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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Jan 22 2012

What went wrong?

 

Yesterday I stopped. There was a lighthearted discussion between friends about life in general and then talk about testimony in a disagreement. Someone said jokingly  “is it enough to have two female testimonies to prove you wrong?” Something in that direction.  We all knew the history of that ruling and it was a joke after all!

How did it come that things are in such a bad shape today in many Muslin countries especially with women rights and tolerance? And why is it that they are backward in many areas despite the immense material wealth under their feet in oil, minerals, gas etc.? One could argue that this wealth have been contributing to that fact, the reasons for it are open for discussion. Why is it that some Muslim countries with very little natural wealth have progressed better in areas of human rights and social welfare than those with riches?  This could be a very interesting research topic for a student thesis!

The birth of Islam 1400 years ago was a beacon light for humanity: no racism (all are equal before God), equal rights for all and caring for the less fortunate.  For instance the ruling that two women’s testimonies are worth of that of a man was revolutionary for the pagan Bedouin tribes of Arabian Peninsula.  At that time in Europe people were living in deep superstition despite of their Christian faith. And still 1100 years later witch-hunt and burning suspect (mostly women) alive authorized by the Church was common practice.

Christianity wrong understood by the religious elite. There were virtually no women rights at time in Europe. Only in the last couple of centuries women have reached through long campaigning equal rights, although they often still do not get the same salary for the same job done even in the most advanced countries.

Why is it that in too many Islamic countries that should be in the forefront in this battle of humanity backwardness and intolerance is dominant?  And women in the most conservative corners of societies are less fortunate in many ways than in the lifetime of the Prophet (pbuh). Not necessary to mention that the first wife of Prof. Mohammed was a confident businesswoman and his employer and after his death his wife Lady Aisha was an accepted Islamic scholar and became active in politics.

How can it be that today some scholars argue that women have no right to express their opinion, no rights in many ways when it is Clearly ruled in the Quran and no believing Muslim can argue against it?  In my opinion the reason can be found in the overemphasizing of  the Hadith’s, memorized stories from the lifetime of the Prophet and the years thereafter that in some Islamic rulings overrun clear statements of the Quran.

As the late Dr. Lila Fahlman (Founder of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women ) once wrote: “Man-written Hadith’s have ruined Islam”.

Islam introduced women rights concerning her own property, inheritance and the right to choose her husband. Please read on the right panel Topic No. 8 “Women and Islam”, too. For example

Qur’an 2:228 “Women shall, in all fairness, enjoy rights equal to those exercised against them.” (This statement occurs in the context of divorce.)

Qur’an 2:282. “O you who believe! When you deal with each other in contracting a debt for a fixed time, then write it down; and let a scribe write it down between you with fairness; and the scribe should not refuse to write as Allah has taught him, so he should write; and let him who owes the debt dictate, and he should be careful of (his duty to) Allah, his Lord, and not diminish anything from it; but if he who owes the debt is unsound in understanding, or weak, or (if) he is not able to dictate himself, let his guardian dictate with fairness; and call in to witness from among your men two witnesses; but if there are not two men, then one man and two women from among those whom you choose to be witnesses, so that if one of the two errs, the second of the two may remind the other; and the witnesses should not refuse when they are summoned; and be not averse to writing it (whether it is) small or large, with the time of its falling due; this is more equitable in the sight of Allah and assures greater accuracy in testimony, and the nearest (way) that you may not entertain doubts (afterwards), except when it is ready merchandise which you give and take among yourselves from hand to hand, then there is no blame on you in not writing it down; and have witnesses when you barter with one another, and let no harm be done to the scribe or to the witness; and if you do (it) then surely it will be a transgression in you, and be careful of (your duty) to Allah, Allah teaches you, and Allah knows all things.”

Arab women gathering at the Town wall, by American Orientalist painter Frederick Arthur Bridgman  (1847-1928)

Wishing you a happy, healthy and spiritually rewarding 2012 and hoping that this little drop in the ocean could initiate some small scale awakening to the realities of the modern world!

Mona


Dec 18 2008

Open letter to British Muslims

Muslims hate dogs?

 

In the news, again, are Muslims and how “narrow minded they can be!”  Muslims outraged at police advert featuring cute puppy sitting in policeman’s hat.”

A postcard featuring a cute puppy sitting in a policeman’s hat advertising a Scottish police force’s new telephone number has sparked outrage from Muslims.   Tayside Police’s new non-emergency phone number has prompted complaints from members of the Islamic community.The choice of image on the Tayside Police cards – a black dog sitting in a police officer’s hat – has now been raised with Chief Constable John Vine.

British Polica ad controversial

“The advert has upset Muslims because dogs are considered ritually unclean and has sparked such anger that some shopkeepers in Dundee have refused to display the advert.   Dundee councillor Mohammed Asif said:  ’My concern was that it’s not welcomed by all communities, with the dog on the cards.  ‘It was probably a waste of resources going to these communities.  ‘They (the police) should have understood.   Since then, the police have explained that it was an oversight on their part, and that if they’d seen it was going to cause upset they wouldn’t have done it.’ Councillor Asif, who is a member of the Tayside Joint Police Board, said that the force had a diversity adviser and was generally very aware of such issues…..”

Since beginning of time, since the humans started to domesticate animals for company, for protection, as working animals, milk and meat producers dogs were first domesticated from wolf ancestors about 15,000 years ago. It is widely known as mans best friend, because it defends its owner unconditionally. In my experience and understanding/knowing dogs are not filthier or dirtier or anything bad more than other animals either. The same goes for pigs.

Animals should not be kept in houses, because the daily prayers are done on a clean floor or a mat. At least that one room should be kept out of reach of pets. The floor must be clean, also of toddler’s waste (“accidents” happen) and other impurities . “Cleanliness is part of faith..” (Quran)

Muslims are not allowed to eat dead meat, blood, the flesh of a swine. Pigs are all-eaters, they eat everything eatable, even dead flesh. Animals that eat other animals and especially dead animals are forbidden like meat eating birds are also forbidden. Only grass eating animals having hoofs and only one set of jaws are allowed. In fact in the Jewish religion the food law is even stricter.

Anyone who ever visited the Middle East must have seen shepherds wandering around with their flock of sheep and a dog or two guarding them. You must have noticed, how friendly they are with their dogs and the vast majority of them are Muslims.

As far as I know most Muslims in Britain are of Pakistani or Indian origin. I have heard some strange beliefs from them which have nothing to do with Islam but very much with Culture and their own Tradition. Only recently I read a newspaper article mentioning, that the most radical Muslims preachers in British mosques are Pakistanian immigrants.

I do not know what to say. May God grand them wisdom and insight. From the article above I understood that the British police is aware of the problem with Cultural sensitivities, they are human and make mistakes.

In this case, I think they did not do any mistake. The majority of the British love cute little dogs and there is nothing wrong in putting a puppy in a police hat. And if a Muslim finds the postcard offending he or she does not need to look at it, as simple as that.

Jesus Born by Domenico Ghirlanddaio

The Adoration, by Domenico Ghirlandaio.
Newborn Jesus child surrounded by animals, a donkey, a cow and most probably by sheep and a sheep dog

As the Christmas Holiday is nearing I would like greet my Christian readers with wishes of peace and tolerance!

 

 

 



Nov 16 2008

Where lies the Problem?

The Problem is not Islam.

While reading latest comments to the Queen Rania’s award winning Youtube Video one of them made me think, is he/she right or wrong?

zeppelinsteen In Malaysia where I come from, there is approx. 60% Muslims. We have a lot of Christians as well. But the Muslims here are totally different from the Middle East. For example we don’t have any problem with women rights or whatsoever. Yet, other religions are going well with Islam. I think it’s not about challenging stereotypes, it is changing attitudes of the ARABS! “

Yes, he or she is right: the Problem is not Islam.

The problem is, that some Muslims do not realize that what they believe to be Islamic teaching is in fact tradition. The Hadith’s (traditions) sometimes clearly contradict the Holy Quran. The best example is the stoning of adulterous women as it still happens in some areas  in the Middle East. It was common practice before Christianity, which Jesus abolished (pls. read the article below “Stoning of a child” ).  

In the Quran there is NO mentioning of it but a sura, that cannot be misinterpreted:

“And as for those who are guilty of an indecency from among your women, call to witnesses against them four (witnesses) from among you; then if they bear witness confine them to the houses until death comes close to them or God opens some way for them.” (Quran 4:15)

They somehow manage to distort the Original Message of  Righteousness, Tolerance and Humanity. It was Islam,  that introduced 1400 years ago all these virtues to then pagan Bedouins, who were warring each other in bloody tribal conflicts.  And it is not solely the problem of the Arabs, who count only around 15 % of  the Muslims worldwide.

The reason  is that many preachers still prefer the Hadith’s,  even if there are clear instructions of tolerance, forgiveness, human rights, even animal rights and  “do not kill” in the Quran.

Please read the passages of the Quran on the right panel, No. 7  “What the Quran has to say..”

Traditions change last, unfortunately.


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