A Declaration of Women's Rights in Islamic Societies
The following article is from Free
Inquiry magazine, Volume 17, Number 4.
We, the undersigned, believe that the oppression of women is a grave offense against
all of humanity and that such offense is an impediment to social and moral progress
throughout the world.
We therefore cannot ignore the oppression of women by orthodox and fundamentalist
religions. We cannot deny history, which shows that these religions were devised and
enforced by men who claimed divine justification for the subordination of women to men. We
cannot forget that the three Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, with
the Old Testament, New Testament, and the Koran as their respective holy texts, consider
women inferior in every way to men: physically, morally, and intellectually.
We also note that, whereas women in the Christian West and Israel have ameliorated
their lot considerably through their own heroic efforts, their sisters in the Islamic
world, and even within Islamic communities in the West, have been thwarted in their
valiant attempts to rise above the inferior position imposed upon them by centuries of
Islamic custom and law.
We have watched as official Islamization programs in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, the
Sudan, and Afghanistan, among others, have led to serious violations of the human rights
of women. Muslim conservatives in all Muslim countries, and even in nominally secular
India, have refused to recognize women as full, equal human beings who deserve the same
rights and freedoms as men.
Women in many Islamic societies are expected to marry, obey their husbands, bring up
children, stay at home, and avoid participation in public life. At every stage of their
lives, they are denied free choice and the fundamental right of autonomy. They are
forbidden to acquire an education, prevented from getting a job, and thwarted from
exploring their full potential as members of the human community.
We therefore declare that ...
- The subordinate place of women in Islamic societies should give way to equality. A woman
should have freedom of action, should be able to travel alone, should be permitted to
uncover her face, and should be allowed the same inheritance rights as a man.
- She should not be subject to gruesome ritual mutilations of her person.
- On reaching the legal age, she should be free to marry a man of her own choice without
permission from a putative guardian or parents. She should be free to marry a non-Muslim.
She should be free to divorce and be entitled to maintenance in the case of divorce.
- She should have equal access to education, equal opportunities for higher education, and
be free to choose her subject of study. She should be free to choose her own job and
should be allowed to fully participate in public life - from politics and sports to the
arts and sciences.
- In Islamic societies, she should enjoy the same human rights as those guaranteed under
International Human Rights legislation.
Islam may not be the sole factor in the repression of women. Local, social, economic,
political, and educational forces as well as the prevalence of pre-Islamic customs must
also be taken into consideration. But Islam and the application of the sharia, Islamic
law, remain a major obstacle to the evolution of the position of women.
To achieve these basic human rights for women, we advocate that the question of women's
status be removed from the religious sphere altogether, that governments institute a
separation of religion and state, and that authorities enact a uniform civil code under
which all are equal.
In the name of justice, for the sake of human progress, and for the benefit of all the
wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers of the world, we call for all societies to respect
the human rights of women.
- Reza Afshari, Iran, Political Scientist
- Sadik al Azm, Syria, Philosopher
- Mahshid Amir-Shahy, Iran, Author, Social Critic, and Founder of the
Defense League for Rushdie, France
- Masud Ansari, Iran, Physician, Author, United States
- Bahram Azad, Iran, Scholar, Physician, United States
- Parvin Darabi, Scholar, Homa Darabi Foundation, United States
- Khalid Duran, Professor of Political Science, Editor and Founder of TransState
Islam, Founder of the Ibn Khaldun Society, United States
- Ranjana Hossain, Executive Director of the Assembly of Free Thinkers,
- Mustafa Hussain, Sudan, Advisory Board, Ibn Khaldun Society, United
- Ramine Kamrane, Iran, Political Scientist, France
- Ioanna Kušuradi, Philosopher, Turkish Human Rights Commission and
Secretary General, International Federation of Philosophical Societies, Turkey
- Luma Musa, Palestine, Communications Researcher, United Kingdom
- Taslima Nasrin, Bangladesh, Author, Physician, Social Critic
- Hossainur Rahman, India, Social Historian, Columnist, Asiatic Society
- Siddigur Rahman, Bangladesh, Former Research Fellow, Islamic Research
- Armen Saginian, Iran, Editor, Publisher, United States
- Anwar Shaikh, Pakistan, Author, Social Critic, United Kingdom
- Ibn Warraq, India, Author, Why I Am Not a Muslim, United
Identifications include countries of origin and current residence. Affiliations listed
for identification only.