Category: Religion


First of all, it’s important to note that not all Lebanese Muslims agree about what Mufti has declared… and it’s wise enough to investigate about the Islamic organizations who were lobbying against the law and who claimed to represent the Islamic voices in Lebanon… Among the Islamic organizations that were very active in speaking against CEDAW was The Islamic Group (Jamaa Islamiya) and I just want to point here (although I’m not used to naming and highlighting the misconducts of others or judging their actions either) that this Islamic group(and I don’t want to be judgmental) is the same one that a couple of years ago used to criticize the only-women Islamic group that was rising at that time and used to give undesirable comments and hadiths that aim at forbidding women from taking leadership positions: (Some members of the Islamic Group used the following hadith to stimulate hatred against the women-only group considering the women-only group and its actions ANTI-ISLAMIC: “People won’t be successful if they appointed a woman as their leader or as responsible for their issues”. This hadith is by the way weak meaning Muslims shouldn’t take it into consideration).Ironically, the Islamic group has developed a women-only section. This group is one of the leading Islamic groups lobbying against CEDAW. The point I’m making here out of this brief historical background of the group in light of their perspective on women’s taking leadership positions is that certain Islamic organizations are driven blindly by sexist ideologies and not by Islamic ones although they CLAIM that their arguments generate from the Islamic faith.

Muslim scholars used excuses … and yes EXCUSES to conceal their male chauvinistic ideas and beliefs… Their very irritating excuse (especially that’s the way I felt!) is that Islam provides a special kind of equality and provides women with the utmost just treatment. I agree that Islam glorifies women and gives superior justice for them; however, what disturbs me is using this argument as to REFUSE CEDAW and other treaties that “endanger” the family…Logically speaking, if they believe that Islam empowers women, why are they refusing a treaty that advocates for women’s rights and especially that the majority of its articles don’t conflict with Islamic beliefs in general?? (See previous post to examine where some of articles might conflict with Islamic teachings but the issues are debatable and some Muslim scholars might not agree that some articles oppose Islamic beliefs.)

CEDAW logo

Based on Qu’ranic teachings, justice is an important element in Islamic teachings and here I’d like to quote from the publication “CEDAW and Muslim Family Laws In Search of Common Ground” (You can check it here: http://bit.ly/qIGfWz ), which is based on a Musawah research project on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, that examines States Parties’ justifications for their failure to implement CEDAW with regard to family laws and practices that discriminate against Muslim women, (Musawah was launched in 2009 at a Global Meeting in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, attended by over 250 women and men from 47 countries of Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North America and the Pacific.): “… Our notions of justice and injustice are influenced by other factors, including our lived realities. They thus change with time and context. This, too, is reflected in the Islamic legal tradition. Musawah holds that in our time and our context, there can be no justice without gender equality… In the twenty-first century, the provisions of the CEDAW Convention-which stands for justice and equality for women in the family and society-, are more in line with the Sha’riah than family law provisions in many Muslim countries and communities. As such, the rights outlined in the CEDAW Convention, particularly article 16, should be incorporated into Muslim family laws and practices.” Just a reminder, article 16 of the convention, as discussed in my earlier post, is viewed by some Muslim scholars as a threat to Islamic beliefs as it is understood by them that it paves the way for civil marriage where a Muslim woman would be capable to marry a non- Muslim man. Although I mentioned in my previous post that it’s forbidden in Islam, the issue seems to be debatable among some Muslim scholars (I claim no responsibility for this). With the presence of a law or without it, Muslim women who want to marry non-Muslim men are capable of going to Cyprus and celebrate their marriage ceremony there. In this regard, Muslim scholars’ argument is futile in light of rejecting CEDAW because of the claim that it allows civil marriage. Some Muslim clerks may suggest that the very act of implementing such a law would motivate Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men. Well, Muslim women who believe in the Islamic conviction that states that Muslim women aren’t allowed to marry non-Muslim men (Due to various interpretations of the Quran, some might not agree it’s not permissible for Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men), won’t be “motivated” to marry non-Muslim men. This is ridiculous! And the law by the way won’t force them to get married to non-Muslim men… The argument the Muslim scholars are giving in this regard is irrelevant!

Musawah

WHAT ARE THE MAIN ARGUMENTS OF THE ISLAMIC ORGANIZATIONS AND THE MUFTI???

I obtained a document outlining the main arguments the Lebanese Islamic groups used in order to reject CEDAW. (ملاحظات حول مشروع قانون العنف الأسري) I’m not going to refute every comment they provided (I’ll let your logic evaluate the arguments). Starting with the second point they make, they questioned why domestic violence is considered by CEDAW to be only violence against women. Although CEDAW, by definition, is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, where other treaties might consider domestic violence against every member in the family, this argument used to reject CEDAW doesn’t make any sense…  

The document (ملاحظات حول مشروع قانون العنف الأسري) criticizes CEDAW’s spousal rape claiming that in Islam the wife and the husband each has certain rights and obligations that must not be contravened (pointing to the idea that the wife should shut the hell of when her husband rapes her and remain silent about the issue and accepts that it’s her duty to fulfill her husband’s desires even when she’s forced to). But what about spousal rape? Is it acceptable in Islam??? Of course NOT!!! There is a hadith that states: “There is not to be any causing of harm nor is there to be any reciprocating of harm.” (Recorded in ibn Maajah) Letting someone suffer according to this hadith is forbidden.Marital rape doesn’t cause physical harm only; the impact of the emotional harm might be lethal. The Islamic organizations must bear in mind that men must treat their wives well in Islam. “…And live with them honourably (ma’ruf). If you dislike them (i.e. women), it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings through it a great deal of good.” [Nisaa’ verse 19] This Quranic verse obligates men to treat their wives honorably. So it’s impossible that Islam would approve of marital rape just for the sake that women have duties towards their husbands regarding sexual relations! Spousal rape is an issue that has been neglected and tabooed in this region. (Check this link: http://www.danielpipes.org/comments/166844 )  

Another issue discussed in the document relating to the arguments of the Islamic organizations pertains to the concern of privacy. As discussed in my previous post, family privacy is sacred in Arab societies, but this must not be an obstacle for the Internal Security Forces to do their jobs in investigating about any filed complaint. In Lebanon, unfortunately, the Penal Code is unable to protect women, as showed by a legal study conducted by KAFA. The issue of privacy must not be at the expense of the victims’ lives or their mental, psychological, or physical wellbeing.

Some Muslim scholars might contend that some CEDAW articles try to ensure equality between men and women in financial issues including inheritance. Regarding financial matters, as I mentioned earlier in my post regarding inheritance, men are required to be financially responsible for every member of the family in Islam… However, in some cases the husband’s financial support becomes a mean for keeping the wife under his control. Musawah’s publication on “CEDAW and Muslim Family Laws In Search of Common Ground” mentions that the Quran has already introduced various reforms regarding existing cultural practices in relation to financial provisions for women including permitting women to own property and giving women shares of inheritance… Here I quote from the Musawah publication: “This was the beginning of a trajectory of reform that, carried forward 1400 years later to match the time and context, should lead to the elimination of the legal logic of maintenance in exchange for obedience and to the introduction of equality between men and women in all areas, including financial matters.”

Upon examining some facebook groups related to the campaign against implementing CEDAW (http://on.fb.me/qvBuIW and http://on.fb.me/nHCX7P ), I observed that their facebook walls are inundated with mere slogans and no logical arguments are behind them… (I’m just shocked how religious educated people are following these groups!)

Because we live in a multi-confessional society, Islamic laws don’t (and shouldn’t) replace the state laws… In this situation, it’s impossible to know whether Islamic teachings are really implemented in the Muslim family… That’s why we need LAWS that would be accounted for in the Lebanese parliament and constitution in order to ensure that women don’t get victimized and to ensure equality is served between men’s and women’s rights… It’s illogical (and stupid) to use the argument that declares that Islam is a religion that already protect women’s rights for the purpose of rejecting CEDAW.

I would like to ask Mufti Qabbani and the Islamic organizations in Lebanon who lobbied against CEDAW to have a look at the “CEDAW and Muslim Family Laws In Search of Common Ground” publication, to explore different interpretations of the Quran, and not to mix cultural beliefs with religious ones!

Note: The opinions in this article are mine and don’t represent any Islamic group. I’m not an expert in Islamic jurisprudence.

I would like to thank Maryam Libdi for enriching this article with additional links and documents 🙂

 

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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