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Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Women and Islam

Salafism * Sharia and Pakistan's Rape Law

Changes happen slowly....very slowly in the Islamic world, especially about the role of women in society. Two news items today make it clear that Muslim women who want equality and social justice have a long, hard road ahead of them.

The Post reported about 7th and 8th grade Mulsim girl students' participation in a debate held at Silver Springs Community Center. The subject: "Is a segregated, all-Islamic upbringing key to protecting your Muslim identity?" While their concern about "sexually saturated pop culture" is understandable, if that is all they see then there is something wrong with what they are being taught. Indoctrination is not education.

Eight of the dozen argued yes, using variants of the theme offered by Fatimah Waseem. Young Muslims "join with the non-Muslims, copy them and look up to them. This is hurting our identity. . . . Sometimes, we turn way from Islam," she said. "In conclusion, . . . we cannot sway in the wind and become weak. We need to be protected . . . by segregation."

" Takbeer! " shouted some in the audience of proud, clapping parents as each girl concluded her case. "Let us praise God!"

Like Fatimah, most of the debaters attend Al-Huda School in College Park. It is run by Dar-us-Salaam, one of the Washington area's most conservative Muslim congregations. Many of its members believe that, in order to be true to their faith, they should live apart from secular society as much as possible. The congregation's Web site describes how it hopes one day to become a self-contained Islamic community.

The kind of Islam practiced at Dar-us-Salaam, known as Salafism, once had a significant foothold among area Muslims, in large part because of an aggressive missionary effort by the government of Saudi Arabia. Salafism and its strict Saudi version, known as Wahhabism, struck a chord with many Muslim immigrants who took a dim view of the United States' sexually saturated pop culture and who were ambivalent about participating in a secular political system. It was also attractive to young Muslims searching for a more "authentic" Islam than what their Westernized immigrant parents offered.

Pakistan's Rape Law - Rule of the Mullahs

Some Pakistani legislators are protesting proposed changes in Pakistan's rape law based on Sharia . Changes are overdue and the current law has been criticized by women's organizations and human rights groups. The law is a classic Catch 22. It requires testimony from four witnesses! One gets the feeling that the Mullahs are bent on punishing women for being born with vaginas.

Houston Chronicle - Associated Press

Lawmakers from a coalition of six Islamic groups threatened on Tuesday to vacate their parliamentary seats if Pakistan's government changes a rape law criticized by human rights activists.

A walkout by the 68 lawmakers could destabilize the government of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, criticized by Islamic parties since his ruling party last month presented a bill to amend the law in a bid to protect women's rights.

Pakistan's National Assembly has 344 members. A walkout could force by-elections.
Under the current law, approved by a former military dictator in 1979, prosecuting a rape case requires testimony from four witnesses, making punishment almost impossible because such attacks are rarely public.

A woman who claims she was raped but fails to prove her case can be convicted of adultery, punishable by death.

Maulana Fazalur Rahman, a leader of the Islamic coalition, said Tuesday that lawmakers in his group would vacate their seats in the National Assembly if the government tries to get the assembly's approval to change the law.
"We will render every sacrifice for the protection of the Shariah (traditional Islamic) laws," he said at a news conference.

However, the ruling Pakistan Muslim Party --— which has a majority in the assembly -- — has praised Musharraf for taking steps to amend the law and end the four-witness requirement.


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