The Islamic world has never known a Renaissance, Reformation or Enlightenment. Seventh-century religious laws and cultural norms still prevail in many areas of Islamic life, relegating women in many Islamic countries to a status that is worse than second class citizenship.
This is a matter of moral concern to all Americans, and to American feminists in particular. By undermining the Shah of Iran in the 1970s, the United States played an unfortunate role in enabling the Ayatollahs to overthrow the Shah and turn back the clock on women’s rights while establishing the first radical Islamic state and launching the reactionary jihad that confronts both Muslim countries and the West today. While the Shah was an autocrat and repressed political dissenters, he had progressive policies towards women, which included opening the doors of Iran’s educational institutions to them for the first time and allowing them to remove the veil. These reforms incited the Ayatollahs’ ire and led to the downfall of the Shah and his progressive policies towards women. Americans, therefore, have a special responsibility to Muslim women everywhere, since the success of the Iranian Revolution in Iran has encouraged the radical Islamic movement globally along with its effort to impose misogynistic Islamic on all Muslim societies and on the West.
In accordance with the precepts of Sharia, women in the Islamic world are frequently subjected to:
- Honor killing, which is the religiously sanctioned murder by family members of girls and women who have been victims of sexual crimes, and have thus sullied the “purity” of the family: Jordan’s Parliament recently voted down on Islamic grounds a measure to stiffen penalties for honor killings. According to Al-Jazeera, “Islamists and conservatives said the laws violated religious traditions and would destroy families and values.”
- Genital mutilation, which is the excision of the clitoris on girls as young as five in order to decrease their sexual response and make them more easily controlled: Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, the most respected institution in Sunni Islam, has said this is “compulsory” for women
- Blame and punishment for being raped when it is presumed that she has not obeyed Islamic rules regarding the covering of women, or has enticed the perpetrator in some way.
- Daughter, sister, and wife-beating, which is the Koranically-sanctioned abuse of women: Koran 4:34 says of disobedient women, “Beat them”
- Female sexual and domestic slavery, which is the Koranically-sanctioned objectification of women as sexual and domestic objects, based on the Koran’s contention that women are possessions of men (cf. Koran 2:223)
- Easy divorce (for men) and polygamy, which is the Koranically-sanctioned (Koran 4:3) treatment of women as if they were commodities to be discarded and exchanged
- Child marriage, which is the marrying-off of pre-pubescent girls in arrangements over which they have no control and in which they are treated as commodities – and which is based on Muhammad’s example, when he consummated his marriage with a 9-year-old at age 54
- Denial of access to health care: the Koran forbids women to be seen unclothed by men who are not related to them (24:31) – which often prevents them access to male doctors
- Denial of access to education, or quality education: Muhammad spoke of “the deficiency of a woman’s mind.” This has led to many being denied education altogether or being educated only at the most rudimentary levels.
- Compulsory veiling, which is the religiously sanctioned covering of women that is dangerous for their health and subjects them to punishment if they refuse the covering, per Muhammad’s directive that post-puberty women must cover all but their face and hands
All of these are routinely justified by Islamic authorities by appeals to Islamic tradition and law, giving religious sanction to inhuman oppression and stifling reform efforts.
In opposition to these injustices, we affirm three key rights denied and/or threatened by the jihadists:
- The right of all women to live in freedom and dignity
- The equality of dignity of women and men
- The right of all people to live free from violence, intimidation, and coercion
We commend the brave women of Muslim background such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Nonie Darwish, Wafa Sultan, Alia Hogben and Homa Arjomand who have spoken out against the oppression of women in Islam, and we pledge to them, and others like them, our support.
And we call upon the feminists of NAME OF campus to be brave enough to join them. We call upon women’s rights groups and Muslim groups — here on this campus — to end their silence about the oppression of women in Islam.