasises justice without stating whether judges should be male or female. There is therefore no barrier for women to be judges in the Syariah Court system, as they have long been in the civil courts. The task now is to ensure that male or female, judges uphold justice. -- Marina Mahathir
A week ago on my way home from work, in one of Kabul's dusty and unclean streets I saw a little girl clad in a blue burka. She was hardly six and the burka was especially tailored to fit her size. She was playing with other children and was proudly displaying her burka. Her cute demeanor attracted my attention. I kept watching her for a while. The manner she was conducting her movements inside the burka made me smile. As I was leaving, the thought of this child's future made me sad too. She and millions in her age will be most likely forced under burka as me and my generation was. -- Sahar Saba
The policewomen in the Gaza Strip wear a light grey ankle-length cape, a dark grey veil that leaves the face free, and white gloves. In principle, the services of these female custodians of the law are required whenever contact with women is necessary, in all matter ranging from family disputes to the fight against the drug trade. There is a strict separation of the sexes within the Hamas police. Whenever women police are required to accompany their male colleagues on an assignment, both teams drive in different vehicles. -- Ruth Kinet
Islam does not place any restriction on women’s education and work. This is what we must tell those mullahs and maulvis who issue fatwas to deny women their right to work and who consider their earnings to be unlawful or haraam. We need to tell them that Hazrat Khadijah, the first wife of the Prophet, was herself a rich trader. Before he was appointed as a prophet, Hazrat Muhammad used to work for her. In addition, she had several other male employees. If (as some mullahs insist) a woman’s earnings are haraam and if it is also haraam for men and women to work together, one may well wonder if our mullahs and maulvis will now start pointing fingers at these historical facts! -- By Zahid Khan
Much has been written about the tragedy of Karbala that wiped out almost all the male members of the family of the Holy Prophet (Ahle Bayt), and the undying fame of its hero Imam Husain. On the eve of his martyrdom, the great Imam had declared that human dignity could not survive under political tyranny, and it was far more honourable to give your head to a despot than give him your hand and invite disgrace and humiliation.
Karbala is not a saga of a power struggle; it is the story of a heroic endeavour to uphold the principle of human dignity and freedom, the story of supreme sacrifice made in defence of freedom of conscience, which includes the right to reject a political regime that seeks to coerce and compel people into submission against their will. The story has become immortal as Husain refused to confer legitimacy on a despotic, hereditary monarch masquerading as caliph, and thus saved the soul of Islam. - Arif M. Khan
Millions of Saudis, of course, still adhere to the strict religious and social conservatism that dates to the 18th century pact made between Mohammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab, a puritanical preacher, and the founder of the Saud dynasty Mohammed ibn Saud. And many conservatives resent the social changes the King is pushing. "Those around King Abdullah use his peaceful positions to impose secular values," says conservative cleric Mohsen al-Awajy. "But Saudi society is a special, tribal society, and neither King Abdullah or anyone else can impose his own interpretation of Islam. They can do nothing without Islam. There is no Saudi Arabia without Islam. There is no royal family without Islam." (Read: "Pope Benedict's Latest Take on Islam."). There's evidence, too, that many women don't want radical change. A government poll in 2006 — one of the few attempts to gauge women's opinions — found that 86% thought women shouldn't work in a mixed environment, and 89% agreed women shouldn't drive. Iman al-Alqeel, the editor of Hayat, a conservative magazine for girls, says most of her readers find the thought of working or studying around boys and men intimidating. -- Andrew Lee Butters
"NIQAB" NOT MANDATORY
While identifying the paarts of a woman’s body which should be covered, the Qur’an also gives us evidence to refute the claim of those who associate "Niqab" (Veils, face covers) as an ingredient of a woman’s dress code ordained by Allah. THE EXAMPLE OF MARY the mother of Jesus (p) is mentioned in the Qur'an as the woman chosen and purified above all the women of all the worlds. "And when the angels said: O Mary! Surely Allah has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of all the worlds." (3:42). She has been acalled as an example for the believers and her conduct is called to exemplify: "And Allah sets forth an example to those who believe . . . Mary, the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity, so we breathed into her of Our inspiration and she accepted the truth of the words of her Sustainer and His books, and she was of, the obedient ones. (66:11-12). -- Ahlul Bait News Agencya
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
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
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