THE INTERNATIONALNETWORK 
     FOR THE RIGHTS OF FEMALE VICTIMS 
     OF VIOLENCE IN PAKISTAN
  (INRFVVP)
 
The NEWS   02/23/2001
Quran Magna Carta of Human Freedom
By Rahimullah Yusufzai

PESHAWAR: In a thought provoking lecture here on Thursday, prominent
scholar, Dr. Riffat Hassan said it was essential to build the moral
foundations of Pakistan to make it a strong, self-respecting and
self-sustaining country.
    Terming human and women's rights an issue of the greatest importance to
Pakistan, she stressed that it cannot become what Allma lqbal and the
Quaid-i-Azam wanted it to be [while] justice wasn't done to the weakest and
the most vulnerable in the society.
    “Economic and military strength, important as they are, cannot stem the
rot that has set in through a long period of intellectual myopia and moral
bankruptcy,” she said.
The lecture on “Islamic Society and Civil Society: A Direction for Pakistan”
was arranged by the Public Affairs Programme of the US Consulate at the
Shaikh Zaid Islamic Centre, University of Peshawar.
    The Centre's director Professor Hafiz Abdul Ghaffor earlier introduced
Dr. Riffat Hassan and referred to her intellectual accomplishments.  A
lively question-answer session followed her long lecture.  Frequent clapping
by the largely student audience in the hall to cheer up a favourite speaker
or questioner marred proceedings of an otherwise enlightening academic
experience.
    Dr Riffat Hassan, a US citizen of Pakistani-origin, stood her ground
despite critical questioning by some of the faculty members of the Peshawar
University.  She was witty and aggressive while defending her discourse and
disarming her critics.  "I knew this was going to be a very conservative
audience.  We need such open discussions on issues of critical importance,”
she told The News after the programme.
    At the outset, Dr. Riffat Hassan made it clear that the world of Islam
wasn't a monolith and that the over one billion Muslims differed as sharply
within their Ummah as do adherents of other major religions.  She regretted
that throughout history religion was used by persons and societies to
disenfranchise large segments of humanity, particularly those socially
disadvantaged, such as women.  Muslim masses too, she reminded, were
enslaved by Muslims in the name of God and the holy Prophet (PBUH) and made to believe they had no rights.  However, she stressed that Islam  had the potential and the power to enable human beings to rise to the highest moral level.  The holy Quran, she opined, was the Magna Carta of human freedom as its deepest concern was to free human beings from the bondage of traditionalism, authoritarianism, tribalism, racism, sexism and slavery.
Dr Riffat Hassan, who has been teaching religious studies at the University
of Louisville, Kentucky, in the US since 1976, felt the most important.issue
confronting the Pakistani society, as well as the Muslim Ummah, was gender
equality and justice.  She argued that interpretation of sources of Islamic
tradition by men through centuries of Muslim history had given an inferior
status to women. The.Islamisation process carried out in Pakistan and other
Muslim countries, she maintained, had primarily targeted women.  Besides,
she said emancipated Muslim women were described as Westernized unlike
Muslim men who are referred to as modernised.
        She termed the Hudood Ordinance of 1979, the Law of Evidence 1984
and the Qissas and Diyat Ordinance of 1990 as discriminatory to women.  She was also critical of ‘honour' killings in Pakistan, and felt the BBC
documentary “Murder in Purdah” had clearly showed that such repressive
practices existed despite official denials. She also put forth arguments by
quoting from the holy Quran to argue that family planning was permitted by
Islam.
         In the ensuing discussion Merajul Islam, Dr Dost Mohammad, Dr Qibla
Ayaz and two female students asked questions or made comments.
 

Return to main documents page
INRFVVP 
P.O. Box 17202, 
Louisville, Kentucky 40217, U.S.A. 
Telephone: 502-634-6754 
Fax: .