Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A bid to bring the female voice to Islamic law

CSM reported For centuries, devout Muslims have looked to the fatwa - an opinion based on religious reasoning of a learned individual or committee - for direction on how to resolve moral dilemmas ranging from the mundane to the sublime. And for centuries, Muslim women have conceded the ground, for the most part, to the men who issue these opinions. That's beginning to change. Meeting in New York over the weekend, Muslim women from 25 countries began laying groundwork for the first international all-female council formed to issue fatwas.

If Islam is ever to be moved from the 8th century to the 21st century, this is the way it would have to happen, and I wish these women the best, but I doubt that the men will put up with it.
Their idea: to ensure that women's perspectives on Islamic law become part of religious deliberation in the Muslim world - particularly on issues such as domestic violence, divorce, and inheritance.
Where Sharia law considers a woman to at best count as half a man (the word of two women is considered the same as the word of one man) to at worst just a piece of property.
"There's this growing sense on the part of literate Muslim women ... that there is a vital need for women to confront the Islamic tradition and to work on a par with men in interpreting the sources," says Ann Mayer, an expert in Middle Eastern law at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business. "Otherwise you end up with a very sexist bias in the readings."

The number of women officially sanctioned to issue fatwas is hard to pin down, but certainly tiny. The emergence of such women, known as muftias, usually makes headlines: A religious school in India installed three in 2003, and the Turkish government last year hired two assistant muftias, its first. Governments and schools try to license who can issue fatwas, but Islam stipulates only certain prerequisites, such as knowledge of the Koran and Arabic. As a result, the ranks of unofficial authorities are deeper and the barriers to women surmountable. Whether the opinions of a women's council will carry any weight, especially in conservative cultures, is another matter.
Does the expression "a snowball's chance in hell" come to mind. Or perhaps "pigs fly".

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