Thursday 2 April 2009

Plight of woman in Muslim countries - Is Islam responsible?

I am angry at the atrocious conduct of the Afghan president Hamid Karzai and his government that led me to write my last post about violation of fundamental human rights for woman in Afghanistan - legalising some a ancient traditions and practices and making already suffering woman legally subservient to male dominance. I ended my last post on a note that what happens in many predominantly Muslim countries has got nothing do with Islam but is a continuation of ancient barbaric pre-Islamic traditions and practices that were carried on after Islam came to these regions later. These were later adopted by local uneducated religious hierarchy to promote their own interests.Unlike common media promoted western perceptions Islamic laws make no demand that women should confine themselves to just household duties and hide behind walls and veils. “In a truly Islamic society women have the following rights:
  • The right and duty to obtain education;
  • The right to have their own independent property;
  • The right to work to earn money if they need it or want it;
  • Equality of reward for equal deeds;
  • The right to participate fully in public life and have their voices heard by those in power;
  • The right to provisions from the husband for all her needs and more;
  • The right to negotiate marriage terms of her choice;
  • The right to obtain divorce from her husband, even on the grounds that she simply can't stand him;
  • The right to keep all her own money (she is not responsible to maintain any relations);
  • The right to get sexual satisfaction from her husband.
  • and more... “ Source
In fact the early Muslim women were out and about in all walks of life. I have always used the example of Khadija-tul-Kubra, the first wife of the Prophet and mother of all his surviving children, was a known and respected businesswoman who recruited him as an employee, and proposed marriage to him through a third party. In Islamic times women traded in the marketplace, took part in battles not just carrying water and nursing the wounded, but some even fought and killed the enemies to protect themselves and the Prophet.

Although the conduct of president Karzai of Afghanistan forced me to write on this but in my own homeland Pakistan, that gave the world the first democratically elected woman Prime Minister in an Islamic countr
y, woman still face all sorts of problems including obstacles in employment, low wages, sexual harassment, draconian laws (wrapped under the sacred packages of Sharia), glass ceiling for those who wish to take part in mainstream politics, social differences, unpaid domestic labour, honour killings, etc. None of these problems is sanctioned in Islam - but since these happen in a muslim society these are considered as acceptable by Islam.

In the Indian su
bcontinent and Afghanistan women perform some of the heaviest and most labour intensive work, much of their effort remains invisible as it occurs either within the household or in the unregulated informal sector. A large number of women are subjected to different forms of domestic violence in their lives including physical violence, sexual, psychological and emotional abuse. Honour killings, female infanticide, sexual violence includes marital rape, custodial rape, gang rape, incest, and harassment through language, gesture and trafficking and forced prostitution. None of these are in anyway condoned by Islam, and are as illegal as these would be in any modern civilised society.

In feudal systems of these countries women are also sometimes used for revenge against enemies – one well know example is that of Mukhtaran Mai, a rural woman of poor economic background, who was gang-raped in 2002 for a supposed transgression by her family member. She refused to give in to the ‘shame' of her position and fought an embarrassing, for the government, court case against her rapists.

These discriminative practices have been a part of culture in these countries from prehistoric times b
ut have unfortunately carried on till today. Respective governments, especially under military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq, tried to formalise these as laws of the land in Pakistan under the umbrella of Sharia laws. Religious bigots introduced Hadood law and Zina ordinance in Pakistan under which cases of rape have often been converted into sexual relations outside marriage which are considered offences under the ordinance. In a society where there is an extreme reluctance to report rape because of social stigmas, women are further threatened by the laws themselves.

Despite the struggle by civil society in Pakistan these ancient and barbaric practices continue in vast areas of the country and are still unchallenged. Its pains me all the more when these heinous acts are promoted to be Islamic equally by those who commit these and those who watch and do nothing.

No comments:

Post a Comment