AWID spoke to Musawah, the global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family, to learn more about their new publication which is based on groundbreaking feminist research: Men in Charge? Rethinking Authority in Muslim Legal Tradition.
Musawah, the global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family, has announced a new publication based on groundbreaking feminist research: Men in Charge? Rethinking Authority in Muslim Legal Tradition (Oneworld 2015).
The book critically engages with two concepts in Muslim legal tradition: qiwamah, which generally denotes a husband’s authority over his wife, and wilayah, which refers to the right and duty of male family members to exercise guardianship over female members. These two concepts, which Musawah Advocates Zainah Anwar and Ziba Mir-Hosseini have called the ‘DNA of patriarchy’ in Muslim family laws, have led to societal norms that enshrine male superiority and female inferiority within and beyond the family and contribute to discrimination against women. These concepts justify many unfair provisions in contemporary Muslim family laws and practices. The gendered rights and obligations created by them can also result in injustice for all members within the family.
In the book, the contributors work from within Muslim legal tradition to trace how male dominance came to be inherent in Muslim family laws, show how it is produced and sustained in contemporary times, and indicate how it can be reformed in line with gender equality and justice.
Insights from the book can be used in a variety of ways: in submissions to the CEDAW Committee to counter government arguments about discrimination in Muslim family laws or to argue that equality is necessary and possible within a Muslim framenwork; in advocacy at the local and national level for the reform of Muslim family laws to recognise gender equality and justice for all members of the family; and in the process of re-envisioning relationships between women and men as fair, just, and sustainable for all women and men. Musawah is also synthesising ideas from the book in a position paper on qiwamah and wilayah that will be launched in the coming months.
Musawah, the Centre of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law at SOAS, University of London, and the Study of Religions Unit at the Faculty of Theology, University of Helsinki, held a full-day seminar on 7 March 2015 at SOAS in London and discussed key insights from the book. The book was also discussed during the March 2015 UN Commission on the Status of Women session in New York during a side event on 13 March 2015 (16.45–18.00 p.m., Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium, UN HQ building) called ‘Recognising Common Ground: Islam and Women's Human Rights’ and in a parallel event on 14 March 2015 (10.30–12.00, Hardin Room, UN Church Centre) called ‘Men in Charge? Rethinking Authority in Muslim Legal Tradition’.