Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Muslim women meet for equal rights

From BBC:
Campaigners from Afghanistan set out the country's new marriage contract. Activists from Morocco explained how they secured wholesale reform of family law.

These were just two of the issues discussed by hundreds of Muslim women who gathered in Malaysia to launch a new global campaign for equality.

Reform of family law is at the heart of the campaign, to tackle what organisers called the "untenable" treatment of some Islamic women.

Polygamy, consent to marry, inheritance rights, custody of children after divorce - all are areas where they want change.

Zainah Anwar is at the helm of the campaign.

She helped organise the conference in Kuala Lumpur, which culminated in the unveiling of a new organisation called Musawah, which means equality in Arabic.

"The disconnect between Muslim family laws that discriminate against women and the realities of women's lives today is untenable and unacceptable," she said. "Women can't take that any longer."

Change on such a grand scale may seem unachievable to some, but Musawah is aimed at connecting Muslim women all over the world and uniting their efforts.

Underpinning their campaign is a new interpretation of parts of the Koran, Islam's holy text.

They believe this is crucial to winning arguments with scholars and politicians.

Good luck convincing the imams to re-interpret the Quran. Here's what happened to two people who merely tried to translate it:
An appeals court in Afghanistan upheld 20-year prison sentences yesterday for two men who published a translation of the Holy Quran that drove religious leaders to call for their execution.

The controversial text is a translation of the holy book into an Afghan language without the original Arabic verses alongside.
There has long been a catch-22 in the idea of modernizing Islam: there is no way to change attitudes without re-interpreting the Quran, and there is no way to re-interpret the Quran without the approval of the most intransigent clerics.

And the most extreme clerics hold veto power over everyone else, because no one wants to be accused of being a kuffir and put their lives in danger.