“If you wish to know how civilized a culture is, look at how they treat its women.” Bacha Khan 1
Treatment of Women Under Sharia Law
If feminism means: “The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men, and is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities”, why have national feminist organizations in Canada not condemned oppression and atrocities against women living under Islamic Sharia Law?
There has been intensive research and many articles and interviews containing testimonial evidence that women in societies and countries governed by Islamic Sharia Law — a medieval and barbaric legal framework incompatible with modern values and basic human rights – have limited rights and freedoms compared to women in the West.
In countries and societies ruled by Islamic Sharia Law, women essentially have no rights and no equality. Under Sharia Law women have fewer inheritance rights compared to men and lesser status as witnesses. Women in Islamic countries ruled under Sharia Law are subject to harsh penalties for violation of modesty laws and have no choice but follow the modesty laws such as ‘dress modesty’. In Iran modesty law and activities of country’s modesty police has been handed over to Iran’s current president, Hassan Rouhani’s Ministry of the Interior. 2 Failure to comply with modesty laws has been subject to extreme violence from modesty police in countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Sudan.
These violations frequently result in state-sponsored violence against women (even death) in Islamic countries. As well, female foreigners travelling to Islamic countries governed by Sharia Law are advised to dress modestly (wearing the hijab, head cover and Islamic garment) and not travel unaccompanied by a man.
A prime example of such embedded inequality is exemplified in marital relations: a man is entitled to have up to four wives. A husband, in divorcing one of his wives, need only make a declaration in front of an Islamic judge without the woman’s consent or even the requirement of her presence. However, if a woman wishes to divorce her husband, his consent is required. Men are allowed to have “temporary” marriages, a form of legal Islamic prostitution where it can even last less than half an hour – a situation allowed by some religious scholars. Temporary marriage is also known as a “pleasure marriage,” called Mutah which was established within Islam by the Muslim prophet Mohammed himself as a way to reward his jihadists for services rendered to Allah. A report by the Gatestone Institute.3 reveals such occurrences even in the United Kingdom. A minimum marriage age for girls set as young as 12 or 13 is not uncommon in Muslim-majority countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Yemen, to name a few. In Yemen and Afghanistan there are cases where eight-year-old girls died of internal injuries suffered on their wedding night. According to a report by Al Jazeera, 4 “Nearly 14 percent of Yemeni girls married before the age of 15 and 52 percent before the age of 18.”
In Iran, under Sharia Law women are denigrated as second class citizens. Sex outside of the marriage is at times punished by the brutal practice of stoning to death. From the inception of the Islamic republic of Iran in 1979, the women of Iran resisted the Islamic Regime’s introduction of Sharia Law. Iranian women have been demanding changes to the laws that set the legal age of maturity for girls at 13 years old and 15 years old for boys. This means that 13-year-old girls can be married to men decades their senior, with merely the consent of her male guardian, as provided by Article 1041 of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Civil Code.
The Islamic Republic of Iran’s laws limit a girl to receiving only half the inheritance a boy receives. The inheritance that a wife receives from her husband is even less than half. Such laws cannot be condoned by women who, by official counts, occupy 70% of the university seats in Iran.
One case I would like to highlight in order to emphasize the travesty of inequality for women under Sharia is that of Reyhaneh Jabbari. The University student and interior designer, was found guilty of murder in 2009 for killing her rapist in self-defence, and sentenced to death by hanging. She was executed at age 27 after eight years of imprisonment and torture to obtain a confession.
After meeting Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a member of the Iranian Intelligence Service, while having coffee one day, her whole life changed forever. Overhearing her phone conversation about her work, he convinced her to meet with him for advice on renovating his office. When he picked her up for their scheduled appointment he instead took her to a rundown house, brought her inside and locked the door telling her she could not escape, then attempted to give her a drink with sedatives so he could rape her. After a struggle she stabbed his shoulder and managed to escape. Regardless of an international outcry and a petition 5 of over 200,000 signatures, proper testimony, evidence, and confession by authorities privately to Reyhaneh that Morteza’s murder was actually set up by them for political reasons, Reyhaneh became their scapegoat, was convicted of the murder by stabbing, and received her sentence.
I was one of four campaigners to stop Reyhaneh’s execution which had been brought to our attention by her family. Our group launched a petition and collected more than 200,000 signatures. We gave media interviews, organized worldwide events and through our campaign, the international community had supported our campaign and tried to pressure the Iranian officials to stop her execution. Unfortunately, the barbaric and undemocratic practices of Sharia Law under the Islamic constitution in Iran allowed this unjust action by the Iran regime. Reyhaneh Jabbari was executed October 25, 2014.
Aside from the notorious executions of Iranian political dissidents, sexual violence is also routinely committed by the Islamic regime in Iran: Rape and gang rape by prison guards and interrogators is a common practice in the Islamic regime’s prisons. In Iranian prisons, it is common for young girls and virgins to be raped, even, as a final indignity, right before being executed. A disturbing finding of a U.N. Report of the Economic and Social Council was that virgin women condemned to death were forcibly and temporary married to officials on the eve of their execution. This continues to be a horrible reality that many women live with every single day in the prisons of Iran.
Officials would rape these women so that they would not be virgins when they die. There is a sinister and malign religious dogma behind this practice: According to the Iranian regime’s Islamic belief system, a Muslim woman who dies a virgin goes to heaven and therefore, they do not permit female political dissidents to be killed without first getting raped and losing their virginity to Iranian officials prior to their execution, to prevent their receiving a heavenly reward.
Iranian Ayatollah Mesbah has declared 6 that if a woman is sentenced to be executed, “raping her would be as rewarding as going to Mecca on the Hajj-Islamic Pilgrimage.” However, he noted that even if she was not given a death penalty, “raping her will be as rewarding as going on a Karbala pilgrimage.” No doubt this Ayatollah is a theocratic savage.
Iranian women have suffered much due to Sharia Law: A 16-year-old girl 7 was hanged for having had sexual relations with a 50-year-old married taxi driver. Under Islamic law in Iran, the cheating husband would be executed by the reprehensible act of stoning; however, he was not punished. Yet, 16-year-old Atefeh Sahaaleh was executed.
Closer to home, according to American gynaecologists Kavita Shah Arora and Allan Jacob, female genital mutilation should be legal in its mildest forms. They say “procedures that slightly changed the look of a girl’s genitalia without damaging them were comparable to male circumcision or cosmetic procedures in Western countries like labiaplasty.” The two American gynaecologists have stated that countries which have banned female genital mutilation (FGM) should allow less invasive practices such as small surgical nicks to girls’ genitalia as a compromise. CBC Canada 8 This proposal was strongly criticized by activists against FGM where they stated that it would undermine global efforts to eradicate the internationally condemned barbaric practice.
According to a report published by CIJ News, 9 “Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, a Canadian and Toronto-based Muslim scholar clarifies the Islamic Law regarding the popular practice in Muslim countries of circumcising the girls. Bilal Philips asserts that Islam prohibits female genital mutilation, but permits female circumcision, which is a “slight” cut that does not affect the ability of women to achieve sexual satisfaction.”
At least 200 million girls and women have been subjected to FGM in over 30 countries, according to U.N. estimates. (For reference, please see the slide show and the Petition 10 concerning FGM in Somalia.)
In Iran, women have resisted for 37 years these very Sharia Laws that are now being incorporated in the West in the name of ‘multiculturalism.’
Activism Against Sharia Law
A few Muslim Feminists have different opinions about the interpretations of Sharia law oppressing women and argue that it has no basis in Islam and basically consists of man-made interpretations of the Qur’anic texts. “I argue that Muslim family laws are the products of sociocultural assumptions and juristic reasoning about the nature of relations between men and women. In other words, they are ‘man-made’ juristic constructs, shaped by the social, cultural and political conditions within which Islam’s sacred texts are understood and turned into law.” 11
One Muslim imam who is defending violence against women in the name of Islamic law states that laws protecting women from violence are un-Islamic. 12
Maryam Namazie, an outstanding Iranian Feminist from the UK who is an outspoken activist against Sharia law said 13 in a recent speech: “For me, ‘Islamic feminism’ is an oxymoron like ‘Islamic human rights;’ they are antithetical to each other. If there are better laws for women in some countries where Islam plays a role, it is not because of Islam but because of secular movements calling for the separation of religion from the state and its laws. Why must Maryam Namazie take on the left in her critiques of Islamic extremism?” In an interview podcasted by Feminist Current, 14 “Namaze who is an atheist, a leftist, a feminist, a critic of Islamic extremism, and co-founder of the British Council of Ex-Muslims is routinely attacked and disallowed a platform — not only by Islamic groups, but by feminists and leftists, who call her Islamophobic.” Is there an explanation for why feminists and leftists take this stance?
‘Women on The Front Line’ is a documentary film 15 written and produced by Sheema Kalbasi, an award-winning eminent Iranian-American filmmaker and poet. This documentary, about life under Sharia Law, unveils injustice and focuses on women fighting for equality and freedom in Iran.
Iranian Canadian Homa Arjmand has experienced life under Law in Iran 16 where she was arrested and many of her friends either arrested or executed under Islamic law in Iran. “In 1989 Homa, her husband and their two small children escaped by a grueling trip on horseback through the mountains. Today, she lives in a suburb northeast of Toronto. Her job is helping immigrant Muslim women in distress. And now she is battling the arrival of Sharia Law in Canada.”
In an interview given to Jerusalem Online 18, Iranian-Canadians Dr. Sima Goel, author of Fleeing the Hijab, Dr. Avideh Motmaen-Far and I explained the plight of Iranian women after Rouhani’s presidency under Islamic law and Iran’s discriminatory laws against women under Islamic Penal Code where woman’s testimony in court is half that of a man’s and a woman’s life is half that of a man’s. I was imprisoned as a teenager in Iran’s most notorious Evin prison 19 and paid the price for not accepting the Sharia Law which enforced by the Khomeinist regime.
I was in my early teens when Khomeini came into power. Overnight, all women, including elementary school girls, were forced to cover their bodies from head to toe and were ordered to only wear dark colors.
We were no longer allowed to attend school with the opposite sex. Our once- praised school curriculum was now replaced by Arabic and Islamic studies, including the Quran, which most of us simply loathed. It was at this time that I had an awakening and started my activism. I was robbed of my teen years by a radical regime that sought to force its values on the masses by devastating force. My childhood memories were replaced by a reality created by a regime where women were now treated as second class citizens, and even the most mundane detail of our lives was strictly controlled by the regime’s Revolutionary Guards Forces and morality police.
Like most teenagers in high school, I spoke my mind about the changes that were happening in my country. In a modern society, teenagers attend school, openly spend time with friends, listen to their favorite music and do all the things that teenagers do. I was arrested by five very large, heavy-set guards. I remember distinctly four vehicles that came to our house to take me away, a 16 year-old girl who barely weighed 90 pounds. The terror I experienced may be unfathomable to the Western imagination, but this was to be my reality for the next 18 months.
In my young mind full of trust, I did not think that a simple conversation — having an opinion and simply expressing it — would put my life in danger. As a teenager, I never considered the possibility of being tortured and that I would be reminded of this torture every time I would look in the mirror and see the scar on my face, a result of being beaten with a very heavy piece of iron while being interrogated. As a teenager, I did not consider that my life would be forever changed.
The United Nations supports equal rights for women and in November 2011 adopted 20 a new campaign aimed at ending violence against women. The UN Declaration 21 of Human Rights includes equal rights for women and calls on Islamic countries to follow these regulations. But the Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement in March 2013 22 condemning this UN declaration for violating Islamic Sharia Law principles.
In The Name Of ‘Multiculturalism’
The West, instead of fighting against Shariah Law, standing in solidarity with the victims of Islamist oppression and enabling the integration of Muslims into the West, is actually defending misogyny in the name of standing up for the perceived underdog: Even the possibility that Sharia Law could supplant or become part of a two-tiered legal system is a strong indicator that multiculturalism is a huge failure.
It is very important to remember that the entire foundation of multiculturalism was based on the theory that, if we allowed immigrants to keep their culture, (multiculturalism) would end after their generation: their children would obviously want to be Western and would neatly adopt our societal norms. We didn’t count on radical or fundamentalist Islam and closed or isolated Islamic communities that intentionally separate themselves from the rest of society in order to preserve and grow their culture.
Eliminating this type of injustice will only happen if we exert inescapable pressure on local, national, and international governments and organizations. Rights and freedoms are never given, they are taken. Although these rights are inherent, they are not freely honoured, and so strife and relentless effort is the only way to emerge victorious from the ashes of defeat. With the love, dedication and help of people—not men, not women, but human beings—gender equality will be the prevalent principle by which all humanity will abide.
Over the years the mandates of women’s organizations have changed. They started in the 1920s fighting for basic rights in a male-dominated society and in the 1970s fighting for equal rights in the workplace. More recently, with the change of focus from the advancement of women – to networking and supportive fellowship – there seems to have arisen a false sense of security that our right to equality is now static and no longer fragile.
Mass immigration from countries with political and social regimes that increasingly subjugate women creates a highly-visible minority community of women whose understanding of their role is very different than our own North American and western standard. With little to no feminist activity for nearly two generations, our women’s organizations are ill-equipped to stand up for our own culture, to insist on integration and egalitarianism, and speak out against Sharia Law. Instead, they have been groomed to support and nurture the perceived underdog, not realizing that the underdog is now actually us.
Most women’s organizations do not support Sharia Law, and are placing their faith in our government to ensure that it doesn’t pass into fruition by political action or by political stealth. Without a strong feminist backbone or experience strategizing unified messages of assertion, they are extremely uncomfortable speaking out against the political culture of this wave of women, and instead default to being “nice”, “accommodating”, and aligning themselves with the perceived “misunderstood” newcomers. As the newcomers praise them for their understanding and kindness, the women’s organizations feel that they are being “diverse”, “open minded” and “helpful”. They don’t have the capacity to see the big picture, so they focus on the one being shown to them instead.
To defenders of human rights, such as myself, it never occurred that radical or fundamental Islam whose ethics are anathema to ours, would be welcomed by a Canadian government. We have been brainwashed by the concept of “diversity’ and “political correctness” to the point that we can’t find a women’s organization to stand up and take a hard line of Sharia. They’re not used to it. Rather they are used to bending over backwards to accommodate minority groups.
According to a petition 23 written by the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA), Canada was reviewed by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in July 2015. The Committee was assessing Canada’s compliance with its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. “The Human Rights Committee has highlighted violations of Women’s Covenant- protected human rights that may result from state-imposed regulations on the clothing women wear in public. It specifically includes among the rights endangered by such regulations, a woman’s rights to freedom of religion, to manifest in public her religious beliefs, and to be considered equal before courts and tribunals.” In their petition FAFIA protests attacks on the rights of Muslim women and states: “Feminists understand well that patriarchy demands or encourages women, depending on differing religions or cultures, to either cover or uncover our bodies, or parts of our bodies. We do not all agree about the implications for equality of covering or uncovering. But we women need to control our own bodies, including what we wear, rather than being dictated to by political leaders, and being punished by losing access to our human rights.”
National Canadian front feminist organizations do little to prevent violence caused by Shari’a Law. Take the Ottawa Hijab Day 25, World Hijab Day 26, where such “Feminist” organizations encourage non-Muslims to try on the Islamic covering, almost promoting it. Then there is the attempt to make the hijab a fashion statement by designers and having hijab-wearing dolls for young girls.
Muslim Canadian author, Suhail Kapoor in his book, Balancing Life and Beyond, 27 advocates that within the tenets of Islam, it is permissible to “lightly” strike your spouse if she exhibits serious moral misconduct. In a chapter entitled “Does Islam Allow Wife Beating?” Kapoor outlines the circumstances under which it is appropriate for a man to punish his wife using “light” slaps on the wrist with a small wooden stick.” In a statement to QMI Agency (March 12, 2013) Suhail Kapoor said the permission to reprint his book was granted by the Ottawa-Centre MPP, Yasir Naqvi’s office. (MPP Naqvi is a Pakistani born Canadian and the Ontario Liberal Government House Leader. Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.)
The UN, the world’s most powerful human rights defender NGO, is affiliated with the dictatorships and human rights basket cases in its leadership roles and positions that entail responsibilities diametrically opposed to their qualifications. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is also an adviser or affiliated with many of these commissions. Their view of Human Rights is based on Sharia Law and of course it’s not the same as our understanding of Human Rights and Gender Equality. 28
As a defender and advocate for human rights, I strongly condemn Islamic Sharia Law which is opposed to democracy, having the ultimate purpose to destroy liberty and dominate the world.
- https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Catherine_Ashton_Ban_Ki_Moon_Ahmad_Shaheed_Save_26_year_old_woman_from_being_hanged_in_Iran/?fgoyhhb; http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4743/reyhaneh-jabbari-execution; http://www.jerusalemonline.com/news/world-news/around-the-globe/iran-executes-woman-for-allegedly-killing-attempted-rapist-9115