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Introduction
Nothing has received more vilification from commentators and writers across the world than the issue of Islam’s view on women. Images of fully covered women, with veils across their faces, leap to mind whenever the media discusses the issue. The treatment of women in any society has become a key benchmark measurement to its progress so when the Muslim world is assessed it miserably fails on the standard Western tests ranging from the treatment of women to their involvement in society.
This has led to a number of ferocious attacks on Islam:
“We all know that the Taliban is a regime that denies all its citizens even the most basic of human rights, and for women that has been particularly acute. Things that women in our country take for granted, just to be able to enjoy life publicly with our families, to dress as we please. All of these things are forbidden. In Afghanistan if you wear nail polish, you could have your nails torn out. Well, that may seem a trivial example, but it is an example, nonetheless, of the oppression of women, and nothing more I think symbolises the oppression of women than the burkha which is a very visible sign of the role of women in Afghanistan and we had some interesting discussions about what it is like to wear a burkha and how difficult it makes just ordinary, everyday living…”
and
“Islam is deeply anti-woman. Islam is the fundamental cause of the repression of Muslim women and remains the major obstacle to the evolution of their position. Islam has always considered women as creatures inferior in every way: physically, intellectually, and morally. This negative vision is divinely sanctioned in the Koran, corroborated by the hadiths, and perpetuated by the commentaries of the theologians, the custodians of Muslim dogma and ignorance.”
and
“Hundreds of women get shot, burned, strangled, stoned, poisoned, beheaded or stabbed every year in Islam ridden countries because their male relatives believe their actions have soiled the family name. They die, so family honour may survive. According to this tribal and religious practice, woman is a man’s possession and a reflection of his honor. It is the man’s honour that gets tarnished if a woman is ‘loose’. The murderers and their defenders refer to verses of the Koran that allows husbands to beat their wives.”
and
“Fundamentalists demand that women be veiled and segregated at every level of society, starting at puberty. Public displays of affection between husbands and wives is forbidden. Wife-beating is so prevalent, many see it as a normal part of marriage. In bed any sexual position where the woman is on top is haraam or sinful. It’s difficult to imagine how either gender can enjoy intimacy in such a climate…..
The nazi’s just like modern Islamic and Christian fundamentalists, were also obsessed with virgins and women as submissive housewives and perfect mothers.”
These are just a few of the scathing attacks many in the West label against Islam and the Shari’ah. Whilst there are some sincere misconceptions in the West with regards Islam and women at the same time the hatred against Islam is a consistent feature in Western newspapers and magazines.
This misconception however is not just restricted to the West, across the Muslim world there are many misconceptions with regards Islamic male-female relations and the Shari’ah rules with regards to women. Ideas such as women being completely cut off from any societal role, the women’s voice being considered awrah, forced marriages, female genital mutilation, honour killings, thousands of women in the subcontinent hospitalized each year from nitric acid thrown onto their faces for refusing a marriage suitor or over dowry or marital disputes. Many view the Shari’ah has subjugated women to their husband and father without any rights – these are just some of the cultural practices that have come to be seen as Islamic.
As a reaction to this some women have turned to the West and have taken on the decades long struggle of becoming mans equal. Many women who are Islamic have looked towards the West for their salvation and continue to call for the separation and removal of what remains of Islam.
The aim of this booklet is to as assess the struggle Western women undertook to achieve their rights as this continues to be held as the benchmark for women and societies across the world. The Islamic social system will then be looked at to asses what Islam actually says about women, how it regulates male-female relations and its suitability as a model for women and society.