The Afghan Ulema Council Ruling on Women

Ms. Fawzia Koofi, an Afghan Member of Parliament who survived a Taliban attempt on her life, worries that a recent ruling by the Afghan Ulema Council represents an outreach by Karzai to the Taliban.
"They have started taking some of those basic rights," she said, "like working together, living together, going out like a free human being. I am worried for my daughters and for all the girls and women of Afghanistan."
It's certainly right to be worried.  A rush transcript of the ruling can be read here; it dwells chiefly on the rights of women in Islam until section "F," when we hear about the other side of the coin.

F.   Women cannot be inherited. Similarly, there are many other rights, granted to a woman under the religion of Islam, which are observed. But, where a Muslim woman has many rights, [she also] has duties and obligations, such as:
* Adherence, in faith and action, to the orders and prohibitions of Islam’s sacred Shariah
* Complete adherence and observance of the hijab [according to the Shariah], which protects the dignity and personality of the woman
* Avoiding mingling with stranger men in various social situations, such as education, shopping, the office and other affairs of life
* In consideration of the clarity of verses 1 and 34 of Surah an-Nisa’ [of the Qur’an], men are fundamental and women are secondary; also, lineage is derived from the man. Therefore, the use of words and expressions that contradict the sacred verses must be strictly avoided.
* Respecting [the orders] about the multiplicity of wives (polygamy), which are in accordance with clear orders of the Qur’an
* Avoiding travel without a [Shariah-sanctioned] mahram (male companion)
* Adherence to the clear orders of Muhammad’s Shariah in case of divorce

The authors helpfully cite the source of their claim that women are secondary:  verses 1 and 34 of the Surah an-Nisa' (i.e., "The Women").  As we all know by now, the Koran is supposed to be the actual word of God, filtered only by Muhammad and the angel, allegedly Gabriel, who revealed it to him.
1. O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him (Adam) He created his wife [Hawwa (Eve)], and from them both He created many men and women and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship) . Surely, Allah is Ever an All-Watcher over you.... 
34. Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient (to Allah and to their husbands), and guard in the husband's absence what Allah orders them to guard (e.g. their chastity, their husband's property, etc.). As to those women on whose part you see ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly, if it is useful), but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance). Surely, Allah is Ever Most High, Most Great.
You may also find verse 11 to be telling, since it deals with inheritance rights between sons and daughters; though, remember that the English tradition was primogeniture; this system, though unequal, does provide a better inheritance (and therefore, property) system for the daughters than that.

The BBC notes that this ruling has the potential to reverse the legal freedoms instituted for women in Afghanistan a decade ago, following the American invasion.

I gather that the American people will not endure a presence in Afghanistan of the length that we devoted to, say, Japan or South Korea.  That being so, it will fall on women like Fawzia Koofi to prove these freedoms are rights.  Perhaps there are ways we can be of some service, even once we can no longer hold back the tide.

Americans had better steel themselves to swallow this, though, if we do choose to walk away.  You're going to have a chance to reconsider just what is meant by the word "rights."  Those things, taken for granted, are like wine:  they are a gift from God, in the sense that the possibility of wine -- like the possibility of freedom -- is inherent in the structure of the world.  Yet if the good is to be had it must be made by human hands, and made new every year.  If we do not do the work, there will be no wine.

But wine, I have heard, is also banned by the Koran.


Eric Blair said...

I keep telling people: The problem with Afghanistan is the Afghanis.

And good men are dying for creatures like Karzai.

The lady should just emigrate.

Grim said...

You aren't the only one saying that. Chuck Z had a rather robust post on the subject the other day.

Karzai isn't worth saving. Some of the women might be.

BillT said...

Surely, Allah is Ever an All-Watcher over you....

An Afghan reply to my query about why he wasn't worried about Allah catching him watching a skin-flick on his laptop: "I am inside this building, and Allah does not peep through windows, because that would not be polite."

Shariah or no, most Afghans can rationalize anything...

raven said...

Ever since we left the South Vietnamese to the mercies of the North, I wonder why any country, anywhere , would trust the USA. Our soldiers are true, but our politicians are an insult to manure.

bthun said...

"I keep telling people: The problem with Afghanistan is the Afghanis."

Sounds fairly spot on to me.*

"Chuck Z had a rather robust post on the subject the other day."

Would that have been his space-based solution?

*As seen and appraised from the cheap seats.

Grim said...

Yeah, bthun, that's just the post I was thinking of when I said that.

douglas said...

Do we consider the issue of Iran in our calculation of the importance of being in Afghanistan? How about Pakistan? What happens if we pull out? I've not really heard that addressed- even when debate about 'timeline or no' was going on. Is this solely about the Afghan peope or do we believe that we have other interests and how important are they?

I think I'm to the point as well that if it's only about the people, we can stand with them, but we can't be against them but for some fictional Afghanistan that will not likely exist in the foreseeable future.

By the way, Grim, very nicely crafted writing in this one. The next time I raise a glass of wine, I may well think of freedom, and what it requires.

bthun said...

"By the way, Grim, very nicely crafted writing in this one. The next time I raise a glass of wine, I may well think of freedom, and what it requires."

Since Walkin' Boss and I are to have a little wine with our meal tonight, I'll second that observation.

To Freedom and the pursuit of, benefits, costs, and all...


Tom said...

I don't know what the right thing to do in Afghanistan is. However, I do hope that, if we go, we take the Afghans who have given us genuinely loyal service with us when we leave. There needs to be a system of asylum for them that allows them to escape vengeance for having helped us. It's the right thing to do, and word gets around. If we have to do this again somewhere, it will be to our advantage to have taken care of those who sided with us.

BillT said...

There needs to be a system of asylum for them that allows them to escape vengeance for having helped us.

There is -- problem is, they have to get here, first. Ask the Hmong, or the older members of the Viet communities along Louisiana's Gulf Coast...

Tom said...

There is -- problem is, they have to get here, first.

Not really. There is "a" system, but it doesn't take care of people the way I'm proposing.

When I said it should allow them to escape, I meant 'enable them to escape.' And, I meant it quite literally when I said that we should take them with us. Bring them here with the units they worked for.

Texan99 said...

Here's how I think about "rights." When the Founding Fathers wrote so movingly about our unalienable rights, I understood them to be conducting a kind of argument in their own heads about why the revolution their were starting was not a sin. These were men who'd been brought up to believe that breaking with their lawful monarch was treason -- not just dangerous, but treacherous, unseemly, guilty. They were working out why they were justified in going ahead and needn't bow their heads in shame to anyone.

Obviously there's nothing literally unalienable about rights, nor were the Founding Fathers naive enough to think so. Anyone can take your rights away by force at any time, if you're not strong and determined enough to fight back. You may die in the defense. Your rights are unalienable only in the sense that you conclude you are justified in fighting for them, and can live with yourself in the attempt, and perhaps in the sense that you can get enough people to agree with you that you can successfully set up a government aimed at protecting those rights.

Tom said...

T99, I disagree with your semantics. Rights cannot be taken away, but they can be violated. I have the right to speak freely, but someone can prevent me from exercising that right by force. I still have the right, however. That's what makes the oppressor's act unjust.

Texan99 said...

I agree with you, Tom, so you must be correct that my semantics are at fault. I think God establishes what's right, and that no man or state can change that simply by behaving badly. But from a practical point of view, it doesn't mean a great deal for me to talk about a right that can't be enforced by fighting back, except in the sense of helping me reconcile my intentions with my conscience.

Maybe I'm making a distinction between being able to identify in what sense I have been wronged, vs. enjoying the free exercise of a right.

Tom said...

That makes sense. I have to admit I hadn't given much thought to the role the assertion of rights plays in reconciling intention with conscience. That's something I'll have to think more about.