I was walking past my local newsagents on Tuesday when this headline caught my eye. It appears that Hamid Karzai, the President of Afghanistan who until fairly recently was supported by the West, has buckled under religious pressure in passing a new law which seriously undermines women’s rights. Here’s another letter from today on the issue. It’s quite hazy at the minute but it seems that the law will mean that, once again, women will be unable to leave the house, look for work or education, or get a doctor’s appointment without their husband’s permission. Perhaps most worryingly, it will also make it illegal for a woman to refuse to have sex with her husband, effectively legalising marital rape.
This came to me as a big surprise, but it seems I’ve not been keeping up with developments in Afghanistan. I remember it used to have a larger proportion of women in their Parliament than any other country in the world, and that equality between men and women was guaranteed under the constitution. But whilst searching for this story on the Guardian website, I noticed a lot of other stories with a similar theme.
Here’s a particularly sickening part of the article.
Ustad Mohammad Akbari, an MP and the leader of a Hazara political party, said the president had supported the law in order to curry favour among the Hazaras. But he said the law actually protected women’s rights.
“Men and women have equal rights under Islam but there are differences in the way men and women are created. Men are stronger and women are a little bit weaker; even in the west you do not see women working as firefighters.”
Akbari said the law gave a woman the right to refuse sexual intercourse with her husband if she was unwell or had another reasonable “excuse”. And he said a woman would not be obliged to remain in her house if an emergency forced her to leave without permission.
What the hell? People talk about a nanny state here but this is offensively ridiculous! What kind of a paternalistic system keeps women indoors for their own good, giving more rights to their male children? One that clearly doesn’t understand basic reasoning. If a woman goes outside (or shows a bit of ankle, for that matter) and is attacked, you punish the attacker, you don’t solve the situation by keeping women indoors and covered up! And what, are these women supposed to be grateful that in a small number of vaguely defined circumstances, they won’t have to stay indoors, and their rape won’t be legal? Well from the depths of my heart, thanks for nothing.
People will retort that Islam guarantees equality for women. These people are idiots or blinkered. I’ve already seen in the comments to these stories people saying things like “under Sharia, women are equal, but different”, just like the Hazara pig quoted above said. Well, let’s examine that claim, shall we? Women’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s under Islam. Women also get half the inheritance a man does. Muslim women may not marry non-Muslims, but men can [fourth paragraph of the answer]. Men may (and indeed appear encouraged to) marry more than one woman, but a woman may not. Women must cover themselves up and lower their gaze, but men don’t have to. Not only that, but explicitly the Q’uran says that women “have rights that are similar to men… and men are a degree above them”, and that men are in charge of women. This claim falls on its arse.
But despite this scriptural evidence, let’s think about what that actually means, ‘equal but different’. Yes, there are biological differences. You could even argue linguistic and psychological differences, but so what? Does that justify treating men and women differently? Maybe in terms of addressing the needs of men and women differently, sure, but I don’t see the logic in using the biological difference between men and women as a justification for making women cover themselves up, for example. There’s a similar thing in Paul about women not being able to teach men, but sit at the back of church in silence with their heads covered [10-15], which encountered when I went to a seminar by the Christadelphians. This whole ‘equal but different’ bullshit was used to justify segregation in America and even apartheid ffs!
Others will say that you need to separate Islam from the culture, it’s really just cultural, all this discrimination. People are using Islam to justify their own bigotry. Well, apart from the fact that, as I’ve just demonstrated, the inequality is firmly rooted in scripture, supposedly handed down from God, doesn’t this just indicate (as another commenter retorted) that Islam, like all religions, is man-made and male-dominated? Neither should we be less critical of the people who oppress women because their motivation is a bit different, or because their interpretation of the Q’uran is a bit different. I’m sure plenty of ‘traditionalists’ oppress women because they think (however mistakenly, I don’t think at all mistakenly) that it’s demanded in the Q’uran.
Anyway I’m kind of disgusted so I’m going to leave it here, but before I go I want to republish a section of a recent post by a trustee of the AHS, which I think is pretty relevant.
Fuck Islam. There you go, I’ve said it. And I mean it. I’m not a racist. I’m not a bigot. I vehemently and in the strongest possible terms decry the fascist repressive ideology of Islam.
Fuck its attitude towards women that has their testimony worth only half as much as a man’s in Sharia courts. Fuck its intolerance of criticism to the point where people – real human beings – are brutally murdered by mindless mobs of self-righteous fanatics because someone, somewhere drew some cartoons or wrote a book. Fuck its death sentences for homosexuals and apostates, its public executions on football grounds of adulterous women and its continual abuse of minorities. And most of all, most importantly of all, fuck its persistent and arrogant campaign to eradicate all opposing viewpoints. The hell with human rights, with human dignity, with the right of everyone to live their lives as they choose: this is Islam. Like it or lump it.