The Muslim Brotherhood’s official website in Arabic has published an article highlighting the comments of a senior Egyptian Islamist scholar criticizing the United Nations Violence Against Women Convention for violating Islam and promoting Westernization.
Dr. Muhammad Al-Mukhtar Al-Mahdi, a member of Al-Azhar University’s Council of Senior Scholars and head of the Sharia Association, was reacting to the endorsement of the U.N. convention by Dr. Mervat Al-Talawi, the leader of Egypt’s National Council for Women.
Dr. Al-Mahdi said that the U.N. convention is part of a war on Islam and that women are treated better under Sharia than Western law. He claimed “that Islam has given women a place of honor, and has allowed them to take part in the country’s awakening, while in the West, the women have to search for employment and rely only on themselves. Islam, on the other hand, has given women partners or husbands to take care of them.”
In other words, women in the West are oppressed because they are allowed to work and to be self-sufficient. He also said that their roles as mothers, wives and daughters are protected under Sharia.
Al-Mahdi’s description of a woman’s place under Sharia Law is a good example of how Islamists present the issue of women’s rights. In their view, Sharia Law brings true freedom, justice and equality to women. When they use those comforting terms, they are actually talking about Sharia-based governance.
This word-play was apparent when the Egyptian constitution was being drafted. Originally, Article 68 read as: “The state shall take all measures to establish the equality of women and men in the areas of political, cultural, economic and social life, as well as other areas, insofar as this does not conflict with the rulings of Islamic Shariah” (emphasis mine).
This article was scrapped when it received negative attention, but more carefully-worded sections accomplished the intended purpose.
The constitution makes Sharia the law of the land. Other language sets the stage for enforcement of Sharia.
Article 10 states that “the family is the basis of the society and is founded on religion, morality and patriotism.” The government must “preserve the genuine character of the Egyptian family, its cohesion and stability, and to protect its moral values, all as regulated by law.”
[signup]Article 11 states that the government “shall safeguard ethics, public morality and public order, and foster a high level of education and religious and patriotic values…”
The Islamists' claim that Sharia protects women is both patronizing and ingenuous, and their characterization of a convention against the abuse of women as a violation of Islam is extremely telling.