Senegal has eight million
inhabitants, 95% of whom are Muslim, with the remainder predominantly Christian.
There are very few animists who formally practice traditional religions. I say
formally because in fact traditional practices are present in the daily life of
all Senegalese, be they Muslim or Christian, because these practices are
profoundly rooted in their cultures.
Soon after the introduction
of Islam to Senegal, Muslims organized into Confreries*. This meant that the
first religious leaders taught Islam according to the tradition of their
At the beginning of the
women’s emancipation struggle among the Muslims of the Indian sub-continent
access to education and the campaign against Purdah were the main points.
The late nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries were
characterized by considerable debate on these issues in the Muslim community,
throughout India. The reform effort by men on behalf of women was sparked by the
considerable progress made by other communities in India and was inspired by
changes taking place in Muslim countries of the Middle East.
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.
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.
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