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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 9 Sept 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Women Are Their Own Guardians: Senior Saudi Scholar

New Age Islam News Bureau

9 Sept 2016

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 Kenya: Headscarf Ban in Schools Overturned By A Court

 Triple Talaq: The Muslim Law Board’s Affidavit in the Supreme Court Has A Few Positives for Women

 Pakistani Muslim: We should learn from Mother Teresa

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Women Are Their Own Guardians: Senior Saudi Scholar

Friday 9 September 2016

JEDDAH: A senior Saudi scholar has said that women are their own guardians and have the lawful right to manage all matters of life and personal affairs by themselves.

Sheikh Abdullah Al-Manea, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, went on to state that women are under the guardianship of men only at the time of marriage, and that women enjoy the same rights as men.

The senior scholar was responding to a campaign on Twitter in which many people, including lawyers and social activists, expressed their hopes that women’s guardianship would be dropped.

Responding to a question from a local publication on the issue of guardianship, he said: “Once a female is of a mature age, no guardianship is imposed on her, except in the case of marriage.”

He added: “Women are sensible and intelligent human beings who have the right to manage their financial affairs and appoint as proxy whoever they see fit to buy and sell on their behalf.”

He said: “Every lawful right men enjoy, women also enjoy and no guardianship should be imposed on them except in marriage because only the woman’s guardian or parent can give her hand in marriage.”

He explained that a mature woman is one who is able to perform the religious duties set out in Shariah, including prayers, fasting and Haj.

Saudi women agreed with the scholar’s opinion.

“I totally agree with what Al-Manea said regarding the matter of male guardianship,” said Layla Al-Muhammadi, a Saudi woman. “If men and women will be judged equally on the Day of Judgment, it is only logical for both to have at least the same liberties.”

Hayat Bakr, a Saudi university student, told Arab News that the form of male guardianship as it exists today implies that women are not able to make as good choices as men.

“This is not true. Women have proven their capabilities throughout history and in modern times as teachers, rulers of countries, businesswomen, and mothers.”

“Currently, Saudi women need a male guardian for almost all government and bureaucratic work which is a real obstacle that impedes the progress of women,” she added.



Kenya: Headscarf Ban in Schools Overturned By A Court

09 September 2016

A Kenyan court on Thursday overturned a ban on students wearing headscarves, saying they should be able to wear religious attire.

“Kenya’s education minister should facilitate urgent consultations and formulate appropriate regulations for the better protection of the fundamental right to freedom of religion and belief and freedom from discrimination under Article 27 of the Constitution for all students in Kenya’s educational system,” said the ruling by a three-judge panel.

The panel, led by Justice Phillip Waki of the Court of Appeal of Kenya, rejected the argument that headscarves should not be allowed as they are not part of the official school uniform.

The judges also called on schools not to discriminate against students who wear headscarves and to embrace the fact that Kenya is a country of diverse religious faiths.

The ban had been imposed by Justice Harun Makau of the High Court in March 2015.

The ruling comes as a reprieve for many female Muslim students in Kenya, who had been forced to abandon headscarves after the law was passed, especially those studying at Christian-sponsored schools.

Hammad Mohammed Kassim, Kenya’s chief kadhi (Muslim official), had previously argued before a court that wearing headscarves is a religious obligation for women.



Triple Talaq: The Muslim Law Board’s Affidavit in the Supreme Court Has A Few Positives for Women

Friday 9 September 2016

The detailed affidavit filed by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board before the Supreme Court on the matter of instant triple talaq has received a backlash from various quarters – the media, women’s groups, and secular Muslims.

A press statement endorsed by 100-odd feminists has been released demanding a “gender just” family law for all, away from religious precepts. Demonstrations have been held to publicly denounce the affidavit, and various newspapers have carried op-eds condemning the archaic stand adopted by the Board in its affidavit.

Against this overwhelming backlash, it is extremely challenging to dwell upon the positive elements of the affidavit, lest one is termed reactionary and anti-women. However, I feel that most people who have endorsed the affidavit or commented upon it have reacted to the initial press reports, and have not read the 70-page document in its entirety.

However challenging it may be, one needs to take on this task as certain paragraphs of the affidavit indicate a departure from the earlier positions held by the Board, and this serves to strengthen the rights of Muslim women. However, these positives are buried beneath the Board’s unashamed patriarchal posturing and its defence of instant triple talaq on the ground that it prevents women from being murdered by their husbands.

Three important take-aways

The three important points that the affidavit dwells upon are made in the opening paragraphs as preliminary points which are as follows:

The Supreme Court in the 2002 Shamim Ara ruling has already dealt with the issue of instant, arbitrary triple talaq and has laid down the test of “reasonable cause” and “prior reconciliation”. The affidavit goes further to state that the principle laid down by Justices RC Lahoti and Venkatarama Reddi in this case is the law of the land. In view of this, the Board’s later statement that instant triple talaq is valid is contradictory.

A Muslim woman victim of domestic violence has the right to claim relief under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. This is a secular statute that protects the rights of all women (Muslim and non-Muslim; single, married, divorcee or widow). The affirmation by the Board that Muslim women are entitled to seek protection under this statute helps to break the prevailing myth that Muslim women are not entitled to relief under it. The clear direction to Muslim women subjected to domestic violence that they should avail of the remedies given under this progressive statute – protection from domestic violence, right of residence, injunction against their husband from dispossessing them, right to maintenance, child custody and compensation – will help in giving women the confidence to approach the courts.

In the event that Shayara Bano wished to end her violent marriage by accepting the talaqnama, the affidavit states that she also had the option of exercising her rights under the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights upon Divorce) Act, 1986. This is significant as in the Danial Latifi case, the Board had opposed the wider interpretation of this statute that a Muslim woman is entitled to a fair and reasonable provision for her entire life, and wanted to constrain the provision only for three months. Now the Board seems to have accepted the wider interpretation in Danial Latifi, which had upheld the constitutional validity of this Act, and had held that the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights upon Divorce) Act secures the rights of Muslim women better than the maintenance provision under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

The agency of the Muslim woman and her multiple choices, which are seldom highlighted, are captured in a nutshell in this affidavit. This is generally not highlighted in the media. This approach of negating the positive aspects of Muslim Law is a great disservice to Muslim women.

The affidavit goes further, and admonishes Shayara Bano for rushing to the Supreme Court without first availing of the remedies under various statutes in a local court. The affidavit further affirms that these remedies would have benefited her as the appropriate judicial authorities could give effective orders. On these grounds, the affidavit claims that the Public Interest Litigation that Bano filed with two other petitioners must be dismissed. These statements help to clear the misconceptions that a divorced Muslim woman has no rights under the existing laws.

Contradictions in affidavit

It would have been appropriate if the affidavit had ended here instead of attempting to validate instant triple talaq. The claim that the Board is the final authority to declare the law applicable to Muslims is rather absurd since the Board has been party to various proceedings before the Supreme Court, including the Daniel Latifi case, and has accepted the authority of the court to interpret this law as per the Quranic provisions.

Another contradiction is that after stating that it would have been more apt for Shayara Bano to take recourse to existing legal provisions in a court of law, it states that Muslim women should not go to court and clog the courts and instead settle the matter within Islamic courts.

It needs to be pointed out here that the argument regarding clogging the courts is a position not unique to the Board. Several women’s groups and NGOs offering counselling services also hold this view. The Bombay High Court, in a recent ruling, Jaya Sagade vs State of Maharashtra (2015), also endorsed this view and stated that it is better for women victims of domestic violence to settle matters in police stations and counselling centres, rather than approaching the courts and clogging them.

Within this context, urging Shayara Bano to approach the court for her rights, is a more progressive step, rather than urging petitioners to settle disputes in Darul Qazas [parallel courts] or even in the so-called women’s shariah court started by a Muslim women’s group, both of which have no legal binding. (For instance, in Vishwa Lochan Madan vs Union of India (2014), the Supreme Court held that the sharia court is “bereft of any legal pedigree and has no sanction in laws of the land”.)

The point about bringing in a comparative perspective between Hindu and Muslim polygamy is also valid though it must be conceded that it is made in a very clumsy manner.

It is common knowledge that the Hindu Marriage Act has not curbed bigamy. In Rameshchandra Daga vs Rameshwari Daga (2005), the Supreme Court, while trying to grapple with this problem, awarded maintenance to a woman whose husband had challenged the validity of their marriage on the ground of a previous subsisting marriage. The court commented that despite codification and introduction of monogamy, the ground reality had not changed much and that Hindu marriages, like Muslim marriages, continue to be bigamous. Further, though such marriages are illegal they are not “immoral” and hence a financially dependent woman cannot be denied maintenance on this ground.

Rights of women

To deal with grave hardship caused to a large number of Hindu women, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act introduced the concept “live-in relationships”. However, a Supreme Court ruling by Justice Markandey Katju in D Velusamy vs D Patchaiammal (2010), commented, while setting aside the orders of maintenance of two lower courts:

“If a man has a ‘keep’ whom he maintains financially and uses mainly for sexual purpose and/or as a servant, it would not, in our opinion, be a relationship in the nature of marriage...No doubt the view we are taking would exclude many women who have had a live-in relationship from the benefit of the 2005 Act, but then it is not for this Court to legislate or amend the law.”

Under Muslim law there is no concept of a so-called keep and subsequent wives are deemed to be married and enjoy the same status as the first wife. There is a presumption in favour of a valid marriage rather than concubinage.

A more recent judgement, Badshah vs Urmila Badshah Godse (2014), on this issue has emphasised that while dealing with the application of a destitute wife, the court is dealing with marginalised sections of society. The purpose is to achieve “social justice,” the constitutional vision enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution of India. It is the bounden duty of the courts to advance the cause of social justice. As an example, the judgment cited the journey from Shah Bano (1985) to Shabana Bano [Shabana Bano vs Imran Khan (2009)], which secured the rights of divorced Muslim women.

It is important to keep in mind this harsh ground reality while demanding a ban on Muslim polygamy. The plea for “gender justice” should not result in making more women destitute. Article 14 of the Constitution also incorporates within its realm Article 14(3) special protection to women and children, which would include vulnerable women in valid second marriages.



Pakistani Muslim: We Should Learn From Mother Teresa

Rome, Italy, Sep 3, 2016

As the canonization of Bl. Mother Teresa of Caluctta draws near, the son of a leading Muslim philanthropist in Pakistan praised the nun’s example, recalling how his late father had admired her and believed in learning from her example.

“We should learn from her. Muslims should adopt the concept of missionary spirit. We have been negligent on many levels, not many people are involved in humanitarian mission.”

These are the words of Abdul Sattar Edhi, a Muslim and one of the most well-known philanthropists in Pakistan. Often called the “Mother Teresa of Pakistan,” Edhi passed away July 8 at the age of 88.

On the night he died, the Archdiocese of Karachi organized a prayer vigil in churches throughout the diocese to pray for his intentions. His funeral was attended by swarms of people from different faith backgrounds who wanted to honor him and the many social works he initiated.

Born in the small village of Gujarat, India in 1928, Edhi had to move his family to Pakistan in 1947 when the country was partitioned. It was there that he began his first free medical clinic, which today has turned into a large foundation, the “Edhi Foundation,” that is home to some 5,700 people in 17 residential institutions and which organizes 1,500 ambulances.

The network Edhi founded runs dozens of free hospitals, laboratories, nursing homes, orphanages and rehab centers for drug addicts, and each center contains a cot where children from unwanted pregnancies can be left. 

In addition to his social work, Edhi received several international awards. His wife is also engaged in the humanitarian field, and in 2015 received the “International Mother Teresa Prize.” However, despite his awards, Edhi led a simple life and shunned positions of power. After his death, Edhi’s son Faisal took charge of the foundation.

Faisal sent a message for the occasion of Mother Teresa’s Sept. 4 canonization, which was read aloud at a Sept. 2 symposium organized by Asia News.

Mother Teresa, he said, “was a great social worker who dedicated her whole life to the service of humanity without distinction of caste or religion. Her canonization will immortalize her service for the poorest of the poor.”

People like Mother Teresa, he said, help create a good environment that can assist “in ending rivalries between nations and communities.”

Faisal recalled how his father Abdul had frequently spoken of Mother Teresa and her work, saying that Muslims must learn her example and service to others.

He noted how both his father and Mother Teresa lived during the same period, and how both had been criticized in papers by “religious hardliners” who “claimed conversions,” perhaps because “they had no other argument.”

“Only missionary spirit can help them in working for the welfare of others and understanding their sufferings,” he said.

Faisal recalled how his father had always admired the Catholic nuns who ran two centers for the disabled in Karachi, and that Abdul “kept close relations with missionaries and used to send me to there.”

He noted how their family continues to support the centers, and each day sends five kilograms of mutton to Dar ul Sukun, the largest Church-run center for the mentally and physically disabled in Karachi.

On the day of Abdul’s death, Karachi Archbishop Joseph Coutts and a small delegation from the archdiocese came to the Edhi Foundation and prayed in the philanthropist’s room, lighting candles and offering prayers.

Faisal recalled how the archbishop gave him a candle that came from the Vatican, and noted that may priests attended his father’s funeral and prayed for him in their Masses the following Sunday.

“We have people of all faiths in our centers but we never count how many of them are non-Muslims,” he said, explaining that “we respect and treat everybody equally.”

Faisal closed his letter by noting how his father had “trained me to do what Mother Teresa did,” and voiced his hope that he would be able to serve the poor as she did.

“As a Muslim social worker in Pakistan, I thanks Missionaries for their kindness and establishment centers that work without any discrimination in our third world country,” he said, adding that “there is no other example of the ways in which they help the disabled, especially handicapped children.”

He noted that Pakistan is the 6th most populous country in the world, with a population of 201 million people. The state, he said, has failed to provide basic facilities such as public transport, quality healthcare and education.

“Much work needs to be done and we need more people like Mother Teresa.”



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