First of all, I can say that some Muslim clerks are fanatically scared of the hegemony of Western concepts… and its “threat” to their values… They’re afraid of the pervading surreptitious consequences of CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, that might affect Islamic traditions and lead to abrogate the Islamic family and society.

Muslim clerks overlooked many articles in the law that are advocating for enhancing women’s position in Lebanese society and judged the law from a minority of articles. Some of the women who were lobbying against the law whom I talked to said that they fear that if this law is passed, then the articles that don’t go in line with Islamic beliefs may be implemented forcefully.

Second, I’m pretty sure that Muslim clerks wouldn’t object on the issues that some articles of CEDAW call for and that DON’T conflict with religious teachings. Some of these issues include:

-Suppresses trafficking of women

-Helping mothers and families by providing access to maternal health care

-Ensuring the ability to work and own a business without discrimination.

-Providing educational opportunities, including access to education and vocational training

-Ending the discrimination in the field of employment, including the right to work, employment opportunities, equal remuneration, free choice of profession and employment, social security, and protection of health.

However, there are some articles that contradict with Islamic convictions. But before going into some of these articles, it’s crucial to point out that the issue of family privacy is sacred in Arab societies meaning that what happens in the family must not be disclosed to strangers despite the graveness of the situation. That’s why some men (and women) find it difficult that the law would allow women victims to report the assaults to the police station or other concerned body and expose their family issues even if the attack was a verbal one. This secrecy and the act of “tabooing” family relations is part of Arab culture. For example, even when a girl is abused (physically, sexually…) by a family member and even if the family member, say, is from the extended family, the family members would hush everyone and burry the case in the “3ayb” black hole.      

As what I referred to above, some of the articles oppose Islamic beliefs. One of CEDAW’s articles call for ending forced marriages and child marriage, and ensuring that women have a right to inherit property. As one of those lobbying against the law explains: If a 17 year old girl wants to get married, the law wouldn’t legitimize it because she’s considered a child by the law and on the other hand, she can have a boyfriend. Illegal sexual relations of course are illegitimate in Islam… This is where the law conflicts with Islamic beliefs. The objection here relates to the issue of child marriage. In Islam, a girl must be consulted about the guy she wants to get married to and she must NOT be forced to marrying a certain guy. However, in Saudi Arabia, men are still raping children; all this in the guise of the holy marriage ritual. (http://news.change.org/stories/saudi-girl-12-sold-in-marriage-to-80-year-old-relative ) This is a dilemma!!! What to do in this case??? I know this is uncommon in Lebanon and prohibited in Islam, but dear Mufti, what if such thing happened in Lebanon, who’s going to protect the poor girl if Lebanese laws don’t and the father doesn’t abide by Islamic Sharia??       

The second issue is inheritance. We know for instance, inheritance rights in Islam are greatly misunderstood. Because in general men are responsible for the family financially (Islam OBLIGES men to financially take care of the expenses of every member of the family), women inherit half of what men inherit. It is crucial to point here that women sometimes inherit the same amount or even more than men. (http://islamicmisconceptions.blogspot.com/2008/08/inheritance.html )

Islam tends to protect weak members of the family. If for example, a family consists of five married men and one of these men died and has little kids, even if the connection (the father) between the heir (the children) and the predecessor (the grandfather) is broken down (deceased), Islamic Sharia gives them up to 1/3 of the inheritance whereas if the father was still alive, he would inherit 1/5. ( http://www.iicwc.org/lagna/iicwc/iicwc.php?id=529 ) I included this example to explain that the issue of inheritance is not a simple thing and it doesn’t ignore women’s and children’s rights. On the contrary, it takes into consideration the various cases of inheritance conditions and ensures fair distribution of property among members of the family.  

According to the law specifically to article 13, the state parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in other areas of economic and social life …to ensure equal rights between men and women in particular to (a) The right to family benefits. Islamic views towards inheritance might be at odds with this peculiar article as it might offer fair but not equal shares of inheritance.

Although article 16 of the law ensures equality in marriage and family relations, including equal rights with men to freely choose spouses and equal rights and responsibilities with men towards children, the law may not be applicable in a multi-confessional (and schizophrenic) society like Lebanon whereby each Lebanese citizen is subject to the laws imposed by his/her own religious background.

Examining paragraph 1, subparagraph (b) that states that “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations…” in particular granting “The same right freely to choose a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent”, Muslims fear that the law would permit Muslim women to choose to marry non-Muslim men which’s forbidden in Islam. I’m not going to delve into this debate to avoid digressing from the main issue here. It’s important to note that the Lebanese state has made reservations to article 16 (paragraph 1, subparagraphs c, d, f, g), among other articles, that pertain to giving women the same responsibilities as men during marriage and its dissolution, the same rights and responsibilities as men in matters relating to their children, the same rights and responsibilities as men with regard to guardianship, wardship, trusteeship, and adoption of children, and the same personal rights including the right to choose a family name, a profession and an occupation.  Although these subparagraphs don’t pose a “threat” to Islamic beliefs, they may conflict with the Middle Eastern traditions. Some Middle Eastern men and NOT NECESSARILY MUSLIM men fear that the patriarchy they once enjoyed could be threatened by the law.   

Mufti Qabbani should bear in mind that Lebanon is a multi-confessional society…there are also secular Lebanese…  This law is not directed to Muslims only…It’s not intended to banish Islamic societies (and for God’s sake when someone argue with me about this law, please give me another plea than this. This is way outdated.) With all the respect, rejecting the law is a mere act of rashness and bigotry…

Finally, I ask the Mufti and all the Islamic women organizations to reconsider the law with all of its articles. They’ve done wrong to Islam as they contributed to the already distorted image of Islam as a religion that suppresses women’s rights… I also ask his PR committee to consider the wording of the report and not to reject it as a whole but to have some reservations on it. (Consider the headlines of the various newspapers and you know what I’m talking about: http://www.assafir.com/Article.aspx?EditionId=1879&ChannelId=44278&ArticleId=2862&Author=سعدى علوه )

Note: I’m not an expert in laws or in Islamic jurisprudence.

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