Realizations, Updates and Take Action!
I was over at Dean’s World today where quite a debate formed over lines in the sand that Dean had drawn for participation in discussion at his blog. I gotta say, if people get that heated over: “3) Islam as a religion is no more inherently incompatible with modernity, minority rights, women’s rights, or democratic pluralism than most religions.” then I can only imagine what it must look like when debating the Iraq war or the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. While I posted a couple of opinions, admittedly they were my half-hearted attempts at debate as I am often quickly reminded just how trivial, how irrational people become when the subject is Islam, but while I was there standing up for this honorable attempt of providing a platform for rational debate, my mind kept wandering to my own blog and my reasons for starting it and the reasons that later developed for keeping it going.
This is what I wrote on the day that I started this blog:
Today, with the youngest also in Muslim school full time, I start a new page in my life. I have for some time intended to become more active in social issues that tarnish the image of Islam. It is my intention through this blog and through various means to inspire other Muslims to do the same in a pro-active manner. It is no longer enough for us to just sit around the dinner table and discuss the wrongs being committed in the name of Allah, it is time to do something about it.
This is what has inspired me to take up blogging, but this blog will not be solely about Islam. It will serve as a venue for various issues that interest me and to entice my readers into rational debate.
What I hadn’t realized was that through this blog non-Muslims who had doubts about Islam, questions about Islam would through this blog come to a greater understanding of Islam. I am not an expert on Islam, but I can tell others what I believe and how I practice. I am not a scholar of Islam but I can refer others to appropriate channels. This would become another driving force to this blog (as humble, er and sometimes not so humble, as it may be).
Furthermore, I have realized that the Action alerts that I have been posting to this blog actually do make a difference. Take for example Nezanin, she had been convicted of murder and sentenced to death by hanging. On appeal her sentence was overturned and returned to the lower court where she was exhonerated and even though she had to pay blood money to the family of the man she killed in self defense, Nazanin returned home on January 31, 2007. Do I believe that these Action alerts work? Yes. Why? In the case of Nazanin, while typically 15 people (mostly family) may attend a trial, Nazanin’s last trial had over 200 supporters who patiently waited to enter into the courtroom, causing a two hour delay.
It is through these action alerts, blogs and media that attention is being brought to these unjust cases and we are making a difference not just from a legal perspective, but from a social/moral perspective as well. I have come to realize that what I write here is read the world over. Hellooooooooooooooooo World!
Today, I was reading Amnesty International’s calls for action and came accross a forced divorce issue between Fatima and her husband. Looking into the matter further before I post the form letter I came accross an interesting event that took place this week:
THE issue of forced divorce, an unlikely topic to be discussed at the Jeddah Economic Forum, became an unexpected hot-button topic during a panel session Monday that erupted into a brief confrontation between some audience members and Riyadh’s human rights representative. During a question-and-answer period in the afternoon session on the role of law in economic reform attended by former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Human Rights representative Abdullah Aziz Mohammed Hinaidi, the audience peppered Hinaidi with questions about his views of forced divorces.
The issue of forced divorce has become one of the hottest debates in Saudi Arabia after several cases have surfaced in recent months. The most controversial case involves Fatima Al-Timani, 34, and her husband Mansour Al-Timani, 37, who were divorced in absentia and against their will. In another case Rania Al-Bouenin and Saud Al-Khaledi also were forced to get divorced on a petition filed in Al-Khobar court by her father.
A squabble erupted when Dr. Ameera Kashgari, an English language professor and columnist, asked Hinaidi how forced divorces affect the development of emerging countries and whether it violates the human rights treaties signed by the Kingdom.
Moderator Alistar Stewart quickly cut her off. Hinaidi, however, attempted to answer the question by noting that Saudi Arabia “is committed to the treaties” it signed and that the government is doing a good job on the issue of human rights.
Well, I don’t agree that the government of SA is doing a good job on the issue of human rights, but what I find exciting about this event is that the Saudi public is finding its way, whichever way it can to address these issues and show its dislike of these human rights violations.
Here are the specifics of Fatima’s forced divorce:
She has forcibly been divorced from her husband following a court case initiated by her half-brother using his powers as her male guardian. If sent back to her brother’s home, Fatima may become a victim of domestic violence.
By living in al-Dammam Prison, Fatima has been able to receive short visits from her husband and her daughter who lives with him. The couple and their lawyer were hoping to have the court verdict reversed by the appeal court, but their hopes were dashed by the ruling of the appeal court at the end of January 2007, which upheld the lower court’s judgment. Following the appeal court ruling, police were reported to have sought to bring Fatima to her brother’s home. However, prison staff did not hand her over because she refused preferring the security of the prison.
Amnesty International fears that Fatima remains at risk of being returned to her brother’s home, where she would be at serious risk of becoming a victim of domestic violence if the court ruling is enforced. Saudi Arabian authorities have an obligation to ensure that Fatima enjoys the right to be accorded a legal capacity identical to that of men in accordance with Article 15 of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the right not to be discriminated against in matters relating to marriage and family relations in accordance with Article 16 of the Convention, to which Saudi Arabia is a state party. The latter article would include the obligation to ensure that she is not forcibly divorced from her husband. Amnesty International therefore calls on the Saudi Arabian authorities not to enforce the court ruling, allowing Fatima to go back to her and her husband’s home
Although women in Saudi Arabia are increasingly speaking up for their rights, they continue to be subjected to severe forms of discrimination which impacts upon and compounds the wide range of human rights violations against women, including domestic violence. For example, if a woman marries without the permission of her guardian (a male relative who is not marriageable to her), then he may file a case in court for the annulment of the marriage on the grounds that he did not agree to the marriage. His application may prevail against the woman’s wishes. She could face forcible confinement by relatives for choosing a husband without her family’s permission and subjected to physical violence or to restrictions on her freedom of movement when and if she asserts her right to marry a partner of her choice.
You can go here to sign a petition (which you can change to be worded to your own liking) in protest to this forced divorce. Make a difference in the world.