Monthly Archives: July 2012

Is veil an Islamic requirement, or not?

Article written by Sheikh Mustafa Mohamed Rashid and published in Rosa-Al-Youssef magazine in 2009: Veil is not an Islamic requirment.

By: Alexandra Kinias

When the Egyptian newspaper Al-Massa published on May 25th, 2012 an article about Al Azhar’s endorsement to Sheikh Mustafa Mohamed Rashid’s PhD thesis on Sharia and Law, which stated that veil is not an Islamic requirement (fard), not much reaction to this controversial news was reported. Ranked at the bottom of the government publications that had lost credibility with the public, Al-Massa newspaper is hardly read by Egyptians. In May, the news media and Egyptians were already tangled with the presidential race and an article in Al-Massa was the last thing anyone would pay attention to. Rashid had previously written an article for Rosa Al Youssef magazine in 2009 where he had explained the reasons behind his arguments. Since Rosa-al-Youssef’s main audience are seculars, not much attention was given to Rashid’s article. They already knew it.

The World Muslim Congress blog translated Rashid’s article on which his thesis was based:

In his thesis, Rashid stated that hijab is not an Islamic requirement (fard), and that the interpretation (tafseer) of the verses (ayat) and the circumstances during which they appeared had led to the widespread misunderstanding about the so-called ‘Islamic Hijab’, denoting covering the head, of which there is absolutely no mention in the Quran.

Yet some have misconstrued the intent and correct interpretation of the Sharia, refusing the logic and sequence of its appearance, abandoning the proper methods of citing and interpreting of the verses (ayat), their historical background and reason for them. They have done so either intentionally, or with good intention but with lack of the essential analytical savvy.

This hijab issue imposed itself on the Islamic and non-Islamic psyche, and thus becoming the defining factor, meaning, and nature of the Islamic faith to non-Muslims, which led some non-Islamic nations to consider it a divisive political statement. In consequence to the resulting friction, some female students have been expelled from universities and jobs, only due to their adherence to this false belief, thereby attaching to Islam a non existent requirement.

So inconsistent and misguided have the proofs of the supporters of the hijab theory been, that it would sometimes take the form of khimar or jalabeeb, which distanced them from what they meant by head cover, which is indicative of their restrictive set of mind.

‘Hijab’ was mentioned in verse (ayah) 53 of Al Ahzab, where it signifies ‘wall’ or ‘what prevents view’ and it was in regards to pure “ummuhat al mo’mineen” where a “hajib” is to be placed between them and any men.

As for verse (ayah) 31 of Al Khimar – Sourrat al Noor, that is also a redundant claim, as the intent here is the cover of the breast and neck – the background here is the covering of the breast whose exposure is un-Islamic, and not what is now understood by hijab for the head.

And in regards to the historical background of verse (ayah) 59 of Sourrat al Ahzab was to distinguish between the pure and the promiscuous whores and slaves.

Finally, in the mis-use of the Hadith about Asma’a, daughter of Abu Bakr, when she walked in on the prophet (pbuh)s gathering, and he ordered her to not expose her face or palms – this Hadith is not a binding Hadith, as it is one of al AHaad and not one of the consistent, or the connected confirmed.

Exactly two months after the article was published, and with Mohamed Morsy the Islamic candidate elected president, the article was once again revived. Not only has it started a heated argument, but when an official from Al Azhar was confronted he denied that the institution had ever accepted such thesis, not to mention that it had awarded its researcher a PhD.

The argument that the veil is not an Islamic requirement is not new. It had been previously discussed by scholars, but naturally views from secular scholars are always discredited. This was the first time that a religious scholar from Al Azhar openly discussed it. With the re-emergence of the article, sited by multiple newspapers, this time it caught the attention of the readers and created a controversy between those who believe in it and those who don’t. The battle that has been going on for a while is now taking center stage.

With the rise of political Islam, veiling is used as an indicator to monitor the infiltration of the Islamic ideology into the societies where the Islamists are pushing to dominate. It is obvious from the way women are using the veil that, as long as the number of scarves adorning the heads of women are increasing, it doesn’t really matter whether women wear it for cultural or religious reasons.

By preaching to the masses, who are mostly illiterate and uninformed, that hijab is a religious requirement and wrongly including it as the sixth pillar of Islam, the more women cover their heads, and that brings them closer to the Islamization of the society, which in turn will hand them the keys to the gates of their resurrected Caliphate. Women are being threatened and warned about God’s punishment for keeping their heads uncovered. They wear the veil not knowing that they are in fact being manipulated by the Islamists to accomplish their objectives.

Indeed covering the head is embedded in many cultures and women are free to choose whatever dress is suitable for their traditions and circumstances in which they are living in. However, it is not correct to enforce it on women as a religious duty. Women should not be threatened to wear it. They should not be warned of divine punishment that by uncovering their heads they are committing a sin against their creator.

More articles about Islam and the veil:

History of the veil: Part One
 : Veil in the ancient world
History of the veil: Part two : Veil in pre-Islamic Arabia
History of the veil: Part Three: Early days of Islam

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Childhood Interrupted

Photo copied from the Internet

By: Alexandra Kinias

Summer; it is the time of the year when news media and NGOs, in Egypt, remember to write about the underage marriages of Egyptian girls to wealthy men from Arabia and the Gulf area. Not that the rest of the year the girls are safe, but it became a seasonal phenomenon that escalates during the summer holidays, and remembered especially after the annual U.S. State department report about trafficking in person is released. The 2012 report classified Egypt, again, as a Tier 2, which means that Egypt is among the countries whose governments do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victim’s Program Assistance (TVPA) minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards. The same report stated that the political instability in Egypt has contributed to the failure to enforce the laws against such marriages.

There are multiple factors that contribute to this phenomenon, which the failure of the government to enforce the law is one of them, but not entirely responsible for it. Poverty, illiteracy, greed and religion are the major ingredients for the spread of underage marriages. Poverty alone can’t be blamed because there are millions of poor families who don’t sell their girls for money. Even prior to the political instability in Egypt, laws were not enforced, and since these laws came into effect, two people were prosecuted and jailed.

After the Egyptian revolution, the already degraded status of women declined even more. With less representation in the parliament and alienation from the political life, the situation for these underprivileged and underage girls will get worse. The newly elected Islamist parliament had already discussed a law to drop the age of marriage below eighteen. Luckily this law was never drafted as the parliament was dissolved by the high court. If this law had passed, it would have been disastrous. Researchers found that girls who were married younger than eighteen suffered from several psychiatric disorders as depression and anxiety, not to mention the complications due to pregnancies and the increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Not to mention that most of these girls end up returning back to their family home with unwanted offspring.

Also, pedophilia is a widely spread practice in the Middle East. Fortified by Religious Fatwas that encourage it, this crime will not be eradicated in the near future, if ever. With religion as their guideline, the brainwashed illiterate people only listen to their imams and disregard the law. These wealthy men who are exploiting the innocence of these girls see no wrongdoing in their actions. They have already been blessed by the religious scholars and are convinced that they are following in the footsteps of the prophet who married his wife Aisha when she was at the age of nine. Islam gives them the license and their fat wallets enables them to disobey the laws. These men are not looking for a wife because they already have one. They are more interested to purchase a young sex slave for the duration of their vacation.

Often birth certificates of the underage girls are forged or simply an unregistered contract is drafted between their male legal guardians and the groom. This licensed prostitution is acceptable to the society as Hotels and landlords don’t allow unmarried couples to stay together under the same roof. Underage marriages are a classic case of child sex trafficking. As defined by TVPA sex trafficking is that in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age. Betrayed by their guardians, family members and society, the victims have no saying in these decisions. They are helpless and broken souls. Their childhood is stolen, they are deprived from living a normal life as a child and their future no longer belongs to them either. Some of the girls are sold to one man after the other.

Unfortunately, due to the many factors mentioned earlier, this crime will not be eradicated in the near future. However, what I find intriguing is that NGOs are not raising enough voices to put pressure on the government to act. There is no justification to the failure of bringing more publicity to this issue. Reading a UN report or writing an article in a newspaper that is hardly read, do not bring attention to the issue. Public campaigns on national televisions that are watched in every corner in Egypt will be more effective, but the silence is deafening.  With the persistence of the problem, no one yet is taking the lead to find solutions for it, which makes me wonder if the reason of this silence is the fear of conflict between human rights groups and the religious institutions that are devouring the civility of the state through their scholars who are recycling medieval fatwas in the twenty first century.

Some argue that the underage marriages are not a top priority of women who are already fighting different battles in many fronts to salvage the few rights they have won and which are already slipping through their hands. Unfortunately, amongst this chaos, no one is thinking of how the future of these young girls would look like with no one fighting their present.

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Taliban shoot woman 9 times in public execution

CNN Edition

Warning: The video is very disturbing

Afghanistan

A shot rings out, but the burqa-clad woman sitting on the rocky ground does not respond.

The man pointing a rifle at her from a few feet away lets loose another round, but still there is no reaction.

He fires a third shot, and finally the woman slumps backwards.

But the man fires another shot.

And another. And another.

Nine shots in all.

Around him, dozens of men on a hillside cheer: “God is great!”

Officials in Afghanistan, where the amateur video was filmed, believe the woman was executed because two Taliban commanders had a dispute over her, according to the governor of the province where the killing took place.
Both apparently had some kind of relationship with the woman, said Parwan province governor Abdul Basir Salangi.

“In order to save face,” they accused her of adultery, Salangi said.

Then they “faked a court to decide about the fate of this woman and in one hour, they executed the woman,” he added.

Both Taliban commanders were subsequently killed by a third Taliban commander, Salangi said.

“We went there to investigate and we are still looking for people who were involved in this brutal act,” he said.

It is not clear from the video when it was filmed.

The killing took place in the village of Qimchok, not far north of the capital Kabul.

Lawmaker Fawzia Koofi called it a huge backward step for women’s issues in Afghanistan.

“I think we will have to do something serious about this, we will have to do something as women, but also as human beings,” she said. “She didn’t even say one word to defend herself.”

Koofi wept on Saturday as she watched the video of the execution.

The United States condemned the killing “in the strongest possible terms,” calling it a “cold-blooded murder.”

“The protection of women’s rights is critical around the world, but especially in Afghanistan, where such rights were ignored, attacked and eroded under Taliban rule,” the American embassy said in a statement on Sunday.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan also condemned the execution.

“Let’s be clear, this wasn’t justice, this was murder, and an atrocity of unspeakable cruelty,” ISAF commander Gen. John Allen said in a statement Sunday. “The Taliban’s continued brutality toward innocent civilians, particularly women, must be condemned in the strongest terms. There has been too much progress made by too many brave Afghans, especially on the part of women, for this kind of criminal behavior to be tolerated.”

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The Stolen Lives of Mauritania’s Slaves

Slave Camp – Mauritania. Photo: Associated Press

 

By: Alexandra Kinias

The news from Mauritania, the sub-Saharan country to the west of the African continent on the Atlantic coast, hardly catches anyone’s attention or interest, to say the least. With its vast deserts and small population, hidden among its sand dunes, and an economy that ranks among the poorest in the world, Mauritanians are living on the fringe of humanity. The forgotten nation was brought to the light when CNN made a special documentary that sheds the light on Mauritania’s slavery that is still practiced today.

All men are created equal theoretically applies in Mauritania. In 1981, the country was the last to abolish slavery, but owning slaves was not criminalized until 2007, and since then only one slave owner was prosecuted. The UN reports that within Mauritania’s population of 3 million people, 10% to 20% live in slavery today. These slaves have been born into slavery for generations and a vast number of them are not even aware that a life exists outside of slavery. Most slaves in Mauritania are darker skinned people whose ancestors were captured by lighter skin Arabs, centuries ago.

However, with all these facts in hand, the government of Mauritania denies the existence of slavery in front of the foreign media press. “I must tell you that in Mauritania there is total freedom, freedom of thought, equality between all ethnicities, all the men and women of Mauritania, equality between the genders. There is the phenomenon to which you are probably alluding; I have to be direct with you that [it] has existed in Mauritania and in other countries, which is slavery. And in all communities it has been abolished and it is criminalized today by our government. There is absolutely no problem of that in Mauritania.” Brahim Ould M’bareck, minister of rural development said to CNN.

Filming the documentary, CNN was able to meet with the four segments that constituent the Mauritanian society; slaves, slaves who escaped from their miserable fate, slave masters– who admitted owning slaves — and the abolitionists who have been fighting for years to end this barbaric practice, with minimum results achieved.

Moulkheir mint Yarba, and her daughter Selek’ha mint Hamani, escaped slavery. They told CNN the stories of violence and abuse they lived in. With the help of abolitionist groups, Moulkheir is trying to bring her case to court.

“The man who beat us made us herd a whole lot of cattle, goats, cows, camels. We would be tired and if we come back without some of the cattle he would beat us and fire a gun above our heads. Yes he was beating all of us. Beating us with sticks. He would have sex with us all. My children are actually their children. These are the children of my masters.” Moulkheir said to CNN.

Physical abuse and rape are common traits in treating the slaves, which they no longer question. They have been living in captivity for multi generations and the shackles are not only chaining their bodies, but their minds too. Most of them are not even aware that they are being exploited. However, the wakeup call came to Moulkheir when she returned one day from herding her master’s cattle to find that her young daughter, barely old enough to crawl, was left to die outside her tent. Moulkheir’s master who was also the father of the child wouldn’t allow her to take a break from work to bury her daughter. For him and other slaves masters the animals they own have more value than their slaves. “Her soul is a dog’s soul,” Moulkheir recalls him saying. She wants to prosecute him for killing her daughter.

The story of Molkheir’s daughter, sixteen years old Selek’ha, is not much different than her mother’s. She recalls her years in captivity with the family that had enslaved her. “I didn’t know anything about it [being a slave] when I was young. You know how I understand they were not my family? When they started beating me and not the other children… He [her master] raped me and I became pregnant. …You know how they killed the child? When the time came for me to give birth, they put me in a car and drove it hard until the baby came out of me and it was dead.”

Not all slaves are lucky enough to be reunited with their families like Moulkheir and her daughter. Most of the escaped slaves are forced to leave their families behind. Abolitionist groups are working under dangerous circumstances with meager resources to end slavery and help the escaped ones to integrate into the world of the free. Their efforts are fought by the government and members of abolitionist groups are targeted and arrested. They are unable to enforce the law that criminalizes slavery because all those who are in power and the decisions makers are slave masters. As much as the government hinders their efforts, the fact that the law was drafted is still a victory for the abolitionists, for it is an acknowledgment that slavery exits. The integration of the escaped slaves into society is a costly process. The centers built by abolitionist groups, where they learn new skills, have not enough funds to accommodate them all.

Many slaves who were born and lived in slavery for so long fail to make outside of slavery. With no skills to survive, and nowhere to go, it makes it very hard for them to break centuries old of slavery. Many sacrifice their freedom and dignity and return back to their masters for food. Having their lives stolen, the escaped slaves live with the emotional trauma and scars of their past. “I think about slavery. Yes I think about it because I can’t forget it all. Because my brother and sister are still there. Also a person like me can never forget about the torture he has suffered. I will not forget it.” Mtala Ould M’boirik, an escaped slave told CNN.

Without much to look for in the future, Moulkheir and her daughter are enjoying what freedom brought them, often as simple the pleasure as drinking a glass of tea. “It feels good to wake up whenever I want.”  Selek’ha said.

Full CNN report: Mauritania’s Slavery Last Stronghold

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