New Age Islam News Bureau
28 Jul 2019
In this Monday, August 13, 2012 photo Tunisian women carry placards protesting their rights which read: 'Women, the symbol of Tunisia' left, and 'Fight for women rights,' right, as they march in Tunis. (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi)
• New York Mosque’s Facebook Video on Women Belies Progressive Claims
• Women Request Quranic Values Be Embedded In Sri Lankan Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act: Call for Justice
• UN Forum Singles Out Israel, Saying It Violated Women’s And Human Rights
• Afghan Women Must Have Role in Peace Talks, Rights Activist Tells UN
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Rising from Ashes of Arab Spring, Women Lead a First Muslim Feminist Revolution
By KSENIA SVETLOVA
July 28, 2019
There is no shortage of iconic imagery associated with the Arab Spring: Tarek el-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire on December 17, 2010, sparking the revolution that took the Middle East by storm; Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, bleeding and humiliated in his final moments; a young woman forcibly dragged through the streets of Cairo in her denim jeans and blue bra by Egyptian police.
But the upheaval is far from over. It continues to rage in Sudan and Algeria, and its aftershocks are still being felt across the entire region. The various revolutions that have shaken the Arab world to its core have deposed rulers, claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, displaced millions, and saw some countries cease to exist as political entities.
But this fascinating phenomenon, which has been rattling the Middle East for almost nine years, has another dimension: While the men are off fighting, it is the women who are left to pick up the pieces and build new lives for themselves and their children.
Reality, it seems, has demanded that these women take action. In Syria, Kurdish women fought the Islamic State (IS) alongside the men, and are now building new villages and a new social and political order. In Egypt, women and men have established a support system for victims of sexual assault, pushing an issue once considered taboo into the limelight. Morocco has allowed women into the traditionally patriarchal clergy and judiciary; and in the Persian Gulf female activists risk arrest and even torture, but continue to demand equality and freedom.
When the fighting finally wanes and the dust settles, will the Middle East see men trying to turn back progress and send women back their familiar role as housewives whose sole purpose is to cook, clean and care for the children? In some places, at least, the changes that have been set in motion are too profound for things to ever be the same again.
Syria: Women take matters into their own hands
On March 10, 2017, a large group of Kurdish women, backed by volunteers from all over the world, laid the cornerstone for a new village in northeast Syria. Jinwar – which means “women’s territory” in Kurdish – is a women-only commune built a few miles from Qamishli, near the country’s border with Turkey.
Hermel, a local plant also known as Syrian rue, was chosen as the emblem of Jinwar, which was formed as a refuge for those displaced by IS and the Syrian civil war. The symbolism is jarring. Less than 100 miles from the village, IS tortured and killed men, women and children who violated the strict Sharia laws of the pseudo-caliphate founded by Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in 2013. The hermel plant, which is used by the local population as a remedy, is believed to have the power to heal wounds and remove negative thoughts, fears, and bad memories.
Jinwar is one of a kind, but it reflects a wider, fascinating trend: In stark contrast to the horrors of war and the waves of radical Islam crashing through the region, Rojava, the Kurdish autonomy in northeast Syria, is shaping up to be a liberal, secular region, striving to make gender equality the rule by which women are full partners in the government, the security forces, and all other state institutions.
“Kurdish society is built differently than Arab society, which is heavily influenced by radical Islam,” explained Kurdish-Syrian activist Badriya Khalil, who currently resides in Germany.
“In our society, women are free. Married or single, a woman doesn’t have to dress modestly. A Kurdish man needs a woman to be his partner, because we have a lot to overcome together,” she said.
Kurdish society sees the woman as the head of the household if her husband is fighting a war or is imprisoned, said Khalil, “so she is responsible for both her children and her homeland. This is why our women were the first to rise up against IS. We’re fighters and we have a responsibility, just like Israeli women.”
Kamal Sido, a Kurdish interpreter, translator, and researcher who divides his time between Germany and Syrian Kurdistan, said that the evolution of Rojava is the result of the ideology introduced by Abdullah Öcalan, who established the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK).
Founded in 1978, the PKK is a Kurdish far-left militant and political organization based in Turkey and Iraq. The group has been in conflict with Turkey since 1984 with the aim of achieving an independent Kurdish state. It later changed its demand to that of equal rights and Kurdish autonomy in Turkey.
Öcalan himself was arrested in Nairobi in 1999 by the Turkish National Intelligence Agency. Originally sentenced to death, his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment when Turkey abolished the death penalty as part of its efforts to be admitted into the European Union. Öcalan argues that the PKK is now strictly a political movement, but the group’s conflict with Turkey has claimed over 40,000 lives, prompting the United States, Britain, Turkey, the European Union, and NATO to designate it as a terrorist organization.
Sido explained that according to Öcalan’s philosophy, “Everyone should resist oppression – men and women. That’s what happened when the war [in Syria] began, the women fought alongside the men against IS.”
“But if the West doesn’t support the democratic and liberal Rojava, despair and radical Islam will also prevail among the Kurds,” he said. “That’s why this experiment has to succeed.”
Women’s villages extend beyond just the Kurdish region in Syria, and not all of them were formed for ideological reasons. In many parts of Syria, entire villages are now devoid of men. Many were killed in battle; others, fearing conscription or retaliation, have fled in search of a better future outside Syria, leaving the women to put the pieces of the bloodied country back together.
These women, who were raised in a society that indoctrinated them to believe their only destiny was to be wives and mothers, are now rebuilding their lives and their villages with their bare hands, becoming their families’ primary breadwinners.
There are many volunteers who work in the war-torn countryside in Syria, teaching the women the skills they need to reorganize their lives without men.
One such initiative is the Basma Project, which operates in an area near Aleppo. The project teaches women how to produce cheeses and yogurts from goat’s milk, and market their products so as to support their families.
Today, many Syrian women hold key positions in government and in the business community for one simple reason – the men are gone. Whether this change will endure once the Syrian war ends remains to be seen.
Tunisia: The Jasmine Revolution and constitutional feminism
Unlike Syria, Yemen, Libya and Egypt, the considerably smaller Tunisia is hailed as the Arab Spring’s biggest success story.
This may be a lone and very fragile triumph, but so far, Tunisia has been able to avoid the pitfalls of civil war and terrorist attacks, and it has even begun laying the foundations of democracy – a rare phenomenon in the Middle East.
Most recently, the small North African country sent shockwaves across the Arab and Muslim worlds when it changed its inheritance law to allow equal rights for women.
Islamic law states that men are entitled to double the inheritance of women, and secular laws in many Arab countries draw their inspiration from the religious edict.
This was the case in Tunisia as well until November 2018, when its government passed the groundbreaking legislation. The move was strongly condemned in local Islamic circles, and the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam, denounced it as a violation of the edicts of both the Quran and the Sunna — the body of literature that prescribes the social and legal customs and practices of the Islamic community.
The revolutionary law, backed by Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, was the result of years of advocacy by many feminist organizations. The inheritance law was followed by more revolutionary legislation, including the repeal of a law that protected rapists who married their victims.
Tunisia has always been unusual in the Arab world in terms of its treatment of women. Tunis banned polygamy in 1956 when it gained its independence from France, and most women study and work. While in most Arab nations the fight for gender equally has sustained blow after blow, Tunisian women not only led the Jasmine Revolution, but were also able to retain their power in its wake. Now, many women are very politically active — including in the radical Islamic parties.
In August 2013, when both secular and Islamist protesters demonstrated in the squares of Tunis and the revolution was clearly imminent, intrepid female activists on both sides of the political spectrum were unafraid to talk to the media. They explained their positions eloquently and persuasively, illustrating just how different the status of women is in Tunisia compared with other Arab countries.
It is this fundamental difference, which seems inherent to the country, which may explain the modest yet solid success of the budding Tunisian democracy.
Morocco: Social activists, preachers, and religious judges
Moroccan Health Ministry employees who came to work on May 1 were shocked to find feminine hygiene products stained with fake blood plastered on the walls of the ministry building in the capital city of Rabat. This was the work of a feminist group called the Alternative Movement for Individual Freedoms, which was protesting Morocco’s strict anti-abortion laws.
In Morocco, terminating a pregnancy is allowed only with the spouse’s permission, or if it is determined that the pregnancy “places the woman’s health and well-being at risk.”
This was not a sporadic provocation. In recent years, appalling cases of rape and forced marriage between victim and rapist have led to a series of demonstrations and acts of protest, as both women and men have refused to remain silent.
Alongside the secular feminist movements, another very significant feminist movement — one quite different from all the others, and which has the potential to appeal to the more traditional Moroccan society — is making itself heard. “Islamic feminism” seeks to empower women by further delving into the classical Islamic texts and the study of the primary sources interpreting them.
In Morocco, too, tens of thousands of men and women took to the streets in 2011-2012, demanding reforms, all while many other young men and women joined extremist Islamic organizations and carried out terrorist attacks in the kingdom and beyond.
In 2003, in the wake of a gruesome terrorist attack in Casablanca, King Mohammed VI and his government made the decision to enlist the women of the kingdom to fight extremism. Since then, Morocco has been training the Murshidat, or “guides,” in Arabic — female religious preachers who give sermons in mosques, schools, youth centers, and prisons.
The controversial decision to use women to combat extremism had raised quite a few eyebrows in the conservative Muslim country, but the program has been steadily growing since the onset of the Arab Spring.
Two years ago, one of the Murshidat was even invited to the king’s court to give a sermon during the holy month of Ramadan, something unprecedented in the Muslim world. In this case there was a clear overlap between the royal family’s interests and the desire to advance the status of women in the North African country.
Mohammad Zeinabi, editor-in-chief of Morocco’s Global Digital Media Group, explained that Moroccan society “is a traditional society, yet it is less traditional than many other Arab countries. We have a horizon for development and change, but because the king also has religious authority, reforms are pursued in moderation. Here and there you have people who voice opposition [to change], but you won’t find very strong opposition.”
Zeinabi noted that like in Tunisia, Morocco’s judiciary is currently debating revising its inheritance laws. Rabat has already passed in 2018 legislation recognizing sexual harassment and violence against women as gender discrimination.
Morocco still has a long way to go until it reaches gender equality, but international bodies have acknowledged that the changes that have taken place in Morocco are very significant.
Egypt: A tango with progress
On May 10, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, issued a fatwa, or religious decree, saying that a woman cannot leave the house without her husband’s permission and may be beaten as long as no bones are broken. On May 20, he made another controversial statement, declaring that the idea of gender equality runs contrary to the “laws of nature.”
His statements sparked an uproar in Egypt, and for good reason — the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, who heads the al-Azhar Mosque and by extension al-Azhar University in Cairo, is considered by many Muslims to be the highest authority in Sunni Islamic thought and jurisprudence, and is responsible for official religious matters alongside the Grand Mufti of Egypt.
El-Tayeb’s remarks were especially grating given that Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has made statements supporting the inclusion of women in public life in Egypt. The outrage and pressure proved so great that on June 5 el-Tayeb retracted his decree, calling for the criminalization of domestic abuse.
Similar religious decrees, cementing a man’s right to “educate” his wife using violence or that give him absolute control over her personal freedoms, like leaving the house, used to exist in Egypt, Yemen and Saudi Arabia, and news of extreme cases would always shock the West.
But now, this is clearly a radical, obsolete and highly unpopular view. It is also clear that Cairo is trying to distance itself from the legacy of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been designated as a terrorist organization in Egypt, and lead the change with respect to the status of women in Arab society, something el-Sissi often addresses in public statements.
For the first time, eight women serve as senior government ministers and 80 women are members of parliament. On this year’s International Women’s Day, el-Sissi issued several presidential decrees concerning women’s empowerment and also enacted laws seeking to put an end to domestic violence and child marriages, and grant rights to divorced women.
Omar Zachariah, a Cairo-based scholar focusing on Israel, said that in recent years there has been a significant change in public awareness of harassment and violence.
“Before, women would remain silent, but today they complain and this issue is discussed openly, which deters the harassers,” Zachariah said.
When the Arab Spring began in Egypt on January 25, 2011, the world was shocked by footage of Lara Logan, a CBS reporter who was sexually assaulted by a mob in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. The graphic images brought global attention to the fact that Egyptian women suffer from relentless sexual harassment ranging from verbal pestering to assault and gang rape.
This led to the creation of HarassMap, a nonprofit organization that strives to reduce the acceptance of sexual harassment in Egypt, and helps victims who choose to file police complaints. HarassMap is Egypt’s first independent initiative to tackle the issue.
There is no doubt that in the post-Arab Spring era, public discourse regarding sexual harassment and rape has become more prominent and revealing than before, yet the majority of cases still go unreported, says Haysam Hassanain, an Egyptian student attending Tel Aviv University.
“You can definitely see change. There are more MPs, more ministers, greater emphasis on the stories of successful women, but the majority of women still suffer from sexual harassment, female circumcision and lack of equal employment opportunities,” said Hassanain.
Dr. Mira Tzoref, a Middle East historian at Tel Aviv University, argued that the changes introduced by the Arab Spring have made their mark on the ground, ranging from public backlash over Culture Minister Alaa Abdel-Aziz’s decision in 2012 to dismiss Cairo Opera House Director Ines Abdel-Dayem, appointed by his predecessor, to children’s literature on gender equality.
“We’re hyperactive and we want to see immediate changes, but the processes leading to gender equality don’t happen overnight. The Egyptian Opera had a female director and the thing that set off the protesters, already demonstrating against Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, was the fact that she was dismissed for no apparent reason. I think it’s dramatic that a woman set the agenda of Egyptian high culture,” Tzoref said, referring to the deposed Muslim Brotherhood leader who recently died in the courtroom. “The appointments of female governors, ministers, marriage registrars, are not without their impact. Sometimes change comes slowly, but there is no stopping it now. [Egypt] now has women in key decision-making positions in culture, society and politics,” Tzoref noted.
The Persian Gulf: Driver’s licenses and missing princesses
In June 2018, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stunned the world with a groundbreaking decree that allowed women to drive after decades during which the mere mention of the possibility was taboo.
In the fall, Riyadh announced that women will now be able to attend sporting events, concerts and movies, and last week, the kingdom announced future plans to ease restrictions on women’s ability to travel overseas without male permission — all revolutionary steps for conservative Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi crown prince — catering to the younger generation’s growing demand for change — was lauded by the West as a revolutionary and a reformer, and some have even hailed him as a feminist.
But the less savory aftermath failed to garner equal international attention: Many Saudi women who had fought for equal rights for years and even supported the young, energetic heir to the throne found themselves in jail, and some were even tortured.
Loujain al-Hathloul, one of the most outspoken activists on the issue of Saudi women’s driving rights, was arrested in 2018 and later tortured. A political prisoner, she is facing charges of “endangering national security,” which carry a life sentence.
Other Saudi women pushing for change have found themselves painted into a corner, as well.
Saudi journalist Neevin (alias), said that despite the easing of restrictions, real freedom is still a long way away for Saudi women.
“We still can’t travel abroad without the approval of a male relative. I can study, find a job and make a good living, but my husband, father or even my little brother will always be able to forbid me from traveling abroad to a professional conference,” she said.
Neevin is aware that Saudi Arabia now has more female than male university students, but these achievements are far from satisfying for women like her, who crave freedom and independence. The horrifying stories of Saudi girls and women who flee overseas to escape forced marriage or domestic violence illustrate her point all too well.
Sisters Maha and Wafa al-Subaie, for example, fled Saudi Arabia and are seeking asylum. The two are currently in hiding in Georgia and, fearing extradition to Riyadh, have appealed for protection from the United Nations refugee agency. They say the Saudi government has suspended their passports, trapping them in Georgia.
Eighteen-year-old Rahaf al-Qunun made headlines when she fled to Bangkok, running away from her family, who she says subjected her to physical and psychological abuse. She posted videos on social media pleading with Thai authorities not to deport her. The Twitter-led campaign to grant her asylum prompted the UNHCR to step in and ask Australia to resettle her.
The story of women in Persian Gulf states is a complex one. Between 1990 and 2018, women’s participation in the labor force increased from 29 percent to 41%; the United Arab Emirates’ cabinet approved a bill guaranteeing equal pay for men and women; and across the region, women have joined governments and government institutions, often in key positions.
This revolution is largely led by women from the ruling families, but only with the blessing of the men, the Emir of Abu Dhabi and UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, along with the Emirati prime minister, Emir of Dubai Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
But women are fleeing from glamorous Dubai as well.
The latest to have tried is Princess Latifa of Dubai. According to media reports, the 32-year-old spent seven years planning her failed escape from the Gulf state. She has not been seen or heard from since she was grabbed by armed men from a yacht about 30 miles off the coast of India in early March.
One must remember that much of the change in the Gulf mindset stems from the various emirs’ desire to project a progressive and clean image vis-à-vis the West. But while women hold senior positions in the government and the business sector, and some even become high-ranking members of security forces, polygamy is still very common in the UAE, and the family patriarch can still prevent his daughter from traveling, studying or working.
Winds of change
So what does the future hold for the Middle East? The Arab Spring has, without a doubt, introduced significant changes with respect to the status of women in the Arab world.
Middle Eastern women took to the streets with flags, signs, stones, and sometimes even weapons, demanding change for their country and for themselves. They continued to refuse to return to their traditional place in the home even long after the revolutions subsided.
These women left policymakers little choice. Facing increasing pressure from secular and religious feminist movements and demonstrations, the Middle Eastern leadership has come to understand that these women are not going anywhere. Changes had to be made. Arab women’s struggle for freedom and equality is far from over, but it is abundantly clear to all that there is no going back on the reforms paid for with blood, sweat, and tears.
The struggle for women’s liberation, which began in the late 19th century, will continue. And there are enough women in the Middle East to make sure it is successful.
This article was adapted from the original Hebrew on The Times of Israel’s sister site, Zman Yisrael.
New York Mosque’s Facebook Video on Women Belies Progressive Claims
By Karys Rhea
JULY 27, 2019
A local Brooklyn mosque with a checkered history and once surveilled by the NYPD continues to promote radical content online.
Ali Abdul-Karim Judan, mosque spokesman and head of security for the at-Taqwa Mosque in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, posted a video on Facebook Live titled, “Are Muslim Women Who Are Covered According to What Allah Has Legislated in the Qur’an and Women Who Are Not Judged Equally?”
In the video, Karim argues that women who do not fully cover their bodies and who show “any indication” of their form, are “cursed,” “disobedient” and “deviant.” This includes “any woman who wears perfume in public,” as well as members of the trans community.
“Allah cursed the man who wears women’s clothes and the woman who wears men’s clothes,” says Karim.
Preaching to a Facebook audience of over 5,000 followers, Karim claims that God’s laws assign men and women “different roles,” and that men are the designated “maintainer” of women.
He discusses the Islamic concept of Tabarraj, or “beautification,” which he argues is “forbidden” and “so abhorrent that it is associated with fornication, stealing and all other sins.”
He concludes that Allah does not judge equally women who are dressed in “clothes of righteousness” and those who are not, calling the issue of women’s dress a “crisis” in society that must be “managed.”
Despite its association with supposedly progressive Islamic organizations such as CAIR, MAS and ISNA, the at-Taqwa Mosque revealed itself to be an illiberal institution that espouses demeaning views toward women and the transgender community.
It is worth noting that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a prominent Islamic organization that emphasizes an alliance with progressive groups, claims to stand for women’s rights, and uniformly endorses Democratic candidates in local, state, and federal elections, has a close relationship with at-Taqwa.
SIRAJ WAHHAJ, the mosque’s leading imam and a regularly featured speaker at CAIR’s annual banquets, has called homosexuality a “disease” punishable by death, and declared in 1992 that he would set fire to a proposed mosque in Toronto that was tolerant of the LGBT+ community. Wahhaj previously defended stoning and other forms of punitive violence and, on several occasions, has come to the defense of convicted terrorists, including Omar Abdel-Rahman, otherwise known as the “Blind Sheikh,” who masterminded the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and inspired dozens of other terrorist plots.
Wahhaj served as a character witness for Rahman during the trial and has called the attacks a conspiracy against Muslims staged by the US government. He converted to Islam under the guidance of notorious antisemite and homophobe Louis Farrakhan and, in the 90s, he was outspoken in his support of Sharia law, having once declared in a sermon “I want the Sharia.” He is also on record as having said, “Politics are a weapon to use in the cause of Islam… If only Muslims were clever politically, they could take over the United States and replace its constitutional government with a caliphate.” Stephen Schwartz, executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, called Wahhaj a “hatemonger” and the “number one advocate of radical Islamic ideology among African-Americans.” In 2008, some 175 pieces of literature Wahhaj had written on Islam were discovered in US prison libraries.
Masjid at-Taqwa was itself the subject of a controversial surveillance program by the NYPD in 2013. The NYPD defended the program by claiming the mosque had reportedly raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for terrorist organizations and was believed to have a gun club with illegally procured weapons.
As head of security, Karim hosts self-defense workshops on a weekly basis and posts videos of them on Facebook. Some of these workshops have offered militaristic training and included instructions on how to disarm law enforcement officers. Several of Karim’s participants have referred to themselves as “jihad warriors.” One of them, Farooque Ahmed, pled guilty to plotting an attack on the Washington DC Metro.
Most recently, in 2018, Wahhaj’s son, a devout Muslim and polygamist, along with four of his relatives, were charged with operating a terrorist training camp for children. The scandal involved a New Mexico compound raided by law enforcement where, inside, Wahhaj’s toddler son (Siraj Wahhaj’s grandson) was found dead, alongside 11 malnourished children and a large cache of firearms. According to court papers, the children were being trained to attack “teachers, military, law enforcement, and financial institutions.”
In yet another Facebook Live post, Karim called the entire compound event “anti-Muslim propaganda.”
The misogyny, militarism and promotion of theocracy embraced by the at-Taqwa mosque are hardly progressive values. This, then, casts doubt on the professed liberalism of CAIR, MAS, ISNA and other groups that come to the defense of at-Taqwa and its imams.
Women Request Quranic Values Be Embedded In Sri Lankan Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act: Call for Justice
28 July, 2019
As the all-male body of Islamic clerics, the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU), stalled the reforms of the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) yet again last week, a collective of Muslim women’s groups demanded the recommendations agreed on July 11, by Muslim members of parliament should not be diluted in any form. The recommendations constitute the most basic and urgent reforms required to the MMDA.
At a media conference last Friday, July 26, the collective called for the Muslim MPs to build on the recommendations and to consider comprehensive reform as a real and sustainable solution to the issues relating to marriage within the community.
The MMDA came into the limelight after April 21, with certain extremist factions of the country demanding the abolition of legislation pertaining to religious or racial communities and the establishment of a single common law for all citizens as punishment to the Muslim community. Though Muslim women have been agitating for reforms to the MMDA for over 30 years, since 1975 no amendments were made to this archaic law with successive governments lacking the political will to do so.
Now that the MMDA had captured the attention of the legislature, “It is a critical moment for MMDA reforms. Those responsible should act now. It is not a time for sensationalism while many women and girls are subjected to discrimination. We must ensure the urgency of the reforms,” accentuated the women’s groups.
What are these amendments about, questioned veteran educationist and social activist Jezima Ismail. “It is about Quranic justice. The human values of Quranic justice embedded in Sharia, the values of honesty, kindness, compassion, equity and understanding.
These are the most important things we are looking at. We are asking for Quranic justice and Sharia within the judicial system of Sri Lanka because we are Sri Lankan,” she stressed. The reason for amendments is the discrimination against women, the suffering and the oppression they have to go through the MMDA currently in effect.
Ismail clarified that the agitation for MMDA reforms is not a recent phenomenon. She had been involved in the struggle since 1986. It had been the suffering of the students and their families which had prompted her to get involved.“Women used to come to me for informal counseling, in despair, distress, oppressed and discriminated because of the prevailing system of the Marriage and Divorce Act,” said Ismail.
Refuting the misconception that the reforms are sought only by “elitist, urban women of Colombo”, she said that women at different levels and from Muslim communities throughout the country are actively involved in the reform process. Her experience at the Muslim Women’s Research and Action Forum (RAF) showed that women, even in the furthest villages were waiting for reforms of this law. Another misconception she countered was that it was only women who agitate for reforms.There are many Muslim men who support and work together, to bring in amendments to the prevailing law she stressed.
When RAF formed the Independent Committtee of the Reform of the Muslim Personal Law and issued a report on the subject, Al Haj Jaffar, then chairman of the Quazi court and Justice Salim Marsoof were two key signatories to the report; with many others, men at field level, intellectuals and more supporting the effort she noted. “They were completely with us as they were looking at it as a human problem,” said Ismail. Stressing that there were requests from the Muslim community in the country for amendments to the MMDA for a very long time, Former Minister Ferial Ashraff said that there is another misconception that Muslim women are trying to change the law given by Allah.
However,“the amendments we request are not about the word of God.We have no need to do that because we believe that Allah is extremely compassionate and kind.What we request amending is the man-made laws, if they adversely affect men and women.”
Though a law which is meant to be based on love, compassion, dignity, fairness and justice - the Islamic values, the current law and Quazi court system goes against the teachings of Islam causing discrimination and injustice. “Any law in the name of Islam has to uphold our rights to equality and justice as citizens of Sri Lanka,” she explained.
Human Rights Lawyer and member of the Muslim Personal Law Reform Action Group (MPLRAG) lobbying for amendments Ermiza Tegal, stressed that women calling for MMDA reforms, represent diverse sects, ethnicities and backgrounds. “We are often asked why women are trying to talk about this law. It is a religious law. Women shouldn’t be talking about it.”
The purpose of law is to better the lives of individuals and communities, religion does the same.“What we have had is a situation where the MMDA does not benefit but discriminates, leading to intimidation, violence against Muslim women and girls in particular and reflecting not so well on the community,” she said. “We do not have the freedom to think, to choose and to govern our lives,” said Tigel. “What we are asking for is for those who are taking decisions to look at the lives of women, understand issues they face and then decide on what the law should be.
What women are asking in terms of amendments are in compliance with the principles and values of Islam, compassion, kindness and to be treated as equal citizens,”she said.
Head of the Muslim Women’s Development Trust of Puttlam, Juwariya Mohideen said that her organisation, working on a daily basis with women affected by the issues of child marriage, unfair divorce procedures, polygamy, lack of registration and discriminatory practices of the Quazi court system, gets five to ten complaints from women in the area each day. “Yesterday, there were 12 cases,” she said elaborating that the discrimination and harassment of Muslim women under the MMDA and the current Quazi court system is widespread.
Aneesa Firthous from Kattankudy expressed the view that the existing MMDA is not Islamic at all - because there is no justice or fairness for Muslim women and girls.
Her organisation also assists women headed families, single women and divorcees and helps them go to Quazi courts on a daily basis. “We are very familiar with the experiences of women and know the issues with the MMDA intimately,” she said. Firthous especially questioned the impact of the prevailing MMDA on Muslim girl children.“Shouldn’t we be uplifting our children? Shouldn’t they be able to enjoy the same rights and privileges as all other children in this country?” she asked. Under the current MMDA, even if a girl child is under 12 years of age, the marriage could be registered with the permission of the Quazi of the area.
“As a man-made law, amendments are compulsory where necessary,” said lawyer and member of the Salim Marsoof Committee, Safana Gul Begam. “It is a residue of an imported law from Batavia, Indonesia.Though amendments had been recommended by many committees “Unfortunately nothing has changed in the MMDA after 1975, due to unknown reasons,” she said.
The committee appointed in 2009 had handed over its recommendations to the Ministry of Justice in January 2018, “It is the sole responsibility of parliament to take steps to make the amendments to the law,” she said.
Though the elected representatives had agreed upon some decisions for amendments, as it is supposed to be, the current situation of multiple discussions with non-elected members and appointment of a Committee constituting four members to review the recommendations approved by the Muslim ministers and MPs is unacceptable and cannot be justified as the said non-elected member was also a member of the Salim Marsoof Committee for Reforms of the MMDA and a signatory of the said report.
“We urge the MPs to take immediate action to amend the law with the necessary recommendations complying with the constitution within the Islamic principles without any discrimination and having to appoint more committees to review their own decisions,” she said.
The media conference was convened by the Muslim Women’s Development Trust of Puttlam, Islamic Women’s Association for Research and Empowerment of Batticaloa, Women’s Action Network of North & East and Muslim Personal Law Reform Action Group (MPLRAG)
UN Forum Singles Out Israel, Saying It Violated Women’s And Human Rights
JULY 28, 2019
Norway and six EU countries voted at the United Nations in favor of two resolutions that singled out Israel for criticism as a violator of women’s and human rights.
Israel was the only country named Tuesday as a violator or trouble spot by the 54-nation UN Economic and Social Council during the session, according to the UN Watch organization.
The council’s rotating president is currently the Norwegian UN ambassador. France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, Luxembourg and Malta joined China, Russia, Iran and Venezuela and 29 other nations in supporting a resolution that says “that the Israeli occupation remains a major obstacle for Palestinian women and girls with regard to the fulfillment of their rights.”
Another resolution passed mentioned “social repercussions of the Israeli occupation” more generally.
Only Canada and the United States voted against the resolution. The United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, Romania and Ukraine were among the nine nations that abstained.
Nikki Haley, the previous US ambassador to the UN, tweeted on Thursday: “It amazes me how the U.N. condones votes like these. It is a total mockery of human rights to allow Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, and Yemen to name Israel as the world’s only violator of women’s rights. #Embarrassing.”
Dutch lawmakers from six parties, including the ruling People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, submitted a parliamentary query with critical questions to the foreign ministry over the vote. “Do you consider this proportional?” they asked the ministry, which must reply next month.
Afghan Women Must Have Role in Peace Talks, Rights Activist Tells UN
July 27, 2019
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 27 (APP):An Afghan human rights activist has called on the international community to stand with the women of Afghanistan and ensure that their hard-won gains since the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001 are not sacrificed in any peace agreement.
Jamila Afghani of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom-Afghanistan, speaking to the UN Security Council via videoconference from Kabul, made the appeal as two senior United Nations officials briefed the 15-member Council on their visiting mission to Afghanistan on July 20-21, which focused on women, peace and security.
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