Thursday, May 05, 2005

'We Are Technically the Head of the Nation Here'

On the day commemorating World Press Freedom Day (May 3rd), the Kuwaiti parliament moved to effectively kill a measure that would have allowed women to participate in municipal elections for the first time this year. In effect, this ends any chance that women will be able to vote or run in elections for another four years. On a day commemorating freedom, the Kuwaiti parliament confirmed that when it comes to women, political freedom is a man-controlled privilege not a universal human right.

The head of Parliament's "human rights committee" (note the irony) and a fervent opponent of the measure explained: "We have no problem with women voting, but we do have a problem with women standing for elections. Islam dictates that the head of the nation must be a man, and we are technically the head of the nation here."

This nauseating statement illustrates the level of ignorance that is rampant at high levels of government in the Middle East and the challenges facing human rights in general in the region. To this kind of vicious ignorance, one can not stay silent. To this kind of stubborn arrogance, one must resist. Women have long served in the political affairs of Muslim societies starting with the wife of the prophet himself and on to contemporary Pakistan and Indonesia, where women served as heads of state. It is true that the main problem in Muslim countries is one of governance and human development regardless of who rules (man or woman). But a society that discriminates against half of its population can not move forward.

Furthermore, the holy words of the Qur'an warn:

"O mankind! Be mindful of your duty to your Lord, Who created you from a single being, and from it created its mate, and from the two of them has scattered many men and women. Fear God, in Whose (Name) you demand your rights of one another, and (be mindful of your duty) towards the wombs that bore you. God is ever Watching over you." (Qur'an 4:1)

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُواْ رَبَّكُمُ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُم مِّن نَّفْسٍ وَاحِدَةٍ وَخَلَقَ مِنْهَا زَوْجَهَا وَبَثَّ مِنْهُمَا رِجَالاً كَثِيرًا وَنِسَاء وَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ الَّذِي تَسَاءلُونَ بِهِ وَالأَرْحَامَ إِنَّ اللّهَ كَانَ عَلَيْكُمْ رَقِيبًا

It is time for the women of the Middle East to march onto the streets and demand their civil rights from the clutches of the arrogant, ignorant men who desecrate the name of Islam so as to justify their abuse. It is time for the enlightened men of the Middle East to walk onto the streets alongside their mothers and sisters, their wives and daughters, in defiance of ignorance and bigotry. It is high time for a Muslim Dr. King to surge and lead a Civil Rights Movement across the Middle East and show the way towards an enlightened, free future for the good people of the region.


Blogger Karim said...

Hi Jawad,

I understand and share your outrage. I too was very disappointed with the results of the vote. On the other hand, this was somehow to be expected: after all, these are people who only very recently (less than two generations ago) were still living as bedouins in the desert of arabia. Even beyond the issue of how certain religious texts are sometimes interpreted, one has to keep in mind that these are societies which still have a very patriarchal, tribal structure. And it is this kind of tribal structure which will prevent any well-meaning muslim to emulate the exemple of Dr. King: loyalty is due, first and foremost, to the head of one's own tribe. Muslim societies which comparatively have known more "civilized" ways of life treat their women a lot better. As I was saying in a previous comment to one of your posts, it will unfortunately take quite some time for the tribalism to be shaken off. But we'll eventually get there, don't worry.

May 05, 2005

Blogger Ol' BC said...

Wow, you're starting to sound pro Bush.

May 08, 2005

Blogger Jawad said...

Karim: You are right about the tribal issues as we discussed before. I think there is a hope in me that we can force a change in that department. It's a case of idealim versus realism and your concerns may be more realistic than my hopes.

Ol'bc: First welcome to my blog. Second, I am only pro-knowledge, pro-reason, pro-humanity and stubbornly anti-ignorance. So, I do not let ideological camps dictate my intellectual course. I do not pick positions based on who advocates them but rather on whther they make sense based on my own intellectual analysis. Just as I may disagree with some, I am sure many disagree with me.

May 08, 2005

Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

Well said!

May 09, 2005


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