Monday, June 28, 2010

Women in Islam

Very interesting post by a Muslim woman can be found here Some quotes from it below.

To understand Islam’s treatment of women, one needs to understand the condition of the world prior to the advent of Islam. Pre-Islam, women in Arabia were considered the property of men and lacked basic human rights. A man could marry as many women as he desired and upon his death, they became part of his estate for his heirs. Women could be inherited, sold, traded for gambling debts, and abandoned at will. They had no rights or position of their own and female infanticide was widely practiced. It was into this environment that the Holy Prophet (pboh) introduced a religion that was revolutionary for its time. He taught kindness, charity and humanity towards women. Almost overnight, women were endowed with equal rights and put on the same level as men elevating their spiritual, educational, economic and social status....

The Holy Prophet Muhammad (pboh) said, “It is the duty of every Muslim man and woman to acquire knowledge.” He exhorted men and women to seek knowledge “from cradle to grave” even “if you have to go to China.” He also said that, “a man who has 3 daughters and brings them up and educates them to the best of his capacity shall be entitled to Paradise.” Any Muslim country that forbids a woman from seeking an education is totally unIslamic....

Other traditions of the Prophet (pboh) indicate that women would pose questions to him directly and offer their opinions concerning religion, economics and social matters. He designated his wife, Aisha, a religious authority when he stated that “You can learn half of your religion from Aisha.” She played a visible and active role in the political, legal and scholastic activities of the Muslim community and passed on knowledge of the Qur’an and the prophet’s sayings and practices to later generations of Muslims. She narrated 2,210tradions of the Prophet and scholars have noted that ¼ of the norms of Shari’ah law were also narrated by her.” (The treatment of women).

It may surprise you to know that the oldest academic degree-granting university existing today, the University of Karaouine or Al-Qarawiyyin, was founded in present day Tunisia in 859 by a Muslim woman, Fatima al-Fihri. In the United States, the first endowed institution for the education of girls did not open its doors until 1821 and most universities did not even admit women until the 20th century (Century of Struggle).

As modern as Islam’s teachings were regarding the education of women, its teachings on their economic status were truly revolutionary. Over 1400 years ago, Islam gave women the right to earn money, to own property, to enter into legal contracts and to manage of their assets in any way they pleased. A woman could run her own business and no one had any claim on her earnings or property including her husband. The Prophet’s wife, Khadija, ran a successful trading company before and after she married the Prophet. Women are allowed to work in Islam but their earnings belong to them and can only be used by the husband upon her permission. A married woman in Islam retained her independent legal personality and her family name.

Compare this to English Common law, which held that all the real property at the time of a woman’s marriage became the property of her husband. Married women in Europe & the U.S. did not achieve the right to enter contracts and own property until as late as the 19th century (Century of Struggle). According to English Common Law: “All real property which a wife held at the time of marriage became the possession of her husband. He was entitled to the rent from the land and to any profit that might be made. As to her personal property, the husband’s power was complete. He had the right to spend as he saw fit.”

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Moderates, Conservatives, and Extremists

Sunnipath has an interesting position on the Danish Cartoons. They say it comes from another Website called (although this link doesn't connect correctly to it) and is signed by about 40 Islamic scholars throughout the world. The Sunnipath website contains many teachings which definitely press my limits of toleration, but also many others which have an internal consistency and basic gentleness which occasionally inspire my respect. If I thought there was any danger of these principles becoming the way I had to live my life, I would be very worried, as would most Muslims I know. Many Muslims came to America precisely so they wouldn't have to live by these kinds of social restrictions. Nevertheless, this declaration shows that this conservative Islamic establishment is equally out of step with both liberal Muslims and violent extremists. That is why it is dangerously simpleminded to divide the Muslim world into The Good Guys who agree with us, and the Bad Guys who disagree with us. The position advocated in this paper is one that needs to be debated. Nevertheless, it clearly denounces the attitudes that make Islam seem completely incompatible with Enlightenment values. It is clearly inflammatory and misleading for the Western media to report only on riots and violence, and ignore reasoned and careful documents like this one.

My biggest problem is with these sentences:

"We call upon the Danish government and the Danish people to yield to the large number of objective and sincere voices emanating from within their society, by apologizing, and condemning and bringing an end to this attack. "

Sorry, this isn't going to happen, and it shouldn't. As vile as some of those cartoons were, they were within the limits of acceptable free speech. If the Danish Government were to "bring an end to this attack", this would be the worst sort of censorship. The doublespeak that is used to justify this is worthy of either George W. Bush or the most extreme forms of Politically Correct Liberalism (who says the Muslims haven't learned anything from the West?)

This is to ensure that Denmark is not isolated from the global community, a community that upholds the kind of freedom that prevents it from attacking and desecrating religious symbols or provoking animosity and antagonism towards any religion or race.

The reference to "a freedom that prevents" is worthy of Orwell. My point here, however, is that this kind of doublethink is, unfortunately, not out of sync with modern western thought (would that it were.) That is why they have a point when they say:

there is no society today that advocates an unaccountable freedom without putting in place measures of regulation so as to prevent harm to come to others. Of course, societies differ in their levels of regulation.

Our society bans hate speech and holocaust denial, their's bans pictures of Muhammad. Their ban appears irrational to us and vice versa. I'm willing to accept the ban on holocaust denial, with considerable reservations that make me unwilling to expand the ban further. I've got no problems with their protesting the content of the cartoons, that's their right to free speech. But because "societies differ in their levels of regulation", the Islamic world is going to have to accept that there is a difference here.

However, the thing that makes most Islamophobes feel that there is an irreconcilable difference is the willingness of Muslims to violently attack the cartoonists and other westerners vaguely associated with them. It is important to recognize that these very conservative Imams condemns such attacks in no uncertain terms.

3. We affirm here that freedom of ideas is a right guaranteed by the teachings of our noble religion to those who seek clarification or desire to engage in dialogue provided that no abuse is intended, in consonance with the Quranic directive: 'And argue with them in the most courteous way'. This point has been agreed upon by all rationally-minded people and is stated clearly and categorically in the agreements on human rights.

4. We appeal to all Muslims to exercise self-restraint in accordance with the teachings of Islam and we reject countering an act of aggression by acts not sanctioned in Islam, such as breaking treaties and breaching time-honoured agreements by attacking foreign embassies or innocent people and other targets. Such violent reactions can lead to a distortion of the just and balanced nature of our request or even to our isolation from the global dialogue. The support that we give to our Prophet will not be given by flouting his teachings.

Again I ask: Why aren't statements of this sort being given the same kind of coverage as the riots?

P.S. I've tried to start a Beliefnet thread over the issue of whether Islam in fact requires Muslims to protest non-Muslims making pictures of Muhammad. Muslims are banned from making pictures of Muhammad, according to certain sources, but I can see no basis in the Koran or the Hadith for saying they should force this position on non-Muslims. The issue of insulting vs. non-insulting pictures has been blurred here, creating a lot of unnecessary confusion.