[press release] Declaration on the occasion of International Women’s Day

March 8, 2016

The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) held a series of meetings throughout the period of several months with women, French citizens of the Muslim faith, who are engaged in their communities and in civil society.

The objective of this dialogue and exchanges is to understand the visions, the expectations, and the suggestions of Muslim women, and to examine, together, the problems linked to the condition of women within society.

At the end of the last meeting, which was held Saturday, March 5, 2016 in Paris, the CFCM and all women who participated would like to remind on International Women’s Day on March 8, 2016:

  1. That since the beginning of Islam, women acquired and merit full legal status and that the Sainted Qur’an, Message of Wisdom and Equity, confers complete equality for men and women. “Women have the same rights as the men have on them in accordance with the generally known principles.” (Coran, 2:228)
  2. That it is established in Islam, without argument, the spiritual equality between man and woman and that there can be no limits to their spiritual progress.
  3. That man and woman come from a vital essence both the same and different, they are equal in humanity. To this, the Prophet proclaimed: “Women are like men.”
  4. That the Muslim woman plays a primordial role in society, that she must assume this role, without reservation, or constraint. Also, in regards to professional life, Islam advocates for the equality of salaries for workers, men and women, who hold the same job. This underlines the notion of equality among man/woman that is actively sought today in the work and business world.
  5. That the right to express their opinions on public, social, and religious affairs was recognized by Muslims since the advent of Islam. In effect, women can share their thoughts and choices on any public position. Also, Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, second Caliph after the Prophet, entrusted the position of sales manager of contracts and purchases of Medina to a woman, Shifa Bint Abdullah, one of the rare people versed in art and writing in a society dominated by illiteracy; he also entrusted a woman to run the Market of Mecca, Samra Bint Nouhayl.
  6. That Islam gave man and woman their respective rights and obligations that allowed them to live in harmony. Sadly, in many cases, the principles of equality and equity are not respected by the Men who, at times, continue to impose their point of view. It is therefore necessary to continue to support pedagogy, study, and education so that Muslim women are not the objects of discrimination and submission.

The CFCM and the participating women proclaim on this occasion their solidarity with all women, of any faith and belief.

They reaffirm their commitment to work for the emancipation and development of the role of women in French society for today and tomorrow.

Exam Commission needs to make decision on Muslim students who refuse examination by males

Two medical Muslim students at Erasmus MC in Rotterdam asked for exemption from a practice where they were supposed to be examined by at least one man and one woman. The women didn’t want to be touched by a man. Their request for exemption was however refused by the director of the study.

The Appeals Tribunal for Higher Education has stated this refusal to be invalid, because the director was not in the position to make this decision.

The women are referring to the freedom of religion and the inviolability of the body, both mentioned in the Constitution. They also said that they just don’t want to be touched by a man, but are willing to do examination on male students/patients.

The University Medical Centre in Groningen (UMCG), where also a lot of Muslim students are studying, says that they have never come across such a problem, since they give students the choice by whom they are willing to be examined.

Texas court of appeals recognizes Pakistani Islamic divorce

In late 2009, however, Mohammad divorced Fariha under Pakistani law, in Pakistan, where they were visiting at the time (both of them have returned to the U.S. since then, and Mohammad has remarried). In 2011, Fariha petitioned for divorce in Texas, and argued that the Pakistani divorce decree should not be recognized. Tuesday, a Texas Court of Appeals panel rejected Fariha’s argument, and concluded that the Pakistani divorce should indeed be recognized under Texas law.
The court also concluded that the Pakistani divorce should be recognized as valid under Texas law (much as Texas law routinely recognizes foreign divorces and other foreign judicial decrees, under the doctrine of “comity”). “The question before the trial court was not whether the parties satisfied the statutory requirements to file a divorce petition in Texas, but whether to recognize the Pakistani divorce as a valid divorce that terminated the Ashfaqs’ marriage before Fariha filed her petition in Texas.”

In France, more women than men reported planning to wage jihad

For the first time, the number of young women reported leaving to wage jihad outnumbered men, according a BFMTV report. In examining the statistics since the government introduced a number for families to report those suspected of leaving, the proportion of women reported was 45%, compared to 55% men. However, in March 2015 the numbers were nearly reversed: 136 women compared to 125 men reported.

Since April 29, 2014, 3,670 cases were reported. 67% of reports came from the government hotline, while 33% were reported using the Internet. According to Pierre N’Gahane, charged with terror prevention, “women are significantly involved and, by its scope, this signals a new phenomenon.”

According to the Interior Minister this development is a result of the Islamic State’s propaganda directed at women. Despite the new statistic, the increase in reports in March 2015 was minimal. Alain Chouet, former director of security intelligence, argued there is a “bias effect” because “parents are more aware of their daughters’ wrongdoings than their sons.’” The “relative freedom” that boys are allowed permits them to organize their travel plans, in contrast to young girls who are “subject to their families’ attention.”

British Muslim Women wear a Poppy Hijab for Remembrance Day

British Muslim women wearing the "Poppy Hijab" designed to commemorate Armed Forces Day and the WWI Centenary. (Photo: Georgie Gillard/ The Daily Mail
British Muslim women wearing the “Poppy Hijab” designed to commemorate Armed Forces Day and the WWI Centenary. (Photo: Georgie Gillard/ The Daily Mail

British Muslims are being urged to wear a new ‘poppy hijab’ as a challenge to extremist groups who ‘spout hatred’ towards the Armed Forces. The campaign is being backed by the Islamic Society of Britain (ISB), and profits from its sale will be donated to Poppy Appeal. Sughra Ahmed, President of ISB, said it’s a way for “ordinary Muslim citizens to take some attention away from extremists… This symbol of quiet remembrance is the face of everyday British Islam – not the angry minority who spout hatred and offend everyone.”

The headscarf is patterned with poppies, and has been created specifically for Remembrance Day this year. Tabinda-Kauser Ishaq, 24, a student at the London College of Fashion and a British Muslim, designed the hijab. She says, “the idea to do a headscarf came from knowing that many Muslims generally mark Remembrance Day. We felt it wasn’t that widely known. The number of Muslim soldiers who fought in World War One was even less known. We wanted to create something that illustrated this history.”

More than a million Indian soldiers and 400,000 Muslims fought alongside British troops in 1914, but it is a fact that is little known or talked about. It’s why the Islamic Society of Britain and integration think tank British Future, which is selling the hijab online, approached Tabinda to help them find a symbol of Remembrance that would appeal to. It’s also where the idea of the poppy hijab came from. “I thought it was a really simple and clean way of saying that I’m very proud of being British and Muslim without it being in anyone’s face,” she says.

However, some have attacked this initiative. The Huffington Post scathingly criticises the campaign. It argues that the poppy hijab is a counterproductive and patronising since it singles out Muslims as being a suspect community whose allegiance lies elsewhere. Many British Muslims, they claim, do put their religion before their nationality but that doesn’t make them any less integrated. What that means, is that there is a significant percentage of Muslims who practice Islam holistically as a comprehensive way of life, which includes speaking the truth, standing up for justice, speaking up for the oppressed and accounting their government.

Veil, Women and Islam: who decides appropriate public dress?

January 21, 2014


Veil, Women and Islam: who decides appropriate public dress?
Veil, Women and Islam: who decides appropriate public dress?

“What dress is most appropriate for a Muslim woman in public?”

Researchers at the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan asked the same question to both men and women of various age groups and different religious faiths in seven countries with a Muslim majority. The real focus of the research was post- revolution Tunisia, but scholars also decided to investigate responses in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan. Each respondent was shown images of women. The left most image showed a women who was totally covered (burqa ), decreasing the pieces of cloth covering the woman from image to image until the last drawing, which depicted the subject as completely uncovered.

The findings concluded that on average the hijab (veil that covers the hair, forehead, ears and neck) was considered the most appropriate. You could say this is a compromise between the two extreme images. Another important aspect that the research shows is the partial open-ness to different styles of dress in Saudi Arabia as opposed to a greater closure in “post-spring” Egypt.

The research also included a question that went beyond mere aesthetics. Respondents were also asked: “Should the woman decide what to wear?

And this confirms the above trend:  in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Turkey, and Tunisia, 50% of respondents where in favor of the free choice of women, as opposed to 22% and 14% in Pakistan and Egypt, respectively.

I must say that by scrolling through the research data, I returned several times to the word used in the original question: appropriate.

What do the researchers mean by this term? Appropriate for whom? For others or for the woman? Who can decide when attire is appropriate or not?

Beyond the specific object of this analysis, veil or no veil, I am always convinced that there is only one parameter to decide how a woman should dress: personal choice. Do not take me for naive, I am aware of the incendiary debates that surround these issues, especially in our cities. In my opinion, the most appropriate clothing is what makes a woman feel free and proud to express herself regardless of expectations or fashions of the moment.

The external influences on not only clothing but also on the image of a woman’s own body, is not unique to Muslim women, but rather something that applies to all women in the world. Let me give you another example. Last year a global campaign was launched called “Dark is beautiful” with the aim to emphasize the beauty of dark skin in societies like the West where fair skin is favored. The pressures of fair skin often prompt many black women to resort to toxic products that promise to lighten skin. We must reverse this situation.

Corriere della sera: http://lacittanuova.milano.corriere.it/2014/01/21/velo-donne-islam-qual-e-labbigliamento-giusto-in-pubblico-e-chi-lo-decide/

Original report: http://mevs.org/files/tmp/Tunisia_FinalReport.pdf