Symposium: Gender Apartheid and Islam
By: Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, December 31, 2004
Does Islam have the keys within itself to liberate women within Muslim social structures? To discuss this issue with us today, Frontpage Symposium has assembled a distinguished panel. On the side of the possibility of a feminist Islam, joining us today are:
Mohamed El-Mallah, a board member of Al-Ittihad Mosque in Vista, former board member of Islamic Center of San Diego, and an associate member of the Muslim American Society. A native of Egypt who migrated to the U.S. seven years ago, he is an activist in the Muslim Community of San Diego who has given many series of presentations on Islamic History,
Julia Roach, a UCSD student currently pursuing a bachelor’s in literatures of the world, specializing in gender issues and women in literature. She converted to Islam in 2003.
On the side of Islam being mutually exclusive with women’s rights, we are joined by:
Ali Sina, the founder of Faith Freedom International (www.faithfreedom.org), a movement of ex-Muslims created to provide support for those who want to leave Islam and give factual information about Islam for others,
Robert Spencer, the director of Jihad Watch and the author of Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West (Regnery Publishing), and Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith (Encounter Books).
FP: Mr. El-Mallah, Robert Spencer, Julia Roach and Ali Sina, welcome to Frontpage Symposium.
Mr. El-Mallah, let me begin with you. Can Islam liberate women and give them equality? Or is Islam and women’s rights mutually exclusive?
El-Mallah: Thanks for inviting me Jamie.
I will go back 1425 lunar years to answer your question. A woman came to the Prophet (PBUH) and asked him: “Why women are not mentioned (in Islamic sources: Quran and Hadith) as much as men?” Do you know how the Prophet (PBUH) answered? He answered her publicly, he went directly to the Masjid, and asked all the people to gather and from the pulpit he addressed the people by reciting the verse Q33:35 that says: “For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah’s praise, for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward.” This verse clarifies that the rule is whenever the pronoun “He” is used, it can be substituted by the noun “She” with few exception, which are clearly explained in other verses of Quran and sayings of the Prophet (PBUH).
I would like to point out that the first to accept Islam was a woman, the first martyr in Islam was a woman, one of the longest chapters in Quran is named “The Women,” another chapter is named “Mariam”. We need to separate between what some of the Muslims practice, and what Islam is ordering us to do. We cannot put Islam on a trial because of wrongs that are done by people who have been living in countries that teach them nothing about Islam. Most of the wrongs that you see done by some Muslims, are done because the lack of good Islamic understanding.
Giving the above, we can categorize the reasons behind any misconceptions about women in Islam into two: The lack of knowledge of Islamic teachings and the ill-intentions of Islam bashers.
FP: Ms. Roach?
Roach: First I would like to preface my comments with a sad fact that exists within the current state of the Ummah or worldwide Islamic community: it is unfortunate that Islam is not practiced in all parts of the world by all Muslims to the standard prescribed by Allah in the Qur’an and exemplified by the blessed prophet Mohamed (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him.)
Nor is Christianity or Buddhism always practiced by all practitioners as it supposed to be. However, when we examine the conduct of those Muslims striving to seek knowledge as they have been commanded by their Lord we find that those people are practicing the deen of Islam in light of its sacred texts and the traditions of the prophets (may the blessings of Allah be upon them all) which do contain proof that women’s equality and Islam are not mutually exclusive.
The first and perhaps foremost important aspect of this is spiritual or religious equality: Women’s souls have equal value to those of Men’s as proved by numerous verses in the Qur’an in which Allah references the believing men and the believing women with equal importance and responsibility in terms of religious obligations such as charity, fasting, prayer, humility etc. Unlike the tradition practiced by some Christians in which the woman submits to her husband who then in turn submits to God, Muslim women are to submit to the Lord of the worlds Allah first and foremost, they do not need an emissary to answer for them.
Muslim women can pray by themselves or in a group in which no male need be present to worship their lord and that worship will be accepted as much as any other person’s worship (in sha Allah, If God wills). Similarly a woman’s sin is counted as much as a man’s too! A woman’s rights are protected, such as the right to life, which women could not be guaranteed in the pre-Islamic Arabian period (many female infants were murdered because boy children were preferred, Islam abolished this practice and Allah mentions the testimony of the murdered female child as being one characteristic of the day of Judgment). What right could be more serious than to be able to fight and die in battle?
Muslim women have had the right and opportunity to fight and die in battle for the past 1400 years, a right which was just recently bequeathed to American women, and the death of a female in battle counts just as much as a man’s death: she is still a martyr and merits paradise (in sha Allah).The first martyr in Islam was a woman, women fought alongside the Prophet (pbuh) in numerous battles, some sustaining serious injuries. Muslim women have always had the right to vote and their vote has always equalled a man’s, the right to own and dispose of property without having to obtain permission from male kin, the right to work outside the home, the right to equal work for equal pay, the right to keep her hard earned money for herself, the right to marry whom they wish and deny whom they wish, the right to sexual satisfaction within her marriage, (if a woman is unsatisfied she can obtain a divorce) etc. etc. etc.
I will not burden you with too much more (yes there is more!) It is unfortunate that more people do not get beyond their conception of the headscarf and ask us why we are proud to wear it…because we are Muslims and we are happy with our Lord and our lives, we are not being smashed by gender inequalities when we stand up for our own rights. Oh, one more thing, Muslim women are required to educate themselves about their deen and are urged to receive a formal education of some sort, putting them on the intellectually equal playing field as well.
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