Islam and Women

Over the last few decades, Americans and Western Europeans have had increasing interaction with followers of Islam both domestically and internationally. As a result of these interactions, much has been seen and learned about Islam and women. To many Westerners, both secular and non-secular, the apparent treatment of women under Islam is unacceptable.

But is this critique fair? Yes and no.

How women are treated in Islam depends greatly upon the country in which the women reside. Many Muslim women in America, as well as Western Europe, report that they are not oppressed or treated poorly in any way. They are not subject to beatings or treated like second-class citizens. They argue that the reason they dress modestly and wear a headscarf is because they believe they are being virtuous. The United States certainly has had a long tradition of women dressing modestly (men, too, for that matter). Furthermore, these Muslim women argue that they are just as free to act and do what they want, but because of their beliefs they choose to restrict their lifestyles. Many Christians and Jews in the United States do the same.

On the other hand, women's attire in Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Afghanistan is restricted by the state. Beyond simply restricting clothing attire, in certain Islamic countries women have been beaten, stoned, or killed by agents of the state for violating Sharia (Islamic law). Additionally, husbands and men are often given great leeway in how they can treat women. Worse still, honor killings, as well as forced female genital mutilation, occur with far too much frequency in Islamic societies.

Apologists for Islam often contend that much of the maltreatment of women is a result of culture or society, and not because of the religion of Islam. Because many Islamic countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, actually enshrine the religion of Islam into their legal codes, this defense of Islam doesn't necessarily stand. Additionally, the argument still admits that in cultures or societies dominated by Islam, women are not treated well. To be fair, apologists also contend that the numbers of women oppressed or harmed aren't nearly as high as what people they label as "Islamophobes" would have Westerners believe. This point, though, is also up for debate.

As more Muslims immigrate to America and Western Europe, many of the practices listed above also are being imported, including honor killings and female genital mutilations. To protect the individual rights of women, "secular" Muslims and the West will need to shake off the multicultural mindset and forge a culture that demands that all women are treated with respect and dignity. As for the treatment of women in other cultures and countries, it will likely take organic, cultural reform to protect women's individual rights, something that is increasingly likely as more Muslim women become well-educated and enter the workforce.

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Quotes on women in Islam from experts in Islamic and Arab societies.

Commentary or Blog Post

This article is from the perspective of a young Muslim woman who attributes her strong moral foundation and intellectual achievement to her Islamic faith.

For Shariah-adherent Muslims, converting to another religion is a stain on the family's honor and it often falls to fathers or brothers to remove it by the execution of the offender.

Since Islam is used as the justification for such barbarities, it becomes incumbent upon Muslim spokesmen to confront this directly, and to work for positive change, rather than simply to consign it all to culture, as if that absolves Islam from all responsibility.

How can you respect a religion that forces women into polygamous marriages, mutilates their genitals, forbids them to drive cars and subjects them to the humiliation of "instant" divorce? In fact, none of these practices are Islamic at all.

Let us support the courageous Muslims who, often at great personal risk, are campaigning against religious extremism.

Tomorrow is National Women's Day in Malaysia, but women's rights in the country are in disarray after a Muslim woman who drank a beer in public was sentenced to six strokes of the cane this week.

This article and video clip is a panel discussion and debate about whether Muslim marriages should be arranged or if they should allow the Muslim women to choose their marriage partner.

Ayaan H. Ali is from Somalia and tells about her journey and perspective from being oppressed in her culture to being liberated in the West.

"The world's attention may have wandered from Iran, but recent reports from the country reveal a government that is as willing as ever to suppress dissent and a judiciary that still plans to execute a woman saved from a stoning sentence last month."

Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, came under intense western pressure yesterday to scrap a new law that the UN said legalised rape within marriage and severely limited the rights of women.

A Saudi judge has ordered a woman should be jailed for a year and receive 100 lashes after she was gang-raped, it was claimed last night.

NEW Tory chairman Sayeeda Warsi has been slammed by Islamic fundamentalists who warned she could be in physical danger if she visits Muslim communities.

The women are killed, police say, because they failed to wear a headscarf or because they ignored other "rules" that secretive fundamentalist groups want to enforce.

Islam rejects lying in all forms. However, there are a few instances where even Islam allows lying for the sake of brotherhood, which I will discuss later. Lying is something that almost everyone does, both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

A Kurdish woman was brutally raped, stamped on and strangled by members of her family and their friends in an "honor killing" carried out at her London home because she had fallen in love with the wrong man.

This article speaks of Muslim women and their desire to be more educated and politically involved, and the progression of their aims thus far.

At the beginning Islam was the most revolutionary liberalization of women's rights the civilized world has ever seen. But afterwards Muslims became ignorant of this and now Muslim countries are the scene of some of the worst abuses of women's rights.

This article points out the lack of media coverage and voice given to the conservative Muslims. If they are covered, the only thing they have to say is that "it is cultural and not Islamic."

Chart or Graph

"The graphic below looks at how a stoning occurs in accordance with the Iranian Penal Code."

Analysis Report White Paper

"We must realise that the Sharia is not just a legal system but also a way of life by which Muslim fundamentalists seek to regulate and control their entire religious, social, political, economic, and cultural actions, interactions and reactions even with non-Muslims."

In 2006, Australian Mufti Taj al-Din al-Hilali raised a furor by calling unveiled women 'uncovered meat' to suggest that eighteen such women, raped by Muslim youths in a Sydney neighborhood in 2000, actually invited the horrendous act upon themselves.

Shariah in Islam has functioned historically through schools of Islamic law, or madhahib. Traditional Shariah is based on a recognised canon, some significant elements of which have been translated and published in English.

Given the importance and attention devoted to the relationship between women's rights and Islam, to date surprisingly little comparative analysis has been generated about the relationship between domestic violence and shari'a. This study is an effort to redress this lacuna.

It is estimated that at least 7,000 women and girls immigrate to the United States each year from countries where at least a majority of females, if not all of them, are circumcised.

This article will examine the radical Islamist reaction to feminism, along with other related matters.

The authors put together a lenghty compilation of current Muslim clerics issuing public statements allowing for and, in some cases, promoting wife-beating as a disciplinary measurement.

This piece gives a thorough overview of Islamic Sharia law. According to the article, "Sharia law comes from a combination of sources including the Qur'an (the Muslim holy book), the Hadith (sayings and conduct of the prophet Muhammad) and fatwas (the rulings of Islamic scholars)."

The following report based on an 8 March 2010 Seminar on Sharia Law ... aims to provide evidence of the discriminatory nature of these courts and make recommendations for curtailing Sharia and religious tribunals on the basis that they work against and not for equality, and are incompatible with human rights.

This article analyzes the apparent silence on horrific situations such as honor killings, genital mutilation, rape, etc. from modern feminists.

Muslim women across the world aspire to live by their faith as best they can, but their faith robs them of their rights. Some women have found a way out of this dilemma in the principle of separation of organized religion and state affairs.

Video/Podcast/Media

"Iran’s radical Islamist regime has systematically oppressed the Iranian people since coming to power in the 1979 revolution. But the rise to power of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the slow-motion coup staged by his cronies in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has made the human rights situation in Iran even worse. Iran’s repressive regime has cracked down on political...

Women cannot travel freely without the permission of a male relative and face formidable obstacles when divorcing their husbands.

"From the Iranium Raw Interview Files: Parts of Manda Zand Ervin's original interview. Under the Islamic Republic government regime, women are deprived of multiple basic human rights."

This video presents a compilation of images of Sharia law in practice--many of them very disturbing. The accompanying commentary in the form of a poem decries the treatment of women and homosexuals as ordained by Sharia law.

Primary Document

The Islamic Penal Code of Iran, which has many references to Sharia Law and specifically uses Sharia judges to determine certain cases.

The Archbishop of Canterbury discusses "the broader issues around the rights of religious groups within a secular state, with a few thoughts about what might be entailed in crafting a just and constructive relationship between Islamic law and the statutory law of the United Kingdom. "

The Sunnah for Muslims is thought to be the sayings and living habits of Muhammad, who they believe is their religion's greatest and last prophet. Hadith are narrations originating from the words and deeds of Muhammad. Thus, both Sunnah and Hadith are believed to be important for interpreting the Qur'an and in the understanding of Islamic law. This site provides links to various translations of the Hadith and the Sunnah used by Muslims.

The Meaning of the Qur'an (Arabic: Tafhim al-Qur'an) is a book divided into six volumes written by the Islamic scholar Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi (1903-1979). This work is one of the most prominent exegesis of the Qur'an (Arabic: tafsir), based on the Sunni hadith literature and includes an introduction for each Surah in the Quran, explaining the name, period of revelation and a large section on its historical background.

This page offers a number of translations of each verse of the Koran.

In Rajab 1366 (May June 1947), the Imaam Al-Shaheed Hasan Al-Banna, General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, sent this letter to Faruq 1st, King of Egypt and the Sudan, Mustafa Al-Nahaas Pasha, his then Prime Minister, and to the kings, princes, and rulers of the various countries of the Islamic world, as well as to a great number of civic and religious leaders in those countries. Once again we are publishing and distributing it. Many of the view points and directives it contains still represent the dearest hope of every Arab and every Muslim.

Dr Hassan al-Turabi, based in Sudan, is one of the leading scholar of Islam. Equiped with traditional Islamic education from Sudan and a Ph.D from Sorbonne, he is among the unique few leaders-scholars of the Muslim world.

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