There was an interesting article in this morning’s “New Straits Times” newspaper, p16, written by a lady called Zainah Anwar, who is, I believe, one of a group of local women called the Sisters in Islam. They attempt – sometimes in the face of considerable nastiness – to bring some sense and compassion and equality to the way Islamic women are treated here, while still conforming to Islamic precepts. And I bless their grit and determination.
They have much to do. She describes how, while attending the compulsary pre-marital course for all Muslim couples about to marry, the male teacher told her group that one of the characteristics of a good husband is a man who does not listen to his wife, while at another such course, the male participants were told how they could easily circumvent the local law that severely restricts taking a second wife, by crossing into Thailand and marrying there.
And in another class, a female religious teacher carefully explains to men just how they may beat their wives in the Islamic way: with a knotted towel all over the body but not on the face. And, oh, not on the stomach if she is pregnant. Apparently, according to that teacher, beating a pregnant woman is just fine as long as you do it correctly. Well, thank you very much, ustazah, for that.
I try to be upbeat. Even in the face of the news that some official religious teachers freely prescribe absolute tyranny within marriage, and the physical abuse of women – including pregnant ones – by their husbands, and multiple marriage as long as you don’t do it here, we have to remember that the newspaper above is one of the primary English language newspapers, and they feel free to print an article which is highly critical of the present situation. While that can still happen, there is hope for the Islamic women in this country.
What century was this again?