Unfree Under Islam
By Ayaan Hirsi Ali
16 August 2005
The Wall Street Journal
(Copyright (c) 2005, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)
In every society where family affairs are regulated according to instructions derived from the Shariah or Islamic law, women are disadvantaged. The injustices these women are exposed to in the name of Islam vary from extreme cruelty (forced marriages; imprisonment or death after rape) to grossly unfair treatment in matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance.
Muslim women across the world are caught in a terrible predicament. They aspire to live by their faith as best they can, but their faith robs them of their rights. Some women have found a way out of this dilemma in the principle of separation of organized religion and state affairs. They fight an uphill battle to achieve and hold on to their basic rights. Two cases demonstrate just how difficult that struggle can be, in the context of new as well as established democracies.
The first is the draft constitution of
It seems strange to associate the context
Hamam Hamoudi, the head of
Under Shariah, a girl becomes eligible for marriage from the moment she starts to menstruate. In countries where Islamic law is practiced, child-brides are common. Do the drafters of the constitution grasp what this will mean for the school curriculum of girls or the risks of miscarriages, maternal fatalities and infant deaths? These and other hazards that affect subjugated women are common phenomena in the 22 Arab-Islamic countries investigated in the Arab Human Development Report. An early marriage also means many children in an area of the world that is already overpopulated and poor.
The draft Iraqi bill of rights favors men in other respects, such as the right to marry up to four wives, and the right to an easy divorce, without the interference of a court, simply by repeating "I divorce you" in the presence of two male witnesses. A wife divorced in such a fashion will receive an allowance for a period of three months to one year, and after that period nothing. On the other hand, if a wife wants a divorce, she must go to court and prove that her husband does not meet her material needs, that he is infertile and that he is impotent. Once a divorce is finalized, if there are children, the custody of the children will automatically go to the father (for boys at age 7 and for girls from the start of menstruation). Inheritance based on the Shariah means that wives will get only a small portion of the property of their husbands and a sister will get half what her brother gets.
Canadian women are told that the
Arbitration Act of 1992 was passed in order to provide citizens with the
opportunity to resolve minor conflicts through mediation and thereby save
valuable court time. They are reassured that Muslim women in Canada have
nothing to fear because parties must enter into arbitration out of their free
choice, and that there are enough limits to safeguard the rights of women. The
Muslim women's arguments that "free choice" is relative when you are
psychologically, financially and socially dependent on your family, clan or
religious group seem to fall on deaf ears. The populations of battered Muslim
women in "tolerant"
An Iraqi constitution is necessary, and
the need for urgency is apparent, but urgency is a bad argument for passing a
bill that strips half the nation of its rights. In
Ms. Hirsi Ali,
a member of the Dutch parliament for the Liberal Party, was born in