I tend to be somewhat different from a person who has lived in Pakistan for a while or views Bin Laden as a hero and martyr… I also can’t argue with a radical salafist that only accepts one absolute interpretation of the Quran or even a very literal interpretation of its verses or of the Hadiths… The argument might go forever without reaching a consensus because we seem to view Islam from different perspectives… and by this I don’t mean that there are no well-established pillars that comprise the Islamic faith and that don’t change irrespectively of time; I mean that certain issues have been debatable in Islam and one can take into consideration certain opinions/fatwas of well-reputable Muslim scholars and dismiss the others because the interpretations of some verses might be explained differently by various scholars and might have new approaches with the development of our time and age… For example, the scientific interpretation of some verses of the Quran has only been recently revealed. (You can check some of scientific miracles here: http://www.miraclesofthequran.com/scientific_index.html ) Does that mean that we need to reject them because they weren’t explained that way years before??
I had a meeting with one of those speaking against the law (and whom I valued her logical way of thinking) who explained the imperfections of the law and the ineffectiveness of it. I agree with her that the problem is social in the first place and it is related to the patriarchy-related ideas and that it needs huge efforts regarding educating both men and women… However, this law as I understand aims at the extreme cases and at people who were used to such violent acts. They call it “العنف النمطي”. As defined in the document “Questions about the Protection of Women from Family Violence Law” by the lawyer Layla Awada, the “archetype violence” is the violence used by a person as an attitude in communication.
The second point I want to address is that the law protects the privacy of the families. And as I made clear in my previous posts, if in some cases of domestic abuse the privacy of the family is not protected, I’d prefer saving a soul rather than protecting the privacy… As mentioned in Layla Awada’s document, the provision that allows NGOs to file a complaint against an abuser instead of the victim was actually retrieved. Meaning that, the victim herself is the person eligible for filing a complaint and not the NGOs or the human rights organizations. (Check the document: http://on.fb.me/qJK9nF )
I know laws are imperfect… and they might be abused including Sharia’ laws… but as I mentioned before the filed complaint would be evaluated so if it was a false one the jurists won’t deal with it…
I don’t want to go further and debate the law itself because I’m not an expert in laws. I’ll leave this to the lawyers… I’m not going to judge how effective or not the law is going to be because laws aren’t my field of specialty. What really distracted me out of this whole ongoing debate is that some Muslims are defending their “right” to use violence as a discipline, their ”right” to rape their wives, and their “right” to control every member of their households claiming that this is what Qawama obliges them to do…
The anti-law campaigners considered that this law is part of a well-established plan to eradicate the Muslim family through the introduction of some radical changes in the Muslim family and the Islamic faith. This, they argue, would be achieved through imposing UN conventions and through introducing “sugar-coated” laws like the introduction of the protection of women from domestic violence law as a first step. Some of the documents the anti-law campaigners used as a reference for rejecting the law is the document “العنف الأسري في الوثائق الدولية”( http://bit.ly/oKzKYP ) I read it thoroughly and I noticed different fallacies that I found important to note.
The document is written from a conspiracy theory perspective. I don’t know how exactly Dr. Helmy, the writer of the document, managed to tie up the domestic violence issue to a conflict in the concept of gender concluding with Israel’s involvement in the matter.
Gender and the “natural roles” issue
Second, I’ve also observed many times in Helmy’s document that she connected the concept of gender to the LGBT concept… which’s not the equivalent terminology to use. Gender is a sociological term per-excellence and in the first place. Anthony Giddens observes that gender “concerns the psychological, social and cultural differences between males and females.” The term of gender is a wide range of complex concepts and must not be reduced to one ultimate definition. (http://www.who.int/gender/whatisgender/en/ ) There are the gender roles which are the learnt roles that concern different sexes with the help of social agencies such as the family. Here comes the concept of the traditionally and clearly-defined roles vis-a-vis the modern or the individual-created roles for men and women. Men and women’s roles are socially-constructed and shaped. Helmy took one aspect of the gender term, generalized its use, and maybe wanted to understand the term like that without even looking at the context to which it was used… I really don’t agree about the “natural roles” of men and women. It doesn’t exist in Islam… I support the conventions that will lead to abolish the division of work according to one’s sex. Sometimes the woman who works outside her home from 8 till 5 goes back home to also work there: cooks and cleans whereas the man who might also work from 8 till 5 might not move his butt to help the woman considering the household duties are women’s work. Is this fair? Of course, we must work on abolishing these preconceived traditional ideas that don’t have any connection to Islamic views… Khadija was an independent merchant. She was the one who hired the Prophet, or do you want to forget that?
Third, Dr. Helmy assumed that the UN women committees embrace radical feminists’ agendas without providing any evidence for that. She went on explaining the ideas of radical feminists and digressed from the main issue under discussion… I don’t agree about what radical feminists say and there are others who don’t agree about what they say but not necessarily abandon their defense of women’s rights. I’m really shocked about how she links radical feminism to UN conventions.
A lot of terms, as observed from Dr. Helmy’s document, are put out of context when criticizing them… Concerning the issue of repression of female sexuality, this is not even mentioned in the law… In fact, the law criticizes the way people might look at it i.e. the attitude and not the actual act. By this I mean that the provision mentioned in the “Elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child – Report of the Expert Group Meeting-2006”, to which Helmy referred to, criticizes the emphasis on the virginity of females… and not as what Dr. Helmy suggests that a woman’s virginity is actually criticized and hence considered a form of violence.
One of the issues Dr. Helmy spotted the light on in her document is child marriage. Regarding child marriage, setting an age limit for it like 18 years old would solve different problems. If a girl wants to get married at the age of 17, well, why not get married and then after a year they register the marriage officially? I want to protect the 12-14 years old girls from marrying at this age. They’re kids; they haven’t decided what to do yet in life… Their parents might convince them that this is perfect for their lives; they might think they’re going to live a Cindarella story. That’s it.
Dr. Helmy criticized how the dowry is considered as a price for the woman in return for the sexual pleasure she’ll grant her husband, but if we looked at what’s happening today this is actually happening. The concept of dowry is being abused both by men and women. It’s being used as a means for controlling women. Saudis are selling their 12 year old daughters to Saudi men for the money. An 8 year old girl was going to get married to a 47 year old man: “The girl’s father, according to the attorney, arranged the marriage in order to settle his debts with the man, who is “a close friend” of his.” http://bit.ly/pSd70y “The father agreed to marry off his daughter for a dowry of 30,000 riyals (£5,400) as he was facing financial problems.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/dec/23/saudi-arabia-human-rights What about this case http://www.algeria.com/forums/world-dans-le-monde/26819.htm ? Yes, they are sold in some cases. In some cases, the dowry serves as a price for the woman… the concept is being abused so why don’t we want to admit that it’s? In fact, the UNICEF report criticizes the violence-related dowry where women get killed because of their complaints when the issue of dowry isn’t settled yet… it’s not considering dowry as violence by itself.
From an Islamic point of view, women aren’t obliged to do household duties. Dr. Helmy criticized in her document UNICEF’s report. UNICEF’s report suggested that one of the factors that are leading violence to resume is women’s dependence on men in economic matters. This is because when women completely depend on men in financial matters, some men might take advantage of this and threaten to stop being financially responsible for them, so the complete dependence on men in financial matters MIGHT sometimes turn to act as a tool for subjugating women . Note: UNICEF’s document mentioned “dependence” and not partial reliance.
Marital rape and Islam…
Regarding rape, whether it’s between married couples or not, it’s still considered marital rape. Women are to be treated well by their husbands in Islam. There are definitely reasons why women might not want to sleep with their husbands… A question for religious leaders who are against the law: why don’t you want to take into consideration other Hadiths and Quranic verses that ask men to treat their wives honorably? (Check these 2 links: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDEKJDgXO-U http://www.suhaibwebb.com/relationships/marriage-family/spouse/hurting-homes/ ) I think it’s insulting for just not acknowledging the existence of marital rape. The ones who are arguing for it claim that men have needs and the wives are obliged to fulfill those needs. Assume it is halal for the husbands to rape their wives, don’t you think it is “good manners” the husbands to consider their wives’ physical and mental needs and conditions before satisfying their own desires? Don’t you agree it’s the husband’s “responsibility” in the front of Allah to comfort and understand his wife’s needs FIRST before thinking about his needs? The defenders of marital rape used this Hadith to justify the gruesome act: “When the husband calls his wife to his bed, and she does not come to it, while he spends the night angry with her, the Malaa’ikah (the angels) curse her until morning.” It’s important to notice that the Prophet did not encourage the man to force the woman who did not respond to his call. In fact, he states that the man stays angry throughout the night; i.e. that she never came to his bed – even by his force. Rather the punishment for disobeying his needed call is that of anger of the angels and thus Allah also. Again, just because it is haram for her to leave his bed upon his call does not mean that he then has the “blessed” right to FORCE himself upon her. How can Islam allow the husbands to rape their wives when Islam is one of the icons of women’s protection? Islam forbids harming others, which includes a husband harming his wife emotionally, physically, and financially. If a wife must refuse the husband’s call for a reason, then her refusal will not incur “the angelic curse”. And lack of sex interest in itself is a valid excuse, but something that must be worked on. There is a Hadith that says: “Let none of you come upon his wife like an animal, let there be an emissary between them.” When asked the meaning of emissary, the Prophet replied, “The kiss and sweet words.” It’s also significant to point here that certain issues in Islam might be debated using different Hadiths/verses with different levels of authenticity and by using different Fikeh schools/Mazaheb. Some scholars might cherry-pick Hadiths from here and there to prove the point they have in their minds exactly as those defending marital rape in Islam were doing.
Regarding honor killings, we know that certain men who just “suspect” that their daughters/sisters are in direct contact with other men, they commit these crimes…why don’t we save the victims in this case? Even in Islam, in order that a woman and a man to be convicted of adultery, there must be four eyewitnesses and this is somewhat “impossible”… Honor killings are not permitted in Islam. The Quranic verse is very clear in this regard: “The woman and the man guilty of fornication flog each of them with 100 stripes.”
Regarding the law, I say what’s “left” from the correct way of implementing Islam is really inadequate. People have abused Islamic Shariaa practices. We have a reality and this reality is inundated with different incorrect ways of implementing Islamic teachings… These laws aim at solving or helping to solve (and here I’m not discussing whether or not the laws are going to be effective) the incorrect ways of Islamic teachings and practices and not the Sharia laws themselves… There are different Islamic concepts that have been abused like Qawama. According to Ibn Ashour, a well-renowned Muslim scholar, the Qawama verse doesn’t mean that all men take care of all women, but this is the norm. There are women who support their men and when I mentioned this in my previous post, some criticized me saying what about the feelings of men? They will feel humiliated! Why? Why humiliated??? Maybe the man is sick and even paralyzed and can’t work, so what’s wrong in woman supporting her husband financially??? Polygamy is also another concept that has been abused. Polygamy’s conditions are very restraining… it’s also accepted in certain circumstances.
I’m also shocked how the law has been diagnosed by some anti-law campaigners as “Western” and incompatible with our society while some of the campaigners themselves support blindly other deemed “Western” icons like the Hariri tribunal without questioning it… I don’t want to delve into political issues but I just wanted to note this contradiction.