Politics

Malawi plans a ban on polygamy

In recent weeks, a potential ban on polygamy to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS has raised the ire and concern of many Malawians. While the law will not affect those already in polygamous marriages, it carries a five-year jail sentence for those who attempt to take multiple wives after its passing. Malawi is a country stricken with a 12% prevalence rate of HIV, with almost 1 million people living with HIV/AIDS. A recent BBC article reports that the Minister of Gender and Development, Patricia Kaliati, said the proposed ban is also intended to protect women from abuse in polygamous marriages, in which wives inevitably contend for attention and resources from their joint husband.

Read More

Saudi Arabia’s cruel marriage laws

Accompanied by her father, Hassna’a Mokhtar went to the Saudi Arabian interior ministry in Jeddah to sign papers for a marriage licence. She was hoping to get a sense of how long it would take to get permission, so that she could plan her wedding. But that was not the case. A Saudi woman falling in love with a non-Saudi Muslim leads to more obstacles than a Capulet falling in love with a Montague. In most parts of society, a father can decline a suitor simply because he is not a Saudi.

Read More

Creating opportunities for Muslim engagement: An interview with Farah Pandith

It’s almost been a year since Farah Pandith was appointed Special Representative to Muslim Communities by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The office, housed in the US State Department plays an important role in creating opportunities for people across varying opinions to engage in crucial dialogue. We sat down with Pandith to discuss the role she sees her office playing in connecting the Muslim community with each other and a broader audience, both aboard as well as in the US.

Read More

The untold story of Egyptian women’s rights

In a report published last month on violent crimes committed against women in 2009, Karam Saber Ibrahim, Executive Director of The Land Center for Human Rights, a Cairo-based non-governmental organisation, spoke of a belief that some Egyptians continue to hold, that “women are fundamentally lacking…. They are not complete, because they are not men.” Attitudes like these, as well as laws that discriminate against women, create significant hardship for Egyptian women. In order to address these issues and solidify rights for Egyptian women, many governmental and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are joining hands to put new laws into effect and ensure that women are aware of their rights.

Read More

Modern Muslim women in Britain

Barely a day goes by without a headline related to Islam or Muslims in British media. Despite the many rational and unbiased reminders by intellectuals and political figures to avoid an over-simplified, generalized image of Muslims, the various mainstream media sources do not always heed that advice. Indeed, it is much more sensational to portray the Muslim community as violent, extremist, and backward, and to highlight incidents showing Muslim women to be oppressed and subjugated. Islam continues to be represented as the exotic and potentially-dangerous “other.”

Read More

Hissa Hilal, a poet of millions

Hissa Hilal, a master of language, has inspired an exchange of words around the world. For the past several Wednesdays, Hilal has risen to the podium on Abu Dhabi TV’s Million’s Poet (also known as Poet of Millions) – a televised poetry contest in which people of all walks of life compete for $1.3 million. Hilal recently gained unprecedented attention throughout the world for one of her recent original poems, The Chaos of Fatwas, a 15-verse poem about religious clerics who are “angry and blind.”

Read More

On the brink of reductionism

After years of critique from local female activists, why did one of the most powerful media platforms for women’s empowerment, Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast, preclude the more meaningful ways to understand the complex lives of women in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Their recent summit in New York City featured a discussion titled “On the Brink: Women in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” which embodied longstanding critiques of how gender and women’s oppression in areas of strategic U.S. interest are problematically framed within western contexts. A deeper analysis can help ensure that their messages are not overlooked.

Read More

France gets riled up about a candidate’s headscarf

Headscarves are the hot talking point in French politics again. But on this occasion, we aren’t talking about girls getting kicked out of high school or women getting kicked out of mayors’ offices. No, the latest uproar comes about Ms. Ilham Moussaïd, a candidate from the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) in France’s upcoming regional elections who dares to “visually” identify herself as a Muslim and stand for election. Feminists and politicians are up in arms. While not the first candidate with a headscarf, the buzz around Moussaïd’s candidature is something new.

Read More

Tongue-tied

The one I wanted to wrap in my arms and bring home was Nebras. I didn’t even know her name when I went back to Iraq, shortly after the assault on Baghdad. I was armed only with a photo of a beggar touching her nose with her tongue. I had met her a few months before, when I’d traveled to Iraq with a women’s delegation, just five weeks before the U.S. bombings and invasion. Unfazed by impending disaster, the little girl, old enough to be in primary school, had begged for handouts in a popular market.

Read More