Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Deoband fatwa: It's illegal for women to work, support family

LUCKNOW: Darul Uloom Deoband, the self-appointed guardian for Indian Muslims, in a Talibanesque fatwa that reeked of tribal patriarchy, has decreed that it is "haram" and illegal according to the Sharia for a family to accept a woman's earnings. Clerics at the largest Sunni Muslim seminary after Cairo's Al-Azhar said the decree flowed from the fact that the Sharia prohibited proximity of men and women in the workplace.

"It is unlawful (under the Sharia law) for Muslim women to work in the government or private sector where men and women work together and women have to talk with men frankly and without a veil," said the fatwa issued by a bench of three clerics. The decree was issued over the weekend, but became public late on Monday, seminary sources said.

At a time when there is a rising clamour for job quotas for Muslims in India and a yearning for progress in the community that sees itself as neglected, the fatwa, although unlikely to be heeded, is clearly detrimental.

Even the most conservative Islamic countries, which restrict activities of women, including preventing them from driving, do not bar women from working. At the peak of its power, the Taliban only barred women in professions like medicine from treating men and vice versa. But there was a never a blanket ban on working, although the mullahs made it amply clear that they would like to see the women confined to homes.

The fatwa, however, drew flak among other clerics.

"Men and women in Sharia are entitled to equal rights. If men follow the Sharia, there is no reason why women can't work with them," said Rasheed, the Naib Imam of Lucknow's main Eidgah Mosque in Aishbagh.

Mufti Maulana Khalid Rasheed of Darul Ifta Firangi Meheli -- another radical Islamic body which also issues fatwas -- criticized the Deoband fatwa as a retrograde restriction on Muslim women.

The fatwa was in response to a question whether Muslim women can take up government or private jobs and whether their salary should be termed as `halal' (permissible under the Sharia) or `haram' (forbidden).

Well-known Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawwad, however, justified the fatwa. "Women in Islam are not supposed to go out and earn a living. It's the responsibility of the males in the family," he said. "If a woman has to go for a job, she must make sure that the Sharia restrictions are not compromised," he added, citing the example of Iran, where Muslim women work in offices but have separate seating areas, away from their male counterparts.

In Lucknow, a city with strong secular and progressive traditions, where Muslim families train their daughters to be doctors, engineers and executives, there was a sense of shocked disbelief even in conservative quarters that such a decree could come from those who consider themselves to be advocates of the community.

"I am also a working woman and also ensure that my Sharia is not compromised," said Rukhsana, a lecturer at a girl's college in Lucknow and a member of the executive committee of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB). "It's not necessary that one would have to go against the Sharia when going to work."

"Name one Islamic country which does not have a national airline and does not hire airhostesses? If I know correctly, even the Saudi Airlines has hostesses and they don't wear a veil," said Shabeena Parveen, a computer professional in the city.
Source: The times of India

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