Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Fighting for Muslim Women’s Rights

BBC News reports on a fascinating conference taking place right now in Barcelona regarding Women’s Rights in Islam:

Fighting for Muslim women’s rights

Some of the world’s leading Islamic feminists have been gathered in Barcelona for the third International Congress on Islamic Feminism, to discuss the issues women face in the Muslim world.
Some of the women taking part in the conference explained the problems in their home countries, and where they hoped to make progress.

ASMA BARLAS, Author, Pakistan
Religions always come into cultures, they don’t come into abstract and pure spaces. Islam came into a very patriarchal, tribal and misogynistic culture. One of the deepest damages to Islam has been its reduction to “Arabisation”.

I’m not going to say that the Arabs are particularly misogynistic in a way that nobody else is, but I do think there are very particular traits and attitudes towards women that have crept into Islam.
I have a friend who has been studying the interface between what he calls the Persian models and the Arabist models of Islam in the subcontinent and surprise, surprise: the Arabist models are misogynistic, authoritarian, unitarian and the Persian models are much more plural and tolerant.
This is a fight on two fronts – on the one hand we are struggling against the kinds of oppression dominant in Muslim patriarch societies and, on the other, Western perceptions of Islam as necessarily monolithic, and confusing the ideals of Islam with the reality of Muslim lives.

If we read the Koran as a totality rather than pulling out random verses or half a line, that opens all kinds of possibilities for sexual equality.

RAFIAH AL-TALEI, journalist, Oman
Oman is relatively liberal, women are free to choose what to wear, and can choose their jobs and education. And the law does not require us to wear any particular form of clothing. But there are strong social and cultural factors – coming from the fact that we are in Arabia – that limit women.

As a journalist, it has not been hard for me to work among men, but it has been hard for some of my colleagues whose families told them this was not “appropriate” work for them.

The biggest difficulties are the social and cultural factors, and some aspects of law. For example, women who marry a foreigner cannot pass on their nationality to their children, whereas men in that situation can.

Religion is not an issue in our struggle, although there are problems with family law about divorce and marriage status. Omani laws are based on sharia law. Sharia is fair, but it is the wrong interpretations that are the problem. Male judges often don’t understand the principal goals of sharia.

We feel the law is fair, but ends up being unfair for women because of how judges interpret it.
Cultural and social factors often get mixed up with religion. Educated women can be more empowered and separate the two, but many don’t dare challenge the conventions.

NORANI OTHMAN, Scholar-activist, Malaysia
I don’t think it is any more difficult to be an Islamic feminist than a non-Muslim, or secular feminist.

Asian Muslim states have very different traditions to Middle Eastern countries

Feminists in general have to face up to political and cultural obstacles, to achieve our objectives of women’s rights. Even Western feminists have had a similar history – having to engage with certain religious beliefs not conducive to gender equality.

Perhaps the only distinctive difference peculiar to Muslim feminists is that we are caught in the cross-currents of modernisation and a changing society, due to a modern economy on the one hand and the global resurgence of political Islam on the other.

Political Islam wants to impose a world view about the gender order that is not consistent with the realities and the lived experiences of Muslim men and women in contemporary society.

Our detractors would hurl empty accusations at us – calling us Western, secular or anti-Islamic
There is a difference between South East Asian Muslim countries and the ones in the Middle East – culturally we are less patriarchal, we can always respond to our detractors by pointing out we don’t have the cultural practices that they do.

Our detractors would hurl empty accusations at us – calling us Western, secular or anti-Islamic.
Our arguments are rooted within Islam – we want renewal and transformation within the Islamic framework. They don’t like that.

We have a holistic approach, seeking gender equality within the Islamic framework, supported by constitutional guarantees. We see that these are not inconsistent with the message of the Koran, particularly during its formative stages. We have to understand the history and cultural context and extract the principle that will be applicable in modern times.

SITI MUSDAH MULIA, Academic, Indonesia
In my experience, I find that it is very difficult to make Indonesian Muslim women aware that politics is their right.

In Indonesian society, politics is always conceived as cruel and dirty, so not many women want to get involved, they think it is just for men.

According to the [radicalist] Islamic understanding, women should be confined to the home, and the domestic sphere alone

We try to make women understand that politics is one of our duties and rights and they can become involved without losing their femininity.

Personally, I’m non-partisan, I’m not linked to one political party because, in Indonesia, the political parties often discriminate against women.

I struggle from outside the political sphere to make it women-friendly, to reform political parties and the political system.

One day, I hope to be involved more directly, if the system becomes more women-friendly. We have passed a law about affirmative action and achieving 30% female representation, but we won’t see if it is implemented until after 2009 elections. We are waiting.

In Indonesia, some groups support us, but some radical groups oppose what we are trying to achieve. They accuse me, accuse feminist Muslims, of being infidels, of wanting to damage Islamic affairs.

According to their Islamic understanding, women should be confined to the home, and the domestic sphere alone.

AMINA WADUD, Academic, United States
There are many more conversations going on today between different interpretations of Islam. Some interpretations are very narrow, some are more broad, principled, ethically-based.

Unless we have sufficient knowledge about Islam, we cannot bring about reform of Islam. I am not talking about re-interpretation, I am talking more about gender-inclusive interpretation.

Islam and feminism are not mutually exclusive
We have a lot of information about men’s interpretations of Islam, and of what it means to be a woman in Islam. We don’t have equal amounts of information about what women say it means to be a good woman in Islam.

Now it’s time for men to be active listeners, and after listening, to be active participants in bringing about reform.

There is a tendency to say that it is Islam that prohibits women from driving a car, for example, when women drive cars all over the world except in one country. So then you know it is not Islam. Islam has much more flexibility, but patriarchy tends to have the same objective, and that is to limit our ability to understand ourselves as Muslims.

I have always defined myself as pro-faith and pro-feminism.
I do not wish to sacrifice my faith for anybody’s conception of feminism, nor do I sacrifice the struggle and actions for full equality of women, Muslim and non-Muslim women, for any religion. Islamic feminism is not an either/or, you can be Muslim and feminist and strive for women’s rights and not call yourself a feminist.

FATIMA KHAFAJI, Consultant, Egypt
In Egypt, Islamic feminism is a way for women activists to reach a large number of ordinary women in the villages and in urban low-income areas, using a framework of Islam. So there would be a reference to Islam when talking about women’s rights. Experience has shown that that is an easy way to get women to accept what you’re saying.

Not many women get information about women’s rights easily, so you have to counter what has been fed to them, to both men and women, from the strict, conventional, religious people who have more access to women.

They have their own idea of women’s rights in Islam – that is, patriarchal, still limiting opportunities for women. But women have been receiving this concept for ages, through the radio, TV, mosques, so the challenge is how to give them another view, of enlightened Islam, that talks about changing gender roles. It’s not an easy job.

Historically, in Egypt in the feminist movement, there have been both Muslim and Christian women. It has never been a problem. Unfortunately nowadays, it has become a problem. Religious discrimination has been dividing people very much. We have to think carefully about how to supersede the differences.

With family law, we’re aiming to change the philosophy of the law itself. Traditional family law puts women down. I can see this whole notion of “women do not have control over their bodies” in so many laws, in the penal code and family law. For example, sexual harassment is happening because men think the control of women’s bodies is a matter for them. Even the decision whether to have children is the decision of men. This whole notion has to be changed in a dramatic way if we are really going to talk about women’s rights in Egypt.

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October 29, 2008 Posted by | Community, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Living Conditions, News, Relationships, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 8 Comments

Not-Stormy Sunrise

When I got up this morning, the sky was thick with clouds, and I thought to myself “I will call it Stormy Sunrise,” but by the time the sun came over the horizon, the clouds had dissipated, and it was an entirely different sunset.

Did anyone else hear a loud clap of thunder last night? I heard it, but it was when I was too much asleep to care enough to get up and watch. If there was an electrical storm, I missed it. I can see that we have had some slight sprinkles, though, recently, because I have drop marks on our windows.

Here is what the today and tomorrow are supposed to look like:

October 29, 2008 Posted by | ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, sunrise series, Weather | 2 Comments

Interesting Twist on Hijab

From today’s Al Watan:

”Policewomen must comply with Islamic attire”
Al Watan staff

KUWAIT: In reaction to a statement by the Director General of Sheikh Saad AlـAbdullah Academy on policewomen”s uniforms, MP Mohammed Hayef noted that the current uniform requirements for female police contravene with the spirit of Islamic law as well as the Constitution, which guarantees personal freedom.

According to him, the announced uniform will ban policewomen for wearing a veil, even if they chose to do so.

The lawmaker reiterated his resolve to stand against the uniform to ensure that Islamic law is observed.

He also criticized the period during which policewomen will undergo training, arguing that 12 hours is too long for the female conscripts, considering their physical abilities.

Describing the training period as similar to hard labor, he called on the relevant authorities to reconsider their decision on this particular matter.

Last updated on Tuesday 28/10/2008

What do you think? I think that there are ways of covering your hair that are not inconsistent with being a policewoman. If the uniform forbids hijab, in my mind, that is as bad as the parliament requiring hijab, for the same reason – wearing hijab or not wearing hijab is a personal decision between a woman and her God. It is not to be mandated by state or mankind. Instead of getting into a big fracas about it, why not have a fashion-design contest to design a professional headgear that a covered woman could CHOOSE to wear as part of her uniform?

As to the 12 hours – well LLLLOOOLLLL! How many hours of hard labor per day do women put in with taking care of children, cleaning, shopping and meal preparation, not to mention family obligations? Working a 12 hour day training to be a policewoman? Piece of cake!

Women in all parts of the world are working as soldiers, police, fire protection, etc. They train as hard as the men, and they get the job done. Think of the female doctors in Kuwait, and the hours they work! Think of their sacrifice! Our estrogen issues are no more diverting and/or debilitating than male testosterone issues!

(thank you, thank you, I’ll get off my soapbox now)

October 28, 2008 Posted by | Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Health Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Relationships, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 21 Comments

Aware Center: November Schedule

If you are feeling a little clueless in Kuwait, the Aware Center is a great place to get started. They offer classes in Arabic, in addition to multiple opportunities to understand the culture and all that Kuwait has to offer. 

 

AWARE Center November Calendar

“Advocates for Western-Arab Relations”

 

The AWARE Center is a non-profit and non-governmental organization that was established in 2003 by a group of Arabs and Westerners whose aim was to promote positive relations between Westerners and Arabs through dialogue and friendship.  Since our opening in 2003, individuals from more than 50 countries have visited AWARE to take part in our cross-cultural activities. 

 

We hope you will join us as we share the culture of the Arabs and Muslims through a variety of programs scheduled during the month of November. 

For further details on any of our programs, you may contact our staff by telephone at

2 5335280 or by email at info@www.aware.com.kw or delores.aware@gmail.com or view our webpage atwww.aware.com.kw 

 

November at AWARE:

Nov. 2-8

Tues. 4th Nov. Diwaniya: “The Status of Women in the World and Islam’s Response”,  by Dr Teresa, 7:00pm

Wed. 5th Nov. Cultural Orientation Course: “Cultural Clothing of Kuwait” by Iman Martin, 7:00pm

Thurs. 6th Nov.  Arabic Winter Courses Begin (Please refer to the attachment for a full schedule of class offerings) 

Nov. 9-15

 

Mon. 10th Nov. Tour: Tareq Rajab Museum Please note: This tour meets directly at the Museum at 5pm.  For directions and further details, contact amina@aware.com.kw

Tues. 11th Nov. Diwaniya: “What is the Real Jihad?” by Shayma Mahmoud, 7:00pm

Wed. 12th Nov. Cultural Orientation Course: “Etiquette when visiting Kuwaiti Homes” by Wadha, 7:00pm

Thurs. 13th Nov. International Friends Film and Coffee Social: “Inside Mecca, National Geographicdocumentary film, 7:00pm

Sat. 15th Nov. Tour: Grand Mosque 9.30am Please note: This tour meets directly at the Grand Mosque at 9:15am.  For    directions and further details, contact amina@aware.com.kw

 

Nov. 16-22

 

Tues. 18th Nov. Diwaniya: “Globalization Vs Universalism by Kevin Stoda, 7:00pm

Wed. 19th Nov. Cultural Orientation Course: “Kuwaiti Weddings & Islamic Married Life” by Iman Martin, 7:00pm

 

Nov. 23-30

 

Tues. 25th Nov. Diwaniya: “Why are human beings different?”, by Hassan Taha, 7:00pm

Thurs. 27th Nov. Carpet Exhibition & Lecture,  “The Art of Persians Carpets”, by Nazi Riasati Al-Dashti, 7:00pm

October 28, 2008 Posted by | Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Women's Issues | 4 Comments

Rosy Dawn with Chills

Wooo HOOO, Kuwait! Look at this temperature at 7 ayem!

And then look at the humidity and the dew point! No wonder we all feel a little clammy!

The dawn is moving further and further to the south, and this morning was briefly rosy as the sun struggled to break through the thick haze:

When my husband and I prayed together this morning, we prayed to be able to keep our minds and hearts on the things that are really important, and not the things of the world. As financial empires crumble, we want to be thankful for all the riches with which we have been blessed – our marriage, our son and his wife, our families – for good jobs, and good friends – and we pray to be safe on the roads.

Even the Qatteri Cat likes morning prayer time. 🙂

October 28, 2008 Posted by | Community, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Relationships, Spiritual, sunrise series, Weather | 4 Comments

She Kept Her Head

From today’s Arab Times:

Police arrest youth, hunt for two in kidnap, rape bid of schoolgirl

KUWAIT CITY: Police have arrested a Kuwaiti youngster and are looking for his two other accomplices who allegedly kidnapped a schoolgirl, drove her to a deserted area and tried to rape her, reports Al-Dar daily.

The girl told police that the youngsters got scared when she screamed for help and drove off; however, she managed to note down the plate number of their vehicle and it led to the arrest of one of them.

God bless this scared, screaming girl – she used her head. The miserable cowards who abducted her and intended to rape her dumped her, and she wrote down their license number! Wooo HOOO on you, girlie!

October 27, 2008 Posted by | Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Social Issues | | 8 Comments

What Happened with Categories, WordPress?

Two days ago I noticed that my categories are no longer showing, so I went into admin and changed it back, so that they are showing. The next day it was back to this “a” and a box you have to drop down to find the categories.

It’s not that I mind the box – if I had chosen the box. I chose to have my categories showing. You gave me that option. What? So now you are taking it away and you didn’t even give me any warning? You appear to give me the option on my Admin page, but I really don’t have the option? What is going on?

I know it’s not just me – I see it on a couple other WordPress blogs I visit.

October 27, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, WordPress | 6 Comments

An Insult – and 3 Dead Kuwaitis

From today’s Arab Times. How many hearts are breaking in Kuwait over one young man’s lack of self-control? I know, I know, this is Kuwait, and things are different. Because of an insult, three brothers are dead, and one in intensive care. Two families devastated, one with dead sons, one with a son who is a murderer. Three crashed vehicles, one from an innocent man who only stopped to see if he could help, and ended up with his car stolen and crashed, too. . . the whole thing is tragedy, from beginning to end.

Three brothers dead: Three Kuwaiti brothers in the age group of 25-30 years died in a road rage accident in Mina Abdullah while their fourth brother is currently confined to the intensive care unit of Adan Hospital, reports Al-Anba daily.

According to a security source, a Kuwaiti youth’s car broke down on King Fahd Expressway. The youth reportedly called his father to inform about the breakdown and told that four Kuwaiti youngsters had insulted him. When his father went to help the youth, the latter took his father’s vehicle, drove at full speed and crashed into the Jeep of the four brothers. The Jeep overturned due to the impact and one of the brothers died on the spot. Two others died in Adan Hospital and the fourth one is confined to the intensive care unit.

Meanwhile, the youth, who appeared disoriented, left his father’s car at the site of the accident and drove away with an Asian’s car who stopped to check what happened. He was eventually arrested after crashing into another car.

How does the law work in a case like this?

It says the young man was arrested. Is he still in jail? Can you get bail after killing three people in an act of rage?

Is his driving license taken away?

is an insult considered justification for a crime of rage?

Does he go to prison, or if he pays blood money, does he walk away free?

If he is convicted of murder, what is the likely sentence?

Will he also go on trial for stealing the Asian’s car and crashing it?

Not a legal question:

Does this cause an unending feud between two families? Or is this just another chapter in an already ongoing feud?

How many drivers am I sharing the road with who have killed?

October 27, 2008 Posted by | Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Health Issues, Kuwait, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Relationships, Social Issues | 8 Comments

Barely There Sunrise

This morning, I was up, looking out my window-on-the-world, hanging on to my coffee for dear live at 0600 in the morning, Qatteri Cat was with me, purring and making those little kitten noises that mean “Hiya, Mom, any chance you’ll pour me some fresh cat food?” and I have my camera . . . but there is no sunrise. There is light, but whatever is hanging over Kuwait is SO thick that the sun can’t break through, not for half an hour after sunrise.

This is what it looks like when you can finally see the sun:

What is really scary – we are BREATHING that stuff!

It is 72°F / 22°C at 0700 (Wooo Hoooo!) and althought it doesn’t feel so humid today, we have the possibility of rain later on this week. And look at those temperatures! Get out the long underwear!

October 27, 2008 Posted by | ExPat Life, Health Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, sunrise series, Weather | 3 Comments

Why Dogs Hate Halloween

A friend sent me a very long e-mail this morning, full of photos like these. I am only sharing these with you at the end of the work day because I don’t want your boss to hear you laughing out loud: 🙂

Can you imagine? Have they no pride, no dignity? A dog will be a good sport and will go along with just about anything. A cat will scratch your eyes out if you are even thinking about it! LLOOLL

October 26, 2008 Posted by | Halloween, Humor, Pets | | 9 Comments