The NEWS 02/27/2001
Pakistan should give priority to gender equality
By Our Correspondent
KARACHI: Dr Riffat Hassan, the visiting academic from the US, said on
Monday that Pakistan should give priority to the issue of gender equality
and gender justice.
She was speaking on Islamic Society and Civil Society: A direction
for Pakistan at the American Consulate Auditorium. Dr Riffat is at the
University of Louisville, as professor of religious studies since 1976.
If the Pakistani society, or the Muslim ummah, is to become worthy
of being the Khalifah or deputy of God on earth and to actualize its
highest potential, it will have to make a strong commitment that it will
give the highest priority to the issue of gender-equality and
gender-justice, she said.
No society can claim to be truly Islamic unless it recognizes, in
the word and in deed, that man and woman are equal before Allah and that
each has an equal right to develop his or her God-given capabilities to the
fullest, she stated.
She said it is vitally important for Muslims and Pakistanis who want
to create an Islamic society to carry forward the message of the Muslim
modernists who have raised the cry Back to the Quraan (which in effect
also means Forward with the Quraan) and insisted on the importance of
Ijtihad- both at the collective level, in the form of Ijma and at the
individual level--as a means of freeing Muslim thought from the dead weight
of outmoded traditionalism.
In my judgement the most important issue confronting Pakistani
society, as well as the Muslim Ummah as a whole, today is that of gender
equality and gender justice. It is a profound irony and tragedy that the
Quraan, despite its strong affirmation of human equality and the need to do
justice to all of Gods creatures has been interpreted by many Muslims both
ancient and modern as sanctioning various forms of human inequality and even enslavement, she said.
For instance, even though the Quraan states clearly that man and
woman were made from the same source, at the same time, in the same manner, and that they stand equal in the sight of God, men and women are extremely unequal in virtually all Muslim societies, in which the superiority of men is taken to be self-evident.
One of the deepest concerns of the society are to free human beings
from the bondage of traditionalism, authoritarianism (religious, political,
economic, or any other), tribalism, racism, sexism, slavery, or anything
else that prohibits or inhibits human being from actualizing their God given
potentialities to the fullest.
Dr. Riffat said though it is necessary to set limits to what human
beings may or may not do, so that liberty does not degenerate into license,
the Quraan safeguards against the possibility of dictatorship or despotism
and states with clarity and emphasis: It is not right for a human being
that God should give him the Book of Law, power to judge and (even)
Prophethood, and he should say to his fellow beings to obey his orders
rather than those of God.
But Islam, like other major religions, has been widely misused by
self-seeking leaders, political and religious. It has not only the
potential, but the power, to enable human beings to rise to the highest
moral level, she said.
Dr. Riffat said: Those who say human rights can never flourish in
so-called Islamic society because Islam and human rights are essentially
antithetical have obviously never read the Quraan. If one reads the
Quraan without bias one can see that it is the Magna Carta of human