Features

Defining women

"Defining women" Continued...

Issue: "Space: Dawn of Discovery," Aug. 13, 2005

The issue of women's rights in Iraq points to the larger dilemma for Western diplomats as they promote democracy in the Middle East: Will democratic freedoms, such as open elections and the popular drafting of constitutions, produce leaders and legislation that will hinder democratic progress in the region? Kajal Aziz of the OWF says Islam and democracy take "two different directions," and that "if you look closely in [the Quran], you don't find anything good or talk about women's rights."

Here's where religious differences become key in politics: Christians understand that sin comes from within and no legislation can cure it, but Muslims believe all people are born without sin and that if government creates a pure society, then citizens will not face dangerous obstacles to salvation. Islamic law, derived from the Quran as well as the life and sayings of Muhammad, plays an important role in Muslims' quest for salvation by legislating a correct way to live, one they believe will eventually lead to paradise and the triumph of Islam.

Women are commonly the focal point in Muslim attempts at correct living. How they dress, where they go, and whom they talk to has been the topic of endless debate and restrictive laws. Saudi Arabia is perhaps most notorious for its efforts to control the lives of its women who, among other restraints, are not permitted to drive or expose any skin.

Mrs. Mohammad says attempts to draft an Iraqi constitution based upon Islamic law have produced a document with numerous black and gray areas that marginalize women as well as other groups, like Christians. Giant political groups funded by the Islamic Republic of Iran and other groups in Saudi Arabia issue regular threats against her and other activists. "For them to see a woman who is demanding full equality is an embarrassment and a risk," said Mrs. Mohammad. She fears that the final constitution draft will treat women as "semi-human," and pleads: "What kind of democracy is that? No democracy should allow that. We deserve a better constitution."

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