Jul 23 2012

Understanding Afghanistan, one woman’s fight

 

 

Last winter I read a moving story about two women’s lives in the war torn country. The Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini paints a vivid and often sad but still hope filled picture of the Human Spirit winning all odds. It has staid with me, an intriguing saga of solidarity. I recommend it without hesitation to all who care to understand our diversity and the value our differences.

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Now I had the chance to read the powerful memoir of  Fawzia Koofi, a known women rights campaigner and the first female Speaker of the Afghan Parliament.

 

The favored daughter, by Fauzia Koofi

 

It was captivating read and I finally started to really understand the fabric of Afghan society.  And I only can wish from my heart that the country could  recover from decades of terror and horror. Her story captures the political and cultural complexity in Afghanistan. Coming from the northernmost remote, very poor and very conservative province of Badakhshan she grew up as the 19. of the 23 children of her father who had seven wives. According to Islamic law he had to divorce some of them in order to remarry. Fawzia Koofi was left to die in the sun after birth by her mother, but she survived and became her favored daughter. Through extreme hardship and threats to her life she has emerged as a beacon of hope for the country.

As it was customary in her village girls were given to marriage as young as 12-year olds despite the legal marrying age of 16 years. She escaped this  by losing her influential father and being a child refugee in Faizabad. She was the first girl in her family to be allowed to have a school education. Although her father was a well known politician who represented the province in Kabul parliament girls education was not appropriate in her village. Education was not seen necessary for girls as they were to marry and their husbands would be in charge of everything.  She was overjoyed to get this opportunity as her widowed mother insisted. And now a widow herself and a mother of two girls she is an outspoken advocate of women and children rights and is planning to campaign for the 2014 parliamentary elections. For a future for Afghanistan and her daughters.

When reading of women of stature and high moral character and their determination one cannot but wish more of their kind would be given the reigns of power to change the course of history, by some magic might. Would the world have a better chance then? Today it looks like we do not have a chance in the face of rapid population growth, hunger due to climate change, swindling natural reserves and the wars over them.  Men have done their best, although I’m not convinced.  What if..

Ramadan Kareem, my dear readers!

Mona

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Dec 26 2008

Girls, Schools and Taliban vs. Islam

How bad can it get?

Uncertainty, violence darken Afghans’ hopeBy Paul Wiseman, USA TODAYDOAB, Afghanistan — For the first time, the girls in this village were starting to learn — reading, writing, geography, history, math, science. They were starting to dream, too: Star student Roya Noori, 15, illiterate two years ago, wanted to become an architect. Harzoo Mohammedy, 14, planned to go to medical school. And Zuhal Noori, 12, saw herself at the controls of a commercial jet.Then the learning stopped.The new schoolhouse came under rocket fire last spring from the surrounding hills. Mysterious letters turned up at night, threatening to kill any girls who stayed in school and their principal…”

These days one cannot read world new without getting really upset about the state of the Muslims and their ever-worsening image due to ignorant self-tought extremists.

Yesterday the Taliban announced on their (banned) radio station in Northern Pakistan (which is in fact Taliban controlled territory) that they are going to kill girls who go to school.

“Taliban extremists in Pakistan’s troubled northwest Swat Valley have banned girls from attending school, threatening to kill any female students.The threat was delivered this week by local Taliban commander Shah Durran in an address carried on an illegally-run radio station in the area……Swat residents said Taliban fighters had already destroyed scores of government-run schools, leading some to set up private schools in their homes to educate girls.An official at the Pakistani education ministry said there are more than 1,580 schools registered in Swat – once known for its top-flight schools.”Already Taliban militants have destroyed 252 schools, mainly those where girls and boys were studying together,” he added…. “

This campaign against girl’s schools has been going on for some time.

Once more fear stalks the streets of Kandahar.

girls acid attack Afghanistan

Al Jazeera network reports of  acid attacks on school girls.

“Afghan girls scarred in acid attack Five Afghan schoolgils have been attacked with battery acid by suspected Taliban fighters in the southern city of Kandahar.The attack on Wednesday occurred when two men on motorbikes confronted the students outside the Mirwais Nika Girls High School.Two girls were seriously injured by what was discovered to be battery acid.School girls in Kandahar are easily identifiable by their uniform – black trousers, a white shirt, black coat and a headscarf.”

VIDEO

Where did the Taliban come from?

This is a crucial question. Before the invasion of Afghanistan by communist Russia it was despite of grave poverty a striving country, almost a role model for other backward countries with almost a half of the people on government payroll were women, mostly women teachers.

“The government began to bring in much-needed reforms, but with restraint and prudence. Labour unions were legalized, a minimum wage was established, a progressive income tax was introduced, men and women were given equal rights, and girls were encouraged to go to school.

On September 1, 1978, there was an abolition of all debts owed by farmers. A program was being  developed for major land reform, and it was expected that 
all farm families (including landlords)  would be given the equivalent of equal amounts of land… “   

During the Russian occupation thousands of “Quran schools” were established close to the Afghan border in Northern Pakistan in order to educate “mujahedeen” (freedom fighters). Religion was a very powerful motivation as communists are known atheists.  Generations of students  (meaning “Taliban” in Arabic) have graduated from them by now. After they had successfully driven “the infidel Russians” out of the country they turned to other threats to their ideology . And it was the Western interests in their strategic position in the middle of an oil and natural gas rich region.

Taliban are the most strict and extreme interpretation of Wahhabism coming from Saudi Arabia. In Islam the education is one of the most important duties for both sexes (as it is stated in the Quran and which should be the first and foremost source of understanding) . These extremists get their ideology of  the Hadith’s,  traditions of which I am quite critical about  (human memory can fail even with best intensions). They were collected and selected only after 250-300 years after the death of Prophet Mohammed.  In many cases they contradict direct advice found in the Quran.

Since in Saudi Arabia the first girl’s schools opened just 2 years after the opening of the first boy’s school they  have never been closed.

Building Bridges: A Conversation with Princess Loulwa Al-Faisal Princess Loulwa AlFaisal

Question: What concerns you about the perception among Americans about the role of women inSaudi Arabia?  Princess Loulwa al-Faisal:

female pilot SA Well, if they were to listen only to the media they would think that the women in Saudi Arabia are completely suppressed, not educated, and don’t have any jobs. The reality is that while education started for men in 1960, it started for women just two years later in 1962. Actually, prior to the start of the Ministry of Education there already were schools for women, private schools, including Dar-Al-Hanan which my mother [Queen Effat] opened in 1955.You should also know that at that point in our history we were a country of 5% literacy and at the moment we’re a country of 5% illiteracy. That shows how far we have come in just seventy years – even less if you consider that formal education started 50 years ago.

From another article about schooling in Saudi Arabia we learn, that the government did not interfere in teaching methods or in the content of the school books for a very long time, it was left to the Muslim clerics alone:

The Saudi government has allowed Muslim clerics to control education for many years and it’s modern version is The Ministry of Education, founded during the reign of King Saud and with the current King Fahd as the first Minister and he was responsible for the creation of the education system and curriculum. What went on in the classrooms, though, was largely invisible to the government bureaucracy. The curriculum itself was modeled on traditional education methods, emphasizing memorization at the expense of critical thinking. The texts, heavily influenced by religious authorities, compounded the narrowness of the education. No outside analysis of the Saudi textbooks had been made before 2002, so the content of those books is not really known. Following analyses in 2002, however, the Saudi government concluded that there were problems with the books…

Yet from another article I learn that “Saudi Arabia Discovers School Busing for Girls” schol busses for girls in SA

While researching for this theme I became a little more optimistic after all since Saudi Arabia which has an enormous influence in being a role model for many have started to show the way for the radical elements within the Muslim community. Too long these matters were left to the Clerics alone.

The world changes and Mulims must adjust to it, otherwise we will have  enormous problems when modernity and tradition collide. There is no other way than building bridges and find a way to live peacefully in a shrinking world.


Nov 14 2008

The YouTube Visionary Award

 

The YouTube Visionary Award goes to ..

 

Queen Rania youtube 2008

The Youtube Video

Queen Rania to win first YouTube Visionary Award

… ” The YouTube Visionary Award was established to highlight those who use YouTube as a global platform for positive social change.

As the site has become a destination for humanitarianism, philanthropy, education and public service, this award pays tribute to individuals whose videos advance these principles in innovative, thought-provoking ways.

“Queen Rania sets the standard for breaking down stereotypes and her YouTube videos are nothing short of inspirational,” said YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley, adding   “It is both a pleasure and an honor to present her with this much-deserved tribute.”

” Queen Rania launched her YouTube channel in March 2008 to foster an open dialogue and combat ignorance and stereotypes.

Her YouTube videos bridge the gap between Eastern and Western cultures by examining the increasing involvement of women in the Middle East workforce and by debunking misguided assumptions about Muslims and Arabs.

To date, Her Majesty’s channel has generated nearly 3 million video views and received more than 43,000 messages from users around the world.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

CONGRATULATIONS, Her Majesty Queen Rania !

 

 

 

 


Aug 30 2008

Democracy and Islam

While watching World News and Mayhem on my TV screen I have long been intending to write about Democracy because the common assumption is that Islam and Democracy do not go well together.  We should not confuse tradition with religion.

In older democracies the path to this day was long and slow. Some reached it earlier, like in Britain the first step was as early as in 1215  known as the Magna Carta Other countries have followed. Although one must sometimes wonder if democracy is the best way to govern. It is always a compromise which naturally is not the best solution to problems. And voters do not always choose the best candidate simply because of lack of knowledge and experience and they can be easily manipulated.  But there is no better way available and the rights and safety of individuals must be guaranteed.

In my opinion in the Quran  we have clear instructions for the early Muslim community to practice democracy:

“O you who believe! obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those in authority from among you; then if you quarrel about anything, refer it to God and the Apostle, if you believe in God and the last day; this is better and very good in the end.” (Q. 4:59)

“And their business is (conducted) through consultation among themselves.” (Q.42:38)

“God does not love the public utterance of hurtful speech unless (it be) by one to whom injustice has been done; and God is Hearing, Knowing.” (Q.4:148)

Traditionally, before Islam matters in the pagan Arabian Bedouin communities where already handled democratically. Clan elders discussed problems, set rules and practiced justice as they are still doing it among themselves in a smaller scale, because today we have governments and state laws. Like in almost all early human communities regardless of location worldwide.

It was much later than dictators have taken over motivated mostly by power and material gain.

It is still a long way for many, but I am hopeful that matters will improve. In my opinion the key to success is education, education, education and especially that of the women. They are the ones who educate the children and their influence on the society is tremendous.

Unfortunately in many places religion have been used to segregate women from men denying them the basic human rights the Quran guarantees them! (Please read also the Topic No.6 on the right “Women and Islam”)

As I already wrote, we should not confuse religion with tradition. I am quite critical about the Hadiths. They are orally narrated reports from the time of early Muslim community and were collected as late as 250-300 years after the death of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.). Bukhari, for example, examined 600,000 traditions of which he accepted only 7,397!

I have never forgotten an experiment we did in school, I was 11 years old (the last year before changing schools). At the beginning of class the teacher gave us a sentence or perhaps it was two sentences – a short story. We whispered it to each other and by the time bell was ringing for break the teacher asked the last pupil to tell what he had heard. We could not believe what from the story had become, it was unrecognizable!

I am not asserting, that this is the case with Hadith’s, but taken in account the time which passed (200-300 years) even the best-meaning and devoted believer can err. It is human, we are not computers that can record every word forever.

In my opinion we should put less importance on the Hadith’s (put them in perstpective) and more on the Quran, which gives us clear instructions and in this particular case we understand that Islam favors Democracy!

Quoting the late Dr. Lila Fahlman Dr Lila Fahlman

 

Founding President of the World Council of Muslim Women Foundation:

“Man-written Hadith’s have ruined Islam and do not speak to human rights or to equality for men and women, but rather favour the enslavement of women.”…   “Any Muslim who finds the Qur’an difficult to understand would do best to spend his time on the Qur’an rather then on the Hadith’s, which can never surpass the Qur’an as the Hadith is man written.”

 

 


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