Farida Rahman MP’s Private Member’s
Bill on a proposed amendment to section V1 of the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance
1961 has become a much-talked-about subject because of its unconventional and
contentious nature. Particularly, various women’s activist groups have shown
tremendous interest in it. The subject of the bill raises the whole issue of
women’s rights of general interests.
We, the women participating in the
Arab Court of Women, held in Beirut, June 28-30, 1995, as testifiers and
audience to those testimonies; we, who had the opportunity to take part in this
great event, jointly assume the responsibility of what we heard of words of
truth which broke the ring of silence that had long stifled our voices and
sufferings of women.
Editor’s comment: The article of Stasa Zajovic from the
Women in Black-Belgrade rings a bell to all of us who live in multi ethnic,
multi religious, multi cultural countries, threatened by growing nationalism- or
communalism-, where the hatred of the Other closely entwined with population
policies (as a mild form which can evolve into its drastic form of ethnic
cleansing) put women at the forefront of these policies.
In late eighties, with the
consolidation of nationalism as the state ideology in Serbia, the propaganda
directed against women grew stronger. It is well known that in periods of acute
crisis, economic repression or marked repression, women are called to turn back
to "home and family"; they are referred to as "the angels of the home earth", as
ideal mothers, as faithful wives… Such propaganda, among other things, aims at
postponing or preventing social tensions, outburst of social discontent caused
by mass lay-offs of working men and women.
Women’s issues are now an integral
part of modern Islamic discourses, as evidenced in the plethora of ‘Women in
Islam’ titles in religious publishing projects all over the Muslim world. In practice, this
has entailed re-readings of the old texts in search of solutions - or more
precisely, Islamic alternatives - for a very modern problem, which has to do
with the changed status of women and the need to accommodate their aspirations
for equality and to define and control their increasing participation in t
CHRLA is greatly alarmed by
the Cairo Court of Appeals ruling of June 14, 1995, which ordered the divorce of
Nasr Hamed Abu-Zeid (the Cairo University professor) from his wife, Dr. Ibthal
Younis, on the grounds that he was an apostate because of the opinions contained
in his published research.
The argumentation of the
ruling raises problems related to freedom of thought, religious interpretation
and belief, and the privacy of family relationships.
I have been asking questions such
as “What is the Islamic view of women?” and “What does it mean to be a Muslim
woman?” for a long time. I was born female to a Muslim family living in Lahore,
a Muslim city in a Muslim country, Pakistan. Not until 1974, however, did I
begin my serious study of women’s issues in Islam and — I am still shocked to
reflect — this happened almost by accident.
I was, at that time,
faculty adviser to the Muslim Students’ Association chapter at Oklahoma State
University in Stillwater.
Why are women circumcised? These operations are medically unnecessary, agonisingly painful and extremely
dangerous. Some girls die from shock and loss of blood. Others develop
psychiatric problems from the trauma. Many have chronic infections lasting a
lifetime and there are numerous troubles with childbirth, intercourse and
Most of the estimated 70 million circumcised women and girls live in certain parts of
Africa and the Middle East. There the practice thrives for a variety of social