Girls’ Fight For An Education In The Islamic World
The New York Times published an article on Monday entitled “In Taliban-Controlled Areas, Girls Are Fleeing for One Thing: an Education” offering a glimpse in Afghanistan’s northwest region in which the Taliban, or the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as the jihadists call themselves, have completely cut off education for teenage girls.
The order, according to the report, to close down the girls’ schools was announced at the mosque in Sherberghan, in a meeting with village elders.
Three years ago, girls older than twelve years of age ceased attending classes in the two rural districts just south of this low-slung provincial capital in Afghanistan’s northwest. Up to six thousand girls were expelled from schools; male teachers were abruptly fired: What they had done, provided an education to girls, was against Islam, the Taliban said. Hence, it was of no surprise how recent appeals to the Taliban militants to reconsider their decision went unheard.
The reluctant assent of local populations is providing a clearer view to what life would most definitely be like in all of Afghanistan if the current slow-rolling collapse of government military forces continues. Each day brings grim news about the ascendant insurgency: More bases overrun, districts captured, outposts surrendered and government workers and journalists assassinated. Since May 1, when the U.S. formally began its withdrawal, the Taliban have captured territory in practically every part of the country making their goal of creating an Islamic state under sharia law a reality.
The educational structure in Afghanistan has been compromised due to the ongoing jihad and political instability, especially for young girls who continue to receive a lower quality of education, or being out of school altogether.
The Taliban, which now controls more territory in Afghanistan than at any time since U.S. forces entered the country in October 2001, continue to push families away from their homes, consequently displacing millions of displaced Afghan citizens. Girls are permitted to go to school for only a few years or are prohibited from receiving education entirely in areas under Taliban control.
In fact, UNICEF has recently reported that of the 3.7 million children that are out of school, 60 percent are female. That amounts to 1 in every 3 girls attending school everyday, which is the steepest drop in school attendance in 16 years.
Stereotype Reasons Provided
According the Borgen Project—a nonprofit organization that addresses poverty and hunger—some of the reasons as to why young girls are cheated from a proper education are because:
- the level of literacy among boys is much higher at 66 percent, while the literacy rate of young girls is just 37 percent; the Afghan government has not provided as many schools for girls as it has boys at primary and secondary levels;
- there is a lack of female teachers, specifically in rural areas in Afghanistan, less than 20 percent of all teachers are female, and in some families it is unacceptable for young, soon-to-be adolescent girls to be taught by a male teacher;
- given the cultural gender norms, families see boys’ education as being of greater importance than that of girls’, or as superfluous, only necessary in the years before puberty—about one third of girls are married before the age of 18 and are then urged to discontinue their education;
- in some schools there is a lack of sanitation and access to clean and safe private toilets (this is also a problem worldwide). Girls tend to need access to bathroom facilities more often than boys, especially with the onset of puberty and menstruation. Without a proper place to get rid of waste and wash, there is immense difficulty in managing hygiene. For health and sanitation reasons such as these, some girls choose to stay home, gathering unexcused absences and missing valuable class time.
- children who come from low-income homes are required to work at school-age. According to the Human Rights Watch, at least 25 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 work for a living, and as a result, education oftentimes becomes a burden. Girls typically make money by weaving or tailoring, but some do other small jobs like selling items on the street.
The True Reason is Sharia Law
Not to deny the facts and arguments provided by the Borgen Project, which are shared by many like-minded think tanks and NGOs, the ultimate reason, as already indicated, for girls and women to be shortchanged from a proper education is because according sharia law they are less than human. In other words, as Aisha—Muhammad’s child bride—said to the Prophet: “You have made us equal to the dogs and the asses.” — Sahih Muslim 4, 1039
CLICK ONTO VIDEO BELOW TO SEE WHAT IS IS LIKE TO BE A WOMAN IN AFGHANISTAN
Sharia tenets in the Islamic world consider a woman less intelligent and unequal to a man. This is presented in the Suna of Sahih al-Bukhari:
[Muhammad] said: ‘Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?’ They replied in the affirmative. He said: ‘This is the deficiency in her intelligence.’” —Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 6, hadith 301
The same is attested by the jurist and historian Muhammad Ibn Jarir al-Tabari (839–923):
According to Yunus – Ibn Wahb – Ibn Zayd: Adam replied: “No, my Lord, but I feel shame before You.” When God asked what had caused his trouble, he replied: “Eve, my Lord.” Whereupon God said: “Now it is My obligation to make her bleed once every month, as she made this tree bleed. I also make her stupid…”
Therefore, it would be a near waste of oxygen and even blasphemous for an adult woman, let alone a girl, to receive an education since she is to be treated as property:
- The male shall have the equal of the portion of two females. —Sura 4, 11
- Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great. —Sura 4, 34
- When Allah’s Messenger was asked which woman was best he replied: “The one who pleases (her husband) when he looks at her, obeys him when he gives a command, and does not go against his wishes regarding her person or property by doing anything of which he disapproves.” —Sunan an-Nasa’i 26, 3233
It was not Always the Like This
Opposition to girls’ receiving an education in Afghanistan predates the Taliban. Historically, education for girls was rare in rural parts of the country and almost exclusively confined to the capital city of Kabul.
In 1919, however, King Amānullāh Khān seized the Afghan throne and began a swift reform of the country’s secular education system, with a particular focus on expanding education for women. During this period shortly following independence from the British empire, women and girls were encouraged in their scholarly pursuits. This shift, however, directly threatened the centuries-old Islamic practice of traditional male-oriented madrassa (religious) education among many of the ethnic tribes in Afghanistan.
Amanullah’s experiment with a secular approach to education, along with other reforms prohibiting polygamy and bride price—the provision of money to the wife’s family upon marriage—incited protests from the country’s hard core religious establishment, who eventually supported the overthrow of the king.
For the girls who escape to Sheberghan to continue their education, there is the sense of a baffling destiny imposed by the Islamists.
Nilofar Amini, seventeen years of age, said she missed the school she was barred from three years ago.
“I want to be educated,” she said, sitting with relatives in a room at a derelict shopping center.
Her high voice was muffled by the light blue burqa imposed by the Taliban even on teenagers—she wore it out of habit, though removed it after the interview. Nilofar described her life since the schools ban:
“I have been sewing, making kilim rugs, handicrafts. The girls there, they stay indoors all day. They can’t even visit relatives.” The Taliban have destroyed the cellphone towers; no chatting on phones.”
Girls being cheated out of a proper education is not limited to just the Islamic world. Regrettably, in Muslim countries where sharia law prevails their hurdle to overcome this injustice is harder.
Mario Alexis Portella is a priest of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy. He has a doctorate in canon law and civil law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome; he also holds a M. A. in Medieval History from Fordham University, as well as a B.A. in Government & Politics from St. John’s University. He is also author of Islam: Religion of Peace? – The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up.