Somalia/UAE - Muslim women can only envy their Western sisters rising to the highest political leadership: Angela Merkel, Tarja Halonen, Hillary Clinton, and Segolene Royal. Turn to the Muslim world and the media will surprise you with daily reports of honor killings, hudood laws, female genital mutilation, social segregation, and political discrimination against women.
No matter how much they strain marshal all kinds of excuses for the lack of female empowerment, Muslim men always avoid mentioning the real truth. In almost every report and study prepared on the situation of women, Muslim and Arab intellectuals fail to mention Islam as part of the problem.
Calling for "...the dismantling of the centuries-old structures of discrimination against women," was the nearest that any Arab study has ever come to broaching this issue
But it is on Islam, rightly or wrongly used, that all reactionary groups base their arguments in denying women their rights. The truth is that women oppressors such as the Union of Islamic Courts in Somalia love to base the exclusion of women from political life by quoting the Prophet's saying: "No people will ever succeed if they hand their affairs to a woman."
It is on the basis of another saying of the Prophet, which says: "When one of you inflicts a beating, he should avoid striking the face" that many Muslim men use to justify their physical abuse of women. Any argument that is raised against the authenticity of these sayings will not change anything as long as there are people who want to use Islam to oppress women.
My Somali people still use female genital mutilation to protect women's virginity. As I wrote for Al Jazeera in a previous editorialabout this issue:
This physical torture and mutilation of women's God-given sexual organs...causes enormous and life-long psychological scar to our women. It is a cruel and abusive practice aimed at...teaching them [women] that they are property and like any other property they have to be kept in lock and latches. It tells them that they are not trustworthy even with their own bodies and deprives them of having a healthy and comfortable sex life. They learn that they are only worth the scar and the stitches they carry...
Islamists may call this practice un-Islamic from now to eternity, but give me a single one of them who would accept an uncircumcised woman as his bride. Rightly or wrongly, the root cause of the problem goes to the nobleness of virginity that Islam ingrains in the minds of the believers.
This is why the Islamists in Mogadishu are herding women back to the home. Sadly, these are the same Somali women of whom the renowned Kenyan-American Professor Ali Mazrui once predicted to be the first in Africa to attain their country's presidency.
For every denial of rights a woman faces, whether it is not being able to drive a car, go to school, have a fair share of inheritance, marry the man she loves, take part in public decision-making, or simply wear what she chooses, it is always Islam that is put as a tall wall before her. I wonder when Muslim scholars will stop being apologetic and sift the right from the wrong in Islam to give women their right place in society.
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