EUROPE REACTS TO THE ISLAMIC HEADSCARF
There is a well-known rule in physics that nature abhors a vacuum. Air will rush in immediately to fill the space as soon it finds a way. Ideas appear to behave in much the same way. They will travel around the world, as soon as they are able to. The religious headscarf is just a piece of cloth, but for many Muslims it stands for decency, modesty and identity. For others it signifies compulsion or oppression. The success of liberalism that moved along with the flow of capital from the West around the world, is now getting a shake-up back at home. Translating cloth into words, what could well be the message carried around by some women in Europe wearing a headscarf is: "No! Your ideas and your life style are not the answer for everyone. Not everything you have done is correct, your treatment of us is not just - that is why we must keep our distance to you and stand together."

In February 2004 the western German state of Saarland, one of the 16 German federal states, became the fifth in the country to propose legislation that would ban Muslim teachers from wearing a headscarf in state schools. The proposal states that neutrality in public schools must not be endangered "through political, religious or ideological displays". The states of Hesse, Lower Saxony, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria have already proposed such legislation. All bans must still be approved by state legislature.

Germany's educational system has no strict division between religion and the state. The state is neutral and leaves enough room for religious expressions without identifying itself with them, and without indoctrinating through them. However, until now, the Christian religion has in actual practice received a favourite treatment. Europe's cultural traditions were shaped by Christianity. Religion nowadays has not disappeared from modern Western life, rather the claims that religious institutions can make on individual behaviour. Religion has become a personal and spiritual experience that needs to be looked for in private. The main characteristics in such societies are the division of power into the executive, the legislative and the judiciary, the rule of law, the separation of state and religion, the plurality of life styles, a representative political system with several parties, the rights of the individual and freedom of expression.

In September 2003 a teacher originating from Afghanistan but holding a German passport, Fareshta Ludin, won her court case against a rule that would not allow her to enter the teaching profession at a state school in Baden-Württemberg because she insisted on wearing her headscarf in the classroom. This, in spite of the fact that in Germany's most populous state, North-Rhine Westphalia, at least 15 Muslim female teachers already wear their headscarf while teaching youngsters - without any problems at all. The judges of Germany's highest court ruled that Fareshta Ludin should have been allowed to teach in Baden-Württemberg, as there is no law to prohibit teachers adhering to religions other than Christianity from taking up their profession. Article 4 of Germany's Basic Law - the federal constitution - stipulates that everyone is free to his own religious belief and that no-one must be discriminated against on account of his or her religion. The high court further ruled, however, that each individual state may pass its own laws prohibiting Muslim teachers wearing a headscarf while teaching, if they consider it necessary, as decisions on education lie in the hands of Germany's 16 states. Many Germans had until now argued that the regulations relating to civil servants which state that they must practise moderation and uphold the German constitution, should really be enough to prevent the admission of female Muslim teachers wearing a headscarf at work, should they have become conspicuous. But this is not the case. In other words, the court ruled that tolerance is to be shown to someone who refuses to take off a headscarf in a public institution. What could be the background to this kind of behaviour on behalf of Fareshta Ludin, and on behalf of German institutions, lawyers and politicians?

Fareshta Ludin is one of 3.5 million Muslims now living in Germany – around 3.2 % of the population. Most come from Turkey, others come from the former Yugoslavia, Marocco, Tunisia, Iraq, Pakistan,
Iran, Afghanistan and other countries. The majority of Muslim women living in Germany do not wear a headscarf. Most migrants wish to be become integrated and not begin to establish a parallel society.
The largest community of Muslim immigrants in Germany is the Turkish community. According to Professor Faruk Sen, director of the Centre for Studies on Turkey, the second and third generation of Turkish Muslims are aiming for a more pluralistic understanding of Islam. Just 27% of those questioned are of the opinion that women should wear a headscarf in public. The percentage is even lower among the women questioned.

But there are other groups. Several organisations are being observed by Germany's watchdog institution that seeks out unconstitutional trendsetters. Recently the King Fahd Academy in Bonn, which was originally set up in 1995 for the children of Arab diplomats residing in Germany, has been accused of links with extremist Islamists. It must now meet several demands to avoid closure. One of its teachers was accused of calling for a "jihad", or holy war. The school will continue to teach a Saudi curriculum but will review teaching practices and materials for its 465 pupils. Achmed Senyurd, a journalist and expert on Islamic organisations, has estimated that more than 70.000 children are visiting Koran schools in Germany. "A parallell world of thought is slowly coming into being," he says. Some of them preach the rejection of Germany's "godless culture". For others, the headscarf signals a neo-Islamic femininity. On the website of a Muslim market the following words could be read: "They would like to drive us Muslims away. German culture has formed an alliance against decency and justice, as manifests itself in the headscarf." There are strong reactions on behalf of many public figureheads in Germany against such assertions. It is felt that fundamental democratic principles are being questioned.

The president of the constitutional law court of North Rhine Westfalia, Michael Bertrams, considers teachers wearing a headscarf as symbolic of a social order that treats women as beings inferior to
men, and therefore incompatible with article 3, paragraph 2 of Germany's Basic Law stipulating:
men and women are equal. Bertrams concludes that a teacher who declares herself in support of a system of values that contradicts our constitution, is not suitable to become a teacher at state-run schools. He referred to examples of Islamic family and inheritance laws. "If she is not prepared to
take off the scarf, how can she convince her pupils of the advantages of this constitution? It is an expression of her distance to Western values. Some of the forms of treatment of women practised
by Western societies can indeed be seen as the expression of a certain loss of value, a lack of
respect for women. Women degraded to objects or goods. But the question is, why does a woman
need to put on a headscarf in order to retain her dignity, whereas in fact the moral deficiency that
needs to be controlled is obviously on the part of men?"

Federal chancellor Gerhard Schröder says that no female civil servant, including teachers, should
wear the headscarf. But his view is that pupils should not be withheld from wearing one if they
desire. The German trade union for teachers, VBE (Verband Bildung und Erziehung) in North Rhine-Westphalia, has recently voted unanimously for banning by law the wearing of a headscarf by
teachers at school. But there are also some quite contrary points of views. In December a group of prominent German women launched a campaign against the government's headscarf ban for
Muslim teachers. It sees itself as working independently of political and religious considerations.
Over 70 women gathered at the German parliament building in Berlin to plead for a more discerning
and objective debate over the Islamic headscarf. The group signed an appeal against a headscarf
law. Initiated by Federal Commissioner for Integration and Foreigners, Marieluise Beck, the protest initiative includes politicians from across the party spectrum, scientists and leaders from the church
and media. The group resists equating Muslim women wearing headscarves with fundamentalism. Though they admit that the headscarf is a visible instrument used by Islamic fundamentalists to
portray the repression of women, it insists that not all women wearing the headscarf are religious fanatics. Marieluise Beck: "What we're trying to say is that what's decisive is not what's on the head,
but rather what's inside it. The signatories say a headscarf ban limits a woman's freedom of choice,
and leads to a stigmatization. "A threatening situation has now arisen for women wearing a headscarf - not just for teachers, there aren't so many, but for all women who wear a headscarf."

And not everybody in Germany or Europe is happy with the prevailing liberalism either. In the daily newspaper 'Tageszeitung' of October 8th, 2003, there is an article on some of the detrimental effects
the sexual revolution has had on Europe's society. Author Kerstin Decker, from one of the formerly communist eastern German states, writes about the "self-confidently shameless society. As every religion is about the cultivation of shame, this must naturally strike people who have not yet overcome religion. ...We live in an openly obscene society. And is this what others should aim for?"

Until now the jurisdiction on the wearing of religious dress at school was unambiguous. Already back in the sixties, the wearing of Bhagwan dress in schools was turned down by courts, as was the wearing of a nun's or monk's habit. But now this no longer applies: fundamental changes in the set-up of society towards an increased religious pluralism may prompt the lawmakers in the future to redefine the extent to which religious references may appear at schools. This is the verdict that was pronounced by Germany's consitutional court. Previously, the right to a negative religious freedom enjoyed priority: an individual had the right not to be confronted with religious symbols and their messages in a public place. The position taken up by the courts has now moved from a liberal perspective to a more communitarian one. So far only the conservative southern states of Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg have prepared legislation that would ban teachers from wearing headscarves, while at the same time allowing Christian or Jewish symbols. This, however, goes against the Federal Constitutional Court ruling of September 2004 which stated that any new law must treat all religions equally. Germany's president, Johannes Rau, recently made a statement underligning this important principle: "If a head scarf is going to be considered a religious symbol ... then monk's robes and crucifixes must be treated in the same way, "
he said.

Multiculturalism is an irreversible fact of all modern countries. But how much can a liberal society
tolerate and yet still remain liberal? It must protect itself from the wrong kind of tolerance if it does not want to be destroyed. Indifference can also be dangerous. The headscarf is not the real dispute. From
a European point of view the real conflict comes when girls are not allowed to join their class mates
for a class trip, or when they are forced into marriage by their parents. The fact that Turkish youths,
for instance, drop out of school disproportionately frequently and have an above-average tendency towards violence, is a problem. Parallel social groups are beginning to develop that shield themselves
off from the remaining German society. Such problems need to be addressed. Prohibiting headscarves is more like symbolically killing the messenger of bad news.

Looking around other Eropean countries, we see different reactions. The Austrians seem able to
take a more pragmatic view of the matter. A particular code of behaviour was agreed upon at schools, banning baseball caps that had been worn by too many pupils. Yet the wearing of a headscarf was allowed in spite of protests from parents. The reason given was that the state should not interfere
with religious practices. However, the liberal interpretation of laws would end, as soon as 'indoctrination' might become a concern. Should at any time headscarves be used as a means of propaganda, the school authorities would be obliged to intervene. The human rights convention allows a limit to religious freedom, if the safety of the general public or the rights of other individuals are at stake.

In the Netherlands, headscarves are banned only if schools are able to cite security risks. In Belgium, the decision whether to allow headscarves has been largely left to individual schools of which a few
have imposed a ban. Neither Italy nor Spain has sought any kind of ban. In Spain there has been a
court case over a ban of headscarves in a private school. Sweden has around 350.000 Muslims, that
is 4 % of the population. In a Grammar school in Göteborg, Sweden, two girls from Somalia requested
to wear the Burka. This request was turned down by the administration of the school on the grounds
that the teachers needed to recognize their pupils.

With around 1.5 million Muslims, who make up approximately 2.5 % of the population, the situation in Great Britain is different. The British government disapproves of a ban on religious headwear and symbols in state schools. Foreign Office Minister Mike O'Brien said the British government supported the right of all people to display religious symbols. "In Britain we are comfortable with the expression
of religion. Integration does not require assimilation," he said. The London Mayor, Ken Livingstone,
fears the ban will spill over to the rest of Europe and encourage attacks on minority communities.

Recently, a law was passed in France banning the headscarf at school. A poll had expressed that
57% of French people want the headscarf banned. One of the few voices against is the Catholic
church. To proponents of a ban, the principles are simple. The secularism of the French state,
inspired by revolutionary ideas and late-19th century anti-clericalism, protects state education
from religious proselytising. There are also fears about the influence of extremist Islamic groups,
many with foreign sponsors, that find ready recruits on France's isolated housing estates. Allowing
the headscarf, goes the argument, is a step towards other militant demands, from the insistence of Muslim men that their wives be treated by female doctors to a refusal to read certain western set texts
in school.

France is home to some five million Muslims, roughly 7.5 % of the population, but they are not
much reflected in the country's self-image. There are plenty of respected writers and academics of
North African origin. But there is as yet no Muslim member of parliament, one recently nominated
regional governor, no leading French Muslim businessman, no television news-reader. Nicolas
Sarkozy, France's interior minister, went to Cairo to secure a declaration from Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi - the prominent Sunni religious authority who leads the Al-Azhar mosque - that women in
non-Muslim states should obey local laws, and, therefore, that not covering their heads was
acceptable. The head of France's official Islamic council also urged Muslims to respect a law that
will ban headscarves in state schools, and not to heed fundamentalists challenging the country's
secular system. Dalil Boubakeur, chairman of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, said that he opposed protest marches called by some Muslim groups even though he also did not want a law
barring pupils from wearing religious attire.

What is behind the present drive of Islamic movements? There is plenty of feed-back available
from disgruntled Muslims. Reading the letters addressed to political magazines and journals,
several complaints become manifest - for instance:
"There are three key grievances that drive political Islam. First is the history of western imperialism
which denied Muslims independence and freedom for well over half a century. Second is the solution
to the Holocaust perpetrated by Europeans on European Jews - handing the British colony of
Palestine to Jewish colonists, who then perpetrated their own programme of ethnic cleansing.
Third is the exploitation of oil by the West, carried out with the connivance of local puppets who
traded the independence of their people in return for being kept in power, and skimmed off part of
the oil profits for themselves. - Historical grievances, not religious ones, are expressed today
through religion - the only political route allowed. Tens of millions of Muslims view the invasion
and colonial occupation of Iraq as simply a return of the 1920s, when Britain parachuted in its
puppet dictator in order to control the Iraqi oilfields, after carving off Kuwait better to control the
region."

These grievances - along with personal feelings of maladjustments in a changing modern world -
make up the attraction for many individuals to seek refuge in Islam and find solace and identity.
Most radicalism arises in groups who, by their experience of mobility and displacement, are
disoriented by unfamiliar surroundings and Islam becomes their anchor. They are telling everyone around them that they are more zealous in their religious observance than those who confine their religiosity to private life. Subconsciously they will be asking for more and better attention.

Actions on one side lead to reactions on the other. The case of Fareshta Ludin has brought about a
huge debate. Using symbols that give identity and support is one way to express thoughts and
feelings. But it is possible to articulate them in a more direct way, finding new channels for a
dialogue. There are deficiencies in every system in the world and there is justified resentment on
behalf of Muslims. It's both an invitation and a challenge to correct and complement each other.
There are plenty of opportunities: double identity can be double cultural capital. In mathematics, multiplying two minuses gives a plus! Maybe something new will come out of this process: a better formula for mutual respect and for a more just and fair sharing of available resources. A hard
effort is required if we want this law to apply to us and turn the appearance of Islam in Europe
into a success story for everyone.

veröffentlicht im 'Defence Journal' im April 2004

BALANCING GENDER POWER

A politics of co-operation in society may also promote a better relationship between men and women

It can happen occasionally in Germany or in other European countries, that when you would like to meet a person - whether male or female – and ask for a date at any particular time, he or she replies: “I must first ask ‘my better half’ what kind of plans we have made for that day!” Such an exceedingly respectful and polite answer gives the impression that all is well with regard to the relationship between the sexes. The statement implies a practice of democracy and equality. - But of course life is more complicated than that, and privileges in society are rarely distributed fairly and equally. More often they are heavily contested. In most societies around the world, men dominate and enjoy a higher social status and more privileges than women. Is this a natural, righteous phenomenon, or are there human-made root causes?

Germany is at present waking up to the fact that its birth rate has fallen to its lowest level since the end of World War II in 1945. Since the bumper baby boom year of 1964, when as many as 1.357 million babies were born in both East and West Germany together, there has been a steady decline in the number of births. Just 686.000 babies were born in unified Germany in 2005 with its total population of 82 million inhabitants. Much public debate is at present going on here among experts, popular TV stars, writers and politicians, to find out whether the emancipation movement of women and political equality-seeking measures might have had the result to produce small-size families and a huge number of single-households. The official birth rate in Germany lies at 1.3 children per woman. The birth rate for a society needs to revolve around 2.1 children per woman if the population figure is to remain constant. Yet more than every third marriage fails in Germany, and in large cities such as Munich, Berlin and Hamburg every second household is a single household. Out of the 82 million inhabitants, 43 million people live in households with a partner and / or children. Yet a huge number live in single-households or share a flat or house with friends. What has gone wrong? Is gender equality detrimental to society? Did the original good intentions of achieving equality between the sexes backfire and turn us into egotistical, career-minded consumers? Or did the harshness of economic reality with its demand on our flexibility and mobility overburden us, with the result that family life has deteriorated or in some cases even become impossible? Should we return to a more patriarchal and traditional attitude towards life and uphold family values more clearly once more, in order to reverse the radical demographic change?

Yet only a few decades ago, to avoid having children was a decision that met with understanding by many people. During the 60s and 70s of the previous century, it was fashionable to discuss the problem of the world’s overpopulation and the ways and means to overcome this problem. In the last 100 years, the world has quadrupled its population figure. Within the same period of time, we have burned the energy which nature has taken thousands, perhaps millions, of years to produce. With a view to the forthcoming climate crisis and the expected rise of the sea level, it may well become a relevant topic again. The present 6.5 billion people and the projected 9.3 billion by 2050 exceed the world’s biological carrying capacity.

Much in today’s life-style is determined by market regulations and international capital streams – how can we keep these unfortunate essentials out of our personal relationships? Equality between the sexes has raised living standards, it has taken some of the pressure away from men having to toil to make a living for the family, yet it may also have produced more than the desired amount of individualism and egoism. This development does not come about without a good reason. The upbringing and the education of children is very time-consuming and expensive. After much studying and training, work life does not begin before the age of 28 for many youngsters. This time and money is spent on children of either sex, and a return for this investment is expected from both. A woman’s dowry is her education. In this way, selective abortion did not become an issue in Europe.

Yet the importance attached to the sexes varied considerably over time. Women were once revered as priestesses for their power to give life. Around the world, quite a number of matriarchal societies existed at various stages. The Basks in southern France even maintained their system of matrilineal inheritance until the Napoleonic civil code was enforced in France in 1804.

A number of well-known scientists have put forward the theory, along with some evidence, that in ancient times there was a cult of the Goddess. For instance James Mellaart, a British scientist and university lecturer and an authority on Near Eastern archaeology, writes in his famous survey of ancient Near Eastern civilisation: "Between 9000 and 7000 B.C. art makes its appearance in the Near East in the form of statuettes of the supreme deity, the Great Goddess." Mellaart states that historically "the cult of the Great Goddess" is "the basis of our civilisation." Other scientists who backed this idea were the geologist James DeMeo, archaeologist Marija Gimbutas, neurobiologist Humberto Maturana as well as the psychologist Wilhelm Reich. They believe that after this matriarchal period, around 7000 years ago, climatic changes led to a forced migration of peoples. This had as consequence that societies became rather warlike in order to survive. Men became more important and began to dominate in social life. Society became patriarchal. The division of labour was fairly clear. Women stayed at home to look after the children, men provided the family income outside of the home.

Two “halves” fitting well together obviously make a strong wholesome institution. It was women in Finland who proved this point extremely well! For a long time they had been unhappy about their husbands having major rights such as determining the religion of their children and the place of residence. But the women of the country were not able to unite and work together politically, as the rift in the Finnish society of those days was not between men and women, but rather between those social classes that were privileged and those that were underprivileged. The proletarian female parliamentarians instead practised solidarity with their men and fought with them to obtain better social rights. This way, they were able to secure the right to vote as well as the right to be elected for both men and women above the age of 24 already in 1906. There is just one country which had granted the right to vote for women a little earlier: New Zealand. In 1893 the women of New Zealand were given the right to vote, yet they were not allowed to be elected. Thus Finland with its granting of full rights became the champion and the shining example for women’s movements around the world.

In England and in the United States women’s groups were rather more feminist and militant. They were able to arouse a lot of attention by breaking windows or smashing their way into Parliament, but with these practices they had no broad support among the people. In England, the United States as well as in Germany, women had to wait for the right to vote until after the First World War.

The right to vote is one aspect of participation in political decision-making and therefore in determining one’s own life. Yet earning money is a more potent factor for the aspired independence. While men were fighting in the world wars on the European continent, it was for the first time that women showed that they could work and earn money just like their male partners. In fact they had to do so in order to survive and in order to provide the country with the commodities it needed and which could not be provided for by men busy fighting a war. When those men who had survived returned home in 1945, they again had the priority in taking up work. At the time, it was still rare for women to work. More than a decade later, women in Germany were free to study, work, vote and open her own bank account since 1958. But it was not until 1977 that married women were legally allowed to work without the consent of their husbands.

Not all women, however, aim for financial independence. A different kind of feminist movement took place more than 100 years ago. Whether she was worried about abrupt demographical changes is not really known, but Mary Harris Jones (1837 – 1930), better known as Mother Jones, the great American labour and community leader, co-founder of the union ’Industrial Workers of the World’, was committed to promote women’s rights all her life. But she did not want women to earn as much as men, because in that case they would have no incentive to stay at home and have children. Men should be in a position to earn enough money for the family so that the women would not be made to work in the coal mines or spinning mills by uncaring capitalist patrons, she thought.

To this day, of course, equal pay for women doing the same work as men, is still not in sight, although much progress has been made. Out of the ten new countries becoming a member of the EU in 2004, women earn 35 per cent less than men for the same job, and their share of positions in power is still very minimal. One successful way of securing a more equitable share is to introduce quotas for women, and to extend facilities for daytime child-care.

According to a report by the United Nations, women worldwide own just 1 per cent of the wealth and 1 per cent of real estate in the world!
The facts and figures about the share of domestic work in Germany show a certain development in the share of paid work outside of the home and unpaid domestic work. The sociologist and expert on research work concerning men and women, a field which is now popularly called “gender mainstreaming,” Peter Döge, has made the following observation: “Men who are between 25 and 45 years old work an average of 2 ½ hours in the household or in the business of raising children. This is of course a lot less than the amount of work done by women, but it is still rather more than ten years ago”. It’s a question of “not having to choose between either / or, but rather doing this / as well as that”. Away from confrontation, towards co-operation is the idea, he says.

This has become absolutely vital in times where inventions become marketable within the space of one or two years and therefore jobs having to compete against new developments may abruptly come to an end – whether they are held by men or women. In fact, the transition from an industrial society to a society where the service and the communications sectors have become important means that some of the talents and abilities of men are required to a lesser degree and the communication and social skills of women have a greater chance of being used in exchange for a good salary. The need for more team work, soft skills, flexibility and social competence is an established fact in a globalised world, where industrial and manufacturing jobs are moving away from Europe to countries far away in Asia or Latin America.

Emphasizing the social skills of women, Christian Pfeiffer, former Minister of Justice of one of Germany’s 16 states, Lower Saxony, speaks out in favour of the ‘weaker’ sex. He is reported to have said that, ”as criminologist, one easily becomes a committed feminist. There is no field in the world of crime where women play a significant role. If men reacted like women, Germany would be a much cosier place to live in.” Yet feminists are not popular and do not draw large audiences!

With all the given natural and biological differences between the sexes, total equality will never be achieved and should perhaps not even be aimed for. But inequality of the sexes can have terrible side-effects, as can be felt in India and China. According to the statistics, it is reckoned that around 40 million women are missing in India, due to selective abortion. The problem also exists in Pakistan. The figure for China’s missing women lies at 50 million. China’s one-child policy is to a large extent to blame for this effect. Peasants need a strong boy to help them with the heavy burden of physical labour on the farm. The responsible authorities in China have now devised new strategies to help families that raise a girl by granting them special financial subsidies for housing and for the education of this girl, to compensate the parents in a different way.

Yet none of the above-mentioned movements for an improvement in the lives of women can really compare with the revolutionary enlightenment and subsequent social progress that took place in the Middle East with the coming of Islam in the 7th century. Ties of blood had been given importance in the life before Islam – jahiliya. This didn't really include women, however, - the "causes" or "links" in family ties. Girls were murdered for fear of them being captured by opposing tribes and being a source of shame. Wives were treated as goods and "inherited" by male relatives without having any say in the matter. Women had no defined property rights. Inheritance customs of the jahiliya dictated that the male relatives - those most capable of fighting and defending the family - took everything even if the deceased left a wife and children. They would be left with nothing at all.

Islam came and changed all this and while confirming the blood ties respected in the jahiliya, Islam put much more focus on the women and gave them their rights of property and inheritance, prevented their murder and named family ties after them by using the word for "womb". The Qur'an and the Hadith or Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) are the sources from which every Muslim woman derives her rights, responsibilities and duties. Prophet Mohammad said: "Allah has forbidden you irritating your mothers, burying your daughters, withholding and ’give me’". Cutting family ties which should be maintained has serious consequences in this life and in the hereafter. It is one of the worst of the major sins.
Men and women are equal in front of Allah; this is in terms of worshiping, obeying, and glorifying Him. Since men and women both came from the same essence, they are equal regarding their human rights. Islam also granted women many civil rights; a Muslim woman has the basic freedom of choice and expression based on recognition of her individual personality. She is free to choose her religion. The Qur'an states: "There is no compulsion in religion. Right has been made distinct from error." Qur'an (2:256)

Muslim women have the right to choose their husbands and keep their names after marriage. Islam also encourages women to contribute their opinions and ideas; there are many examples of women who offered their opinions concerning religion, economics and social matters to Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). Also, a Muslim woman’s testimony is valid in legal disputes. “Seeking knowledge is a mandate for every Muslim, male and female.”
This includes learning the Qur’an and the Hadith as well as gaining knowledge in science and many other fields. Since both men and women have the capacity for learning and understanding, Muslim women must acquire the appropriate education in order to promote good behaviour and condemn bad behaviour in all spheres of life.

Yet, as everywhere, theory and practice can vary considerably. There is a connection between political oppression of people on the one hand, and the oppression of women on the other, as both are based on the principle of power. In fact the influence works both ways. The Egyptian television presenter Gamila Ismail has criticised that oppressing women has become an instrument to secure the power of Arab regimes. “This general lack of freedom, under which women also suffer to a large extent, will finally lead to extremism and terrorism as an expression of the desperation of helpless people”. A ‘tyrannical regime’ will promote every form of tyranny in a society – including the use of physical force against women as well as their discrimination. A tyrannical regime destroys the dignity of men and women, because it recognizes nothing else but the principle of power. But if this kind of power becomes an accepted social value, then it will also allow men to ill-treat women.

If the survival of mankind up to this point is to a large extent based on the potential of human aggressive behaviour in order to overcome ‘enemies’ in the form of wild animals, dangerous natural phenomena or other groups invading existing settlements - with regard to the projected 9.3 billion humans that are to exist by 2050, the survival may depend rather more on whether we are able to cultivate our softer skills as well!

Published in "Defence Journal" in December 2006