Women and Islam
Muhammad was not a complete misogynist. To him woman was not "an organ of the Devil" (St. Bernard) but a fortress against Satan in that a good wife lessens the danger of extra-marital fornication. "The best treasure a man can hoard is a virtuous wife who pleases him when he looks to her, and who guards herself when he is absent". "The best of the commodities of the world is a virtuous wife".
However the man is head of his family and after consulting with his family has final say in decisions concerning it. To the man falls responsibility of defending and extending the borders of Islam.1
"Men are superior to women on account of the qualities with which God hath gifted the one above the other, and on account of the outlay they make from their substance for them..." (4:34) (translator J.M. Rodwell)
"Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more strength than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient". (4:34) (translator Abdullah Yusuf Ali)
"Men have authority because Allah has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them..." (4:34) (translator M.M. Khatib)
I cannot comment on which translation is closest to the original Arabic however AYA is often an apologist for some of the nastier things in the Qur'an and so "superior" is quite likely the nearer translation.
"The Role of Muslim Women in Society" states: "the male's brain is anatomically distinguished from the female's, showing signs of superior intelligence and mental growth."
"Men have a degree of advantage over women." (2:28) This concerns the qualities of leadership, surveillance and maintenance which are bestowed on men.2 To this end the wife must neither receive male visitors nor accept gifts from them without the husband's approval. The husband has the legal right to restrict his wife's freedom of movement such as leaving the house without his permission. Thus the husband can forbid her family visiting her or his wife from visiting her family.3
Women remain basically minors all their lives, and know nothing positive about the outside world and so few are ready to challenge the system. While their brothers are indulged and spoilt the daughter is helping with household chores from a very early age. She is even expected to run and fetch for younger brothers who are aware of (4:34) (namely that Allah considers girls to be subordinate to boys) and they punish her if she is too slow.
Islamic law recognizes the husband's right to discipline his wife for disobedience.
A joke from Baghdad? Abdul was taking his new bride home on the back of a camel. It shied and Abdul said: "That's One!" It shied again and he said: "That's Two! "On the third time that it shied he slaughtered it. His bride said that was a bit rough on the camel. Abdul's reply to his bride was: "That's One!"
As with many mediterranean Christian communities, men's honour and family pride dictate that the women in the family behave themselves. The brother chaperons his sister whenever she has to go out; this gives him a feeling of possessiveness and authority over her. The role of the father, brother or husband of a girl is to chastise or even murder her for bringing shame on them.
Both men and women are bound by Ghadd al-Basar (lowering the eyes). "A first look is pardonable but the second is prohibited". (Muhammad) The reason is, of course, that glances may become amorous and may eventually lead to fornication or adultery. Naturally if the woman has to be examined by a doctor or a judge or so on eye-contact may be necessary. The Prophet said: "Do not call on women in the absence of their husbands because Satan may be circulating in you like blood. The younger or elder brother is Death." (Tirmidhi)
The Prophet said: "The one who touches the hand of a woman without having a lawful relationship with her, will have an ember placed on his palm on the Day of Judgment. " (Takmalah). (This hadith does not apply to aged women.) Shaking hands with women is therefore an un-Islamic practice.
The Prophet told someone who had been peeping into his room:
"If I had known that you were peeping, I would have poked some thing into your eye..." (Bukhari)
..... and when you ask women for an article, ask for it from behind a curtain." (33:53)
"And abide still in your houses and do not exhibit your beauty and decorations outside as in the period before Islam." (33:33)
Segregation from men means having "to endure men without really knowing them or being understood by them."
Female sexuality is feared and is seen as a source of provocation. 'Fitna' means beauty with disorder and this is how men view women from menarche to menopause. Apparently the Prophet did not consider Khadijah to be fitna as he did not introduce the veil until after he had procured young wives such as A'isha and Zaynab. A wife will never be allowed in public until she is no longer fitna. He does the shopping and men only crowd the coffee palaces. A woman who leaves her home in western clothes threatens the men with fitna and they in turn will harass and pursue her. The concept of showing respect to women is alien to Islamic culture. It goes without saying that a Muslim woman should not wear make-up or perfume when out in public.
Some jurists are of the opinion that it is not haram (unlawful) to pluck hairs from a woman's face but Imam al-Nawawi does not agree. Muslim women are not to use public baths as this may lead to evil. They are not to undress except in their own homes. Men can use a public bath or swimming pool provided that they are never naked. If a rich man has his own swimming pool only one wife at a time can accompany him and sons or stepsons past puberty are not allowed to see her.
Dancing is un-Islamic and the Shariah does not allow Muslims to dance. Mixed gymnasia where women wear leotards or similarly abbreviated garments are not tolerated by Islamic law.
The Prophet preferred women to pray at home but, provided that they are clean (non-menstrual) they can attend a mosque and pray standing behind the men.
The Qur'an says: "If any of your women are guilty of lewdness (lesbianism) ... confine them... until death do claim them." (4:15) But for males: "If two men among you commit indecency (sodomy) punish them both. If they repent and mend their ways, let them be. Allah is Forgiving and Merciful." (4:16)
Sodomy is common among unmarried males but usually ceases on marriage. To be the active partner brings little disgrace but the passive partner is despised, although not to the same extent as in the West.
Celibacy and monasticism are concepts foreign to Islam: "celibacy is not necessarily a virtue, and may be a vice."(n249 AYA) Everyone who can marry should do so. They should continue the human race and bring up their children to fear Allah. An exception would be a man who has no sexual drive at all, no love for children or who would slacken in his religious responsibilities if he married.
A quotation from "The Rights of Allah and Human Rights", Pakistan, 1981: "It is one of the most important duties of the parents to get their children married when they have reached the age of puberty otherwise the parents shall be held responsible partly on the Day of Judgment for any possible commissions."
A man should have a critical look at the face and hands of his intended spouse to acquaint himself with her beauty and personality; he should not gaze passionately. If a man wants to know more he may choose a woman to visit his intended and report to him in greater detail. Similarly a woman has the right to look at her husband-to-be. No unchaperoned meetings are allowed but the family and the girl should ascertain there is common understanding between the pair. It is not surprising that nearly all Muslim marriages are like "buying a cat in a bag" as far as sexual compatibility is concerned.
The Qur'an states: "Do not prevent them from marrying their husbands if they mutually agree." (2:232) but Imam Malik says that this is subject to ijbar, the right of the girl's father or guardian to intervene. An arranged marriage is not possible without the consent of the girl. Yet in the villages there may be "no room for discussion." The girl must agree to accept whomever is offered to her, whether he is deformed, deaf, blind or imbecile."4
Restrictions on a number of marriage bonds apply. Some which may not be normal in your country are: a woman cannot marry her foster father (the girl and his son or daughter may have had the same wet-nurse), foster brother (i.e. no blood relation), foster mother's brother, step-son, her daughter's husband (whether she is alive or not). She and her sister cannot be married to the same man at the same time nor can she and her aunt be married to the same man.
The husband has to pay the wife a dowry, although if he is poor it may be very nominal. This is the price of the marital rights he has on her, and becomes payable after the first intercourse. "Marry these maids with the permission of their masters and pay them their dowries." (4:25) The husband must also bear the living expenses of the wife.
The young bride usually goes to live at her husband's family home. This can create problems with her mother-in-law. The mother often clings to her son and expects him to take her side in any tiffs between the women.
The man must not deprive a wife of sex: the maximum time allowed by the Islamic Law for such punishment is four months.5
A wife must be obedient to her husband but only if the rights of Allah come first, for example he could not force her to dance, and so on. "A woman's submission to her husband's authority is a part and parcel of her religious duties... which will help her get to Paradise. "6 Women may not refuse to have sex with their husbands. The Prophet said:
"When a man calls to his wife to satisfy his desire, she must go to him even if she is occupied at the oven." (Tirmidhi)
The law can force a woman to return to her husband, and send her back under police escort.
A woman must not spend her husband's money without his consent. The exception is if he is rich and stingy and the money is for basic needs.
The first step in maintaining obedience is the warning. If this fails to correct the wife, the second step is for the husband to refuse to share his bed with her, that is to suspend conjugal relations. If this is insufficient the third step is to administer a light beating. "The purpose of this beating is not to inflict pain but to bring the wife back to her senses and re-establish authority."7 But "do not beat your wife on the face or in such a way as to leave a mark on her body." (Muhammad) The Prophet goes on to say: "Your treatment of your wives should be kind as well as righteous."
In the case of an intractable wife whom the husband cannot reform, the best solution is to take another wife. The same is true if his wife is ill, barren, aged, of unsound mind or if the one wife does not satisfy the man's natural desires. In such cases polygamy can provide an answer, but "a man who marries more than one woman and then does not deal justly with them, will be resurrected with half his faculties paralyzed." (Muhammad)
Polygamy has been permitted by the Qur'an, up to a maximum of four wives provided that equity can be maintained for all wives. Thus the financial status of the husband is an important factor in deciding whether he should have more than one wife. It is not necessary to obtain the consent of the first wife before marrying a second, and so on. But he must have proper relations with all wives: "Do not lean exclusively to one of them, leaving the rest of them suspended." (4:129).
When a new wife is married she gets preferential treatment for up to a week if she has been a virgin or three days if she has been previously married, but thereafter she must share her husband's time impartially. In practice, however, time may not be shared fairly. An Egyptian polygamist remarked: "It's only natural. A man has to stay close to a new wife, at least for the first two years.
Just as Allah has created man with a natural desire for more than one woman, so the co-wife should resist the natural feelings of jealousy. Qur'ah, the drawing of lots may be the most dispassionate method of sharing time equitably with wives. Where each wife gets a day in turn, sunset to sunset is taken as the period and during the day a husband can recuperate with the wife he slept with the previous night.
It is preferable that each wife has separate living quarters for the husband to visit. The co-wives should not be in the same house unless they agree to communal living or it is divided into apartments. However they can even share the same bed if they agree but it is haram (unlawful) for a co-wife to witness him going into another wife. Another possibility is for the husband to have separate living quarters while his wives, who may live in one house, visit him on their respective turns. If he wishes to travel and is only able to take one wife along she should be chosen by Qur'ah, that is by drawing lots.
Polyandry, a woman having more than one husband, is an abomination to Islam. It is not feasible in a patriarchal society where one man is the head of the family. Nor would each husband know his own children for the purpose of inheritance. (Modern DNA gene mapping would overcome this objection.) Another reason against polyandry is given by Khurshid Ahmad. "If we examine the origin of venereal diseases, we find that they originate from a woman being sexually visited by more than one man."8 He goes on with almost a page of further explanation but I am sure that the learned gentleman thinks that the fungi, bacteria or viruses involved are created in the woman ex nihilo by Allah. Of course, if all partners remain faithful there is no reason why a polyandrous (more than one husband) marriage would be any more prone to communicable diseases than a polygynous (more than one wife) one.
Due to western influence, marriage laws are not always in accord with the Qur'an or the Hadith. For example in Pakistan written permission is (was?) needed from the Arbitration Council before marrying a second wife. Also the consent of the first wife is necessary except in the cases of insanity, physical infirmity or sterility. In Tunisia or Syria no polygamy at all is allowed. This will undoubtedly change if fundamentalists take power.
Although Muhammad had nine wives at one time many of these marriages were politically motivated. To join tribes together, the Prophet made a "great sacrifice. "9
Islam prefers to see marriage as a life-time commitment but if this is impossible then divorce may be necessary. In most cases the husband divorces the wife and loses his dowry.
The least approved form of divorce is Talaq al-bida where the husband says to the wife: "Talaq. Talaq. Talaq". Because this is irrevocable, Caliph Umar used to whip the husband who divorced his wife in one pronouncement. Also irrevocable is Talaq al-Bain where the husband
pronounces "Talaq" on three separate occasions. This is a less hasty form of divorce and so is more preferred.
With Talaq ar-Raji the husband pronounces "Talaq" only once and abstains from sex with her for three months. If in this time he has intercourse with her, even if she is unwilling, then the talaq is revoked. The exact iddah (waiting period) is a question of debate among jurists. In all cases, talaq must not be pronounced while the woman is having her period or still bleeding after childbirth as her inaccessability may be off-putting to the husband. A pregnant woman may be divorced according to most jurists.
After the triple divorce it is haram (unlawful) and punishable for the former partners to have intercourse. Moreover if they wish to remarry it is necessary for the woman to first marry and divorce someone else. This second marriage must be consummated under Islamic law so that the former husband can see if he feels any jealousy, that is whether there is any real feeling left. This practice, called halala, was considered as adultery by Caliph Umar.
The wife can divorce her husband by the remedy of Faskh if approved by the Qadi, Court. The grounds vary among the different Schools of Law but include apostasy, cruelty, lack of maintenance, going missing, insanity, dangerous contagion, even incompatibility.
One may ask why it is so easy for the man to obtain a divorce but so difficult for a woman. "If women were given the power of unilateral divorce, it is probable millions of them would divorce their husbands. " 10 because there are times of the month when a woman is not in full control of her faculties; she may suffer bouts of ill-temper, depression or jealousy-be upset by trivia which normally would not bother her.
The Qur'an (4:28) reveals a method whereby a wife can ask her husband for a divorce, Khul, if he is willing and if she is able to repay part or all of the dowry which she received. The release may bind her to maintaining a child until it is weaned. Khul must not be undertaken lightly:
"If any woman asks for a divorce from her husband without specific reason, the fragrance of Paradise will be unlawful to her." (Muhammad)
A man who accuses his wife of adultery but has no witnesses must declare on oath four times that the accusation is true. The fifth time he must declare on oath that the curse of Allah may fall on him, if the accusation be false. This solemn statement of the husband renders the wife liable to punishment. The only way to save herself is to deny the accusation four times on oath and swear that the wrath of Allah be upon her if she is telling an untruth. The way out of this impasse is for the court to divorce them.
The adultery laws are often not in accord with the Sunna and are a bone of contention with the fundamentalists. For example in Egypt the punishment for an adulteress is only two years' prison sentence. For a man the punishment is six months, if and only if, it was committed in the family home. If a man is caught in the act with a prostitute, he is not punished but used as a witness against her.
If the woman cannot get a divorce through the court or by Khul, she can apostase and so separate. This is possible in India where she cannot be legally murdered for apostasy, "till such time when an Islamic Government is established... in India. "11 (Hindus and free-thinkers be warned!)
The divorced woman lives in the matrimonial home until the iddah (waiting period) is over. She may not leave it nor may the husband demand that she go. He has to maintain her unless she left his home, had travelled (except the Haj) without his permission, had refused him his conjugal rights or had been imprisoned for a crime.
Custody of Children
Custody depends upon which Islamic School of Jurisprudence is involved. The traditional view is that boys are taken by the father after they have been weaned, that is at age two, while little girls leave their mothers at seven years of age. As this led, in many cases, to socially harmful consequences the Malechite School of Sunni Islam allows girls to stay with their mother and boys up until puberty. She does not get custody if she is not a fit person nor does she retain custody if she re-marries. Her mother, provided that they are not living together, or her former mother-in-law look after the children. The mother must not have a full-time job; she should have plenty of time to look after them.
Muslim men are allowed to marry zimmis (non-Muslims in an Islamic country) but Muslim women are not. The reason given is that feminine nature being less dominant and more flexible, she is more likely to adopt their way of life and less likely to affect their thinking. She may even be influenced to apostacise. At the best it would only be a carnal relationship and not an Allah-fearing one.
Nevertheless, Islam frowns on Muslim men marrying zimmis. There were cases where the Prophet, Umar and Ali did not allow such matches: "You will not find a people who believe in Allah and the Last Day, loving those who oppose Allah and His Messenger." (58:22) If such a mixed marriage occurs then any children must be brought up as Muslims.
A girl who is given in marriage as a minor by someone other than her father or grandfather is able to accept or reject the bond on reaching adulthood. However, jurists hold that if she is given away by her father or grandfather the marriage is binding on her.
A girl is often virtually forced to marry an old man because he owns some land or can provide a large dowry.
The Prophet consummated his marriage with A'isha when she was nine and this was considered the age of consent for a long time. Even today many fundamentalists believe that a girl is adult at the first signs of puberty. Non-Qur'anic laws have been introduced in a number of coun-tries, influenced by the West, limiting the age of marriage to 15 or 16.
The Qur'an grants the wife living expenses and in return the husband gets his conjugal rights. But, "he whose provisions are limited, let him spend of that which Allah has given him." (65:7). On the other hand, the wife is not expected to starve with him and she can get a separation if he is completely without means.
Islamic laws of inheritance are too complicated to discuss here in detail but the general rule is that a female receives half the inheritance of a male. For example, in the absence of any other heirs a son would receive two-thirds and a daughter one-third.
If a wife dies leaving a son and a daughter then her property is divided between her husband and the children; if both children are daughters then her parents (or in their absence her brothers and sisters) also receive a share.
A widow receives a quarter of her deceased husband's estate if he leaves no children; the rest goes to his parents or siblings. If he leaves children, the widow gets only one-eighth. (The Old Testament is even more unkind to a widow. She is not an heir at all to her husband's property. To live she has to rely on her children or her own family.)
Family planning should be the right of every woman and Islam is not as negative in this respect as Roman Catholicism. Both religions want their numbers to grow by natural means, that is a woman should have a brood of children-just as Hitler tried to foster the breeding of warriors. But large families may not be all they are supposed to be. As far as the mother is concerned, excessive child-bearing can lead to premature ageing and poor health. Children tend to be undernourished, do not receive as good an education, and overcrowding can lead to sexual abuse by older siblings.
Islam realizes that the millions of sperm and egg-cells cannot all be utilized and the story of Onan, who was killed by Jehovah for ejaculating on the ground, does not appear in the Qur'an. Nor is the prevention of the fertilization of an egg regarded as a sin by Islam. This includes azl (coitus interruptus or withdrawal) which the Prophet sanctioned on several occasions, although Caliph Umar forbade the practice without the permission of the wife. Rubber devices such as condoms and diaphragms, and spermicides or the contraceptive pill are not forbidden, at least not in Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Pakistan and Egypt.
One saying of the Prophet used by supporters of Family Planning is: "The greatest of catastrophes is many children and meagre sustenance." However, many of the ulama (Muslim hierarchy) see contraception as encouraging pre- and extra-marital sex and so do not favor it.
Sterilization is regarded as unnatural and abortion is forbidden as a family planning method. Illegal abortion in Egypt is the prime cause of death in pregnant women. Abortion is regarded as murder although whether from the moment of conception or from the quickening of the embryo at 3 months, differs among jurists. However abortion even later in the gestation is permitted if the life of the mother is threatened. Two liberal countries are Tunisia and Somalia, where abortion has been legalized to combat the high population growth.
Newsletter No.1 of "Women Against Fundamentalism" points out that, "after the downfall of the Shah and the establishment of the Islamic Republic, women became the first victims of Islamic ideology. One of the rights taken from women was the right of access to contraception and abortion. Abortion was illegalized with vicious persecution for both the doctor and the woman who took part. Ironically, this same regime executed many pregnant political prisoners! In the eleven years since the revolution, the population of Iran rose from 36 million to about 50 million. The Iranian regime was unable to cater for this population growth. Now it has suddenly decided that contraception and abortion are not such great sins after all! Although it has not legalised abortion, it does not prosecute those who take part."
Often women themselves refuse to use contraceptives as they feel the need to be constantly pregnant to provide their husbands with sons. For this reason clinics, if legal, emphasize the repair of gynaecological conditions, the prevention of miscarriages and the spacing of babies rather than actual population control. The Muslim countries have the highest birth-rate in the world-higher than the poorer countries of Latin America.
Education of Women
Girls are under-educated in Islam. One text, "Women in Shariah" spent 90% of its chapter on "Education" discussing the learning of the Qur'an and the Hadith, and the rest on segregating the sexes in schools. Many mosque schools are still content to have their students recite verses from the Qur'an by rote, in Arabic which they may not understand. No wonder scholarship of secular subjects such as mathematics, science, humanities, business and technical studies is so low in Islam when a disproportionate percentage of the time is given to the Sunna. No wonder non-Muslim governments will not register Muslim schools without demanding that a broadly educational, secular curriculum be taught which will help the students and the nation.
Egyptian psychiatrist, Nawal El-Saadawi ("The Hidden Face of Eve") who specializes in neuroses in women is perhaps bitter:
"Education of female children is a slow process of annihilation, a gradual throttling of her personality and mind... her capacity to think independently... so she will do what others have told her... and be a victim of their decisions."
In 1970, 85% of Arab women were illiterate as compared with 60% of men. Elsewhere similar figures were given for Pakistan but would you believe the definition of literacy? No, not the ability to read a newspaper, 5000 words or some such, but the ability to read and write one's own name! More recently several countries have made attempts to remedy the state of schooling for girls but much more needs doing. A large part of the problem is that a negative view is held regarding girls' education: it may expose them to moral danger, it may increase their expectations, reduce their docility and modesty, and reduce their chances of marriage to self-opinionated males.
Legal Rights of Women
The punishment for the murder of a woman is the same as for the murder of a man. For example, a Jew killed a girl by crushing her head; the Prophet had him dealt with in the same way. Similarly a woman can be executed for murder.
Jurists differ as to whether a woman can be a judge, government minister, police chief, and so on. There is no doubt about the position of Chief of State, for the Prophet said: "A nation will not prosper if it is led by a woman". To this end the Islamic fundamentalists strove mightily to remove Ms Benazir Bhutto from the Prime Ministership of Pakistan.
Provided that her husband consents a woman can go out to work in certain jobs. However it cannot be to the detriment of the home and family which must come first. Jobs which are excluded include: dancer, barmaid, prostitute, model, waitress, actress or musician. Secretarial and factory work are not haram provided the workpool is exclusively women. Trading by women, again is acceptable provided that she does not mingle with men. Trading in a market is therefore un-Islamic. This is not true for an older woman. Once she reaches 50 or so she is considered "past it", that is she is no longer a sexual object and can mix with men.
Trading from one's own house where customers are women, girls or small boys raises no problems. Indeed cottage industries in the home means that the women can observe purdah. Possible crafts are sewing, knitting, embroidery, dyeing and painting textiles, basket-making, pottery, jewelry, and so on. A Muslim woman can teach in a non-segregated primary school provided that all the other teachers are female, or in a girl's secondary or tertiary institution. Similarly women doctors and nurses should work in female wards and hospitals. Welfare workers are also needed to deal with young offenders and women.
A Religion For Women?
The ideal religion for a woman (if one was indeed necessary) would have as its mentor an understanding, non-judgmental "exalted bird", a goddess such as Isis, Venus or al-Lat.
Allah and Jehovah are far too male-oriented, based as they were on patriarchal societies where the male was head of the economic unit, the family. The monotheistic male god ensured that the woman was kept in her place in the field, the nursery, the kitchen and the bedroom. The man wanted to know that his property would be passed on to his seed.
Sex in Islam
When one considers the Qur'anic punishments against fornication and adultery, one would think that promiscuity and sex crime in Islam would be minimal. However rape and child abuse are not, in most cases, reported. The reason is that the "victim is blamed": a stigma is attached to having been defiled. For example a study into sexual aggression by grown up men on female children or young girls showed that nearly half of them had been sexually abused in Muslim Egypt-a figure of 45% compared to the United States figure of 24%.
For scientific reasons the ratio of boy to girl babies in any sizeable population is 50:50 so monogamy, group marriage or equal mixtures of polyandry and polygyny are statistically possible. Undoubtedly monogamy is the least complicated socially. However, in Muhammad's day many men were killed plundering and fighting and so it was possible for some males to have more than one wife. Most of Muhammad's eleven wives were widows. Some of them he had made widows himself! (Could you love, honour and obey your husband's murderer?)
Today, however, if richer men have up to four wives, then there must be a number of unmarried or late-marrying males. With prostitution and fornication banned, homosexuality haram, and masturbation disdained that leaves sex within the household. Sisters, cousins and maid-servants often take the place of the girl down the street in western society. A segregated society with strict separation of the sexes creates widespread sexual frustration and suppression. Muhammad's only advice to impecunious men was to weaken the sex drive by fasting.
Islam does not condemn sexuality as such, unlike Paul who managed to become the chief spokesman for Christianity. His ideal state was celibacy. "It is good for a man not to touch a woman. I say to the unmarried... abide even as I (celibate). But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn." (I Corinthians, Chapter 7)
However Qur'anic sex does seem to have the male mainly in mind. The Companions of the Garden (houris) "untouched before by man or djinn" are undoubtedly to delight the male. The handsome youths in Paradise, however, are not promised to the women. (52:24)
Islam has an obsession about virginity for girls. God has provided them with a hymen to prove their chastity. Yet only 40% of girls have a "normal" hymen that will rupture and bleed on the wedding night: for 20% it is so fine that it breaks during childhood, and 40% may have an elastic hymen that may not rupture. So much for teleology, the concept that everything has a god-given purpose! What divine justice is there that more than 30% of girls have no bleeding at all during their first sexual act.'3 The father of the bride cannot hold up the white towel stained with blood the next morning. The bride is disgraced and may even be divorced or murdered. In a case where such a murder occurs it is often thrown out of court as a question of Izzat, "honour". There is a double standard, for the male is proud of his sexual exploits and does not stop to think that his fair share of hymens is one per lifetime. To my knowledge, The Prophet Muhammad had only one virgin in his life, the child bride A'isha. He did not regard it as shameful to go where other men had been: he did not, however, cherish the idea of other men succeeding him after his death. (33:53)
There may be several reasons for insisting on virginity in the bride. One, of course, is that there is no danger of having someone else's child attributed to you. Another is that the groom can educate the young bride to his own idiosyncrasies and can not be compared with other lovers. Probably the economic factor is the greater.
Saying "I divorce you" three times is equivalent to the decree nisi in western society except that only the husband can say it. The divorce does not become absolute until the iddah is observed. The iddah of three monthly periods satisfies the ex-husband that he has not left an heir in the womb and satisfies any prospective new husband that the womb is ready for his breeding alone.
Rape In Pakistan
Unfortunately, since Pakistan has reverted to an Islamic state, rape against women has increased dramatically. Of course, official figures would say the opposite as, under Shariah, it is almost impossible to prove that rape has taken place. Rape is often used as revenge against a woman's husband, father, brother or son. When it is used against a political opponent it is called "power rape". The rapists often cut off the noses of their victims to show that they are "fallen women
Rape can only be proven if there are four adult male witnesses. (A female's testimony is not even taken as half-value in the case of capital crimes.) If the case is unproven, the woman can be charged with fornication which carries the death penalty. There are thousands of women in jail in Pakistan charged with zina. Even if the crime is not pursued, relatives may expect the woman to commit suicide, preferably by burning herself. Alternatively the husband may divorce her or, if he has to pay back too much dowry, have her committed to a lunatic asylum. "Human Rights Watch estimates that Pakistani police abuse 70 per cent of the women in their custody, though no officer has ever been penalized. "18
FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) is carried out among Muslims in Egypt, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, South Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, the Philippines, Malaysia, Pakistan and Indonesia. Some apologists point out that it is not performed in Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Libya, Morocco or Tunisia. They will also note that female mutilation was carried out in pre-Islamic times and is practised in some non-Islamic African states. This does not absolve Muslims for continuing the barbaric tradition and throws doubt on the "civilizing role" of Islam. Indeed some of the clergy still advocate female mutilation. Rather they should speak out vigorously to condemn the old practices.
There are three main degrees of female "circumcision" Firstly the "sunna proper" where the clitoral hood or prepuce is removed. This is analogous to male circumcision and does not physically damage female sexuality. It may well do psychological damage especially the way it is performed on older girls: a number of female relatives hold the girl down and the piece of skin is removed with a razor blade.
The practice has no Qur'anic justification and the Prophet did not have his daughter Fatima circumcised. '4 There is one hadith where he is reputed to have told Umm Attiya who performed excisions: "Reduce, but do not destroy." (He would not have liked his sexuality reduced by one micro-watt.) The inference from this hadith is to remove only the glans (tip) of the clitoris. This is analogous to removing the glans (head) of the male penis. To confuse things this circumcision is also known as "sunna" although a better name sometimes used is Khifad ("reduction").
The second level of female mutilation is clitoridectomy where the whole of the clitoris is removed. This is particularly traumatic for the girl: the pain and bleeding may continue for days-the clitoris is well-supplied with blood vessels so that it can swell on stimulation. This is analogous to the removal of the penis of a male as the clitoris is the centre of female sexuality and most women cannot achieve orgasm without it. What a terrible thing to do to your daughter! If sexuality is given to us by Allah then the implication is that it is there to be used, enjoyed. But sexual desire is not reduced by mutilation, only the means of satisfying it. It is not surprising that instead of being chastely frigid, some of these women go on a "promiscuous" search for satisfaction.
Thirdly there is pharaonic circumcision (often called infibulation, the Roman practice of putting rings across the vaginas of slave women.) All exterior genitalia are removed: the clitoris, the labia minora (the inner lips) and the labia majora (the outer lips). What is left of the vulva is sewn up leaving a small hole for urine and menses to escape, but penetration by a penis is impossible. On marriage, the macho male tries to penetrate often causing "hufta"-invaginated skin near the vaginal opening. On divorce, social pressures dictate that the opening be sewn up again. On childbirth, the skin must be cut but even then there can be complications: prolonged labor, foetal death and brain damage.
Many males favor the pharaonic method as the vaginal orifice can be made tight to enhance their sexual pleasure even if it is painful to the woman. Indeed, many women find anal sex preferable. If the woman is Makhtoma, too tight, she can take an hour to void her bladder and it is common for the abdomen of a girl to swell with undischarged menstrual blood-girls have even been murdered by fathers thinking that they were pregnant.
Pharaonic circumcision often leads to permanent trauma, frigidity, urinary and gynaecological infections, abortions or sterility, painful menstrual periods, fistulas, scar tissue, abscesses and even cancers. And yet the girl's relatives and the bridegroom expect it. The little girl aged 4 to 8 must have her tahara (purification) as she would be unacceptable in a Ghalaja (uncircumcised) state.
The name "sunna" (Muhammad's traditions) should not be given to any method of circumcision as surveys have shown that the name was the primary reason (religion) given by men for approving circumcision. However the fact should be faced that many of the husbands like to be in full control of the sexual act. He should be able to prolong it or bring it to an end when it suits him and not the woman. They can be compared with necrophiliacs but few normal western men would agree that passivity on the part of the female contributes to sexual enjoyment.
The reason for female mutilation is sometimes given that it prevents promiscuity. A random survey of 200 prostitutes in Cairo showed that 170 of them had suffered a clitoridectomy, exactly the same percentage (85%) as the general population. Of fifty women who had had sexual experience before "circumcision", none had been able to reach the level of satisfaction they knew before-hand.'5
But the girl does not only face physical circumcision, there is also the denial of mental and psychological development. Ignorance of the human body and sex is considered a virtue. Experience and knowledge about life is regarded as shameful. Passivity of the personality is considered a prerequisite of a wife.
Shame and Respect
The woman who chatters loudly, is too bright and perky, flits her glances or is not modest in walk and dress is Be-Sharm, shameless. A young girl who covers her head when her father enters the room is pleasingly modest or bashful. She has Izzat, respect for her father.
The younger women, the unmarried and new brides all show respect to the older women by deferring to them in conversation. Older women transmit the male dictates, are usually guardians of tradition and can be tyrants in their households. When a woman visitor comes, the younger ones push on with their sewing or whatever without interrupting their mother's conversation. It is rare for a son-in-law to visit his mother-in-law but when he does he must be treated with reserve and diffidence as he is head of her daughter's family. Young women must talk in lowered tones to elder relatives and, except for greetings which they should initiate, only respond and then positively to conversation and instructions. Their heads should be somewhat bowed and their hands covering their mouth. They should observe eye-purdah, that is avoid eye-contact.
In many parts of Islam marriages are still arranged. Even the shame of a "love marriage" is covered up as an arranged one. The bride is expected to be modest and demure. She sits quietly with her head bent and may not come "out of her shell" for weeks or months-not perhaps until she has had her first baby. It is rare for an unmarried girl to go to a wedding as some of the remarks may be too risque' for her. If they can afford it the bride and groom will have separate bedrooms again for the sake of the modesty of the younger girls in the household. The bride is not addressed by her first name, even by her husband. She is the daughter (bint) of so and so. When her first son is born she becomes mother (umm) of so and so and this name stays with her until she dies.
Nakedness is generally considered ugly and the chaste wife sneaks under the bed covers. The Qur'an tells Muslims: "0 ye Children of Adam! We have bestowed clothing upon you to cover your shame..." (7:26) "Let not Satan seduce you in the same manner as he got your parents out of the Garden, stripping them of their raiment, to expose their shame."(7:27)
In hadith 134 (Sahih Muslim) the Messenger said: "A man should not see the private parts of another man, and a woman should not see the private parts of another woman." It is also forbidden for both men and women to see the private parts of the opposite sex. The husband can expose his equipment before his wife and vice versa at the time of sexual intercourse but it is not desirable to see it. It is, however, allowable in case of extreme necessity for example medical examination and treatment. Yet in many cases a husband has not allowed his wife on her death bed to receive treatment from a male doctor.
Hadith 135 (Sahih Muslim) relates how the Children of Israel lost their modesty and indulged in moral depravity by bathing nakedly in front of each other. Only Moses took his bath alone. However, on one occasion he left his clothes on a rock and the rock moved so that Moses had to chase after it. By the time that Moses had caught up with his clothes and chastised the rock by striking it, everyone had had a chance of viewing his equipment. This cleared up a bone of contention: some had thought that Moses was modest because he had a scrotal hernia.
The chador and burkah are not common to the whole of Islam but Muslim fundamentalists would have it that way. The Prophet said that there should be no shapeliness in the woman's dress and "it is not lawful, past puberty, to show more than the face and hand below the wrist." Many fundamentalist girls are veiling their face as a sign of Taqwah, Allah-consciousness.
The only time a man covers his face is during his wedding when a veil of flowers protects him from the "evil eye".
The seclusion of women in the home and under long clothing leads to their social nothingness. How strictly a Muslim woman observes purdah depends upon her economic status. Poor women have to work in the fields, fetch water, collect firewood and look after animals.
It is a poor reflection on a religion if its system of morals cannot regulate behaviour without segregation of the sexes. Men and women can have social intercourse without sexual intercourse. Punishment of misbehaviour in the present or Hereafter is not as moral as learning to treat other human beings as worthwhile individuals who merit respect. Humanism is far more ethical than religious fundamentalism.
"Not Without My Daughter"
The villain in this true story is Sayyed Bozorg Mahmoody.The title Sayyed signifies that he is a direct descendant of the Prophet. He was brought up by religious parents but went from Iran to the USA as a young man and did not then strictly observe Muslim customs. "Moody", as he was nicknamed studied, became an anaesthetist and was quite "Americanized" when he met Betty, a divorcee. After three years of courtship they married in a mosque but he made no efforts to convert her to Islam.
Several years later, however, in 1979, Moody was inspired by the revolutionary situation in Iran, participated in marches against the Shah, bought a high-powered radio receiver to listen to short-waves, read all the pro-Khomeini literature that he could and entertained young Iranian students. The Islamic religion started to assume a greater importance in his life.
In 1980 they had a daughter whom he named Mahtob, Moonlight. When she was four, Moody insisted on going for a two-week holiday to visit his relations in Iran. Betty did not want to go but was afraid that he might take Mahtob with him and that she would never see her again. Her husband swore on the Qur'an that they all would return to the USA; little did she know that one can break such an oath if it is for the greater good of Allah. Indeed any agreement with a non-believer may be broken by a believer.
When the fortnight expired, Betty discovered that the Iranian Legal Code considered that she and her daughter were Iranian citizens and, being women, second-class citizens at that. She could be executed if she tried to remove Mahtob from the Islamic Republic against her husband's wishes.
Moody became more and more under the sway of his family and the macho hero would hit Betty whenever he felt she needed it. He had his family spy on her and would not allow her to use the telephone. Someone accompanied her whenever she went out.
The customs and lack of hygiene disgusted her. Several times she was mobbed by revolutionary guards with machine guns because she showed a wisp of hair. The inconsistencies were incongruous: a children's TV program showed a woman giving birth to a baby-not that I disapprove of that-but the woman was still encumbered by a chador to cover her face. Similarly women would breast-feed in the streets and men urinate in the gutter.
For a while Betty made out to be accommodating to Islam to gain greater freedom from her husband. She found in a Qur'anic class of English-speaking women that wife-bashing was the norm.
Mahtob started school and with the other little five year olds had to yell out, "Death to America".
Betty made contact with the US Interests Section of the Swiss Embassy and when Moody found out, he threatened to kill her. He became less and less rational and no doubt would have dispensed with Betty but he needed her to liquidate his assets in the USA. He was prepared to allow her to return home to do this and to see her dying father but, of course, would not allow Mahtob to accompany her.
Betty had been lucky enough to find a safe-house in Teheran: some of the democratic forces were prepared to risk their lives to help people escape. They even paid up front for guides and transport out of their own pockets, with the chance of never being repaid.
One day when Moody was called away in an emergency they made their escape. Although it was winter and there was snow on the mountains they were, with the aid of Kurdish smugglers, able to flee to Turkey.
Safely back in the USA they have changed their names to protect themselves from the long arm of Iran. Apart from co-writing her book, Betty has gone on lecture tours to warn women against marrying Muslims. They may seem attentive lovers and doting fathers but in the background is the brainwashing, the sense of male superiority and the Allah-consciousness.
Over a thousand Western women and children are held against their will in Islamic countries.
Some Iranian laws which discriminate against women and are in contravention to Article 16 of the UN Convention:
Iranian Civil Code Article 1105:
The husband is the head of the household. Between a husband and wife the head of the family is the man's quality and right.
Iranian Civil Code Article 1050:
The husband has the right to choose the place of family residence.
Iranian Civil Code Article 1143:
The wife should obey her husband's wishes and if without any reasonable excuse refrains from performing her matrimonial duties she will not be entitled to maintenance.
Iranian Civil Code Article 1133:
A man has the right to divorce his wife upon any pretext.
Iranian Civil Code Article 1029 & 1130:
The law permits women the right to ask for divorce only under very exceptional circumstances.
Iranian Civil Code Article 1169:
Upon the dissolution of the marriage, a woman loses the right of custody of their children to their father after the age of 7 for girls and 2 for boys.
A father has sole right of guardianship over his children. Upon his death, the paternal grandfather acquires this right. In the latter's absence anyone who had been nominated by the father is entitled to the guardianship.
Iranian Civil Code Article 1060:
The marriage of Iranian Muslim women to non-Muslim men is strictly forbidden.
A married woman's right to travel abroad is subject to the written consent of the husband.
Health of Children
In Arab countries alone a million children die a year before reaching their first birthday as a result of sickness and malnutrition. Unlike in the west, baby girls have a higher mortality rate often due to neglect because the father is indifferent to them.
Muslim Women in India and Bangladesh.
Muslim women defer to men. They have been conditioned to feel dirty because they menstruate and bear children. Their economic dependence and lack of power makes them feel inferior. The traditions handed down from mother to daughter over the centuries have made them ideologically subordinate to males. They have accepted ideas which devalue and degrade them and provide them with a negative self-image.'6
"Wife beatings are often an outlet for a man's sense of impotence and frustration in the face of grinding poverty. The threats of polygamy and divorce help husbands to ensure their wives' obedience. Polygamy rarely brings happiness as the wives quarrel and compete for love and attention."'7
Marriage is well nigh universal and may take place soon after the girl's first menstruation. Much of a woman's life is spent bearing and rearing children. Absence of children is the fault of the woman. The wife who fails to provide her husband with male heirs is denigrated for the line dies out without a male to carry the name. Also sons are considered insurance against destitution in old age.
Unlike in the Western world men tend to live longer than women. Suicides are almost exclusively female because of the desperation in their lives. For the fifty million Muslim women in India the life expectancy is 45.6 years compared with 47.1 years for men. The average woman near menopause has had 6.4 live children born to her and this does not take into account a large number of still-births or pre-natal mortality. Women are more likely to die than men due to the dangers of pregnancy as they are often undernourished and lack hygienic medical facilities. in poor families the husband eats first, then the children and the woman last and least.
Muslim Women Threaten Suicide
Pune, the Indian Muslim Women's Equality Forum, wants an end to "instant talaq" and polygamy or hundreds of Muslim women will burn themselves to death in public places all over India. Due to the infamous Muslim Personal Law, Muslim women in India are subjected to some of the Shariah provisions found in Islamic states even though they are living in a supposedly secular society.
"Muslim women have suffered worst atrocities, sex and religious discrimination, massive humiliations and persecution due to the outrageous Muslim Personal Law. Muslim women are ready to make the supreme sacrifice rather than tolerating injustices for ever. Millions of women are ready to leave the ummah. We cannot be forced to remain in a community practising terrorism against women.
"If you do not permit us to live with honour, you cannot stop us from dying with dignity."
Women In Afghanistan
Afghanistan has long been Muslim: the conquest of the region in 1000 CE led to the massacre of the Hindu population, indeed Hindu Kush means "Hindu slaughter". In April 1992 Islamic rebels overthrew the Communist Government after 14 years of civil war. Fifty thousand Hindus had to flee Kabul, the capital.
In reality the communists had held only Kabul and the other towns. Life in the mountains had continued on much the same as it had for centuries before. Society was patriarchal: girls were murdered for refusing arranged marriages and for breaking Islamic taboos. Education for girls in the countryside was non-existent: in the whole of Afghanistan only 11 per cent of young women can read compared with 46% of young men. Male doctors could not examine women and health care was marginal - the life expectancy of an Afghan woman is 42 years of age. Only 8 per cent of births are attended by doctors or trained midwives and the maternal death rate per 100000 live births is 690 compared with 8 in the USA.
The impetus for the rebellion was the "feminism" evident in the towns: women wore jeans and denim jackets, skirts and blouses. They let their hair show, danced with men and wore make-up. Girls went to school and mixed with boys. Women held jobs and did not have to stay at home. They chose their own lovers and husbands. Such a carry on" had to be stopped, and it was. Indeed, the one thing which united the disparate Muslim groups was the perceived need to suppress women's rights.
Afghanistan Update from "Left Shoe News" (http://hraicjk.org )
Jan 1999 Most of Afghanistan has been overrun by the Taleban militia, an ultra-fundamentalist group of Islamic students supported by Pakistan.
They have re-introduced amputation for theft, stoning for adultery, banned music, dancing, chess, videos and TV. Some ways in which women are particularly targeted:
16/8/97 Women are banned from participating in sport.
27/2/98 Thirty thousand spectators at the Kabul sports stadium watched while a teen-age girl received a hundred lashes for walking with a non-related male.
8 Oct. '98 The Taleban Miniistry for Promoting Virtue and Suppressing Vice has banned tailors from taking women's measurements.
5/8/98 A researcher for Physicians for Human Rights, Zohra Rasekh who speaks fluent Farsi states that Islamic Taleban has targeted women for extreme repression and punished them brutally for infractions." "To our knowledge, no other regime in the world has methodically and violently forced half the population into virtual house arrest, prohibiting them on pain of punishment from showing their faces, attending school and seeking medical care without their husband, father, brother or son escorting them."
"In public women must be covered from head to toe in a burqa with only a mesh opening to see and breathe through."
Aid organizations working in Afghanistan have complained that their access to female aid recipients has been severely curtailed by the Taleban's rulings.
Saudi Arabia Addendum (from http://hraicjk.org/history.html )
In 1957 King Saud banned women from driving. This of course is not Shariah as no cars existed in Muhammad's time. The reason given is that a properly dressed woman could not change a tyre, talk to traffic police or other drivers. Probably the main reason, however, is to control women's movements in the light of Muslim obsession with female sexuality.
An unmarried woman and a man cannot ride in the same car. Men and women are separated on buses by means of a steel partition. Women may only work in jobs such as medicine or teaching where there is no contact with males. If it necessary to contact a man it must be done by telephone or letter. Occasionally a husband-wife team can overcome the segregation and act as go-betweens for the two sexes. In universities girls are segregated into separate rooms where they can watch a male lecturer on closed circuit television; this means they cannot participate fully in the lectures.
In 1980 women university graduates were banned from going overseas for higher degrees: the probable reason was that they came back with dangerous ideas. Women are forbidden to bicycle or jog. In 1977 female clerical staff, although in short supply, were banned from working in the same office as men. There is a ban on mixed bathing in hotel swimming pools and on men and women holding hands in public.
8 June '98 Stop the Oppression of Our Muslim Sisters
by Ausma Zehanat Khan (Australian traveller)
Assalam u alaikum to all those of you who call yourselves our brothers. I write as your sister, your friend, your partner in life's journey, but mainly as your victim. I have discovered that some things are indeed more unpleasant than encounters with Israeli soldiers and interrogations at checkpoints. These are the encounters with one's "own kind". I do indeed feel for my sisters if every time they leave their homes they have to run the gauntlet of … numerous advances and remarks that had to be fended off, and the disgusting and perverse ogling and leering that had to be accepted as part of the journey. In Cairo … there's a stretch that is peopled exclusively by young men whose only object in life, it seems, is to wait for women to appear on the pavement, and then harass them to the point of tears or worse. …men who would walk every step of the way with us, hissing, catcalling, swearing and making crude jokes … brushing against you, leering, pinching, groping …If you ignored them, they heaped on greater abuse. If you spoke to reprimand them, they took it as an invitation. If you invoked the name of Allah, or the Prophet, and you told them "haraam alaik, you call yourself a Muslim?", they simply made fun of your Arabic accent. It really makes no difference if you're covered or not. I have experimented with this. From full hijab, to uncovered hair and modest clothing.It was worse in some places than others…Cairo is dreadful, Amman tolerable, Jerusalem pleasant, Lahore unthinkable.(I tried) explaining to my American friend with embarrassment and apology why Muslim men have no respect for women… Our men treat foreign women as if they exist to be preyed on since they are "immoral", and note that no thought is given to the immorality of the men who would prey upon them. One feels sympathy (for the men with their) hidebound and rigid reading of Islam (and) oppressed by your poverty and illiteracy …but the greater sympathy is for the victims of your predicament. … I believe it to be a direct consequence of authoritarian, literalist and hegemonic readings of Islam - readings imposed upon the poor and powerless until they adopt it as their own creed. … Before we hoist up the flag of Islam, and talk about the Qur'an as the only model, and the evils of the integrated societies of the West, we need to take a very close look at the realities begotten by Islam.(Abridged from The Australian Islamic Review, June 8, 1998)
"Women Living under Muslim Laws".
"Femmes sous Lois musulmanes". International solidarity network Central Coordination:
Boite Postale 23, 34790 Grabels, France. Coordination for Asia:
18a, Main Road, P0 Moghalpura, Lahore 15, Pakistan.
"Women Living Under Muslim Laws" is a network of women whose lives are shaped, conditioned or governed by laws, both written and unwritten, drawn from interpretations of the Qur'an tied up with local traditions.
Generally speaking, men and the state use these against women and they have done so under various political regimes.
"Women Living Under Muslim Laws" addresses itself to women living where Islam is the religion of the State, as well as to women who belong to Muslim communities ruled by minority religious laws, to women in secular states where Islam is rapidly expanding and where fundamentalists demand a minority religious law, as well as to women in migrant Muslim communities in Europe and the Americas, and to non-Muslim women, either nationals or foreigners, living in Muslim countries and communities, where Muslim laws are applied to them and to their children.
"Women Living Under Muslim Laws" was formed in response to situations which required urgent action during the years l98~85.
The case of three feminists in Algeria arrested and jailed without trial, kept incommunicado for seven months, for having discussed with other women the project of law known as "Family Code", which was highly unfavorable to women.
The case of an Indian sunni woman who filed a petition in the Supreme Court arguing that the Muslim minority law applying to her in her divorce, denied her the rights otherwise guaranteed by the Constitution of India to all citizens.
The case of a woman in Abu Dhabi, charged with adultery and sentenced to be stoned to death after delivering and feeding her child for two months.
The case of the "Mothers of Algiers" who fought for custody of their children after divorce, amongst others... (Abridged)
"Women Against Fundamentalism"
BM Box 2706 Tel: 081-571 9595 London UK
"Women Against Fundamentalism" was launched on May 6th 1989, as a network to challenge the rise of fundamentalism in all religions. Women's groups involved in this campaign include "Southall Black Sisters", "Brent Asian Women's Refuge" and the "Iranian Women's Organisation" in Britain.
Fundamentalism appears in many different forms in religions throughout the world, but at the heart of all fundamentalist agendas is the control of women's minds and bodies. All religious fundamentalists support the patriarchal family as a central agent of such control. They view women as embodying the morals and traditional values of the family and the whole community. We must resist the increasing control that fundamentalism imposes on all our lives. It means that we must take up issues such as reproductive rights, and fight both to safeguard and extend abortion rights and to resist enforced sterilisation. We must struggle against the body of religious belief which denies us our right to determine our own sexuality and justifies violence against women.
In Britain today, resistance to fundamentalism involves a struggle against the State and against religious leaderships. We must challenge the assumption that minorities in this country exist as unified, internally homogeneous groups. This view assumes that women's voices are represented by the "community leaders" and denies them an independent voice. We also reject the multi-cultural consensus, forged by sections of all political parties, which would deliver women's futures into the hands of fundamentalist "community leaders" by seeing them as representatives of the community as a whole.
New legislation has allowed fundamentalist forces in all religions space to organise for their demands. The Education Reform Act has reimposed the Christian assembly in State schools, alienating many non-Christian parents. At the same time, the extension of State aid to non-Christian schools is promised. This is a disturbing development for all those who have fought to improve State education. All religious schools have a deeply conformist idea of the role of women. They will deny girls opportunities which they are just beginning to seize. Thus the need to struggle against fundamentalism is at the forefront of the political agenda in Britain, especially for women.
More specifically we call for:
1. An end to state funding of religious schools and the imposition of particular religious education by the State, including Christian assemblies within state schools.
2. A development of a social policy that addresses the genuine needs of women, and which does not attempt to deal with them on the basis of racist and sexist assumptions as to how they are expected to behave according to their particular racial or cultural origin... (Abridged)
Allah, Please let us weep in peace! "Allah Amader Kandte Dao!"
by Jahanara Begum'9
Please, Allah, leave us alone to cry and weep in peace. From behind the veil, beyond public gaze we want to cry till we cannot cry any more. This is the only right you have left to us Muslim women, throughout the Islamic world, where your laws are meticulously followed. The world beyond is undergoing so many changes, so many evolutions over the ages; year after year, new discoveries are being made both in the sciences and philosophies, in the rest of the world, improving upon old ideas and beliefs. But we are tied forever to the rigid and immutable shackles of your laws, Allah. No one ever came forward for our emancipation. Unique is our society! ...
The Hindus can fearlessly write on the injustices and other inadequacies of their social system, but we, the Muslims, are afraid to criticize the defects of the Islamic society. More than a hundred female lawyers demanded women's emancipation in the streets of Lahore in Islamic Pakistan. The "heroic" Pakistani policemen attacked the female lawyers with sticks and batons. A Muslim female member of the ADMK party of India had raised the subject of the emancipation of India's Muslim women in the nation's parliament-but then, all the progressive members of parliament remained silent on the issue, for no one wanted to offend the fundamentalist mullahs and lose the Muslim votes.
Our political leaders talk in high-sounding, noble words such as "freedom", "non-discrimination", "secularism" and many other beautiful words. But alas, they do not apply a single such word to the day-today life of our Muslim society...
What an unbearable existence for us to live and survive among co-wives! Innumerable children, unhealthy surroundings, poverty and lack of education have made a mockery of our social lives. The frequent fights among the co-wives, the pulling at one another's hair are so degrading! And then, God forbid, if the miyan or husband gets into the fray, then we get beaten like a beast until we cannot take it anymore. And after the beating, to make it even more degrading, the miyan takes his other wife into the bedroom and shuts the door in our face.
If there is the slightest shortcoming in the wife's attention to the physical needs of the miyan or husband, then woe be to her. She goes on suffering forever from an acute uncertainty, and intense anxiety. Just the pronouncement of the word "Talaq" three times can move the earth from under the feet of the Muslim wife. The consequence? Cheap labour or prostitution. The little children suffer from lack of mother's love, a sense of awesome insecurity and an unhealthy environment. If the children manage to survive then the society is burdened with more beggars and criminals. Admittedly such occurrences do take place in other societies as well, but then they are much fewer in number and, what is more important, in other societies such a state of affairs is not allowed to persist in the name of their "religion", while in our society the mullahs preach such treatment to us women in the name of "Islam". The motto among us is: "Breed and profit"-take over the land by increased birth rate. And we, the married Muslim women, have to bear all the burden of the entire operation. That is why no one ever finds a married Muslim woman who is not nursing her own baby or is not pregnant. They are with a child all the time. They die young.
It was with us in mind that Kazi Abdul Odud once said that in the last 1400 years, Islam has not been able to light a small candle eradicating darkness from human civilization.
The Government of India gave us the right to vote but denied us a healthy and peaceful married life by perpetuating the "Muslim Personal Marriage Code". The "Hindu Code Bill" liberated the Hindu women but we still remain the victims of polygamous practices. No remedy has been provided to prevent frivolous divorces in our Islamic society.
If we happen to be one of many wives of a rich Muslim then we spend our lives in jealousy, rivalry and unending pregnancies. If on the other hand, we belong to a poor husband there is back-breaking hard work for all day and one pregnancy after another as well. The uncertainty and insecurity of our lives affect not only ourselves but our children as well. They have no better choice and get into begging and street crimes. You have seen the crowds of Muslim women and their numerous children roaming around the Howrah station of Calcutta. That they are Muslims can be guessed by the presence of the bearded mullahs that hang around these women. The only concern of the mullahs is to ensure that these women remain Muslims. They are not concerned with their health, well-being, safety and simple humanness.
And so, there is nothing for a Muslim woman to look forward to. Please therefore let us weep in peace and leave us alone. (Abridged)
Summary Of God's Punishment Of Women
"When Eve ate fruit which He had forbidden to her from the tree in Paradise, the Lord, be He praised, punished women with eighteen things; (1) menstruation (2) childbirth (3) separation from mother and father and marriage to a stranger (4) pregnancy 5) not having control over her own person (6) a lesser share in inheritance (7) her liability to be divorced and inability to divorce (8) its being lawful for men to have four wives but for a woman to have only one husband (9) the fact that she must stay secluded in the house (10) the fact that she must keep her head covered inside the house (11) the fact that two women's testimony has to be set against the testimony of one man (12) the fact that she must not go out of the house unless accompanied by a near relative (13) the fact that men take part in Friday and feast day prayers and funerals while women do not (14) disqualification for rulership and judgeship (15) the fact that merit has one thousand components, only one of which is attributable to women while 999 are attributable to men (16) the fact that if women are profligate they will be given only half as much torment as the rest of the community at the Resurrection Day (17) the fact that if their husbands die they must observe a waiting period of four months and ten days before re-marrying (18) the fact that if their husbands divorce them they must observe a waiting period of three months or three menstrual periods before re-marrying.
From "Counsel For Kings", Ghazali (1058-1111 AD)20
1. "Polygamy in Islam" P21
2. "Women in Shariah" P11
3. ibid P12
4. "In Search of Shadows: Conversations with Egyptian Women" P23
5. "The Laws of Marriage & Divorce in Islam" P17
6. "Polygamy in Islam" P16
8. "Women in Islam" P47
9. "Women in Shariah" P75
10. ibid P95
11. "The Laws of Marriage & Divorce in Islam" P49
12. "The Hidden face of Eve" P24
13. ibid P28
14. "Woman, Why Do You Weep? Circumcision and its Consequences P103
15. "The Circumcision of Women: A Strategy for Eradication" P11
16. "Frogs in a Well" P99
17. "A Quiet Violence: View from aBangladesh Village" P89
18. "The Atlanta Journal/The Atlanta Constitution" P7, June 28, 1992
19. "Turning of The Wheel" P106
20. Quoted on P233-234, "Islam