Opinion Editorials, November 2003, www.aljazeerah.info
Are Muslim women second-class citizens?
An Interactive Opinion Editorial
By Hassan El-Najjar, Donna Jmsn, and Tim Symonds*
Donna Jmsn (Australia):
why do obsessive Muslims insist their women cover their heads and in even more extreme cases their faces? What is wrong with hair? God gave us hair. We are all human beings with hair blessed on us by God why should Muslim women be ashamed of their hair or faces? No where in the Koran are women supposed to be treated like second class citizens and no matter how weak Muslim women try to justify the covering of their hair and faces, will it be convincing-it is a nonsense. A country which treats its women as second class citizens i.e. no education, no freedom cover up completely, will never, never ever prosper-not in mind nor spirit. If God did not want us to think for ourselves He would have made us all robots so that he could completely control us-what we think, what we do, how we dress, how we relate to each other and so on. God gave us minds and souls and freedom-do not keep all that only for the Muslim male members extend it to Muslim women. It is time for Islam to modernise and stop living in the dark ages-change with the times-be clever not war mongerers-do not be bitter and twisted trying to make all Muslims guilty of their every move. MODERNISE AND PROSPER IN MIND, SOUL AND FORTUNE.
Tim Symonds (UK):
Islam and Women Dear Editor, whether citizens of the world who are Moslems like it or not, the Moslem religion is considered extremely medieval in its attitude towards the 52% of the world which is female. In the West, all we see and hear is how insecure Moslem men - some ready to kill women - want to suppress Moslem women, and keep them only as domestic servants and beasts of burden. It is clear that no reconciliation can occur between the non-Moslem world, especially the majority of women and men in the West, and the outside world until Moslem women receive the rights accorded to them by the Prophet and his teachings, which certainly did not accord women an inferior and servile status.
Dear Donna and Tim,
Thank you for your letter and questions. Iíll try to answer them in the following points hoping that this will show you if Muslim women are treated as second-class citizens or not. I hope that your letters are not part of a new anti-Islamic campaign to justify more wars on Muslim countries, this time "to liberate women."
First, Devoted Muslim women cover their heads in compliance with Qur'anic teachings, just like nuns in Christianity, who cover their heads, and just like when Christian women go to Church or meet with the Pope. According to Islamic teachings, the beauty of a woman should be enjoyed only by her husband, not by other men. It is unfair to generalize about all Muslim women in the world. Each country is unique. Muslim women generally who cover their heads do that out of piety, they are not forced by men. (Read today's story about Aljazeera TV star anchorwoman puts on hijab, Islamic dress and head cover) Just think about Muslim women, who live in the West, many of them still cover their heads, too.
Second, Muslim women are more politically recognized in their countries than women in the West generally. For example, the largest Muslim nation, Indonesia, has elected a woman President, Mrs. Megawati Sukarnoputri. She is still the President, her photo is published in the front page of the Nov 26 issue. She is covering her head, too, as she is attending prayers in the Mosque. Also, Pakistan elected Benazir Bhutto twice in 1988 and 1992. Turkey elected Tansu Chiller as a Prime Minster in the 1990s and she visited the US during the Clintonís presidency. Bangladesh has an elected female Prime Minister right now. I know that Ireland has a female President, Britain elected a female Prime Minister, and there is a female Prime Minister in Norway. But Germany, France, Italy, and the United States have not elected a female as a president or a prime minister yet. The same applies to most of the Western nations.
Third, a Muslim woman keeps her maiden name after marriage. She never changes her last name whenever she gets married. However, Western women have to change their last name whenever they get married. They even keep the last name of the ex-husband after divorce.
Fourth, Muslim women have the right to sell and buy their property by themselves for 1424 years, while American women, for example, had these rights only since 1920.
Fifth, Muslim women have the least divorce rate and the least teenage pregnancy incidence in the world, which means that the are the least among women in the world to be left alone to fend for themselves and for their children, like women in the West who suffer from the two conditions.
Finally, despite all these positive conditions that Muslim women enjoy, I do not claim that they are completely receiving a fair treatment from men or from the state. Many Muslim countries still deprive women from their political rights. But men also are deprived of political rights in the same societies. If women or men are mistreated in a country or another, it has nothing to do with Islam.
* Hassan El-Najjar is the Editor of Al-Jazeerah. Donna Jmsn, and Tim Symonds are Al-Jazeerah readers.
Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah's.