• Nothing has changed; structural gender-imbalances continue to be the norm in Muslim societies

    Posted by Administrator on 07/03/2013

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    ""Except for the Pathan, the women have no enemy. He is clever but is ardent in suppressing women," wrote Nagiria, a Pathan woman in the 'Pashtun Journal in 1919. Another women, this time from Bengal addressed the Bengal Women's Education Conference in 1926 with the words, "The opponents of female education say that women will become wanton and unruly. Fie! They call themselves Muslims and yet go against the basic tenets of Islam, which accords women an equal right to education." Modernist Islam, 1840 - 1949; A Sourcebook edited by Charles Kurzman

    We pose the following consideration.

    Almost a hundred years have elapsed since those early declaratory statements and little seems to have changed. Fundamental civil liberties of Muslim women otherwise taken for granted by non-Muslim women in the West have been undermined in many communities the length and breadth of the Muslim World and even in communities that have laid down roots in the UK. The Mullahs and their ardent followers have more or less endorsed the status-qua, breaking from the Prophet's reformist social ethic that in the early days of Islam's founding occurred within the context of sixth century Arabia. Not only did he initiate a religious revolution and bring massive structural changes to his own society but he fought hard to liberate women from the oppressive shackles of the then tribal customs. Women were given the right to choose their own marriage partners; entitlements to work and retain the proceeds of their own income; an absolute right to education and so on.

    There were of course other structural inequalities but these should be understood within the context of the time and have nothing to do with the teachings of the Prophet, perhaps akin to the reality of slavery that lived on beyond the days of his demise. In 2013 the Taliban for example not only continue to throw acid on the faces of girls ironically attending even female-only schools but actively engage in hostilities against any person or institution, non-governmental or otherwise, committed to the educational uplifting of females (examples 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8). They are of course an extreme case but there are countless other examples of outrages committed against Muslim women in many parts of the Muslim world even by religious outfits. Muslim men have become impervious to these realities for a host of reasons; there are of course conservative Mullahs in the UK that actively undermine the rights of women that are guaranteed by the State, preaching misogynistic interpretations of Islam that obsess about how women dress and their curtailment within the four walls of their homes. These individuals work for Mosques and community centres that receive funding from the public purse and outwardly profess values that endorse human rights, gender equalities and universal freedoms.

    Would this characterisation be an accurate description or false propaganda against Muslim communities?

    Please discuss the issues within the limits of proper comportment; extending respect and courtesy to those whose views you may not necessarily agree with. Offensive and hate-filled comments (normally reflective of intellectually-challenged people) will be deleted.

  • Replies

    • Reiss On 14/11/2013

      And per my previous comment, the fact that were allowed to build mosques in Britain but were not allowed to build churches or temples in Saudi Arabia is because Britain stopped listening to its Christian clerics. Saudi Arabia on the other hands has given its own firebrand clerics billions of dollars to run religious ministries and to even promote its particularly retrogressive interpretation of Islam around the world. And we've seen wherever Wahhabism has gone its destroyed the peace and harmony that once existed within diverse communities. Women within these communities are merely one group of oppressed people.

    • Reiss On 14/11/2013

      Structural gender imbalances do not originate from the primary texts of Islam. Comparatively speaking, the prophetic reforms bought about real emancipation for women throughout his age. For sure, we cant adjudge those reforms through modern paradigms but they were nonetheless revolutionary for his age. However we look at it Muslim societies are patriarchal but this owes its origin to the continuities in values that have been passed down throughout the ages. Ancient and medieval Muslim societies were no different from their contemporaries all around the world when it came to gender imbalances. For instance, Christendom of the medieval age was probably a worse place to live for a woman than many parts of the Muslim world. Life for example in Muslim Andalusia was much better than in any of its Christian counterparts. Its not that Christianity has reformed but rather European societies stopped taking direction from priests. We have something similar going on in the Muslim world where as 'people' we've recognised that Mullahs offer nothing but the inequalities of previous ages whilst they enjoy the ultimate right to define people's interactions simply because they have propped themselves up as the custodians of God's law here on earth. The sooner we wake up to this reality in our communities here in the UK the better. We can not take religious direction from people whose mindsets are essentially medieval; there are Muslims clerics right in our midst who continue to teach that a woman's testimony is half that of a man's; that where there is sexual deviance its because of women and how they choose to dress. Look at Egypt, can someone explain to me how young boys there are justified in groping women who are covered in black head to toe in loose garments? How did Pakistan become number one for porn that involves bestiality? Both of course its all one big conspiracy, and anyone who dares raise these concerns is either an enemy of Islam or an Indian agent!!!

    • Jameelah On 07/03/2013

      Unfortunately, it would be naive at best if anyone tried to disagree with this description of gender-based dynamics that exist within Muslim societies. They do however vary in degrees, Muslim women have greater freedoms in Turkey and Malaysia for example and far fewer freedoms in say Saudi Arabia. In Taliban and other Wahhabi-infested areas women are not treated humanely so forget about civic rights. It is obvious that Muslim women have less freedoms and rights than their counterparts in the West; even when these supposed rights have been theoretically enshrined in the laws of their countries. But the Muslim world is all about lip-service to these rights. Comparatively speaking their liberties have been suppressed and Muslim women are victims to gender-based violence on a MASSIVE SCALE. As an Arab Muslim woman I know that this has nothing to do with the teachings of the Prophet PBUH but has more to do with the patriarchal societies in which these women live. Just read the biographical accounts of how the Prophet treated his wives, children and servants. I became a practising Muslim because of his teachings PBUH. Hindu women in many parts of India suffer a similar fate to Muslim women in Pakistan as do women in many other parts of the developing world. In some parts of the Far-East, women are subjected to sexual exploitation that is truly harrowing. In the Arab world, we have our own problems. What is sad for Muslim women is that these gender-dynamics are being reproduced here in the UK in a country that has fought ever so hard for the emancipation of women. I know of some ignorant Pakistani 'fathers' who outwardly practise Islam but then stop their daughters from pursuing further education because they believe that they will succumb to moral depravity!!! Do they ever stop their sons from pursuing education on the basis of this bogus sentiment? Didn't the Prophet say, "fa'tadiloo bayna awalidikum" "be equitable in your dealings with your children!?" If the social environment of higher education is morally corrupting then both sons and daughters should be refrained from pursuing their studies!!!! In the subcontinent, conceptions of izzat follow a different paradigm based on a Hindu trajectory. For people here izzat or family honour rests squarely on the sexual-purity of women which applies for everyone born into these cultures, Hindu, Muslim or otherwise. Yet in the Qur'an we read that "'Izzah' (or honour) belongs to Allah entirely, He gives it to Whomsoever He Wills and He takes it from Whomsoever He wills". So I ask where did the Pakistani or Indian notion of izzat come from, Islam or Hinduism? In Hinduism when a husband dies, his widow was required to immolate herself on his burning bier. You can see how the Indian concept of izzat has evolved over time, they might not be burning their women today but they still treat them as inferiors! The prophet forbade the murdering of daughters, and he would weep when he was told that so and so had murdered his baby daughter. In Islam honour can never be reduced to a linkage between the status of a family and the sexual purity of its womenfolk; izzat here is tribal concept that many Muslims have inherited from their pagan ancestors well before becoming Muslims. But yet Muslim societies demand of their womenfolk moral rectitude whilst being oblivious to the moral and sexual failings of their menfolk. Just try walking down any Arab street whether in Cairo or Amman, even in Hijab and you'll experience a perversity of the worst kind, that's if they don't try to grope you as regularly happens in Cairo. Ask any woman about their experiences in these countries. I hear it isn't any different in Pakistani towns and cities. Even here in Britain, you don't see many white people whistling at girls as they go about their business yet in Muslim communities, its the youths that behave so despicably... so from whom did they learn this behaviour??? Double standards if you ask me! Read it for yourself.

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