Islamic Scholars Speak Against Abuse of Women
I realise I’m on a bit of a roll with posts in the Women category, but lets keep going… and return as well to the topic of Religions speaking out. A month ago I picked this out, but never got to writing about it; 34 Islamic Scholars in Mauritania have joined in issuing a Fatwa, an opinion or decree, against the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
What I like personally about this story is that it gives me a chance to view something from a different angle to the one I would like to. It also shows a side to Islam that we don’t often hear about the in the UK – one that could be said to mark progress, perhaps even so-called “progressive” values.
First, I think its hard to deny that a statement made against FGM from any religion is a positive step. Although many Muslims have pushed the blame onto “cultural factors”, few have used their religion to speak out for those affected to anything like this extent, least of all in Africa where its generally believed to be most prevalent.
I was commenting recently on balancing concern for Christian unity with the need to speak out and defend the welfare of women caught in the Quiverfull Movement. Someone suggested that the desire of external commentators (i.e. non-Christians) was to split Christianity. I don’t really feel myself wanting to split Islam, in fact, I’d rather it rallied around a clear and humane position on FGM. It made me realise that perhaps many, probably not all, but a big number of those wishing the Church would speak out on internal injustices and use of privilege really want to see the Church united around what they can see is Jesus teaching. As Ghandi said “Your Jesus I like, your Church I find problematic”.
But more than this, this message, like any message from a religious elite, matters simply because of who is mostly likely to be listening. When it comes to religions, this much is doubly true: by remaining ‘neutral’, seeking to ‘stay out of the debate’, we endorse those in power to keep doing what they’re already doing. These scholars have done the opposite, aligning themselves not just with the world community, but also against the prevailing cultural power-holders on this important, if difficult, issue. Its something that should be celebrated by theists, non-theists, atheists and anti-theists alike. This is the positive power of religious groups using their own voice against injustice perpetrated by their own followers.