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Raheel Raza Rants

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Raheel Raza (Photo: Clarion Project)
Raheel Raza (Photo: Clarion Project)

The indomitable Raheel Raza rants at the media for fawning over the latest “right” granted to Saudi women.

Once again Iranian women are in the news – and not in a good way. Just last week some Iranian women were arrested for writing a letter to President Khamenei asking for an end to gender apartheid.

Two of the 14 signatories have been arrested by Iranian authorities and the remainder have been threatened with potential political persecution or arrest.

The letter simply mentioned patriarchy and gender apartheid, both of which are real and tangible issues that Iranian women have had to deal with since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The actions of the Iranian regime beg the question: Why not respond to the women instead of using force? In my opinion, the answer is simple. The regime knows the women are right, and the best way to shut them up is to arrest them.

This way, they also set an example for other Iranian activists who have been lobbying for basic human rights like the freedom not to have to cover their hair.

If this was not such a serious issue, one could call it a joke – that in 2019, women are arrested for demanding basic human rights.

The concept of basic human rights brings me to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where it was recently announced that Saudi women could leave the country without a male guardian.

In addition, women will now be allowed to register marriages, divorces and births and to receive official family documents without their guardian’s approval.

This news, similar to when Saudi Arabia finally let women drive a year ago, was met with cries of adulation and applause throughout the Western world.

As a human rights activist I am glad that Saudi women are getting more much-needed freedom, but let’s put this into perspective.

It seems to me that granting women their inalienable rights is something that should have happened a long time ago. The right to drive and be free of male guardianship is not a gift – it’s their right.

It seems like these “privileges” are selective handouts to Saudi women — as though they should be thankful and grateful that they now have what most women around the world have already have.

As Madawi al-Rasheed, a Saudi Arabian professor of social anthropology at the London School of Economics, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program, “Women’s issues have always been used by the Saudi regime at the right moment in order to disperse bad publicity…”

To date, women in Saudi Arabia can’t marry of their own choice, they can’t open a bank account without a male guardian, they can’t get a fair trial because their testimony is equal to less than that of the males and they can’t dress as they wish or get custody of their children.

What are they? Chopped liver that handouts are given at will and we should say “thank you” while we wait for the next human right to be granted to us?

By the way, what the governments of Iran and Saudi Arabia are practicing is not Islam. Before you all get your knickers in a knot and start with knee jerk reactions, what these two countries impose on their female citizens is patriarchy, power and control.

That’s not the Islam I grew up with. Iranian mullahs and Saudi clerics use their own version of Islam to impose sanctions which are against basic human rights.

However the influence of these ideologies is spread globally on the backs of petro-dollars. Saudi Arabia, in turn, influences the majority the Sunni Muslim population and Iran, the Shiite Muslim population. Each one wants the world to believe that they are practicing the “true” form of Islam.

The day that Iran and Saudi Arabia follow the International UN Charter of Human Rights, I will be first one to applaud them.

 

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Raheel Raza

Raheel Raza is ​an adviser to Clarion Project. ​She is an award-winning author, journalist and filmmaker on the topics of jihad and sharia. She is president of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, and an activist for human rights, gender equality, and diversity.