Need to remove restrictions on freedom of Muslim women

Freedom in personal and public life is the natural craving for men and women all over the world whatever religion they may belong to

Freedom in personal and public life is the natural craving for men and women all over the world whatever religion they may belong to
Freedom in personal and public life is the natural craving for men and women all over the world whatever religion they may belong to

Men deny equality, not the Holy Quran

Islam has 1.9 billion adherents, making up about 24.7% of the world population. There are about 50 countries, where the majority of the population is Muslim. Worldwide, there are about 30 countries with a Muslim population, in which more than 90% of the inhabitants belong to Islam. There are another 20 countries with a Muslim population of between 50% and 80%.

Those who have carefully studied the Holy Quran and its great teachings know that Islam views men and women as equal before God, and the Quran underlines that man and woman were “created of a single soul”. Islam clearly says that differentiation in sex is neither a credit nor a drawback for the sexes.

While tenets of Islam insist that women should be treated on par with women in private and public life, what is the ground reality?

Today, in most Muslim countries, women are subjected to some sort of restriction in one way or the other by the menfolk. In other words, a section of Muslim men seems to think that they are of a superior class compared to women and thus many Muslim men seem to get satisfaction by treating the Muslim women in a way as if women belong to secondary sex.

While some Muslim extremists claim without proof that restrictions on women are as per the Holy Quran, it has been vehemently denied by several Muslim scholars around the world.

There have been obnoxious practices against Muslim women in some countries by some Muslim men such as triple talaq (where a husband can utter the word divorce three times and then legitimately he would have divorced his wife), an insistence that women should wear burkha (covering themselves except the face) and hijab (a piece of cloth covering the head and neck), polygamy, (where Muslim man marry several women). Further, in several mosques, women are not allowed to pray in mosques along men and women are asked to sit separately. While such practices enforced on Muslim women do not have the sanction or approval according to the Holy Quran, the ground reality is that such practices are enforced due to the patriarchal control of women’s body by men.

Of course, in all countries and in all societies including the western democracies, some women suffer due to exploitation by men but this happens only due to the uncivilized behaviour of some men and not due to the law of the land or any regulation attached to religious practices. However, the scenario seems to be different as far as the practices by some of the Muslim men in some Muslim countries.

In recent years, some of the Muslim majority countries have tried to lessen the burden on women by banning triple talaq and banning the hijab in public places. But, this is not so in all Muslim countries. Even in Muslim countries where some liberty has been given to women, it appears that some Muslim men do not allow Muslim women in their families to avail such liberties.

Many people believe that Muslim women historically have been extremely frustrated and unhappy about the restrictions placed on them by men but could do nothing due to fear of violence and other forms of harassment. Possibly, if Muslim women were to be asked to give their views on a secret ballot, one can be sure that more than 90% of Muslim women will express their choice to live in a free world without restrictions being placed on them by Muslim men on how they should dress and lead their life.

Freedom in personal and public life is the natural craving for men and women all over the world whatever religion they may belong to. While some Muslim girls may like to wear burqa and hijab for whatever reasons certainly it would not be so in the case of the majority of Muslim women. Wearing a burqa and hijab is not comfortable attire and if given the choice, Muslim women too, like the women belonging to other religions, would like to dispense with such practice and in the process derive the pleasure of enjoying the freedom to dress and live in the way they want.

The latest example is the happenings in Afghanistan where after the take over by the Taliban, Afghan women have lost whatever freedom they enjoyed before the take over by the Taliban. There was news that Afghan women protested and demonstrated in public against the control imposed on women by the Taliban but at present, it appears that Afghan women have been silenced and have been forced to reconcile themselves to the restrictions imposed by the Taliban government, which is under the control of Muslim extremists.

In a population of around 1.9 billion Muslims in the world, roughly 0.95 would be women. It is difficult to state as to what percentage of Muslim women are suffering in personal life due to atrocities of men but, one can confidently say that this percentage is still very high.

The women who are physically weak compared to men and further weakened by restrictions imposed by men on the women over the years, cannot fight for their cause adequately strongly and in such struggle for freedom, women need the support of the kind-hearted and civilized men.

Historically, many regions in the world with people belonging to different religions have been dominated by menfolk who imposed cruel practices on women. The immediate example was the Sati practice in India (the wife would be forced to jump into a pyre when her husband would be cremated). This cruel practice was banned by law and does not exist anymore. What should be noted here is that the battle for women’s rights and freedom was launched by men like Rajaram Mohan Roy.

There are millions of highly cultured and civilized Muslim men across the world, who are unhappy about the restrictions placed on Muslim women and overriding control on them exercised by Muslim men. But, they remain silent, possibly fearing the Islamic extremists and some Muslim clergy.

The continued suffering of Muslim women due to such restrictions is a reflection on the calibre of the Muslim men who realize that this is wrong but allow such practices to go on by their silence. Obviously, civilized Muslim men, who do not protest against the restrictions imposed on Muslim women, too are responsible for the plight of Muslim women.

1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

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