The following extract is the second part of an article by Adrian Morgan on the oppression and suffering of Muslim women. The first part is about the horrors of Female Genital Mutilation. The whole thing is worth reading.
Violence In The Name Of Allah
Afghanistan may not be one of the countries where FGM is "justified in the name of Islam" but the treatment of young girls is harsh. I have discussed forced marriage and child marriage, as well as honor killings in Afghanistan. One aspect of Islamist ideology in the country is the opposition to the education of young girls. The Taliban, friends of Al Qaeda and supposedly the "fundamental" proponents of Islam have consistently tried to prevent women from being educated.
The word "Taliban" meant "students". They tried to revive the form of Islam practiced in the 7th century. Most Taliban leaders had been educated at Deobandi madrassas, such as theHaqqania seminary in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province. Deobandi teachings accord women second-class status. Deobandis believe that "Women must not mix with men in public. Deoband tradition teaches that men are more intelligent than women and that there is no point in educating girls beyond the age of eight."
The Taliban came to power onSeptember 27, 1996, when they castrated and tortured President Mohammed Najibullah, and hung him from a lamp-post alongside his brother. During their rule, the Department for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice enforced the Taliban decree that women should stay at home and not be in employment. They beat women with sticks, wire cables and hose pipes. Women were forced to wear the burka, which even covers the eyes with a grille of crochet work.
A US State Department report claimed: "In 1977, women comprised over 15 percent ofAfghanistan's highest legislative body. It is estimated that by the early 1990s, 70 percent of schoolteachers, 50 percent of government workers and university students, and 40 percent of doctors in Kabul were women. Afghan women had been active in humanitarian relief organizations until the Taliban imposed severe restrictions on their ability to work."
Forced to live indoors, unable to make an income, with many widowed, the regime of poverty and privation led to women becoming malnourished. As one 35-year-old widow said in the State Department report: "The life of Afghan women is so bad. We are locked at home and cannot see the sun."
Confined indoors away from sunlight and starved, many developed osteomalacia, a symptom of rickets, caused by a lack of sunlight and Vitamin D. The condition involves softening of the bone, making it liable to green-stick fractures. Dr Sima Samar was given the John Humphrey Freedom Award for her work for the human rights of women in Afghanistan. She ran schools and health clinics, and was subjected to death threats from the Taliban. She said at her medical clinic in Kabul in 2001: "Almost every woman I see has osteomalacia. Their bones are softening due to a lack of Vitamin D. They survive on a diet of tea and naan (bread) because they can't afford eggs and milk and, to complicate matters, their burqas and veils deprive them of sunshine. On top of that, depression is endemic here because the future is so dark."
When the US invaded Afghanistan in late 2001 the cruel regime of the Islamofascists in the Taliban came to an end, but their influence has not gone away. They continue to fight coalition forces and the Afghan government, but they also continue to deprive women of education. Those who defy their edicts against educating girls are dispatched in revolting fashion.
In November last year, 46-year-old Mohammed Halim from Ghazni paid the price for educating girls. He was snatched at night by Taliban members. He was partially disembowelled and then his limbs were tied to motorbikes. As the bikes sped apart, his body was ripped. His remains were publicly displayed as a warning to any who dared to teach girls. Halim was the fourth teacher in succession to be killed in the region. Fatima Mustaq is a woman director of education in Ghazni, and she and her family of eight children were subjected to death threats for educating girls.
On July 23, 2006, Michael Frastacky, a Canadian carpenter from Vancouver, was shot dead inAfghanistan. His crime had been to help build a school in the Nahrin Valley, a remote part of theHindu Kush, where half the students were girls.
On March 8 2006, on International Women's Day, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said: "From fear of terrorism, from threats of the enemies of Afghanistan, today as we speak, some 100,000 Afghan children who went to school last year, and the year before last, do not go to school."
A 2006 report by Human Rights Watch stated that last year, attacks upon teachers, students and schools increased dramatically, particularly in the southern regions. In January, there were 24 such attacks, in February there were 14, 8 attacks in March, 28 in April, 22 in May and 12 in June. From January to June 2006, the highest number of such attacks took place in Kandahar (36 incidents), followed by Helmand (27), and then Ghazni and Khost with 16 cases each.
A report from Oxfam from November last year paints a gloomy picture for the future of education, particularly for girls, in Afghanistan. More than half of Afghan children of school age - 7 million - do not attend schools. This is in denial of Article 43 (1) of the national Constitution, adopted on July 11, 2006, which states: "Education is the right of all citizens of Afghanistan, which shall be provided up to secondary level, free of charge by the state."
Only one in five girls is able to make her way to primary schools, but only one in 20 girls receives a secondary education. Human Rights Watch and Oxfam agree that the presence of accessible schools is a problem, and where there is access to education, it is often provided by poorly trained teachers working in run-down buildings, often with only one or two rooms. These schools can be in need of repair, and most have no clean drinking water or toilet facilities. Textbooks are few and far between.
Oxfam claimed that 53,000 trained primary school teachers are needed immediately, with a further 64,000 in the next five years. There is a need for more women teachers, as only one in three is female. Teachers in Daikundi province in central Afghanistan receive only $38 per month. Sometimes these teachers have to offer bribes, just to receive their wages.
There are 20,000 "ghost" teachers who are paid salaries but do not attend schools. The international community, states Oxfam, must donate $563 million to rebuild 7,800 schools across the country. An additional $210 million is needed to print and distribute textbooks over the next five years. Currently, $125.6 million has been given to Afghan's education sector. The largest donors of these funds are USAID and the World Bank. Coalition military forces inAfghanistan also contribute towards education.
When the Taliban were in power, their behavior towards women was contemptuous. A woman doctor was stopped while traveling without a male escort (mahram) in a taxi. She said: "The Religious Police chased my taxi, and when I got out in front of the hospital, they stopped me and asked why I was traveling alone. I said I was a doctor and had to go to work, but they said women of Kabul are just prostitutes and addicted to traveling in cars alone. I had to call my boss to identify me as an employee of the hospital, but my boss said he could not confirm who it was because I was wearing a chadari (burka). The Taliban asked me to put up my veil, and once my boss identified me, they hit me with their wire on my head and injured my eye. It took fifteen to twenty days to heal."
The Taliban may be seen as extremists, but there are plenty of "devout" Muslims who are still funding their activities. The Taliban experiment, which allowed Osama bin Laden a refuge where his cronies could plot atrocities such as 9/11 and work on chemical weapons and bombs in the Derunta training camp, was designed to be a return to original "Islamic values". Islamists and "devout" Muslims criticize the decadence of the West, but rarely if ever do these same people consider the social abomination that made up the Taliban regime.
All of the worst, most primitive aspects of Islam were exemplified by the Taliban - who were true "fundamentalists". They took to heart the notion that a woman's testimony was worth only half that of a man, and with their Deobandi ideology they even believed women were half as intelligent. They denied women education, health and human rights, and did nothing to prevent the Afghan culture of honor killings and violence against women. They believed in Sura 4:34 which gives a man the right to beat his wife to keep her under control.
Currently we have politicians in both the United States and Britain who are trying to "negotiate" with the Muslim Brotherhood. The true face of the Brotherhood can be found in the Gaza Strip, in the violence of Hamas against their opponents. Although the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood may dress in suits and ties, they are still ideologically primitive and rooted in the sexist tyranny of the 7th century. Their spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi supports Type 1 female genital mutilation, and preaches that it is acceptable to kill Israeli civilians. For Hamas, women are expected to go around veiled, and like women under the Taliban they are denied sunlight. Not surprisingly, cases of rickets amongst Palestinian children have increased with the rise of Hamas' Islamist factions. The WHO reported last year that more than 4 percent of all children on the Gaza Strip aged between 6 and 36 months were suffering from clinical rickets.
There are no women with positions of authority either in Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood. Until there are, there is no point in discussing issues with these groups. Women in the West have equal rights to men, and that means having access to power. Islamists would deny women that power, and until they can acknowledge women as equals, they live in another ideological universe to our own.
Muslim women are probably more oppressed today by Islamist conventions than they were 20 years ago. Two decades ago women did not have to wear veils to prove their religiosity. Now, women who do not cover their hair, or even their faces, are bullied by their peers into compliance. For women to have genuine equal rights under Islam, the tenets and texts of that faith would have to be interpreted allegorically and not literally. Islamists do not understand allegory. They are slaves to dogma and expect everyone else, their womenfolk included, eventually to become their slaves.