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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 22 Oct 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Muslims believe Sharia Law Promotes Women's Rights

Row over hijab for MPs divides Kuwait: The issue of female ministers and MPs not wearing hijabs in the national assembly has grated with Islamists ever since women received full political rights in 2005.

Burka denies equality to women

Women wore trousers and no headscarf

BHUBANESWAR: Muslim women rally for Hindu victims

In service of Muslim women

Life after talaq: Orissa women want to be included in BPL list

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

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Does Sharia Law Promote Women's Rights?

by Cinnamon Stillwell

October 20, 2009

Who Speaks for Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think, co-authored by Mogahed and John Esposito, Georgetown University professor and founding director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Centre for Muslim-Christian Understanding


In thinking about women's rights, sharia law, or Islamic law, doesn't typically come to mind.

Yet, according to a survey conducted by Dalia Mogahed, executive director and senior analyst of the Gallup Centre for Muslim Studies and appointee to President Obama's Council on Faith-Based and Neighbourhood Partnerships, the two are closely intertwined. Her survey alleges that a majority of Muslim women believe sharia law should either be the primary source or one source of legislation in their countries, while viewing Western personal freedoms as harmful to women.

The survey's findings appear in the book, Who Speaks for Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think, co-authored by Mogahed and John Esposito, Georgetown University professor and founding director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, named for its Saudi royal benefactor. While Esposito is well-known as one of the foremost academic apologists for radical Islam, Mogahed is making her name as a shill for sharia law. Mogahed employs the Gallup poll, which has been criticized by knowledgeable authorities as misleading and unscientific, to portray sharia law as what Muslims women want.

She spoke last month by phone to the UK-based Islam Channel women's television program "Muslimah Dilemma." Hosted by Ibtihal Bsis, a member of the Islamist organization Hizb ut Tahrir (Party of Liberation), and featuring national women's media representative for Hizb ut Tahrir, Nazreen Nawaz, the interview (view here; complete transcript here) presented a biased, pro-Islamist platform for discussing Muslim women's rights. Hizb ut Tahrir's self-described objective is "to resume the Islamic way of life by establishing an Islamic State that executes the systems of Islam and carries its call to the world."

So it was with ostensible credibility that Mogahed could utter such preposterous statements as:

we found that the majority of women around the world associate gender justice, or justice for women, with sharia compliance whereas only a small fraction associated oppression of women with compliance with the sharia.


The perception of sharia and the portrayal of sharia has been oversimplified in many cases, even among Muslims. It is usually associated with maximum criminal punishment and laws that are hard for people to understand holistically, around family law, that to many people seem unequal for women. So I think that part of the reason is that there is this perception of sharia is that sharia in not well understood and in fact, Islam as a faith is not well understood.

And, ominously:

Well, I think what my role is, is very clear to me: to convey to the advisory council and through the advisory council to the president and to other public officials what it is Muslims want.

In delivering these outlandish pronouncements, Mogahed was soft-spoken and careful to confine her commentary to the results of her study. Not so with fellow guest Nazreen Nawaz, who took up the bulk of the interview expounding didactically on the benefits to be bestowed upon humankind by the revival of a Khilafah state, or caliphate. The caliphate envisioned by Nawaz is a mythical one, hearkening back to the so-called "golden age of Islam," where, according to the party line, all was progress and advancement and everyone lived in harmony. If we could only return to the halcyon days, she urged, all the considerable problems of the Muslim world would be solved. As she put it: "Islam came to solve human problems." These utopian beliefs reflect those Marxists who insist that "real communism" has not yet been implemented, Stalinism or totalitarianism is an aberration, and that the solution lies in implementing a "true" Socialist state.

Claiming that the brutality of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the mullahs in Iran are distortions of sharia law rather than examples of its true implementation, Nawaz promised that under the proposed caliphate, rulers would be democratically elected and accountable to the people, while women's rights would be protected.

Demonstrating the utter delusion of a fanatic, Nawaz alleged that:

    We know that sharia pioneered rights for women. This idea that women have the same rights of citizenship to a man, this was unheard of in empires or civilizations of the past. And we know that Islam brought this.

Nonetheless, Nawaz conceded that "there is evidence from Islam that says the Muslim woman cannot be the ruler of a state. This is from the Islamic text," but managed to justify this exclusion by pointing to recent Muslim women leaders such as the late Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan who, she claimed, have "brought very little in terms of the lives and the standard of living of women in these countries."

She also defended Islam's "strict regulations in terms of social laws" and expressed admiration for precisely those features of Islamic law that most oppress women:

    …men and women cannot socialize, they cannot be alone together…in terms of lowering the gaze, all of these things, the dress code, they're all there to insure that there's a healthy cooperation so that men and women can focus at the job at hand.

In contrast, Nawaz condemned the West for allowing women too much personal freedom, citing the breakdown of the family and promiscuity as the results:

    I think living in the West we see some of the fruits of this idea of liberty and this idea of freedom, where people are free to have any relationship they want to. I believe that it's caused a lot of problems in the social structure, you have adultery, you have problems of teenage pregnancies….

These are indeed dire consequences, just not, as Nawaz believes, of personal liberty. Rather, they result from the dissolution of the moral framework that supports liberty itself. The struggle to maintain the family structure and women's dignity amidst growing libertinism is alive and well in the West. But when given the choice, who would trade liberty for the opposite outcome: totalitarianism?

Furthermore, Nawaz demonstrated a lack of understanding about how women's rights, and indeed human rights, have been achieved historically in the West:

    Women have made a lot of progress in the West in terms of economic, political rights, education, and so on. But I would reject the claim that these values of secularism, and liberal values, and even in terms of democracy have, that they can claim victory for this progress. Because if we remember history, women actually had to fight against these values in order to secure their rights….And women even today have to fight in secular democracies against discrimination of these levels.

In the face of this vigorous defence of sharia law and strident condemnation of secular democracy, Washington insider Mogahed said not a word. Only when prompted to comment directly on one of Nawaz's diatribes on the fictional caliphate did Mogahed finally speak, and then she restated the results of the Gallup poll in such a way as to provide backhanded support for Nawaz's Islamist views. As she put it:

    What Muslims around the world tell us they believe is that the key to progress is attachment to their spiritual and moral values. They really do see, many of them, that Islam offers a solution for their problems and they see Islam as their society's greatest asset. When we asked people what they admired most about the Muslim world, what they tell us is their attachment to Islam, Islamic values, value of hospitality, the value of family. So I think that whereas people around the world do feel that the problems are diverse, many of them do mention Islam as a part of that solution, and when we ask people what can Muslims do to help themselves, one of the most frequent responses is for them to unify and another is for them to follow Islam and make it a greater and more authentic part of their lives.

If making Islam a "greater and more authentic part" of Muslim's lives results in the implementation of sharia law, based not in mythology but in contemporary practice, the predictable outcome is the furtherance of backwardness, repression, intolerance, and inequality afflicting the Muslim world today. Is this really, as Mogahed would have it, what Muslims want?

More to the point, is it really what Americans, looking to President Obama's choice of Mogahed as his advisor on Muslim affairs, want?

Now that's a subject for a poll.

Cinnamon Stillwell is the West Coast Representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum. She can be reached at



Row over hijab for MPs divides Kuwait

James Calderwood

October 21. 2009

The constitutional court will decide later this month whether to scrap an article of the election law that Islamists say requires women to wear the hijab in parliament, after two weeks of arguments between conservative and liberal MPs.

The issue of female ministers and MPs not wearing hijabs in the national assembly has grated with Islamists ever since women received full political rights in 2005. The controversy was resurrected this month when the ultraconservative MP Mohammed al Hayef asked the ministry of Islamic affairs and endowments’ fatwa department if Sharia obliged women to wear the hijab.

When the department said the hijab is a requirement for Muslim women, Islamists reiterated their case for imposing hijabs on the national assembly’s female members.

They cited article 1 of the 2005 election law, which states: “A condition for women to vote and be elected is to abide by the rules and terms of Sharia law.”

Of the four women who were elected to Kuwait’s parliament for the first time in May, two do not wear the Islamic headscarf. The only woman in the cabinet, the minister of education, Moudhi al Humoud, is also uncovered.

Prominent liberals such as the former MP Mohammed al Sager sprung to the defence of the women at a conference last week organised by a liberal political group called the Democratic Forum.

Rola Dashti, an MP who does not wear the hijab, submitted a proposal last week to the constitutional court that it removes the controversial sentence from the election law.

She said in a statement that “it was formulated in such broad terms that it could be interpreted in various ways and … it goes against the core principles set out in the constitution, mainly individual freedom”.

Another woman who was elected this year, Aseel al Awadhi, asked: “Why do only women have to comply with Sharia law and not men? This is by itself discrimination.

“Some Islamists interpret the Sharia to mean that women have to cover if they going to run or vote and that’s totally unconstitutional, because you’re forcing women to cover,” Ms al Awadhi said. “We don’t have such a law for the country, so why should MPs have to cover?

“This is what I faced in the first session I was in the parliament,” she said.

Several Islamist MPs boycotted the swearing-in ceremonies of the first female MPs earlier this year and the first female ministers in 2005, protesting at their refusal to wear the hijab. The parliament’s more extreme Islamists still believe it is a sin for women to stand or vote in elections.

Two of the women who were elected this year wear the hijab and do not describe themselves as liberals.

One of those women, Salwa al Jassar, said even though she believed Muslim women must cover, they cannot be forced to do so.

“Islam explains that we can’t refuse it, it’s a must,” Ms al Jassar said. “This is what the Islamic religion says, but it’s up to the lady.”

The row over wearing the hijab threatens to polarise Kuwaiti society. This week, Kuwait’s conservatives started to fight back.

The Social Reform Society, an Islamic charity that has ties to the Kuwaiti branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Constitutional Movement, released a statement on Monday calling for “full commitment to Islamic laws obliging Muslim women to wear a veil in compliance with the fatwa released by the ministry”.

“The Social Reform Society supports and defends what was decreed by the ministry of Islamic affairs and endowments regarding the veil,” the statement said.

Abdul-Reda Assiri, a professor of political sciences and the dean of the college of social sciences at Kuwait University, said Islamists, who lost seats to the liberals in this year’s election, were using the hijab to jockey for more leverage before parliament would begin again after its summer break next week.

“This is a good issue [for the Islamists]. It will polarise society and bring people behind them. It will distract government from its own priorities,” Mr Assiri said.

“If we had a solid, strong government, it could withstand all these forces, but since we lack that, then you have to expect anything. Very soon, you will hear the appointment of some of them in high positions: the Islamists and the Bedouins. The hijab is just a cover, they will blackmail the government.”

Khalifa Alhoumaidah, an expert in constitutional and administrative law at Kuwait University, said that fatwas were “religious guidance and the powers in the country shouldn’t be bound by it”.

He said the election law, which covers “the election process”, is not specific, and the legal debate is over whether the law just covers election day itself, or the entire parliamentary process.

He said the constitutional court’s decision will become law and if it rules that women have to constitutionally wear the veil, the uncovered women might lose their membership of the parliament.

Such an outcome would be a disaster for Kuwait’s liberals, but Mr Assiri, the political scientist, doubted this will happen.

He said: “I would say the court will say it is personal preference and either leave it or refer it to the executive. I don’t think the constitutional court wants to take action.

“Kuwait was been in much bigger disasters, so this is not the end of political life. It’s another setback: one after another,” he said.



Burka denies equality to women


20 oct, 2009

The Muslim Canadian Congress (MCC) is right when it says wearing the burka "marginalizes women . . . and has no place in Canada."

But it may be wrong, or an error, to ban its wearing in Canada, as is being attempted in France, Italy, Denmark, Egypt and even Kuwait.

As a "freedom of choice" issue, it's pretty hard to deny or forbid women wearing the full head covering that disguises, or obliterates their identity.

Proponents of the burka (and naqib) point out that if it's legal to be topless in public, surely there's an equal right to be totally covered. Maybe, but only if it doesn't infringe on the right or obligation of others to identify the face hidden by the burka.

There've been cases of people insisting for "religious or cultural" reasons on wearing the burka when testifying in court, or getting driver's licences, or cashing cheques.

That sort of thing, where identity is essential. That said, Farzana Hassan of the MCC is correct to say "gender equality is an absolute right in Canada," and that the burka denies women this right.

An increasing number of women in Canada are being forced by husbands to wear what she calls a "loose robe and veil . . . setting them apart from other Canadian women . . . (and) have to cover your face or have to wear a virtual tent wherever you go."

As Tarak Fatah, former leader of the MCC, has pointed out, the burka or face covering is not a requirement of Islam or the Qur'an. He noted in theNational Postthat for over 1,400 years in the holiest of holy places for Muslims --the Grand Mosque in Mecca -- "women have been explicitly prohibited from covering their faces."

Modesty, yes, face coverings, no. The body coverings are an innovation of Saudi Arabia's extreme Wahhabi sect, which seeks to turn Islam at war with the non-Islamic world.

Today, the burka or face-covering is being outlawed in Egypt -- ironically, where President Barack Obama visited earlier this year and made the extraordinary statement that because America believes in religious freedom "that is why the U. S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it."

But not a word said on behalf of women being forced to wear the burka.

Obama seems unaware that the burka has little to do with religion. He'd have been better advised to argue for the rights of women not to be stoned to death, or forbidden sunlight, or condemned to imprisonment in a body tent, and a variety of other indignities.

It's more pandering to Islamic extremism. "Throwing Muslim women under the bus," is how one critic put it.

Hassan recalled the appeal of an Ontario judge's ruling that a woman testifying against her alleged rapist does not have the right to wear a veil in court.

A controversy erupted in Quebec when an election official ruled that Muslim women had to remove their veils when voting so their identities could be verified.

A man posing as a woman in a burka is still on the loose after robbing a Scotiabank -- unreported in the mainstream media, says Fatah, due to their fear of being accused of racism and Islamophobia.



Women wore trousers and no headscarf

22 October 2009

Sudan women get 20 lashes for wearing trousers


A Sudanese court on Thursday sentenced two women to 20 lashes for dressing "indecently," an AFP reporter said.

The two women, who have not been identified, were arrested in Khartoum in July along with journalist-turned-activist Lubna Ahmed Hussein who spent a day in jail after refusing to pay a fine for wearing "indecent trousers."

" The two women wore trousers and no headscarf. The court therefore finds them guilty according the public order laws "

Judge Hassan Mohammed Al

"The two women wore trousers and no headscarf. The court therefore finds them guilty according the public order laws," Judge Hassan Mohammed Ali told an East Khartoum court.

"The fixed penalty is 20 lashes each and a fine of 250 Sudanese pounds ($100). If the fine is not paid, it would be one month in prison," the judge said.

Hussein last month opted for prison by refusing to pay the fine imposed by a Khartoum court for wearing trousers that the court ruled to be indecent.

She could have remained in jail for a month but was freed after one day when the journalists' union paid her fine.

Hussein felt the loose trousers she was wearing when arrested were not indecent and the incident spurred her to wage a public challenge to the law.

In her case, the court opted for the 500 Sudanese pounds ($200) fine rather than a flogging, but ten of the 12 other women who were arrested in a Khartoum restaurant at the same time as Hussein have been whipped for their offence.

Sudanese law in the conservative Muslim north stipulates a maximum of 40 lashes for wearing indecent clothing.



BHUBANESWAR: Muslim women rally for Hindu victims

22 Oct 2009

BHUBANESWAR: The Muslim women, who have been deserted and divorced by their husbands, have put their weight behind their Hindu counterparts to seek divorcee allowance for the latter.

As many as 546 women who have been denied the pension despite court order to this effect have appealed to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to bring the deserted Hindu women under the scheme.

As per the Muslim Women Protection Right on the Divorce Act, 1986, Wakf Board is duty-bound to pay monthly pension to divorcees. About 600-odd women who had filed appeals before the Court of SDJM, Cuttack, obtained decrees and were eligible for the pension. More cases were pending.

Last year, the State Government made a budgetary provision for the pension which is paid at the rate of Rs 400 a month to a woman. As many as 546 more women, meanwhile, have been made eligible as per court direction. However, it is the Finance Department’s red tapism which has prevented the women from getting their due despite meeting all procedures, Mahe Afroj Begum, secretary of Talaki Mahila Sahayata Samiti, said.

The women took out a rally here today, and chipped in for their Hindu counterparts saying they have right to such an allowance and laws must be amended if necessary. Budgetary provision should also be made towards it, she said.



In service of Muslim women

22 October 2009

Women appear at a World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) workshop in Jeddah Wednesday. WAMY Women’s Section was started in the early 1990s to educate Muslim women on Islamic family and social values, and women’s contemporary issues from an Islamic perspective. In 2008, the WAMY office in Makkah offered 339 lectures, 94 training sessions, and nine festivals, said Amal Naseer, supervisor of WAMY Women’s Section. The section has set up women’s cultural clubs with activities targeting over 38,000 female members so far this year. – Okaz photo



Life after talaq: Orissa women want to be included in BPL list

Subhashish Mohanty

October 22, 2009

Bhubaneshwar: Around 1,000 divorced Muslim women staged a rally here on Wednesday demanding the inclusion of their names in the BPL (Below Poverty Line) list. Rasan Begam, who got talaq within two months of her wedding, narrated how she was passing through a difficult time. "I have to work as a maid for my survival. I even have to beg for food," she said.

Like her, most other Muslim women narrated how life had become tough for them after divorce. "One can easily get talaq in our society. But going for a re-marriage is difficult," rues Sakeena Bibi. With prices of essential commodities shooting up, it is only getting worse for 5,000 women like them in Orissa, Saira Mirza, president of the Talaki Mahila Sahayata Samitiee (association to help divorced women), said.

"Men take advantage of the talaq provision. They desert their wives after fathering a few kids, leaving the mother to rear them all," she said.

The association demanded that the pension be hiked from Rs400 to at least Rs800 a month. Only 616 women are availing the pension now. "The hapless women should be included under BPL and avail of the benefits," she said. A BPL card-holder in Orissa can get 25 kg of rice at Rs2 per kg. Sakeena also sought a home for the women under Indira Awaz scheme.

Social activist Hussain Rabi Gandhi said that if society did not come forward to take up their cause, they might be forced on the wrong path. "One can do anything for two square meals," Gandhi said.

Expressing solidarity with the hapless women, Maulana Asfaque Ali said that once a woman gets talaq, she becomes helpless. "She is neither able to stay with her parents nor with her in-laws' house," said Ali, adding that it forced them to take up the job of maid.

The divorced women have a soft corner for their Hindu counterparts. "Those Hindu women who have got divorced should also avail the facilities," association members said.


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