Friday, June 24, 2011

Some Saudis Promote Violence against Women over Driving Ban Debate - Sabria S. Jawhar

Often when Saudi women speak of being denied their basic rights guaranteed in Islam or the freedom to choose whether to drive a car, the inevitable backlash occurs in the form of a smear campaign, or worse, threats of violence.

There are more Saudi men than people would expect that support the freedoms sought by women. There are also many men who feel threatened just by discussing these freedoms. They wage campaigns against outspoken Saudi women who apparently don’t know their place in society. The anonymity of the Internet has encouraged some pretty offensive behavior.

I can speak from personal experience, and I know of many Saudi women journalists who have had their morality called into question for speaking about what should be an intelligent discussion about the female driving ban. The comments sections on news website are rife with accusations of immoral behavior, lack of patriotism, lewd remarks on women’s physical characteristics, speculation about their sex lives and why the men in their families can’t “control” them.

There is something eerily consistent about the language and tone of comments, both in Arabic and English, that raises the question of whether such reactions are an organized effort to further marginalize Saudi women. I have noticed on different news websites obscene comments repeated word for word on articles written by Saudi women journalists reporting or offering an opinion on social issues.Now a Facebook campaign has surfaced encouraging men to beat their wives and daughters with an iqal – the black wire rope that keeps the ghutra in place – if they presume to get behind the wheel and drive a car. It seems that the whisper campaign to demean Saudi women is failing, and this band of thugs has resorted to advocating violence.

These same gangsters feel emboldened by some sheikhs who not only advocate violence against disobedient women, but also want these women killed. This kind of violent language contradicts King Abdullah’s position that hate rhetoric has no place in Saudi society.

The controversy over the jailing of Manal Al-Sharif is such an insult to Saudi women that few will be cowed into submission. We have reached a point of no return. So, does this mean that violence is a likely result if we fail to submit to our male masters on the issue of women’s rights?

Hanes and Target Linked to Sexual Abuse in Classic Factory in Jordan - Charlie Kernaghan

Please help.

Young women guest workers from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are being repeatedly sexually abused at the Classic Group of factories in Jordan while sewing Hanes “C9 clothing for women and men, which is sold exclusively at Target.
There is no man or woman in the United States who would knowingly purchase garments made by poor women from the developing world who were sexually abused and beaten.
Read the testimony of “Nazma”—a young woman raped at the Classic factory, and you will understand what has been going on for years at Classic.
Let’s start with Hanes. Here’s their number: 336-519-8080 and say “Investor Relations” to be transferred to the Investor Relations Department. Please call and ask them to move aggressively to remove the accused rapist Anil Santha and to make sure no young woman is every again abused in the Classic factory.
Please also ask your friends and colleagues to contact Hanes and sign the joint letter to Wal-Mart—which we will CC to Hanes and Target.
Report on Classic Fashion of 7 June 2011.
Wall Street Journal. Sex Abuse Alleged at Apparel Marker. 20 June 2011.
RT, Thom Hartmann. Sexual Predators and Serial Rapists Run Wild in Free Trade. 13 June 2011. [Video and Transcripts]

Muslim Tory minister says Pakistan's treatment of women fails Islam - Nicholas Watt, Chief Political Correspondent, Guardian

Sayeeda Warsi, co-chairman of the Tories, who says Pakistan fails Islam in denying women's rights
Sayeeda Warsi, co-chairman of the Conservative party, who says Pakistan fails Islam in denying women's rights. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

Pakistan is failing to live up to one of the tenets of Islam which guarantees rights to all women, according to Sayeeda Warsi, the Conservative party co-chairman and minister without portfolio, who is the first Muslim to sit as a full member of the cabinet.

In a sign of Britain's impatience with Pakistan, Lady Warsi said the world's first Islamic republic is denying rights granted 1,400 years ago in the Qur'an.

As she prepares to become the first British minister to address the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) next week, Warsi said in a Guardian interview that, in a "nutshell", Pakistan is not living up to the ideals of its founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Warsi says she is able to deliver a tough message to Pakistan because she is unencumbered by "colonial baggage". She said she had raised the issue of women's rights last July in Rawalpindi, in a speech in Urdu at the Fatima Jinnah University, named after the younger sister of the founder of Pakistan. "Why is it that today you're being denied the rights that your faith gave to you 1,400 years ago?" Warsi asked, recalling her central message to her female audience.

Warsi, 40, whose father arrived in Britain from Pakistan in 1960, will address a meeting of OIC foreign ministers next week in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.

Campaigners have warned about the treatment of women in north-west Pakistan where justice is administered in some areas by tribes through the jirga rather than by the state. Women usually suffer harsher treatment when couples are sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery. Samar Minallah, a women's rights activist, warned last year: "In so many past cases, the woman was killed later on, or married off for a bride price. They just can't let her be, there has to be revenge."

Warsi said she had also raised concerns about the treatment of minorities in Pakistan. Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's only Christian minister, was shot dead in March after he called for the reform of blasphemy laws that impose the death sentence for insulting Islam.

Warsi said: "I said to them ... let me talk to you about the rights of minorities, the protection of women and the concept of meritocracy. I gave real examples of how Islam embodies all of those values, and the question I put was: my country wasn't formed in the name of Islam, but yours was; so why does my country embody the values of the faith that your country was formed on the basis of?"

Warsi said her heritage enabled her to speak out. "This was not the west arriving with an ideological perspective of women's rights about to impose them on a nation. I understand this culture, I deeply understand the faith and the culture that is part of this nation ... But what I don't see is you in many ways having the very values upon which the nation was formed, the vision of the founder of Pakistan."
Since appointment to the cabinet Warsi has visited Muslim countries, including Kuwait and Pakistan on four occasions. She played an important role in smoothing relations with Pakistan after David Cameron caused great offence last July when he said in India that elements of the Pakistan state were guilty of exporting terrorism.

Warsi, who recalls how she wore a pink shalwar kameez on the day she was appointed, believes her presence in cabinet challenges "the kind of lazy prejudice" that says in the Muslim world and in Britain that somebody from her background cannot be a government minister.

"I don't believe in this clash of civilisations, where there is the west and the Muslim world," she said. "I mean, if I did, where would I fit in?"

Warsi travels to Astana after she met Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary general of the OIC, during a visit to its secretariat in Jeddah last year while she was in Saudi Arabia for the hajj. This led to the appointment of Britain's first special representative to the 57-strong group. "This is an organisation which is good to engage with and have much deeper engagement with but clearly that relationship didn't appear to be there twelve months ago," Warsi said.

Ihsanoglu recently raised concerns about Islamophobia with Warsi, who caused some controversy in January by saying this had "crossed the threshold of middle-class respectability". They had both agreed that Britain has a better track record than other European countries.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bangladesh: Rumana Manzur - A Grim Reminder of Domestic Violence - Aparna Ray

On the 5th of June,  Rumana Manzur, an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Dhaka University, became the victim of a horrific case of domestic violence when she was brutally attacked by her husband Hassan Syed, who allegedly beat her mercilessly, tried to gouge out her eyes and bit off part of her nose in a fit of rage. It is being said that their 5 year old daughter was in the room and is a witness to this inhuman act.
A Fulbright scholar from Bangladesh, Rumana was pursuing a Masters' degree from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver. She was visiting her family in Bangladesh during the summer break when this incident took place.  Hassan absconded after the incident and was picked up by the police on June 15th from a relative's house where he was hiding. [The arrest came hours after the High Court took suo moto notice of the case based on media reports and asked the police to appear before it to explain the delay in arresting him].
Image by Flickr user Heraldpost. CC BY-NC.
Soon after his arrest, Hassan gave an interview to journalists where he blamed Rumana for having an extra-marital affair with an Iranian man during her stay in Vancouver. According to reports, he said that a fight broke out between them when she found out that he had deleted this person's name from her Facebook friends' list while she was in the bathroom. He denied having assaulted her and said that possibly she got injured during the scuffle.
Rumana now risks losing vision in both her eyes. She was flown to India for treatment but had to return home to Dhaka disappointed after doctors there informed her family of the severity of the damaged caused to her eyes and saw little hope of restoring her vision. Currently Hassan has been remanaded to police custody where he is being grilled about the case.
The Rumana story has shocked the Bangladeshi society - both at home and abroad.  Her students and colleagues - both at the Dhaka University as well as UBC have come forward in her support and strongly condemnedthis brutality. Bangladeshi families in Vancouver and the UBC have also sent an open letterexpressing their sentiments about the incident.
Much is being discussed and debated both offline as well as online. Friends and supporters of Rumana have set up groups on Facebook such as Justice for Rumana where they are seeking exemplary punishment for her husband. Bloggers too have lent their voice in this demand for justice, expressing anger, outrage and shock.
Taef Ahmad writes in Choturmatrik [bn]:
দশটা বছর সংসার করে, নিজের সন্তানের মমতাময়ী মা’কে সন্তানের সামনেই মেরে অন্ধ করে- চেহারা বিকৃত করে দেবার জন্য কতদুর নির্মম-পাষন্ড হতে হয়? জঙ্গলের নখ-দন্তবিশিষ্ট হিংস্র পশুও বোধহয় আরেকটু বেশি মানবিক!
How cruel and inhuman does one have to be to beat, blind and disfigure a mother before the eyes of her child - after having lived with the woman for 10years and raised a family? Even wild animals living in the jungle are perhaps more humane than this.
Manobi writes on Somewherein blog [bn]:
পাশবিক নির্যাতনের শিকার এই মায়ের অপরাধ তিনি তাঁর পেশার সর্বোচ্চ ডিগ্রী অর্জন করতে চেয়েছিলেন এবং তার যোগ্যতা অর্জন করেছিলেন।
The fault of this mother, victim of this inhuman assault, was that she wanted to earn the highest degree in her line of work and had earned the opportunity to do so.
At Sachalayatan, blogger S.M. Mahbub Murshed expressed his anger at the husband, whom he compared to a cruel animal. Mahbub warns that MSM may soon forget the story but it remains the reponsibility of bloggers to keep this story in the limelight until the culprit is suitably punished. He also urged women to recognise the early signs of abuse in the relationship and take appropriate steps before the situation gets out of hand.
Facebook event - Mass Protest Against Torture Of Rumana Manzur
An online petition has been started to seek speedy justice for Rumana.
Amidst all the expression of outrage, a small segment of netizens have also been blaming Rumana for her current plight. Amongt them a few have even expressed sympathy for Hassan, especially after his initial claims about his wife's ‘infidelity' . The arguments put forward by the sympathisers mainly veered around the premise that Rumana must have given her husband a solid reason for his uncontrollable anger. Others argued that Rumana is to blame for not walking out of this marriage earlier. Other bloggers have been quick to denounce these arguments using strong words.
Blogger Zakaria Swapan comments[bn]:
প্রথমেই কেউ কেউ রিএ্যাকশন দেখালেন এভাবে - ডাল মে ক্যুছ কালা হ্যায়। যার অর্থ হলো, নিশ্চই মেয়েটি এমন কিছু করেছে, যে কারণে স্বামীটি এমন খর্গ হস্তে আভির্ভূত হয়েছেন। তাদের জন্য উত্তর হলো - আপনি একজন মানসিক রোগী। সেজন্য আপনার মাথায় প্রথমেই এমন একটি চিন্তা এসেছে। আরেক দল আছেন যারা মনে করছেন, মেয়েটি কেন এতোদিন এমন একটি ছেলেটির সাথে ছিল। তাই মেয়েটিরই দোষ। এখন ভোগ করো শাস্তি। আমরা বাংলাদেশে মেয়েদেরকে যেভাবে বড় করি, যেভাবে গড়ে তুলি, তাতে কয়টা মেয়ের পক্ষে সম্ভব সংসার ছেড়ে চলে যাওয়া?
At first a few expressed the reaction that surely there is more to the story. Surely the woman has done something to infuriate her husband to such extent. For those people, my answer is - you surely are mentally ill, that is why such thoughts came into your head. Another group is saying serves her right for staying with such a man for all these years. The way we bring up our girls in Bangladesh, how many women can rustle up the courage to walk out of her marriage?
Other netizens are discussing, not only about this specific case but about the broader issue of marital relationships, domestic violence and the culture of silence that exists around it.
Asif Saleh, writing at Drishtipat Writers' Collective discusses this culture of silence in a post aptly titled ‘Whose face are we saving?'. Asif writes:
Hers was an extreme case, perhaps, and the ‘shobhbhyo shomaj’ (civilised society), as one newspaper called it, has been stunned by the sheer brutality of the crime. But this very ‘shobhbhyo shomaj’ would regularly pressurise the woman to ‘compromise’ (maniye cholo) in the other not so brutal (to-be-more-brutal) cases.
Rubana Huq at points out the irony that despite South Asia having an impressive number of women leaders, the region continues to have such a poor track record as far as women's rights are concerned.According to her, “women are one of the easiest commodities in the market of abuse”.
Blogger Upopadya however feels that an instance of gender related crime should not be escalated to the extent of blaming all men, thereby placing the genders on a path of conflict [bn]:
নারী-পুরুষকে পরস্পরের বিপরীত অবস্থানে আনা বা মুখোমুখী দাঁড় করানো উচিত হবেনা। আমাদের বুঝতে হবে সমাজটা নারীর একার না, সমাজটা পুরুষের একার না, সমাজটা নারী-পুরুষ সকলের
I do not feel men and women should be pitched against each other [through such broad generalisations of painting all men with the same brush]. We have to understand that the society does not belong to women alone or men alone - it belongs to both men and women.
Today, Rumana waits for a miracle that will bring back her vision and allow her to see her daughter's face once again. She wants her husband to be brought to justice. Hassan is still in police custody. And the discussion on domestic violence continues unabated.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Manal Al-Sharif's Statement to the Media - Translated by Zaki Safar via Archetype in Action

I would first and foremost like to express my profound gratitude to our leaders, in particular the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, for ordering my release from detention, a gesture that does not come as a surprise knowing the King’s benevolence toward his sons and daughters of this honorable country.

Concerning the topic of women’s driving, I will leave it up to our Leader in whose discretion I entirely trust, to weigh the pros and cons and reach a decision that will take into consideration the best interests of the People, while also being pleasing to Allah, and in line with Divine Law.

On this happy occasion, I would also like to affirm that never in my life had I been anything beside a Muslim, Saudi woman who aspires to remain in God’s good graces and to safeguard the reputation of our beloved country. And I will continue to uphold these values and principles until the day I meet my Creator.

Thanks to Allah, His compassion, then King Abdullah’s big heart, has helped me to persevere through my short ordeal.

That said, I was stunned to learn of the accusations hurled at my religious and moral beliefs especially that they originated from people I least expected to go down that route. I held my breath for those speaking in the name of religion and others-May Allah guide them rightly-to do me some justice, and that if I had done wrong to blame me only accordingly and fairly, without defaming my faith, creed, and moral system. For at the end of the day I’m everyone’s sister and daughter. How could they wound their sister and daughter with such charges? From the bottom of my heart I beseech Allah to shower them with his forgiveness for the serious harm they’ve caused me.

Furthermore, I must point out I do not authorize any individual to speak on my behalf or put words in my mouth, whatever their personal agenda.

Finally, I pray for the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness. He is Most Compassionate, Most Merciful.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Addendum to 'The Muslim Woman' essay: excerpts from Muhammad Farooq's 'Disciplining the Feminism: Girls' Madrasa Education in Pakistan


Since the events of 9/11, madaris have gained much attention from the world, mostly because of the alleged link between the Islamic religious education and militancy. Reports and popular writings revolve around the madaris for boys, providing information on various aspects of madaris. However madaris for girls have been ignored in this discourse. The Islamization activities of the female students of Jami Hafsa attached to Lal Mosque, Islamabad, and the delayed response by the state, culminating in army operation in July 2007. Fundamental questions regarding the nature of religious education of the girls, remained to be answered. The present study implies Michel Foucault's concept of total institution analyzed the education and training the girls' madaris are imparting and trying to tame the feminism through ironing out the docile bodies.

Contemporary discourse brought madrasa, the centuries-old institution of Islamic learning, to limelight and more or less define them as political entity with particular reference to Pakistan and try to discover the covert or overt relationship between Islamic madrasa education and militant extremism. The madaris are accused of promoting religious fanaticism and sectarian violence with Pakistan, and of 'breeding terrorists' for international jihad. On the other hand, modern feminist writings by Pakistani scholars concentrate on analyzing the public school texts books to find out gender bias, which reinforces patriarchal ideologies. Both the discourse ignore girls' madaris and their curriculum (formal and informal). Curriculum is a necessary ingredient for carving out peculiar self and personality that is demonstrated by the girls of madaris in Islamabad in March 2007. 

In recent months, many articles and reports have pointed out with alarm the increase in the number of Madaris in Pakistan during the past two and half decades. It is hard to count the exact number of madaris in Pakistan. After independence, gradual increase has been observed in madaris. In 1947, Pakistan has 137 madaris or according to another estimate 245, which increased up to 401 in 1960. In 1971 they were 893 and eventually 3000 in 1988. They are multiplying in number since then. According to the Ministry of Education, the number of madaris in 2001 was 6,996, which rose to 10,430 in 2003, a 67 percent increase in two years, while some 1.5 to 1.7 million students are attending these institutions. International Crisis Group's (ICG) recent report (2007) quotes Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao, that the total number of madaris
is 13,000, of which 12,006 are registered under the Societies Registration Act of 1860. Pakistan's Federal Minister of Religious Affairs recently claimed that the total number of madaris registered under old law or new ordinance is 14,072 (till May 28, 2007). Nearly 1.5 million children are attending the seminaries. The fact that the government data is oblivious to the gender difference, makes it difficult to quantify their socio-educational impact. However, the most important question is not that of quantity: how many girls' madaris are working or how many girls receive religious education; rather it is a qualitative question what is the content and type of the religious education, which our girls receive.

The events of Lal Mosque and Jami Hafsa invoked the interest about the kind of education the girls are receiving from the madaris. This paper presents the study of one of madaris boards' curriculum - Wafaq ul Madaris (Deobandi) - for girls. It argues that focusing on boys' madaris only makes incomplete sketch of madrasa discourse, hence there is a need to pay some attention on Pakistani girls' madaris to complete it. It analyzes the working of disciplinary processes these madaris use as a total institution, crafting docile bodies and inculcating a specific form of womanhood through creating a religious self among the girl students...The final section presents an analysis of girls' curriculum which aims at for disciplining the feminism among the girl students and inculcating them the patriarchal notion of man's superiority...

Educating the womanhood and disciplining the feminism

Pakistan's Deobandi 'Ulama have a particular agenda in mind while designing the girls' curriculum. Men decide what women ought to be studied and what kind of information they need. If compared with boys' curriculum, one can see that girls' curriculum is substantially different. During the last two centuries a religious change took place among the Indian Muslims, the Islamic discourse visibly shifted towards this-worldly rather than other-worldly religion to preserve religious identity in a non-Muslim majority society. The reformist Ulama perceived a heavy responsibility for themselves in order to develop a strong religious self in the Muslims tradition by available means. The Muslim women became one of the most appropriate vehicles for 'this-worldly' shift in religion and for creating a new Muslim self. With the dissolution of Muslim power in India, they were seen as 'the central transmitters of Islamic values' and as 'the symbols of Muslim identity' rather being measured as 'threats to proper conduct of Muslim society'.

After Partition, when girls’ madaris emerged, the movement took a new turn. A host of value-oriented literature became part of the curriculum and instructions in adab are given through formal education.  Instead of self-studying, now, young girls material to instruct them about the Islamic values in the classrooms. Certain books find place in the reading list while others are studied partially in the girls’ madaris with more stress on the Qur’an and Hadith. Consequently, this tailoring of  Dars-iNizami led to enlimit the scope of the knowledge acquired by the graduates. At the end, they have knowledge on those issues  which are women-related like, marriage, divorce and inheritance. The inclusion of selected portions from Hadith books in the curriculum or the teaching of Siar-i-Sahabiyat (biographies of the female companions of the Prophet, Peace be upon him) and the like, are being taught to girls and criteria for this selection were made with the aim of creating an Islamic femininity among the women.

The tradition of teaching Persian language still flourishes in Deobandi madaris though at a much reduced level starting from the year 6 with  Karima and then it continues with the teaching of the other medieval Persian texts. Now the Persian in no longer the language of state or literature, at least in Pakistan, nor it is necessary for training bureaucrats but still it is very dear to madaris because of their sheer love to conservatism. In addition to Karima, Fariddudin Attar’s Pand Nama, Nam-i-Haq and Gulistan-i-S‘adi are major Persian texts, which both the boys and girls have to study during their middle level. However, Bustan and many excerpts of Gulstan (only five chapters are included: 1 to 4 and 8) are excluded from the scheme of study. These books are considered ‘safe’ and moralistic.Those sections of Gulistan’s which contain love stories and project profane love are excluded from the curriculum, for example chapter 5 which deals with the delicacies of love, because studying these kinds of texts would corrupt the students’ minds. Nevertheless, the standards of morality remain medieval and patriarchal. Karima of Sheikh S‘adi tells about, on the one hand, the  virtues of silence and hospitality, humility, contentment, patience and veracity and condemns ignorance, avarice and falsehood. While praising the fidelity as characteristic peculiar to men, S‘adi tries to convince the reader that women are deceitful and tempting and inferior to men:

Infidelity is the nature of women, Do not learn [follow] the wicked conduct of women.

Pand Nama and Karima, both inform us that women are unfaithful so wise men must suspect them – masculine is superior. All these texts not only  reinforce but also indoctrinate them with the patriarchal concept of man’s superiority.

Another well-known book which is a part of girls’ curriculum is  Bihishti Zewar  (Heavenly Ornaments) of Maulana Thanawi. Many scholars, like Barbra Metcalf and Mareike Winkelmann, include this book in the genre of value literature. Nonetheless, the Deobandi madaris are teaching it to girls under the caption of fiqh
(law). Basically, the book was written in a reformist tone for personal grooming of the Muslim women. To further the reformist agenda, the adab literature was the best and the cheapest way to reach the target population, as it did not need proper institution for instruction. For years Bihishti Zewar has remained a favorite with the Muslims of the Subcontinent. Among Muslims, it is a popular practice to present this volume to a new bride. The motivation behind this gesture is that as the young woman is going to take up the new social roles, so she should be well versed in the rites, rituals and traditions of Islam.

Bihishti Zewar, one of the important texts on  girls’ curriculum of Deobandi madaris, indoctrinates the young girls that women are socially subordinate to the men of their families and informs them that they are possessions of men. In the opinion of Maulana Thanawi, “in order to manage women (emphasis added), it is necessary to teach them the science of religion” was the basic cause for writing this book.

The book argues that ingratitude towards a husband is as much a sin as ingratitude towards God. It induces woman that she should obey  her husband’s will  in all the matters, concerning her life and call the white black if he asks so. The book instructs women that they must learn above all to relate to her husband as they relate  to God, with obedience and gratitude. They are responsible for their husband’s disposition and are expected to keep them happy. The book advises the women:

Never think of him [husband] as your equal, never let him do any work for 
you…. If he comes to you and begins to massage your hands or feet, stop 
him; you would not let your father do this service, and you husband’s rank is 
higher than your father’s.

The book induces women that they are entitled to haquq (rights) if they submit to men - woman’s power is in her submission. In the same token Maulana Thanawi, as a reformist, believes that the observance of  customs is responsible for deprivation of women from their rights which they are  entitled to. Women were regarded “as guardian of virtue.”

By attacking customary practice stridently, and by justifying women’s subordinate position in the Islamic doctrinally established social hierarchy, the book represents an attempt to engage women in the construction of an “ideal Muslim” women. Subordination was made palatable by emphasizing women’s own choice in religious observance and representing this subservient location as separate yet complementary to men. The book enlightens women that virtue lies in their observance of doctrinally defined role. It would be a privilege for them.

Cultural stereotypes suggest that women lack ‘aql – reason and the last pages of  Bihishti Zewar affirm it. Women do not discourse logically. They quickly overwhelm with emotion, especially anger. They reach on conclusion without any investigation. “They do not measure any thing – not money, not time, not quantity. They talk too loudly. They do not protect their valuables or their honor.”

For determining a woman‘s social place in the hierarchy of relations, age and gender play very important parameters. As  a child, a girl has to observe particular reverential patterns in her relations to elders. She must be careful in her conversation, dress, address, obedience to elders and must accept advice of an elder without
questioning and must observe hierarchy of eating patterns and seating in a room with elders. In relation to husband the book advises her to treat him as a majazi khuda(impersonate God). Subservient to male authority is her power and privilege, the book instructs woman.  

Siar-i-Sahabiyat (biographies of women companions of the Prophet Peace be upon him) of Maulana Abd us-Salam Nadwi and Qasas un-Nabiyyin including the book 8 of  Bihishti Zewar not only form the major part of value education but also necessary for carving ideal womanhood among the young girls. The adab literature
for girls’ education is taken for granted that the apotheosis of virtue is in fact a good man. A book on adab tells that “Muslim women even today can rise to high position of respect in society if they follow the great lives of the women companions.”

Adab literature praises the great scholarly qualities of the female Companions, and narrates the virtues of pious women and discusses  their moral qualities, their extraordinary character traits, and what made them  good Muslim women. Who is a good Muslim woman? The interpretation is derived from the lens of a preconceived ideal of womanhood, and the result is a role model based on examples  taken from the past.
These texts explain the actions, character traits, and the social life of the female Companions. These markers of differentiation set the female Companions apart from other women, by virtue of which they are considered worth imitating for women today. Among the praiseworthy actions is the acceptance of Islam, bearing of
hardships, keeping ritual obligations  and abstention from music and musical instruments. The female Companions’ character traits include dignity and self respect, sacrifice of personal interests, avoidance of vengeance, endurance in the face of affliction, and honour and chastity.

The value literature draws a sketch for a model social life of a woman where kindness to kin and relatives, protection and defence of the wealth and property of the husband, and love, service, and seeking pleasure of the husband are the major ingredients.

The texts on Arabic literature which are included in the curriculum for developing language skills are also selected by the designers with a specific agenda in mind. Two major texts on Arabic literature are taken in as a supportive material for learning Arabic, the language of classical religious texts. Five maqamat from Maqamat al-Hariri, whereas boys have to learn ten maqamat, and Nufhat al-Arab (prose section) form main body of Arabic literature for girls. Nufhat al Arab, authored by Muhammad ‘Azaz Ali (d. 1955), a student and teacher at Dar ul-‘Ulum Doeband,  is presently taught in Deobandi madaris. This was, basically, in response to Nufat al- Yaman of Sheikh Ahmed Shirwani (d.1840) which was written for the students of
oriental learning of Madrasa ‘Alia Calcutta in the early nineteenth century. Though it was taught in the Daobandi  madrasa in the late nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries, it was considered unsuitable for the students, particular for the girls. According to the present day Deobandi critics, the events and the language used in the book is bawdy, a disrespect to the Islamic honour. Replacing  Nufhat alYaman, with Nufhat al-Arab has been considered as an appropriate act for refining students’ ethics, morality and the Islamic mannerism; such qualifications for a book on Arabic literature, and not the literary traits and style have  become the judging criteria.

The texts on religious sciences are also related with ‘ibadat (prayers) and ‘aqai’d (theology) or those section of books are included which are concerned with the women’s issues. On fiqh issues (related to law) those which are related to general interest or are of public nature seemingly have no utility for girl students; hence they face axe or receive less attention by the teachers during the class. Equipped with religious knowledge particularly of personal nature, the girl graduates have no value in job market. Adept in household affairs, they attune in a docile womanhood. Docile bodies are the better vehicle for programming. In addition to inculcating Islamic womanhood through teaching the carefully selected texts, the girls’ madaris are creating docile bodies through subtle forms of disciplining. Young girls are indoctrinated in the ideals  of a Muslim womanhood, not only through selected lessons given in the classrooms  but also through ‘informal education’ – ‘through rules regarding discipline, body control, and behavioural expectations.' So, the aim of bringing about a sense of  adab in the students was not limited to the formally scheduled didactic activities. Even though lessons in  adab or ‘value education’ share relatively small portion of study scheme, however, adab permeates the everyday actions and overall atmosphere of nearly all of girls’  madaris  of Pakistan.


The girls’ madaris assert that they are helping to train a class of Muslim girls who are committed to its understanding of Islam and who can later, go on to play a key role in the reform of Muslim society on ‘Islamic’  lines and combat what are seen as ‘un-Islamic’ ways of life. The students of the madrasa are seen as ‘practical models’ for women in the rest of the world. Furthermore, claim is being made that  madrasa education of the girls would give, them awareness, inter alia, about the rights, given to them by Islam. Having knowledge about the rights they could effectively defend them in the world of patriarchy – a difficult, if not possible, assumption to realize. This consciousness would earn for them  empowerment and knowledge of religious sciences would exalt their status and they can exercise similar authority, which their male counterparts are enjoying. Apparently it is a foregone conclusion; however, in the real world of patriarchy it is doubtful. In addition to the  religious subjects, the madaris’ course also includes some modern  subjects, but they do not make sense because their aim – developing toleration and liberalizing their minds - of introducing them is not going to fulfill, as the girl students of Jāmi’ Hafsa demonstrated. A major focus of the teaching imparted at the madaris is internalisation of appropriate gender norms, as defined by the ‘ulama. Thus, strict purdah is rigidly enforced. Girls are not allowed to step outside the madrasa, in some cases, not even for a walk or to make
purchases in the local market.

Educated in a specifically designed religious curriculum, the Muslim girls serve an effective instrument in fulfilling the  ‘ulama’s mission of reconstructing the Muslim society in accordance with the Islamic ideals, as they define and further their influence and extend their constituency through reforming women’s morality. Using selective religious texts for the classrooms and giving them value education formally and informally, girls’  madaris  of Pakistan are disciplining feminism, creating personalities which are easy to be moulded, by constant indoctrination of ideals of Islamic womanhood. Consequently, now, the Pakistani civil society has a new brand of educated women who are giving a novel interpretation to feminism that might be detrimental to women’s right movement in Pakistan.

Friday, June 17, 2011

There are reasons to hate the burqa - Sabria Jawhar

Revisiting issues that I previously have written about is not something I do often, but I'm making an exception to return to the West's most beloved human rights cause: Banning the burqa.

I last wrote about pending legislation to ban burqas in Europe more than a year ago when France first proposed laws to make it illegal to wear the burqa in public. Proposed legislation is pending with a final vote set in September.

There is no argument that can persuade me that laws designed to bully women into abandoning their cultural traditions because it makes people uncomfortable are essential in a free society. If a woman chooses to wear the niqab who are we to pass judgment? Lawmakers who argue that banning the burqa is a blow against extremism are naïve and lazy. Band-Aid approaches to fighting extremism are rarely successful. It only serves to pander to the ignorance and unfounded fears of politicians' constituents.

Yet I have grown to hate the burqa. I hate the burqa because it serves no logical purpose in Western society. The intent of the clothing is to draw attention away from the woman, but in the West it only attracts unwanted attention. Recently a Glasgow man was sentenced to prison for attacking a burqa-clad Saudi woman on the street. He ripped away her niqab. The woman was a graduate student. She has since quit her studies and refuses to leave her apartment. To her the attack was an act of rape.

I was reminded of this attack the other day as I was sitting on a bench in Newcastle's Eldon Square. I noticed a Saudi family leaving a rented apartment to walk through the square to a nearby restaurant. It was evening and the pub crowd was out and about. The mother was dressed in a burqa with niqab and she was wearing sunglasses. I watched her skirt along the edge of the square to avoid some loud young men who obviously had plenty to drink. The boys mocked her a bit but left the family alone.

I followed the woman into the restaurant. I tried not to be a scold, but told her that wearing the niqab in public on a late Friday night invited unwanted attention and could be dangerous. I suggested that under some circumstances she should consider leaving the niqab at home. A colleague told me he saw the same woman the next day wearing her burqa. Apparently she is willing to risk her safety to maintain her cultural identity.

The climate for Muslims living in the West could not be worse. The Guardian reported recently that three-quarters of the United Kingdom's non-Muslims have a negative view of Islam. About 63 percent agree with the statement that "Muslims are terrorists." And 94 percent believe that Islam oppresses women, according to the Guardian.

The image of Islam in the West is so badly damaged that Saudi Sheikh Aedh Al-Garni issued a fatwa that Muslim women may show their faces in countries where the niqab is banned or when wearing the niqab may pose a danger to the woman.

There are only a handful of niqabis in Newcastle, but each time I see one I want to grab her by the shoulders and shake some sense into her. Protecting her image is not worth the trauma their Muslim sister is experiencing in Glasgow.

This is particularly true for niqabis who wear the burqa for the most ludicrous reasons. Most Saudi women, like me, leave the burqa (abaya) and niqab in Saudi Arabia. But I'm guessing that more than a few Saudi girls wear the niqab because their husbands insist on it. The husband doesn't care whether strangers see his wife's uncovered face, but he cares a great deal that his Saudi male friends do. His selfishness and warped view of manhood are more important that his wife's safety is inexcusable. Thankfully, most Saudi women ignore this kind of male behavior, but others don't.

For a long time I strongly objected on principle alone to ban the burqa. A burqa ban is equally offensive as the Taliban's mandate for women to wear one. I see no difference. But Muslims no longer have the luxury of choosing whether to wear the burqa in the West. The French government has led the campaign to steal that choice from us. We now must think in practical terms. Co-existing with non-Muslims in the West means what we must reconsider our cultural and religious values or we go home. By the same token Muslims rigidly adhering to wearing cultural dress unnecessarily invites trouble. It doesn't take much to compromise and adapt at some level to a new environment.

There is no reason to pass laws to ban the burqa. The climate of fear is so prevalent today that wearing the burqa will slowly disappear out of necessity of survival. There will be a price, though. Some Muslim women will return home without a Western education and that will make bridging the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims more difficult. This fear also forces Muslims who want to live in the West to conform to Western appearances. It will also cause resentment and make the fight against religious extremism more difficult. People are not inclined to help governments that pass abusive laws. Muslim women will continue to fear harassment from non-Muslim. And non-Muslims will continue to fear Muslims wearing traditional clothing and hijabs because it represents beliefs alien to them.

Outlawing the burqa will create a tremendous divide between non-Muslims and Muslims. But wearing the burqa in the West is also just plain stupid.
Sabria Jawhar is a Saudi columnist and reporter for the Jeddah-based English-language daily newspaper Saudi Gazette. She also writes for the Huffington Post. She currently lives in Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom, where she is a PhD student at the University of Newcastle.

She is considered one of the leading female journalists in Saudi Arabia, where she covered breaking news events at a time when such news coverage was open only to men. Her news beats included the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Interior.

In the summer of 2005, she earned a Fellowship at the prestigious Korean Press Foundation and Yonsei Communication Research Institute in Seoul, South Korea. In 2007 she was a panelist in the United Nations 15th International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East in Tokyo, Japan.
She earned her bachelor’s of arts degree in English language and literature at the King Abdul Aziz University and a master’s degree in applied linguistics at Umm Al-Qura University in Mecca.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Update—Abuse of Young Women at Wal-Mart Supplier in Jordan - Charlie Kernaghan

RE:        Update—Abuse of Young Women at Wal-Mart Supplier in Jordan
Dear Friends,
Thank you to the over 1200 people who have signed the joint letter to Wal-Mart demanding an end to the abuse of young women guest workers at the Classic Fashion Factory in Jordan. Please reach out to your contacts to keep the signatures coming. (Due to the explicit nature of the sexual abuse of young women at Classic, many people in our mailing list did not see our latest email which was caught in their spam.)
The good news is that the two worst alleged sexual abusers at Classic, Mr. Anil Santha and Mr. Priyantha, have not been seen at the factory in days. Hopefully, the next step for them will be very lengthy prison sentences. Classic’s owner, Mr. Sanal Kumar, is being uncharacteristically nice with the workers, telling them that he will take care of all their problems and end the abuse, only if they stop sending testimonies to the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights. The workers do not believe Sanal for a minute, but the tide is definitely turning, and we are certain that there will be many positive improvements at the factory, foremost among them putting an end once and for all of the sexual abuse of young women at Classic. 

On the downside, Sanal is leading a witch hunt to find out who our sources are in the factory. A delegation of the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights and the United Steelworkers Union, joined by worker rights advocates and translators from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, are travelling to Jordan today. We intend to have a very sharp discussion with Classic owner, Sanal Kumar. We are planning for a large meeting with Classic’s workers. We will distribute flyers in Sinhalese and Bengali, along with a hotline number, so workers can immediately report sexual abuse and other serious worker rights violations.

We will also meet with the U.S. Embassy in Amman, with the Jordanian Ministry of Labour, and with the Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi Embassies, who have done next to nothing to help their people.
Wal-Mart, Hanes and the other labels at Classic have been stone silent.

Today we are also releasing a new report on the Rich Pine Sweatshop in Jordan, where Chinese workers are forced to work seven-day 93-hour work weeks, sewing clothing for Liz Claiborne, Kohl’s, Polo Ralph Lauren, Macy’s and others. Reminiscent of slavery, dozens of Chinese workers flee every month, running away from the factory to either work off the books in small domestic garment factories, or use up all the wages they earned to purchase tickets back to China. 

The Jordanian Ministry of Labor will never the effective if it does not build a relationship of trust, respect and honesty with the guest workers, which is now sorely missing.

Watch Latha's and Kamala’s Testimonies on YouTube

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Muslim Woman

Praise be to God, The Most High, The Most Exalted, Lord of All the Worlds, Who Sent the prophet Muhammad (SAAW) as a mercy to the whole of humanity. He, Glorified and Exalted Sent down The Noble Qur’an through him (SAAW) as a Light and a Guidance so that, we, His creations could learn of, respect, love, honor; not only Him (SWT), but also ourselves individually and collectively as one people. He Commanded the prophet Muhammad (SAAW) to clarify what He, The Lord, had Revealed so that we would reflect upon our condition as individuals and a people. The words and actions of the prophet Muhammad (SAAW) have provided clarity as to the knowledge and proper methods by which one should conduct their life. He (SAAW) instructed his companions (RAA) to convey Islam to those of us who were not among them. May the Peace and Blessings be upon him, upon his family, and his righteous companions who expended their property, and indeed their lives, to propagate The Way and Path of Islam. It is due to the efforts of the Companions of the prophet Muhammad(SAAW) and subsequent countless generations of Muslims, that this American author-a descendant of West African slaves and Scotch-Irish pig farmers-gained the capacity to state the sublime Testification of Faith that binds all Muslims to one another: I declare and testify that there is nothing worthy of worship or service except The One True and Living God, Alone, and without partner; and I declare and testify that Muhammad is the servant and messenger of God (SAAW).
Wallahi Al Theem, it is certainly impossible to be a believer and remain too proud to soil one’s hands in the troubling, complex evils, and suffering of this world. We only deceive ourselves into an existential hypocrisy if we hold sacred the Five Pillars of Islam, but remain silent and inactive when situations demand we institute revolutionary change. For any Muslim to deem him, or herself, righteous merely because he or she is Muslim, is the worst kind of self-delusion and lie. For the individual Muslim and the Ummah collectively to cite the West as the primary contagion for the diseases that plague our Community is yet another mere feverish delusion-a disease in itself. The Muslim is the primary cause of the crippling condition in which the Ummah currently exists. It is our abandonment of The Comprehensive Teachings of Islam, our disunion of purpose in relation to our politics, our economics, our society, and culture that has led to the reality in which we no longer lead mankind. One of our greatest failures as a people is the treatment we subject, or tacitly permit, the Muslim to endure. Consider the words of Haifaa A. Jawad, connecting them to our contemporary times:

The history of human civilization testifies that the woman, who gives birth to man as a mother, was humiliated, treated harshly and reduced to the position of being ‘a maid’ rather than a dignified woman…Women were viewed as the embodiment of sin, misfortune, disgrace and shame, and they had no rights or position in society whatsoever. Indeed, society was confused about the very nature of women and even questioned whether God had granted them a soul. Hence, they were deprived of all opportunities to develop their personalities and their individualities, and make full use of their abilities to the benefit of their society…A woman was classed not as a person but as a thing, divisible like property; she was an object of scorn and contempt. These inhuman practices were prevalent at the time in most ancient societies…in the Arabian peninsula…the situation of women prior to Islam was markedly worse. Women in this time of ignorance before Islam (Jahiliyya) were in subjugation either to their kinsmen or their husbands. They were considered a chattel to be possessed, to be bought, to be sold, or to be inherited. Men had absolute domination over them, they were not individuals themselves, they either belonged to their father or to their husband…Women has no independence or power over issues relating to their well-being and they were excluded from any active role in the social and political affairs of their society. It has been stated that ‘at annual gatherings and fairs women were made to dance naked and poets sat around composing poems on various parts of their body and movements’. In other words, they were treated as sex objects with no respect at all for their dignity. 

I am a Muslim, a divorced father of three daughters, and obviously a man. As a man there are things about women that I absolutely love, indeed crave; shapes, sizes, silhouettes, memories of past experiences, imaginations of past encounters with the unknown sister in hijab, the classmate in graduate school, the cashier at Wal-Mart. The sexual instinct is natural. Yet for the believer there is a tension between his natural appetite and his duty to his Lord (SWT). This tension, this mujahada, is one of many that define our being human. There is nothing more beautiful within humanity than a woman. For me personally, the women of the Middle East and, especially those of the Indian subcontinent and its Diaspora, receive my greatest interest and attention. Although admittedly, whether the darkest complexioned woman of Africa, the blonde and blue-eyed, the East Asian; so long as the sister is shapely, voluptuous-in particular on the lower half of her body-she is a flower within the garden of humanity that I struggle to avert in an attempt to lower my gaze. Yesterday I received good news about my future having been accepted as a graduate student to Brooklyn College, City University of New York. Alhamduilillah. Yet as a Muslim and a man, I cannot deny that there is such a void in my life, in my heart, which can only be filled by a woman. Yes, Wallahi Al Theem, there is definitely the powerful sexual craving that needs to be satiated. Yes, when I see a beautiful sister-no matter her religion-of the Indian subcontinent and its Diaspora, there is such an intense attraction and desire. For me, this is natural. It is unavoidable. It is as it should be. However, in order for me to remain faithful to The Command of my Lord (SWT), to The Comprehensive Teachings of Islam, I must struggle to avoid the sister. I must walk in the opposite direction. I must commit myself, sometimes several times a day, to refrain from even the attempt of Zina, let alone the act itself. This is a Test from God (SWT).
However, I will not deny at all, for that which I pray: a gorgeous Pakistani, Bangladeshi, or Indian Muslimah, cinnamon in complexion, size 8-13, with a lovely backside that looks awesome in a pair of pink, lace thongs. I am a man and this is a natural desire for me in the most private sphere. Yet, no couple can, nor should, engage in a constant state of copulation. There most certainly must be more to the individual than her underwear, in spite of the beauty she may possess when wearing them. A true man, a sincere believer, will never satiate his needs only to leave his lover and wife to cook, clean, serve, nurse, and remain a silent fixture in a domicile that is nothing more than a prison. It is here, no matter the frankness with which I speak about the woman I pray God (SWT) Provides and Sends me, that any notion of sexual objectification dies. For I desire a Muslimah who is full recognition of her rights as a human being-rights Endowed by The Creator of All (SWT). Jawad identifies a woman’s rights under Islamic Law as: (1) the right to independent ownership; (2) the right to marry whom she likes and to end an unsuccessful marriage; (3) the right to education; (4) the right to keep her own identity, i.e. not being compelled to take the husband’s family name, et cetera; (5) the right to sexual pleasure, of which she cites a hadith of the prophet Muhammad (SAAW), who said when a husband and wife look at each other lovingly, God Will Look at them with His Merciful Eye.. When they hold hands their sins will fall away from between their fingers. When they engage in coitus they will be surrounded by prayerful angels. For every sensation of their delight there is a counterpart of reward for them in Paradise as huge as a mountain. If the wife conceives, she will have the rewards of a worshipper who is constantly engaged in prayers, fasting, and in the struggle in the Way of God (jihad). When she delivers a child only God Knows the magnitude of the rewards stored for the parents in Paradise. Indeed the prophet Muhammad (SAAW) cautioned the men of his Companions (RAA), Let not any of you fall upon his wife in the manner of a male animal suddenly jumps upon his female partner…When one of you copulates with his wife, let him not rush away from her, having attained his own climax, until she is satisfied…Wash your clothes, brush your teeth, trim your hair, keep always clean and tidy. A nation before you neglected themselves, thereby driving their women into adultery… {it is a vice for a man} to assault his unprepared wife, seeking to satisfy his own lust and leaving her before she could achieve her own fulfillment. Jawad writes:

Contrary to the present situation in which talk about legitimate sex has disappeared from religious thinking and writing and has become a matter of shame and stigma which ought to be suppressed, early Muslim scholars were fascinated by the idea and were quite open about it. They wrote chapters on the subject in which they elaborated on issues such as the anatomy of sex, the religious merits of lawful sexual activities, the intimate theme of coitus, its initial foreplay, and its proper conclusion. They cautioned against an abrupt coitus and crude departure at the end of the act. Instead they advised an initial gentle approach and a slow courteous departure…they emphasized the fact that the husband should be considerate and gentle, never too rough and that he should prolong sufficiently for his wife to attain climax. A wife is encouraged to take the initiative and not be content with the role of being submissive.

This is the Islamic view of sex and sexuality, where a woman’s thoughts, feelings, and pleasure must be in the forefront of the husband’s mind.

The Muslim woman’s (6) right is that of inheritance; (7) the right to election and nomination to political offices and participation in public affairs; and finally (8), the right to respect. Jawad cites the words of the prophet Muhammad (SAAW), who said, the more civil and kind a Muslim is to his woman whether wife, daughter, or sister the more perfect in faith he is. This is Islam and its Comprehensive Teachings. Yet, mankind, in the words of Sayyid Qutb, has a dual ability in the recognition of God’s Sovereignty. Qutb writes:

Man is a creature of dual nature, of dual ability, and of dual dimensions. He is able to follow Divine Guidance and to go astray. He is just as capable of recognizing good, as he is of recognizing evil. He is equally capable of directing himself one way or the other. This dual ability is deeply ingrained in his being. Divine messages and external factors do not create this natural potential but serve to awaken it and help it to go one way or the other.

Our beloved prophet (SAAW) said, all people are equal, as equal as the teeth of a comb. There is no claim of merit of an Arab over a non-Arab or of a white over a black person, or of a male over a female. Only God-fearing people merit a preference with God. In relation to women, Jawad confirms that in the early days of the Ummah women contributed in a wide-range of activities within the public sphere. Aisha bint Abu Bakr, the wife of the prophet (SAAW), was regarded as a renowned scholar and transmitted thousands of hadith that have been essential to Islamic Law and Jurisprudence. Nafisah, a descendant of Ali (RA), was a prominent jurist, theologian, and a teacher of Imam al Shafi’i, who attended her lessons and public lectures. Shuhda was a woman who was a master in the collection and science of hadith, and most importantly, she was a predecessor of both Bukhari and Muslim. Umayyah bint Qays al Ghaffariyyah and Umm al Hasan bint Qadi Abi Jafar al Tanjali were both renowned physicians. Even in the fields of warfare, we have the examples of Nusaiba bint Kab al Mazinia and hind bint Utbah. The prophet Muhammad (SAAW) said of Nusaiba, wherever I looked (on the battlefield) I saw her fighting before me. In relation to employment and positions of authority, we find that during his Caliphate, Umar ibn al Khattab appointed al Shafa bint Abdullah Superintendent of Markets, which is akin to a compliance position in our contemporary times. Both Abu Hanifa and Jarir al Tabari have concluded that women are quite capable of becoming judges within the courtrooms under Islamic Law.

Haifaa Jawad goes on to state:

Muslim women also proved their ability to play a constructive role in other activities of the community. For example, they were involved in the political issues of the time and their opinions in political affairs were highly respected. They often took part in the process of choosing the Caliph. They also enjoyed full freedom to express their ideas and were encouraged to participate in the social life of the community. Public life was like a stage where both men and women used to discuss and debate with the prophet and his companions and even protect their rights if they were breached….during the time of the second Caliph Umar, a woman expressed her disagreement with him publicly in matters relating to the women’s dowry and managed to correct him. The Qur’an encourages women to speak their minds and not be silent; nonetheless we see today some fundamentalists propagating the unfounded slogan that ‘the voice of woman is A’wrah (private parts to be covered up) and therefore arguing that it is in her best interest to keep quiet…how can a woman learn and grow intellectually if she is not allowed to speak and communicate with others? How can she widen her understanding of things around her and speak forcefully and impressively if she is prevented from debating with others publicly?

Have Muslims returned to Jahiliya notions in relation to women? The answer is certainly in the affirmative, the patriarchal-dominated cultures of Muslim peoples no longer hold the rights of women Sacred, as is The Command of The One True and Living God. When Pakistani women are dressed in bikinis during beauty pageants, when brothels in Islamabad and Dhaka are filled with girls who have been sold by their families into lives of prostitution, when Saudi women cannot drive cars or file for divorce, when during International Women’s Day the radical elements of our Muslim brothers shout in Tahir Square for women to go home, when the Western convert is forced into a life of servitude, erroneously being told that it is servitude and sex that God Demands of her, when schools in Afghanistan are destroyed because they were built to educate girls, when girls are trafficked from Bangladesh, India, the Sudan, Nigeria, and all over the globe to please men in the wealthy Gulf nations for payment, when Sudanese girls-babies-have their clitoris removed because ‘women are not supposed to enjoy sexual gratification’: we, as Muslims, must simply understand that we as individuals and as an Ummah are in full possession of Qutb’s dual ability, and that we are rejecting Faith, rejecting the Deen of Islam as it was taught, understood, and propagated by our beloved prophet (SAAW) and his righteous companions (RAA). It is not the West that has caused this, nor can it be blamed for our rejection of The Comprehensive Teachings of Islam. It is only the Muslim who is to blame.

Consider the words of Sabria Jawhar:

Many Saudi women from birth are trained to put their personal aspirations aside to serve their families. Their opinions, wants and needs are often ignored for the greater good of the family. There’s an aspect of servitude, but to be more accurate many Saudi girls I know are placed in a lifetime role of caregiver. They provide the emotional support for their sisters, brothers and parents. The men of the family readily acknowledge that the women are the glue that keeps the familial bond strong. The warmth of the family’s embrace is strongly desired by all Saudi women, but in all too many cases that embraces never loosens. Rather it becomes restrictive and suffocating to the point that unmarried Saudi women are still living at home well into their 30s. Perhaps worse, they have traded one gilded cage for another by marrying men who see her as a source of income and their concubine…one of my friends has a brother who demanded that his family find him a wife. His requirements for a Saudi wife were simple: she must be beautiful and dumb. The brother wanted beauty but the brains had to be left behind because she would pose too much of a challenge for him. The family obliged the brother and found him a wife with fair skin and hair that would make Rapunzel envious. A couple of years and kids later, the brother had enough. Like a 12-year-old who discovers that the graphics of his X-Box are not as cool as the Playstation model, he was ready for a trade-in…These scenarios are all too familiar to Saudi women. Self-expression is stifled not only by insecure male family members who haven’t quite outgrown adolescence but by Saudi women who have yet to discover their voice to express their emotions.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has cited that there was a 13% rise in cases of violence against women in that nation. Rabeea Hadi of the Aurat Foundation, which collects these statistics stated:

The state, honourable judiciary, free media, the women’s rights, and human rights organizations and common citizens must know 1384 daughters of Pakistan were murdered, 928 were raped, 683 committed suicide, and 604 were killed in the name of ‘honour’ in year 2009…with extreme pain and anguish, we express our outrage and resentment over this state of affairs where women and girls are being murdered, kidnapped, and subjected to various forms of violence, including killings in the name of ‘honour’, suicides, acid throwing, and stove-burning with shameless impunity and the state functionaries are doing nothing except lip-service before TV cameras and that too only in some high-profile cases.

There is a stark difference between the Islamic culture and the cultures of the Muslim peoples. Culture, defined as a pattern of human knowledge that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations often held customary to a particular social group which includes collective attitudes, values, goals; all within institutional frameworks of either family, tribe, government, et cetera. For the believer, his human knowledge begins with The Immutable Truth that God is Sovereign, with the prophet Muhammad (SAAW) as His conduit, thereby identifying what is the Desired attitudes, values, and goals for human beings. Over the last three hundred years in Muslim history there has been a MOST HEINOUS, UNNATURAL trend in which men have privileged and given primacy to their rights within what is left of the Islamic institutional frameworks, while simultaneously denying the rights He(SWT) Has Provided and Endowed to women. The governments of historically Muslim homelands have instituted bid’a into law!! Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, Nigeria, the Sudan, among others, serve as prime examples. There can be no doubt that within the Ummah of Muhammad (SAAW), Muslim men have made their respective tribal notions, idols, or partners they ascribe to The One True and Living God, Who is Far Above anything likened unto Him(SWT). Tribalism, the caste system, notions of ‘honor’, the simple belief that men are superior to women: all are direct challenges to The Sovereignty of God, The Lord of All the Worlds.  

As Ira Lapidus writes:

The critical debates have been between traditionalist interpreters of the Qur’an, modernist interpreters of the Qur’an, and more radical feminist critics, who all differ on questions of polygamy, veiling, the economic rights of women, inheritance, and employment. The traditionalists argue that the Quranic texts are normative and specif eternally valid rules, but even they differ in their judgments about the social roles of women.

Let there be no mistake: the traditional, classical, interpretation of The Holy Qur’an and the Sunna of the prophet Muhammad(SAAW) is the Sirat Al-Mustaqueem. The interpretations of all others are bid’a, innovations, which our beloved prophet (SAAW) has assured us leads to the Hellfire. However and again, Lapidus identifies some of the ‘traditionalists’ views that are bid’a, and mere reactions to the ascendancy of the West as the dominant world powers. He continues:

Some believe the Quran requires that women be lodged in the home and have no public role; they should be subordinate to men in order to protect their modesty. Islamist movements generally espouse these values. Radical Islamists in Algeria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, Morocco, Nigeria, and elsewhere have tried to ensure separateness by restricting the freedom of movement in public spaces unless they are fully covered. They condemn the employment of women outside the home, oppose political participation, and denounce contrary values as a sign of Westernization.

Notice that these radical innovators-May God Guide them and protect the women amongst them-are using a cultural basis for their actions and not one based on Islam as practiced by the prophet Muhammad(SAAW) and his righteous companions (RAA). Lapidus continues, writing of the Muslims who intellectually, struggle in The Way of God (SWT):

Other traditionalists, equally committed to the Quran and hadith, accept public roles for women. More nuanced views are expressed in Egypt. While the association of feminism with capitalism, colonialism, and Western influence has made it suspect…a more conservative version of this sort of ‘feminism’ holds that Islam inculcates a high standard of sexual and marital morality, provides for the protection and security of women, and guarantees many legal and property rights. In its historical context, and in the present, Islam has had an uplifting and civilizing effect upon the actual relations between men and women…such feminists call for education and work roles for women, but are not interested in unveiling.

The believer is uninterested in calling for women to remove the hijab, abaya, and jilbab when in public because it is a Command of God (SWT), and their faith is incomplete without it. So, for me personally, yes I long for a beautiful wife, it is just as important, is that she has an educated, intellectual mind. That she is unafraid to challenge me, to demand that I help with housework, change diapers, and if she will allow me, to be her sous-chef in the kitchen. I want a wife who will kick me out of bed at Fajr, even when she is on her menstrual cycle. I want a wife that demands that I fulfill my promise to her and strive each day of my life to be a great husband, an even greater father, and the best Muslim I can be. Men are the maintainers and sustainers of women, meaning that I am to provide for her, should she decide not to work. Yet, the greatest maintainence and sustenance I can provide is her rights Endowed by The One True and Living God (SWT).

Isma’il ibn Bilal