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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 23 Jan 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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When will a Saudi woman drive her car?

By Maswood Alam Khan from Maryland, USA

23 January, 2012

One beauty in Islam is the Islamic dictum that there is no difference between a man and a woman in terms of qualifications in humanity. Islam was perhaps the first religion that had abolished and abrogated all the previous unjust laws that demoted women as inferior to men in quality and nature. According to Islamic law, men and women are equally qualified and allowed to engage in any administrative or financial dealings without any restrictions or limitations---a situation unheard of in any society in the past until modern times.

Muslims have a plethora of reasons to feel proud of their religion and the Quran -- their holy book. One of the most remarkable things about the holy Quran is that in many of its verses one can find vivid descriptions on natural phenomena in various fields such as embryology, meteorology, astronomy, geology and oceanography which scientists have found inexplicably valid. The fact that the holy Quran, revealed in the 6th century, contains so many scientific truths motivated many distinguished scientists to embrace Islam. One of the beauties of the Quran is this holy book repeatedly encourages people not to be blind, but to reflect and use their intelligence.

But, in modern times we find it really lamentable that there are some Islamic scholars who don't really reflect and use their minimum logic and intelligence while preaching Islam or while suggesting what one should do in what special circumstances and situations.

Many Islamic leaders like Imams of mosques, especially in Bangladesh, are heard delivering lectures on Islam with weird examples and allegories that to any knowledgeable listener may sound untrue and fictitious. These religious leaders, like the blind, cling to the past and are afraid of seeing the reality in the light of modernity. Inaptitude on the part of a handful of Islamic scholars and leaders to understand the demands of modern times and to guide the Muslims accordingly is perhaps one of the main causes for complaints against Muslims in general. And these fanatic Muslims are responsible for tarnishing the image of Islam.

When an Imam, during a lecture in a mosque, for example, would say domains of men and women are different, the listeners should not object to his words if the Imam can clarify with proper examples. The Imam can rightly justify his sermon by saying that a man can reveal his bravery in the battlefield, but is not fit to become a houseman and take care of household chores and a woman can be a perfect housewife but is not fit to become a soldier and wage war.

But if the Imam says that a woman found driving a car would go to hell, a listener, living in modern times, has every reason to take the Imam's words with a grain of salt. The Imam may get inspired by what is being practised in Saudi Arabia in this regard to deliver such a sermon. Yes, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are forbidden from driving.

Mecca, the holiest city in the religion of Islam, is in Saudi Arabia. So, anything---religious or political---which is practised in Saudi Arabia is observed seriously by Muslims all over the world. It is true that crime rate in Saudi Arabia is very low compared to any developed or industrialised country and Saudis as well as Muslims all over the world can justly take pride in it as the legal system in Saudi Arabia is based on Islamic law. But, some standards the Saudi government is trying to establish in the name of Islam may not augur well for Islam.

Hijab, for an example, is undoubtedly a good practice for Muslim women as a woman, according to Islamic law, should cover up most of her body when she would be in a public place. But, should not one feel perplexed if s/he hears about a proposal the Saudi government is currently considering---a proposal to ban women from even displaying their eyes through the split in the upper part of a burka, if their eyes are judged too "tempting"?

Some Muslim scholars in Saudi Arabia exhort that 'allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia would provoke a surge in prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce. The Saudi government, however, is considering lifting the ban of women's driving in a matter of 10 years. Hearing this decision of the government some conservative mullahs even claimed that from the day Saudi women would start driving there would be "no more virgins" in the Islamic kingdom.

Let us look forward to the day whether such a ludicrous claim of the fanatic mullahs holds true or not when a Saudi woman would start driving her car!

The writer can be reached at E-mail:

Source: The Financial Express, Bangladesh