What is reform to a slave?

(HH here: This one is interesting. It is from a Gulf source and seems to be aimed at Muslims though it is in English. Notice how faintly the author “damns” the anti woman fatwas. She is clearly a radically feminist writer by local standards but see how uncommitted and equivocal she is. Anything more would be seen as the words of a radical. Actually, this gal complains here about weird rulings yet had defended the hijab. Ever heard of Stockholm Syndrome?)

There’s often more than one way to look at a fatwa
Hissa al Dhaheri

Last Updated: May 14. 2009 11:03PM UAE / May 14. 2009 7:03PM GMT An apple on a tree could fall, hit your head and inspire you to formulate a universal theory of gravitation. Or an apple on a tree could fall, hit your head and tempt you to take a forbidden bite.

In both cases the apple is a fruit, but it can lead to a variety of different outcomes. In the former case the apple is a source of inspiration. In the latter the apple is a source of disobedience.

(HH: This is the kind of language you have to adopt when straight forward criticism is seen as blasphemy)

In much the same way, fatwas can have wildly different results. A fatwa, a religious edict, could have the same effect as Sir Isaac Newton’s apple and lead to a revelation, or it could be like Adam and Eve’s apple and lead them astray.

This is especially relevant when it comes to fatwas related to the fitna of women’s issues. Fitna is a source of chaos and sedition, and in Arabic women are always referred to as fitna. Fatwas concerning women’s issues could be “empowering”, or a source of “controversy”. Last week, three fatwas concerning women’s issues were announced.

(HH: notice how she totally accepts that some man has the right to pronounce this Fatwa concerning women at all!!)

On Wednesday, the UAE General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments released a fatwa in conjunction with (or in celebration of) a treaty of understanding with the Egyptian fatwa centre. The fatwa gave women the right to education, marriage and medical treatment even if the father/husband/male guardian disapproves.

(HH: This Fatwa actually means nothing. Unless there is a corresponding law in place with enforcement who is to make the father/guardian LET the women do anything? Say that a woman does marry without her father’s approval. There are ample Fatwas supporting his killing her as a rebellious female. Unless having the “right” suddenly transforms a woman into Sigourney Weaver I do not see it having much affect on her actual life.)

In Kuwait, a member of the Salafi movement came up with a fatwa declaring that it is a sin to vote for female parliamentary candidates. Then, on Sunday, a Saudi judge at a family violence seminar came up with a fatwa that gave a husband the right to slap his wife for over spending.

So fatwas could be considered empowering, or they could stir up fitna and controversy. To understand their effects on society, one must only look at the apple, tumbling down, hitting your head or staying nestled in the branches of the tree.

The Emirati fatwa, unlike Newton’s apple, did not fall from the tree to hit Newton’s head and inspire a revelation, nor did it tumble down and stir up a controversy. In the UAE the number of women in higher education outnumbers the men. Women are visible in all sectors of society; we already have women ministers, members of parliament, doctors, pilots, etc. The relevance of this fatwa could be nil, or it could be empowering for re-emphasising an existing truth (one apple on the tree is better than ten rotting on the ground).

(HH: What is this truth she imagines have been affirmed? Just because at this time this country allows it’s women some rights to education and participation in politics does not mean they have a RIGHT to it. Again Show me the government intervening in a man trying to force his daughter to not go to school. Then let me see that daughter NOT ostracized or even beaten and killed for her rebellion if she goes anyway. THEN I will feel that this Fatwa is “re-emphasising” anything positive.)

The relevance of fatwas comes from their timeliness. It seems there is a time lag between the proclamation of a fatwa and the needs of society. The need for the first fatwa was probably 100 years ago, if indeed there ever was a need. Education, equality and equity are a given: why do we need to prove that again with a six-page document (and yet more information is available by checking fatwa No 4610 on the Awqaf website, as suggested at the end of the document).

(HH: what world does this women live in that these are a given for women outside of the West. And only recently there!!!)

In the case of the Kuwait and Saudi fatwas, they were timely: they were both developed as mechanisms to deal with current issues and situations. The political competition in Kuwait is the justification for the fatwa against voting for women candidates, while the credit crunch is the excuse for permitting a man to slap his wife.

(HH: WOW, I mean..WOW! She said it! Talk about Stockholm Syndrome! She is unhappy that the negative Fatwas came quickly upon society’s NEEDING them but the “positive ones” only come slowly!!!! It is a sin to vote for a woman because there are already too many candidates. And she does not like it but has no argument against it!! A man can slap his wife if she overspends because credit is very tight and it is more serious…she does not LIKE IT yad yada yada…)

This is interesting: a fatwa that raises the status of women is already out of date, while two that lower women’s status are timely. An apple on a tree falls, tempts, or in very rare cases reveals. An apple on a tree can never climb up, but only fall down.

Why does a fatwa that “empowers” women tend to be long, while any fatwa that pushes women’s situation downwards is short and concise: “It’s a sin to vote for women” in one case, and “Slap your wife” in the other.

(HH: Here we go again, her complaint is not the domination of men, it is that they are not “fair” about it!!!!!!)

Because of the apple, Newton discovered gravity and Adam and Eve fell out of Heaven. We always blame Eve for Adam’s misfortunes, just as many muftis blame women for much fitna. But isn’t it strange that in these cases it’s men who are tempting women to take a bite out of these apples, trying to persuade them that these are revelatory. What next: a fatwa declaring that women are actually human?

(HH: If by Human you mean no different than men in the eyes of God, don’t hold your breath.)

The UAE fatwa probably won’t make a difference to my life, but maybe it will strike some chords with others. I am sure many apples have fallen from many trees and hit many heads, but it was only when one struck Newton’s head that the theory of gravitation resulted. These fatwas might be seen as a revelation for many: what else would explain the popularity of Islamic fatwa programmes on TV, radios and Islamic websites?

I don’t like apples: but that doesn’t change the fact that an apple is a sweet and tasty fruit.

(HH: And if you doubted here we have her confirmation. Apples (Fatwas) are “sweet and tasty” to the soul even if we do not like them. So while she has some mild criticism she wants all to be sure that she will accept whatever the next Fatwa decrees.)

Hissa al Dhaheri is a sociologist and researcher in cultural studies, and holds an MA in Gulf Studies

Amnesty slams Arab treatment of human rights advocates

By JONNY PAUL, JPOST CORRESPONDENT IN LONDON

Amnesty International published a report on Wednesday that highlights the plight of human rights activists in the Middle East and North Africa and commends the work done by Israeli and Palestinian rights groups.

Israel & Region | World Titled “Challenging Repression,” the report cited the success Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups have had in challenging Israeli policies by petitioning the High Court of Justice, which had led to “a landmark ruling which effectively outlawed the use of torture by the IDF.”

According to the report, human rights activists in the Middle East and North Africa still face imprisonment, torture, persecution and repression. Activists are intimidated, harassed, threatened, arrested and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment or death after unfair trials.

Some rights advocates are held without access to the outside world for days or weeks, without charge or trial, and tortured, the report said.

“Some have been subjected to repeated arrest or to assault in the street apparently to deter them from continuing their activities; others have been detained and tried on trumped-up charges for daring to express dissent or for exposing government abuses,” Amnesty said.

Some are forced to sign confessions to crimes they say they have not committed, or pledges to stop their human rights activities.

In other countries, such as Egypt and Syria, decades-long states of emergency are also invoked to hand down severe punishments after unfair trials, Amnesty said.

“Across the region, those who stand up for human rights and expose violations by state authorities often incur great risks by doing so,” said Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa program. “Governments should be heralding the crucial role of human rights defenders in promoting and defending universal rights.

“Instead, too often, they brand them as subversives or trouble-makers and use oppressive means to impede their activities. People are languishing in jails across the region simply for peacefully exercising their right to expression, association or assembly,” Smart said.

Since the US-led war on terror began, the environment for human rights defenders in the region had generally worsened, as it has provided an additional pretext to silence dissent and to adopt counterterrorism laws, Amnesty said.

The UAE Decree Law on the fight against terrorist crimes penalizes even nonviolent attempts to “disrupt public order, undermine security, expose people to danger or wreak destruction of the environment.”

Similarly, the Anti-terrorism Law adopted in 2003 in Tunisia contains a very broad definition of terrorism, extending it to cover acts such as illegitimately “influencing state policy” and “disturbing public order,” which could seriously impinge upon the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, the report said.

Despite the repression and hardships, the persistence of activists in combating human rights violations has slowly led to change, Amnesty said.

In Iran, campaigning by women’s movements, including the Campaign for Equality, led to the removal of two controversial articles from a draft Family Protection Law under discussion by the parliament in mid-2008. Bloggers in Egypt have been instrumental in exposing torture and other ill-treatment in police stations. They posted several videos, taken on mobile phones, of torture and other ill-treatment, Amnesty said.

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