Fundamentalisms

TUNIS, Nov 14, 2011 (IPS) - Tunisian women poured into the streets armed with the vote, their latest weapon, when the country voted in its first democratic election since a popular uprising unseated former president Zine Abidine Ben Ali, ending his 27-year- long stronghold on the country.

On the eve of the elections in Tunisia that will shape the future of the country and even that of the Arab world as well, Western do-gooders and Islamic fundamentalists hand in hand rejoice in ‘Tunisia’s first free elections’ and its access to ‘ democracy’. The recent history of Iran and Algeria have taught us better… And women in Tunisia watch in horror the rise of Muslim fundamentalists, as a possible replication of the Algerian scenario of 1989 .

Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the chairman of the National Transitional Council and de fact president, had already declared that Libyan laws in future would have Sharia, the Islamic code, as its "basic source". But that formulation can be interpreted in many ways - it was also the basis of Egypt's largely secular constitution under President Hosni Mubarak, and remains so after his fall.Mr Abdul-Jalil went further, specifically lifting immediately, by decree, one law from Col. Gaddafi's era that he said was in conflict with Sharia - that banning polygamy.

In a tiny hall in Nasarallah, a poor agricultural village in the hills beyond Tunisia's historic Islamic city of Kairouan, Jamila Brahid is irate. Sitting in a huddle of country women wearing traditional rural headscarves, the 50-year-old villager is proud to have had a primary school education in a place where many of her female friends – mostly seasonal fruit-pickers – cannot read or write. A carpet-weaver who owed debts on wool and has never married because of her obligations looking after elderly relatives, she gives thanks for Tunisia's prized status as the most feminist country in the Arab world. But, she says, Sunday's elections will be the true test.

The Issue: The practice of some public schools in Ontario to allow Muslim Friday congregational prayers during school hours and within the school’s space for students has created controversy and aroused strong feelings amongst other faith groups. We appreciate the non- Catholic Toronto School District Board’s effort to implement “freedom of religion” by accommodating the religious needs of their Muslim students.  However the provision of school space, such as the cafeteria at Valley Park Middle School raises a number of questions which require careful conside

Edited by Algerian sociologist and WLUML founder, Marieme Hélie-Lucas, this bumper dossier brings you papers by over 15 contributors, including Karima Bennoune: The Law of the Republic Versus the ‘Law of the Brothers': A story of France’s law banning religious symbols in public; Pragna Patel: Cohesion, Multi-Faithism and the Erosion of Secular Spaces in the UK: Implications for the human rights of minority women; and Gita Sahgal: ‘The Question Asked by Satan’: Doubt, dissent and discrimination in 21st-century Britain

Egyptian feminist writer and activist Nawal El Saadawi on her country's long-awaited revolution and why Egypt still has a long way to go. Watch the video at the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/video/2011/jul/25/nawal-el-saadawi-revolution-video.

"My concern is the Toronto District School Board (is) using tax money to tell girls that they are second-class citizens," Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, told the Toronto Sun. He's talking about the District's decision to allow a Muslim Friday prayer session in the Valley Park Middle School cafeteria, where it forces girls to sit behind the boys, and sends menstruating girls to the back where they can only listen, but not participate.

 

The freedom to drive is rarely considered a human right, or even a subject worthy of a heated discussion; however, in Saudi Arabia this normal daily activity has been the source of mass debate amongst the population because it happens to be the only country in the world which prohibits women from driving. On Friday 17th of June, approximately 45 women decided to defy the driving ban by driving in cities across the country. They also documented their defiant actions by taking videos and pictures and posting these online. The campaign called Women 2 Drive (W2D) and was launched via the internet - through social media sites such as twitter, youtube and facebook - by a group of Saudi Arabian women. W2D encourages women with an international driving license to use their right to drive, and to do so in the cities where they can be publically seen to be defying the ban.

Like every other citizen of Oslo, I have walked in the streets and buildings that have been blown away. I have even spent time on the island where young political activists were massacred. I share the fear and pain of my country. But the question is always why, and this violence was not blind. The terror of Norway has not come from Islamic extremists. Nor has it come from the far left, even though both these groups have been accused time after time of being the inner threat to our "way of living". Up to and including the terrifying hours in the afternoon of 22 July, the little terror my country has experienced has come from the far right.

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