There are few women interpreters in
the history of Islam because women are seen to be the subject of the Islamic
shari’a and not its legislators. Yet even the few interpreters who have appeared
during the long history of Islam have been kept at the periphery, their views
never allowed to influence Islamic legislation. Moreover, even men interpreters
who were open-minded about women were marginalized and, in some cases, found
their authority questioned.
Violence against women is
one of the sharp indicators of the subordinate position of women in the society.
Violence exists in different forms, different levels from personal to physical
violence to structural violence, justified by religion, culture and laws. Most
of the steps taken from the protection of women against violence tend in
addressing the women rather than men. These steps don’t enforce laws or take
action against men.
The women issues are
political issues. The social paradigms don’t recognize this.
In the early I990s the Arab world
has witnessed an extraordinary publishing phenomenon. An 800 page book on Islam,
Al-kitab wa’lqur’an: qira’a mu’asira (The Book and the Qur’an: a contemporary
reading), was first published by the Ahali Publishing House Damascus in 1990.
The book challenges a millennium of Islamic tradition. It is highly critical of
the social, political and intellectual state of contemporary Arab countries. The
author has been denounced as ‘an enemy of Islam’ and as ‘a Western and Zionist
agent’. To date eleven other books have been written attacking his theses.
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.
Today, in Algeria, the execution
and murder of women, foreigners and intellectuals by Muslim extremists have
become systematic. Such typically fascist acts have given rise to feelings of
outrage. Logically, therefore, one would expect that the most lucid would rally
around a struggle against such a political vision or, at the very least, in
defense of the memory of the victims.
Once upon a time there was a people
called North which was white and rich, and a people named South which was
non-white and poor. The people North exploited, attacked and killed the people
South according to their needs.
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
The attacks by Muslim
fundamentalists against Mr. Namassiwayam Ramalingum and against
L'Indépendant, the newspaper he is editor of, were accurately described
and rightly denounced in Index 3/1995. But Mr. Ramalingum has not provided a
clear enough picture of what was going on in general in Mauritius. This is a
pity, because knowing about the context helps towards a more thorough
condemnation of all the attacks on free speech in Mauritius.
Mauritius has seen vast
changes over the past fifteen years.
Given the rising tide of
Islamisation in Muslim countries and its call for wider recognition of Shari'a
as the primary legal basis of Muslim nations, concerns about Shari'a's conflict
with human rights standards must be addressed.