Dr. Kaltham Jaber, a Qatari writer and a lecturer at the University of Qatar, penned two articles in the Qatari daily Al-Raya on the status of the Arab Muslim woman in Qatar and in the Arab and Muslim world at large. In her articles, Jaber claimed that discrimination against women stems from their ignorance regarding their rights. According to her, The Koran and Sunna grant women clear rights, and any attempt to deny these rights is rooted in men’s desire to control women and eliminate their individuality. She said that education in the Arab Muslim world is responsible for the women’s situation, for it has given birth to “a backward legacy that excludes the woman and disrespects her and her rights.” Jaber called to enact a widespread national campaign to increase awareness among women and society in general regarding women’s rights, with the active participation of influential clerics and media personalities. She also called for greater legislation on women’s rights, especially in the field of family law, which blatantly discriminates against women.
The following are excerpts from both articles:
Men Abuse Women Due To Education That Devalues Her
“The [Qatari] state has many institutions that deal with women’s rights, and despite this, women suffer from many tragedies due to their ignorance of these rights… This requires these institutions to do two things: First, pass strict laws regarding women’s rights; and second, spread awareness among women regarding their rights – in their workplaces, volunteer organizations, and anywhere women are concentrated, such as in public and higher educational institutions. Educational institutions should teach women’s rights at every level, and there should be a widespread national campaign to raise awareness of women’s rights.
“Even though we have many bodies dealing with women’s rights… the courts overflow with cases of marital conflict, in which the woman is usually the victim. Additionally, the divorce rate is steadily rising, indicating a dysfunction of institutions dealing with women’s rights – rights that they are granted by the Islamic shari’a and by the country’s shari’a-based constitution.
“We Muslims always speak of the justice of Islam and the integrity with which it treats the woman, but social reality provides us with cases that are far removed from the dictates of Islam, in which men abuse women due to a condemnable education passed down from generation to generation. [This education] devalues the woman and the role she fulfills in family life, society and the homeland, [and it] has birthed a backward legacy that excludes the woman and disrespects her, her rights and her very being. [This is true] not just in our [Qatari] society, but in most [Arab] Muslim societies, whereas in other Muslim societies, women hold high-ranking positions and have even become heads of state. Obviously, we cannot compare the status of the Arab woman to that of women in the West, since the Arab woman is unique. But this uniqueness does not prevent her from reaching the highest levels of [academic] studies, and the loftiest public- and private-sector positions.
“In today’s developed world, it is unbefitting to treat women with any kind of disrespect, since they are mothers, sisters, and wives, and they have permanent and clear rights that the Koran and Sunna did not allow [people] to interpret as they see fit. The biographies of the ancient fathers of Islam – the Companions of the Prophet and the generation that came after them – present [enough evidence of women’s rights] to spare us the need to heed others [who devalue women so as to] serve their own ambitions to control women and have exclusivity over their affairs, eliminate their individuality, and exclude them.
“The status of the woman is a problem that we can never solve except by integrative action that includes legislating strict laws that defend women’s rights on the one hand, and increasing awareness of these rights on the other. This action can only be crowned a success if mosque preachers, media personalities, and authority figures play an active role in it…”
Only Strict Legislation Can Cement The Issue Of Women’s Rights
In another article on this topic, Jaber addressed women who are victimized by men and by laws that treat them unjustly even after divorce: “Women’s oppression by men continues to be the main concern of bodies dealing with the rights of the woman… since she cannot defend herself from domestic violence, whose price she pays even when she separates from the man, for example by divorce. Domestic violence is not just about direct harm [dealt] to the woman in the form of constant curses and insults for anything big or small, but can also escalate to the point of battery or of denying her custody of her children, or even the possibility of seeing them after divorce. This is an inhuman situation that must be dealt with, especially when existing [family] law does not enable to reach a solution that satisfies both sides in family disputes, in which the woman is the primary victim.
“One of the most prominent matters afflicting women is the issue of [child] custody, since [existing] laws force them not [re]marry if they want custody… [a situation] that causes many divorcees to remain permanently single in order to retain custody of their children, who are returned to the father in case the mother remarries, regardless of whether or not he is fit to raise them…
“The issue of women’s [rights] can only be cemented with strict legislation that limits their discrimination, and this is not imaginary discrimination but rather a reality indicated by the courts, which are overflowing with domestic cases, marital conflicts, and an increasing number of divorces. There is no choice but to reexamine existing laws on women’s rights and legislate new ones that ease the grip of the man’s iron fist on them. In fact, this iron fist should be eliminated… and replaced by compassion, love, and complete mutual understanding, in order for the family to continue its happy life and for husband and wife to continue building a happy family together.
“The ignorance of women regarding their rights causes men to exploit this ignorance and continue treating them without justice and compassion, and [to succumb to] the urge that tempts [them] to harm women for no reason, even though harming women, for any reason, is forbidden. A man has no right to bully his wife and [bullying] has nothing to do with masculinity. A man who displays his [mental] complex and illness [in dealing with] his wife is a man who is unfit for marriage in the first place…
“Legislative and legal bodies should treat women justly and honestly because they are not only half of the population. Rather, they are the entire population, for they create the men: they give birth to them, educate them, and teach them – which does not negate the role of the man. [Women] are the basis of society’s happiness or misery, and as long as they are not allowed a stable and secure life, and as long as their desires, rights, and individuality are not honored, society will continue to be in grave danger due to the great influence [women have] over people [in society] and over all domains of life.”
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