With a few exceptions, no group of humans has ever jumped and yielded to the demands of the rulers or majorities to change. There is a strong record of resistance to such a change, however, changes have come to be accepted and sustained through persuasion and referencing scriptures.
No one likes a change, not even you, the esteemed readers. You will tell me to go to hell if I told you to change the clothes you wear, the food you eat, the smile you have on your face or the way your talk. If we allow anyone to dictate changes, it amounts to forcing everyone in the society to change by the one who holds the laathi (the one who owns the Cain), owns the water buffalo.
There are plenty of stories of brave men and women in just every religious, ethnic, and nationalistic group where they fought the proposed changes valiantly and at times committed suicide en masse rather than surrender to the rulers. The exceptions are also there in China and Russia where religions were suppressed but when Russia splintered, religion surfaced right back.
The banishment of Sati, a practice where a Hindu widowed woman would throw herself into her husband’s funeral pyre and immolate to death, succeeded not because of the Mogul and British rulers, but because of the wisdom and persuasive Hindu leadership presenting alternate meaning of the scriptures.
The dawn of the 19th century produced two great Hindu thinkers and reformers; Swami Sahajanand who argued that the practice of Sati was not Vedic but a product of 4th century kings, and Raja Rammohan Roy, who saw his own sister-in-law forced to commit Sati, which prompted him to take up the issue strongly and go on a campaign of writing and quoting scriptures. Finally the practice was outlawed in 1829 and it is rarely practiced since then.Now coming to the Muslim personal laws, the scriptures do not support triple Talaq in one sitting, it is suppose to be three periods of waiting to make sure the woman is not pregnant and more importantly, it gives the time for a couple to rethink and re-align before they make that final decision. Hilla, a docudrama illustrates the point well.Indeed, in the United States, which is more Islamic than most Muslim nations, it takes 90 days to finalize the divorce proceedings after it is filed, just as the Qur’aan calls for it.
Permitting a man to marry four wives was rather a severe restriction at a time when men were marrying and divorcing women with no restrictions, this was the norm in most societies. Indeed, the restriction was a sign of change, a move to adapt to the needs of the society when Men to women ratio was lopsided. In the Indian context there are reports showing more Hindu men having a second woman than Muslim men having two wives.The second part of the equation was prompted by the need for social justice, where women were forced to be single through wars and deaths of their spouse, father, brother or other financial supporter. A thousand years ago, women were dependent in all societies and in such cases, they only option dumped on them was to sell their flesh, as men in all societies look at a single women with ill-intent. It was to uplift the dignity of woman, that polygamy was permitted, it was for social justice and not lust. Muslims are as open to change as any one, so we have to take steps and quote the scriptures in support of the change. suggest the Muslim organizations to hold symposiums, debates and conferences, and give a genuine room to people who have opposing views. We are holding a Sharia symposium in Dallas and inviting the nation’s foremost anti-Sharia activists along with the scholars. Let’s sincerely table the issue and find lasting solutions; when we bring the yes men who support our views, we fail in our integrity and our obligation to find the truth. We need to be inclusive of opposing views to find genuine solutions.Prophet Muhammad has set a variety of examples in handling different situations. When he asked an opinion on an issue, he asked it to be different than what prevailed at that moment. There is a difference when you ask for support and ask an opinion, in the former you ask them to say yes to your opinion, in the latter you want to know if there is another point of view. Indeed, he accepted opinions of his associates even though they were different than his own during the battles of Trench and Uhud.Let’s bring a closure to this gnawing problem that is constantly biting Muslims every few years.
Last week, the best-selling author and popular blogger Penelope Trunk declared divorce “immature and selfish.” She claimed divorce is “nearly always terrible for kids” (and “your case is not the exception”), that it is a sign of mental illness (specifically, of Borderline Personality Disorder), and that it is something that “dumb people” do at higher rates than well-educated ones.
Trunk tends to base most of her writing, for her blog and for national media outlets like CNN, on pretty solid scientific research, so I was surprised by this post. That said, she’s most famous for blogging about highly personal and controversial topics, and so this might be, in part, a publicity stunt.
Unfortunately, her post is freaking out thousands of people who are doing their best to raise happy and well-adjusted children. My former husband even asked me, in a panicky whisper outside of our teacher conference, if our own much-deliberated and highly-agonized-over divorce could have damaged our kids in ways we were not yet seeing several years out.
Is Trunk correct? Is it usually better for kids to have unhappily married parents who stay together? Or are there some cases where divorce is actually better for kids than remaining married?
There is no denying that divorce is pretty tough on everyone involved. When you look at the general population, about 10 percent of kids have behavioral or school-related problems, but about 20 percent of kids whose parents divorce have these problems. Though it’s true that 80 percent of kids with divorced parents are doing fine, divorce seems to double the risk that kids will have problems. Does this mean that unhappily married folks actually should stay together for the kids?
Not necessarily. This is because some of the risk factors that divorce can create for kids actually exist before an unhappily married couple divorces. As I’ve written before, conflict in a relationship is the real doozy for everyone involved. Though it’s true that kids being raised by “harmoniously married” parents do better than others, both sociologists and psychologists consistently find that kids who are raised by unhappily married parents doworse than kids whose unhappily married parents get divorced. Let me state that again:The worst situation for kids is when unhappily married parents, particularly those in high-conflict marriages, stay together.
Are you wondering if you are in a high-conflict or distressed marriage? Violence and abuse make a relationship high-conflict, of course; researchers also tend to classify relationships characterized by contempt, stonewalling (when one person ignores another’s attempts to engage), criticism, or defensiveness as distressed.
(The Judith Wallerstein book that Trunk cites as evidence that “divorce is nearly always terrible for kids,” was, by the way, criticized ages ago. Wallerstein’s research looked at a clinical sample of teenagers who visited a clinic in northern California and whose parents were divorced — teenagers who were already troubled, according to Virginia Rutter, author of “Divorce in Research vs. Divorce in the Media.” Thus, the results may not be generalizable to all families. That study got so much press, however, that it inspired a plethora of high-quality research that is actually quite useful for helping us understand how or why divorce might hurt kids..)
“Does divorce harm kids?” is not actually the right question, although we ask it all the time. A better question is this: “What circumstances make divorce harmful or beneficial to kids?” And the answer is that, on average, divorce actually helps kids when it ends an unhappy, high-conflict marriage.
There’s another important factor: the quality of the divorce itself. The difference between a “bad” and “good” divorce can be critical for kids. Researchers refer to divorce-related problems as “post-disruption effects,” and studies of them are numerous and complicated. Post-divorce problems — such as losing contact with a parent, or financial hardship, or having parents who continue to fight bitterly — tend to accumulate. When they do, children benefit substantially from therapy and other forms of support.
So it isn’t that divorce never causes problems for kids. Children whose parents divorceactually do tend to have more problems than children whose parents stay together — but divorce may often be a symptom of a bigger problem rather than the cause of it. And the negative effects of divorce, on average, are surprisingly small, especially compared to some of the other things that can go wrong in childhood.
I would never call a process as difficult and painful as divorce “immature,” as Penelope Trunk did. I think divorcing well — in a way that won’t scar the children deeply and permanently — takes great maturity and courage — which, of course, not everyone has.
But is divorce selfish? Not if you are in a distressed or high-conflict marriage. If you are, but you are staying because you think it would be selfish to leave, don’t leave for yourself. Do it for your kids.
An Egyptian court has ordered a halt to forced virginity tests on female detainees in military prisons.
The case, which was decided on Tuesday, was filed by Samira Ibrahim, a woman who said the army forced her to undergo a virginity test in March after she was arrested during a protest in central Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
Human-rights organisations say that there have been many other such tests by the military.
“The court orders that the execution of the procedure of virginity tests on girls inside military prisons be stopped,”
Judge Aly Fekry, head of the Cairo Administrative court, said.
Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal, reporting from Cairo, said the verdict was cheered by hundreds of people who had gathered inside the courtroom to hear the ruling read out.
“Today’s verdict to ban any form of virginity test [in military prisons] will be seen by many as vindication for their criticism of the military over the past few months,” our correspondent said.
“This is something that will draw more criticism to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces – not so much the military itself, but its leadership.”
In an emotional testimony posted on YouTube, Ibrahim, 25, recounted how she and other women were beaten, electrocuted and accused of being prostitutes.
She said the “virginity test” was conducted by a soldier in army fatigues in front of dozens of people.
“When I came out, I was destroyed physically, mentally and emotionally,” she said.
On March 9, army officers violently cleared Cairo’s Tahrir Square and held at least 18 women in detention.
Women said they were beaten, given electric shocks, subjected to strip searches while being photographed by male soldiers, then forced to submit to “virginity tests” and threatened with prostitution charges.
In May, an army general, speaking to CNN television on condition of anonymity, defended the practice.
“We didn’t want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren’t virgins in the first place,” he said.
Roots of patriarchy
For a long time, Egyptians have been born and raised in a patriarchal culture, where the authority or father figure is the centre of everything: family, work – and, especially, the political regime. This patriarchal society, which perceives women as weak, marginalised beings – and much of the time merely as sex objects – forms and controls the mentality of a large chunk of society, especially within the military institution which is, at the moment, ruling the country.
From my observations, this is the key reason why female protesters are being, most of the time, sexually harrassed and assaulted by the security forces, whether police or army. The objective is always the same: attacking what is perceived to be the weak link of the chain of this rebellion against a patriarchal and authoritarian regime, to prevent the movement from spreading or growing.
|Samira Ibrahim fought her case and won a ban on ‘virginity tests’ being caaried out in the future [REUTERS]|
At the same time, the authority/father, never commits any mistakes; if it does, no-one is allowed to question or judge it, as it always needs to maintain its “image” and “morals”. Talking about how the authority/father attacks female protesters always invokes the answer that it’s always the women’s fault, as any “decent”, well-behaving woman would not leave their home to protest or to take part in a sit-in. So, what made this woman take part in the protests on the first place? “What made her go there?”
Another important factor in this equation is that, for a long time under Mubarak’s regime, women’s rights were strongly associated in the minds of both politicians and many Egyptians, with Suzanne Mubarak. Adopting policies and passing laws in an authoritative manner, even if they seemed to be pro-women rights, disconnected them completely from any popular support. Therefore, supporting women’s rights after the revolution is perceived as backing part of the old regime.
This is how one may start to understand those unexpected attacks on last year’s women’s march marking International Women’s Day. The reaction was always the same: “What made these women go there?”
Back to March 9, 2011, that day of crime against Egyptian women, when military police violently emptied Tahrir Square. Many women were subject to that “virginity test”. Only Samira Ibrahim dared to report this violation, to challenge the military institution and Egyptian society, and to sue her abusers. The incident didn’t receive much public attention at the time, as swathes of Egyptians decided – consciously or unconsciously – to trust the military and to avoid questioning its actions. The country’s patriarchal heritage played a role in providing the now typical answer whenever this issue was brought up for discussion: “What made her go there?”
|The footage of ‘Blue Bra Woman’ being attacked inspired many other activists to join the cause [EPA]|
“What made her go there?” was still the reaction when another crime was committed against women in December 2011. Another sit-in, in front of the Council of Ministers, was severely attacked by army officers. Striking photos and video footage have circulated online of a girl being severely beaten and stripped of her clothes by soldiers. The woman, whose face remained covered in the images online, became known to international media as “Blue Bra Woman”. This incident brought the issue of women’s rights to the frontlines of the Egyptian political debate. The Egyptian public didn’t want to believe the army actually fiercely attacked its own citizens, and stripped nearly naked one of its women.
The easy solution for the ethical dilemma was to, once again, blame it all on the women, stupidly asking the question: “What made her go there?”
Patriarchal political representation of power is the largest factor in the ongoing marginalisation of women. The fact was that Egyptian women played a key role during the 18 days of revolution, and were always present and active in Tahrir Square; being present in the square’s centre with their families and children, providing medical care for the injured and supplies for the protesters at the sit-in, protesting and being beaten harshly by the security forces, choking on tear gas – and even dying to live in a free, democratic country.
But this struggle wasn’t translated, after Mubarak’s fall, to a specific feminist agenda – which would have linked the values of the revolution (bread, freedom, social justice and human dignity) with the demands of the masses of Egyptian women. Therefore, the demands of Egyptian women, the highest of which being the right to bodily integrity, the right to personal safety, and the right to walk freely on the streets, quickly faded away, and were ignored by most political and social actors, including many women themselves, being viewed as partial and unimportant in the grander scheme of the revolution.
The revolution continues
Ignoring the presence of women and their right to participate in public life was clearly reflected, for example, in the parliamentary elections. Most of the political parties, both Islamist and secular, preferred not to put women in advanced positions on their electoral lists, which would have guaranteed the greatest number of seats for women in parliament. The result was a parliament with fewer than one per cent of women members.
The exposing of Blue Bra Woman’s underwear and Samira Ibrahim’s lawsuit seem to have taken a few steps along the road of breaking that patriarchal mentality. The social and political actors believing in the revolution have started to gradually believe that women’s rights are an integral, indivisible demand of the revolution, especially given the struggle of amazing women and girls such as Samira. Her lawsuit against the army officer who violated her was, unquestionably, looked upon by the forces of the revolution as a struggle against military rule, as a battle in their own war.
The military court did not convict the doctor who violated Samira. She may have lost her case, but her struggle, in my opinion, is a step towards linking the revolutionary agenda with women’s issues, and created awareness and discussion about those issues, as well as helping to inspiring the revolutionary forces that the fight against dictatorship and patriarchal authority is the same fight, and is still ongoing, that the revolution continues.
What made her go there? The question remains. But the reply is clear: “She went there to demand her right to live in a free country.”