PWF has received this alert about a group of female lawmakers and activists in Afghanistan who are hoping to promote and enhance women’s rights through Islam in a joint campaign with their religious leaders.
Despite the hard-fought gains in education and work since the collapse of the austere Taliban regime in 2001, there are fears there could be a reversal when most foreign forces leave by the end of next year.
In the deeply conservative, male-dominated country where religion often holds more sway than legal authority, religious leaders have often been a major barrier to women obtaining the rights granted to them under the constitution. Outspoken female MP Fawzia Koofi says:
“The role of the mullahs is crucial because we’re an Islamic nation and the mosques are being used against women. Why not use them for women?”
Koofi is talking with the country’s male, religious elite to promote pro-female sermons during important Friday prayers in mosques where the government pays clerics’ salaries.
The hope is that the sermons will help address the problem of violence against women in a country where many men are suspicious of women’s rights and see them as imported from the West.
The campaign will start in Kabul and then be implemented in the provinces but only in 3,500 government-funded mosques. There are 160,000 mosques in the country of 30 million people.
With the deadline for the withdrawal of foreign troops looming, some women feel they are left with no choice but to try to gain the support of the men who have traditionally been their fiercest opposition.
Rights activist, Wazhma Frogh, director and founder of Afghanistan’s Women Peace and Security Research Institute says:
“They’ve defamed us. I can’t go into a province and try to fight for women rights if the local mullah is against me..
This is the only solution.”
Abdul Haq Abid, deputy minister for hajj and religious affairs, has been in talks with Koofi for nine months over the campaign to use religion to enhance women’s rights…and textbooks for clerics that teach them women’s rights within the context of Islam are a possibility. Abid says:
“Women have sacred rights granted to them in Islam, so Imams need to preach this to people in underdeveloped provinces, so they become aware.”
WHAT a battle!