Tag Archives: Muslim women

Muslim Women In South Africa Gain New Rights

The modern world witnesses the presence in societies of people from varying religious and cultural backgrounds which increasingly requires review of basic ideas regarding what legal. Muslim women in South Africa who were married under Sharia law moved closer to securing rights guaranteed to women under the nation’s marital laws. The South African Constitutional Court ruled that Muslim women who were involved in a polygnous marriage can now inherit a share of their dead husband’s estate. Fatima Gabie Hassan was one of two wives. After the death of her husband, the estate’s executor refused her claim to a share in the estate. The Court’s decision allowed women in such marriages to have a fair share in the estate of a spouse, but it did not rule on the other question as to whether or not polygnous marriages or those granted under Sharia law were valid.

Some law experts argue the court is merely interpreting a polygnous marriage as akin to that between gays or lesbians and thus each partner is entitled to a share of the estate. However, it will be interesting if the South African court eventually rules on the issue of the legality of Sharia law marriages.

Sarkozy Confronts World’s Greatest Issue–Burqa!

Iranians are fighting for freedom in the streets of Tehran as they march directly into men wielding batons and chains, some of the protestors are wearing western clothes, some women are in jeans, and some women are wearing the burqa. But, to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the most critical issue confronting his nation is not the recession, it is not loss of jobs, it is not an education system which does not assist all children, NO, to the man with a beautiful wife it is the sight of women wearing a burqa. He told parliament the issue is not one of religious rights, but “the burqa is not welcome on the French Republic’s territory. It is not what the French Republic wants for the dignity of women” since wearing it is reflection that women are being debased and treated like second humans.

The highest estimate is that about 50,000 Muslim women in France wear a burqa which suggests the vast majority do not. A high percent of women who are protesting in Iran wear the burqa without conveying a sense of inferiority or personal debasement. Ironically, it is men wearing western dress who are beating them.

The issue of the burqa is much ado about nothing. Women have the right to dress as they please and if some prefer the burqa why is that a concern of government? If we allow government to decide women can not wear a burqa it opens the door for government to decide every aspect of the personal lives of people.

Ironically, first lady Carla Bruni of France goes around wearing a dress that reveals her ample breasts. I suspect there are people who view such dress as inappropriate for a woman. Frankly, who cares if she is bare breasted or all covered up?

France May Ban Wearing Full Veil

France has long upheld the importance of separation of church and state in many aspects of society such as education. Five years ago, a law was passed which forbid children from wearing the Muslim headscarf or any other “conspicuous” religious symbol while in school. Luc Chatel, a government spokesperson, respond to requests from some MPs who wanted an inquiry into the “degrading” use of the burka and niqab in public, by saying, “If it were determined that wearing the burka is a submissive act, and that it is contrary to republican principles, naturally parliament would have to drawn the necessary conclusions.” There are no official figures as to how many Muslim women wear the full veil in France, but it probably is in the low thousands, at best.

The issue is not how many wear the full burka or why they wear it, but the rights of women to wear what they damn well please. Why is the government of France– or any government — getting into issues of what women wear? Men and women go around with ugly tattoos, but no one seems to care, boys and girls have rings in their noses or ears, but no one seems to care. A Muslim woman has the right to wear what she desires as do women who wear black at funerals. It is bad enough France interferes with the rights of young girls in school attire, but this is ridiculous.

I have taught Muslim women who wear the full veil and the class proceeded as usual.

Canadian Mosque Denounces West And Jews

A Toronto based mosque has been demanding that Canadian business establishments allow Muslim women to follow their religious practices while at the same time it denounces Western ideas and spreads hatred against Jews. The Khalid Bin Al-Walid Mosque serves over 10,000 Muslims in Toronto and supports efforts by some Somalia women to be allowed to follow their religious practices while at work. The mosque website frequently refers to Westerners as “wicked,” “corrupt,” “our clear enemies” and even blames Jews as the cause of changing clothing attire it deems to violate the Muslim religion. The website suggests watching sporting events in which women compete is against Muslim practice since they wear skimpy clothes.

At the center of the women’s case against a UPS plant is the company’s policy on clothing. UPS is concerned that a longer dress might pose safety threats and insists all people working in its plant adhere to the same clothing requirements. On one hand, the mosque defends the right of Muslim women to wear their own style clothes, but on the other hand it argues Muslim women should not work outside the home. According to the website, “It is in clear opposition t the texts of the Shariah that order the women to remain in their houses and to fulfill the type of work that is particular for her.” However, these women indicated they had to work for economic reasons.

Belt An Abusive Husband Says Muslim Cleric

Sunni Islam’s highest religious authority has made clear a Muslim woman has the right to defend herself against an abusive husband. If a husband uses physical violence against his wife, “a wife has the legitimate right to hit her husband in order to defend herself,” said Sheikh Abdel Hamid al-Arash, who heads Al Azhar’s committee for fatwas(religious rulings). The religious leader made clear that “everyone has a right to defend themselves, whether they be man or woman.” Prominent Turkish Muslim preacher and writer, Fethullh Gulen, went a step further and urged women to repay violence with interest. “She should give back two blows for each one received.”

Now that clerics have determined women have a right to fight back, will they grant women in Saudi Arabia the right to drive a car? Surely, if a woman can punch a man in the face, she must be qualified to drive a car!

Muslim Women Led Wedding Creates Uproar

A Muslim marriage in northern India has sparked an uproar because the ceremony was officiated by women and has resulted in an angry debate with one of the most influential Islamic seminaries in south Asia calling it an affront to religion. Ordinarily, a Muslim wedding is officiated by a man who is ordinarily a local leader and the signing of the wedding contract is witnessed by four Muslim m ales, two each for the bride and groom. But, the wedding last week of Naish Hasan, the 28 year-old bride and woman activist, and Imran Ali, was probably the first in south Asia in which women played prominent roles in all aspects of the ceremony.

Muslim women activists hailed the marriage as a symbolic first step forward for women of their faith, but it has resulted in a storm of criticism from conservative Islamic institutions, especially from the Dar-ul-Uloom seminary in nothern India. Ahmad Khizar Shah Masud, speaking for the seminary, termed the wedding a “cruel joke on (Islamic) laws.” The Lucknow Idgah Committee said the marriage is invalid under Islamic law. However, Ms. Hadan, brushed off criticism by insisting “I do not care. Islam says there cannot be anyone b etween Allah and his disciple. How come these clergymen are interfering in our matter?”

The bride represents a small group of liberal Muslims who are raising questions about their religion and challenging the authority of conservative leaders. In 2005, a group of Muslim women established the All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board to help them fight for reform. They are fighting to recast their religion as one which can fit into modern life.

Muslim Woman Too Orthodox For France

Faiza Silmi applied for French citizenship worrying that her fluency in French might not be sufficient to impress anyone examining her petition. Little did she believe her request for citizenship would not be denied on her ability to speak French or know about French history, but upon the manner in which she dressed. “I would never have imagined that they would turn me down because of what I choose to wear: said Ms. Silmi gazing out from the narrow slit in her niqab, an islamic facial veil that is part of an outfit that covers her entire body. Last m month, France’s highest administrative court upheld a decision to deny Ms. Silmi citizenship on the ground that her “radical” practice of Islam was incompatible with French values. This was the first time someone has been denied citizenship on the basis of her ability to become assimilated on the basis of religious belief.

The decision comes four years after a law banning religious garb n public schools and weeks after a court in Lille annulled a marriage on the request of a Muslim husband whose wife lied about her virginity. Ironically, many Muslims agree with the decision to deny citizenship to Ms. Silmi. Fadela Amara, the French Minister for Urban affairs called Simli’s niqab a “prison” and a “straitjacket.” She said the niqab “is not a religious insignia, but the insignia of a totalitarian political project that promotes inequality between the sexes and is totally lacking in democracy.”

Ms. Simli insists she wears the niqab as being her “own choice.” Her husband is a French national as her children. Ms. Simli has a French family and it certainly entitles her to share their nationality. Certainly, her children will grow up as part of French culture and it is still unclear if they will opt for secularism or for the Muslim values of their mother.

Egypt Rethinks Muslim Female Rights

At last week’s round table discussion conducted by Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights(NCHR) keynote speaker Zeinab Radwan urged putting “an end to incorrect though which does not agree with Islam, but rather is used as justification for preventing Islamic exegesis from stepping in line wwith successive development and changes in today’s world.” She wants the testimony of just one woman to be acknowledged in business tranactions versus current laws which require the views of two women who are witnessing such action. Her view was challenged by fundamentalists who claim the Quran says the testimonies of two women equal that of one male. “The text of the Qurtan is related to a specific situation in which women were illiterate at the time and could have forgotten the detials of the incident since what they were giving was verbal testimony, not written.”

Ahmed El-Sayeh, a professor of Islamic philosophy at al-Azhar University, strongly attacked what he termed “the beliefs of some memers of the centre which were inherited from extremist sects in pre-islamic eras, underestimating the position of women.” He insists that Islam provides for full equality between men and women. A majority of members of the Islamic Research Council support such an interpretation.

The winds of change are sweeping through nations such as Egypt which, hopefully, will restore to Muslim women the rights they once enjoyed and which are denied by extremists who fail to accept the teaching of the Quran.

Yes Or No Headscarf– A Defense From America

Two American Muslim seniors at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. presented an eloquent defense of why Muslim women should wear a headscarf. Hafsa Kanjwai and Khadijeh Zarafshar, defend wearing of the headscarf on several grounds. They charge the West has distorted reasons why Muslim women wear one and connect the Hijab to some sort of male oppression of women. “In modern times, the veil has become an emotionally charged symbol of the struggle between tradition and modernity, betwen Islam and the West. It has arguably served as a partial political justification for certain policies spearheaded by the United States to ‘liberate Muslim women’ in Afghanistan or Iraq. We, as Ameican Muslim women, simply by living our dual identity, demand a re-evaluation of this externally imposed dichotomy. As Americans, it is not our place to speak on behalf of women of other nations.”

They argue there is not such thing as “Muslim women” since that expression attempts to create an image of a monolithic entity. They argue reasons for wearing the Hijab arise from varied reasons. “Many assume that a covered woman is a repressed woman, forced by some male authority figure to dress a certain way. In reality it is this profoundly prejudiced projection of ignorance onto our beliefs that is constraining, insulting, and, in a twisted, hypocritical gesture of concern, serves only to undermine our autonomy and intelligence.” They point out wearing a Hijab is not a pillar of the Muslim religion but is connected to the value of modesty.

The two seniors believe Muslim women who wear the headscarf do so from a “sincere conviction– women believe it is obligatory to the teachings of Islam and reference the Quranic verse in which women are instructed ‘not to display their charms(in public) beyond what may be apparent thereof, let them draw their head-coverings over their bosoms.” The headcovering is an attempt to set oneself apart from societal demands for blatant public sexuality and demands for being physically attractive.

Those who refuse to wear one believe it is merely a cultural tradition having no connection to religion and it does not reflect “their personallevel of spirituality or religious practice. There is a somewhat prevalent perception that women who wear the headscrarf must abide by a certain standard of behavior, this view often times deters women from covering their hair.” They note some have concluded wearing a Hijab attracts more attention which thus goes against the original reason for wearing one.

“At the end of the day, why a woman wears the headscarf is her personal decision. It is important that those looking at the headscarf from outside the tradition keep an open mind– open enough to let the true reason and motivations of Muslim women in. To do anything less is a profound injustice.”

We believe these two Muslim women have presented a powerful case both for wearing or not wearing a headscarf. However, we suggest they have ignored why there is such a passionate debate in Turkey over the issue. For example, thirty years ago, few Egyptian females in college wore a hijab, but today it is rampant on college campuses. Religious figures exerted pressure to force the change. Turkish women, who do not wear a hijab fear the same thing will occur in their universities if the ban against wearing them is ended. Ms. Kanjwai and Ms. Zarafshar present a powerful case for being objective, but they ignore, in the reality of many Muslim nations, women lack the right NOT to wear a headscarf. In presenting the issues as one of West vs the Muslim world, they ignore it is also secular minded Muslims who are being persecuted for attempting to refuse wearing a head covering that is not consistent with their Muslim beliefs.

Most Swedes Oppose Muslim Headscarves

Recent polls indicate nearly half of Swedes oppose Muslim women wearing headscarves. In 2005, 43% of Swedes rejected the idea of Muslim women being allowed to wear headscarves in public places like schools or government buildings, today, that figure is 49.8% of respondents. The questionnaire used the word “sloja” which literally means “veil” but apparently most Swedes use the word in referring to any form of head covering. Ironically, only 5% indicated they had negative views toward foreigners although about one-third believed they came to take advantage of Sweden’s social welfare opportunities.There apparently is something about Muslim women wearing head coverings which upsets many people in western nations. Why the passion about this relatively unimportant aspect of attire?