Thursday, March 15, 2007

Muslim women reshape Islam

from the March 14, 2007 edition

Muslim women can reshape Islam

The US honors 'women of courage' from five Muslim nations, a sign of challenges to male Islamists.
The Monitor's View Something special went unnoticed last week when the US State Department gave out its first awards for "women of courage" to 10 foreign recipients: Seven of the women had demonstrated their honored bravery within Muslim countries.

Were these awards another US effort to help reform Islam? Possibly. But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice simply praised the honorees for "combating attempts to dehumanize women." And the awards were pegged to International Women's Day, March 8.

Still, the winners, selected from 82 women nominated by US embassies, came from only eight nations, five of which are largely Muslim (Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iraq, Maldives, Saudi Arabia). That carries a message about the churn for change among Muslims.

It's possible that at least one woman activist from Iran should have made the cut. But then she would have been tagged a US agent. Last week, the clerics who rule in Tehran detained 33 women activists as they protested for five other women on trial for a 2006 demonstration against discriminatory laws. Such arrests show that female dissenters in Iran are a big threat to the Islamic regime.

Mullahs in many Islamic nations are nervous these days about educated women smartly arguing against post-Muhammad interpretations of the Koran that treat women differently than men. If anyone on the State Department's list comes closest to fulfilling that role, it is Dr. Siti Musdah Mulia of Indonesia.
Islamic followers in that Southeast Asian nation have long expressed the religion's gentler qualities, such as tolerance and mercy. Indonesian women, for example, don't suffer honor killings or genital mutilation. And they may interpret holy texts and be teachers and preachers, challenging misogynist or patriarchal theology. With more than 200 million Muslims, Indonesia may someday spread a kinder form of Islam, unlike that from Iran and Al Qaeda.
Dr. Mulia was Indonesia's first woman with a doctorate in Islamic political thought and the first female professor at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences. In 2004, she led an effort to revise the legal code, seeking a ban on polygamy and forced marriages. The attempt, however, was thwarted in parliament by Islamists.

Still, the stage was set to further improve women's rights. Many new women's groups in Indonesia are making "unyielding religious arguments," states US scholar Pieternella van Doorn-Harder in her 2006 book "Women Shaping Islam." These women, she writes, "did not set out to be activists or feminists but wanted women to fulfill the status originally given to them by Islam: equal human beings in front of God."

Muslim women can claim that status, lost to them during Islam's early centuries, by gaining more specific knowledge of the Koran. In the 1970s, for instance, women Islamic scholars in Indonesia said the Koran allows birth control. Soon afterward, male scholars endorsed that view.

This kind of grass-roots shift within Islam needs quiet support. It may be more effective than simply championing Western-style human rights. Religion speaks to the heart, and it is hearts that need to be changed if Muslim women are to win equality with men.

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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.