Monday, August 2, 2010

Pro-Woman Islam?

With the summer coming to a close, I have been furiously working on all of my papers and class work trying to finish everything. One of my papers is on women’s rights in Malaysia. In researching this paper, I found a lot of information about Sharia (Islamic) law and how it disadvantages women, as well as, general patriarchal views that are keeping women in a subservient position. Women’s organizations are trying to find solutions to gender equality through Islam rather than circumventing it. One organization in particular, Sisters of Islam, is known for their pro-woman take on Islam.

The reason I bring this up is because I recently read an article on, where a woman took her husband to court on chargers of “domestic abuse that took the form of pinching all over her body, including her breasts and genitals, hard enough to leave bruises; repeated slapping, leaving her face bloody; deprivation of food; and repeated rape” (DiBranco, 2010). However, the judge ruled that no sexual assault occurred, he stated:

“This court does not feel that, under the circumstances, that this defendant had a criminal desire to or intent to sexually assault or to sexually contact the plaintiff when he did. The court believes that he was operating under his belief that it is, as the husband, his desire to have sex when and whether he wanted to, was something that was consistent with his practices and it was something that was not prohibited.”
(Volokh, 2010)

Now, if you hadn’t taken a look at the article, you might assume that this court case was happening in an Islamic nation where Sharia law is the norm, but this was in the U.S. In the U.S. civil law is the rule, no matter what your religious beliefs are you do not get a blank check to go around and break the law and be exempted because your religion Okayed it. Fortunately, this judge’s decision was later overruled in an appeals court, but it still shows that women all around the world need to fight for the right to their own bodies. Now, I don’t want this article to come off as a bashing of Islam, after all as noted in the article, Christians have tried to get away with a similar argument as well. The ever-so-wise Phyllis Schlafly stated, "[b]y getting married, the woman has consented to sex" (DiBranco, 2010).

So, for all of you who think that Islam is to blame,or that it cannot be used as a tool of liberation,I recommend you to check out the Sisters of Islam. They are doing some great work in Malaysia, urging religious scholars to reinterpret the male-centeredness of Islam and see that Islam is actually intended to give women rights rather than take them away. Personally, I think this is a really cool take on Islam, and they have a really great argument. Maybe, if the grassroots effort by the Sister of Islam is successful the new pro-woman Islamic paradigm can be exported to the world.

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