Tag Archives: freedom

The misrepresented feminist faith: Islam, women and the Sharia law

What is it with veiled Muslim women, which makes us so convinced that they are oppressed or male dominated? Nuns, for one, cover themselves but we think of them as the freest of all mankind. When it comes to Muslim women wearing their hijabs, pause

Photo credit: Cartoon Stock
Photo credit: Cartoon Stock

– We think they need liberation. This is the negative stereotype which the media has continuously fed to us. Despite all this, most of the converts in Islam religion are female and Muslim women who migrate to the land of the free, America, still choose to maintain their hijabs. Where really is the oppression?

Traditionally, Islam as a religion has always valued the position of women in society. Prophet Muhammad was a present-day staunch feminist who preached and lived the values of present day feminism. His interpretation of the Qur’an emphasized the importance of women in society to the extent that when a man approached him inquiring who is of greatest companionship unto him, Prophet Muhammad is said to have answered ‘mother’ three times before mentioning ‘father.’ This signified the place of women in a person’s life and society in general. He is even considered to have decreed sexual satisfaction as a women’s right and condemned the abuse of women. Yet with so much freedom and conjugal rights, we are quick to declare:

Photo credit - Unknown, Tumblr
Photo credit – Unknown, Tumblr

Hold on there, what is wrong with the hijab? To the critics, the hijab serves as a sign and a constant reminder of this supposed oppression but to the educated Muslim women, the “… concept of hijab is about more than modesty —  it’s about comfort, boundaries and deciding for [themselves] what [they] will and won’t let other people see.” In a world where women are constantly objectified and judged on their bodies, the hijab empowers Muslim women by allowing them to cover themselves and let their worth be judged on any other quality than their bodies. Yes! That sounded more like a fashion choice, only that it is more informed and consistent than our usual fashion trends – which we pick and drop at the snap of our fingers. In a recent Telegraph article, H&M one of the world’s biggest retailer is said to have released a new media fashion campaign featuring women wearing hijabs. This same article also cites a case won by a Muslim women denied employment at Abercrombie & Fitch clothing store in Oklahoma because of her hijab. This is a clear indication that the perception people have about the hijab is the cause of oppression and not the actually reality of its symbolism.

The Qur’an is praised as being the only sacred book which mentions women alongside men:

“Surely for men who surrender to God, and women who surrender
and men who believe and women who believe;
and men who obey and women who obey;
and men who speak the truth and women who speak the truth…” (Qur’an 33:35)

These are just but some of the few scriptures which place equal emphasis on both sexes to the extent of explicitly mentioning and distinguishing them. In other sacred books, a patriarchal bias usually exists, in which ‘man’ is an all-encompassing term referring to both men and women but generally thought of as overshadowing women.

However all is not merry in the Islam religion as some countries governed by the Sharia law tend to have unfair laws on women. In Saudi Arabia, for example, women are not allowed to drive, among other things, unlike men.

Photo credit - Burhanco
Photo credit – Burhanco

These are just but some of the rarities that exist within the Islam religion as a result of different interpretations of the Qur’an and different group practices. Sadly, this has tainted the Islam religion and is constantly used by Islam critics to argue on the oppressive nature of the Islam faith. These examples are however used to oversimplify and generalize on the entire Muslim faith and movement. This represents a clear distinction between culture and faith, and how in these countries where the Sharia law is used to oppress women, the local culture has contributed to that oppressive interpretation of the Qur’an and the Hadith.

Islam as a religion is fair and just. The place of women hasn’t not been more emphasized than in the Islam movement. The interpretation of some of the laws by other religious leaders has led society to consider the Sharia law oppressive to women but we all stand to be corrected that the interpretation of law is influenced by the prevailing culture. As such, it would be ignorant of anyone to oversimplify and generalize the entire religion as oppressive to women.

Voila: Sabelo Dube and Anne Gitau


News article: Khan, S. (2015, October 8). It’s not the hijab which holds women back, but prejudice. The Telegraph UK. Retrieved October 16, 2015, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/great-british-bake-off/11919553/Its-not-the-hijab-which-holds-women-back-but-intolerance-and-prejudice.html

Faruqi, S. (2015, June 24). Why I Wear the Hijab. Haaretz. Retrieved October 15, 2015, from http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.662729

Beyer, L. (2001, November 25). The Women of Islam. Time. Retrieved October 17, 2015, from http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,185647,00.html

Photo 1 link: http://thecandideye.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/oppressed-muslim-women.jpg

Photo 2 link: http://30.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lb2zvjUftE1qeo8kqo1_500.jpg


No Strings Attached….

The chains of imprisonment fell and in their place cleverly placed strings. Slaves are now puppets. A current state no different from the former. As long as it is a mutually accepted and voluntary relationship, we can turn a blind eye to its savagery. Freedom, self-dependency, autonomy, independence all dubious machinations of an elaborate illusion.  Patronage to neopatrimonialism. Neopatrimonialism the neo-colonisation. The hope of Africa has worn thin, leaving zealous warriors to do the wisest thing left – grab what they can from who they know in their privileged position. For a period it seems ingenious, festive even. Leaders have used the ‘unfortunate’ status of third world nations to further personal ambition, taking its populace from frying pan to fire (I will explain in a few minutes). The wind blows, and into thin air goes billions of state money yearly. With ailing structures of governance, transparency has no place in these nations. In fact we are far led away from the core ethos of pan-Africanism in securing for our selfish gains, resources that are meant to better serve and forward the collective dreams of the hopeful citizens of Africa. Perhaps Scientific can better express my pain.

It hurts to sit and watch the sacrifice of visionaries traded for fleeting ‘riches’ that are in fact liabilities. Liabilities because aid received often dig deeper wedges between us and our goals. Often momentarily injecting the economy with money but the debt afterwards puts us in a worse situation. Loyalties are forged with the exchange of bilateral pleasantries but our resources are. We accepted the new and kicked out the old. We neglected our very culture and blindly built systems developed with no consideration for our environment. Pitcher mentions in Rethinking Patrimonialism and Neopatrimonialism in Africa that our actions a recipe for disaster because ancient practices used the accumulation of wealth by leaders (Kingdoms) as a means of maintaining control of the people being governed. By neglecting the significant role our past plays on our move for contemporary change, sets us in perpetual backwardness. A different mind set has been carried into a different setting that propounds the active participation of the populace (democracy).

It comes as no surprise that many are crossing oceans from Africa to find ‘work’. We are back at square one working for others when we should be managing our affairs freely and independently. Why are people leaving their free countries back into the previously detested slavery? Neopatrimonialism is simply for a few select, leaving the rest suffer bitterly. Libya is among the most recent to lose to the system in question.


In years gone by, men, women and children have risked their lives and left their homes to seek greener pastures in the golden lands of Europe and America. Many are the times that these journeys to a ‘better place’ are unsafe and could possibly lead to serious injuries and even death. Yet, these people take that seemingly unreasonable risk to escape the barren lands of Africa. In a recent news story, roughly 4,700 people were rescued of the coast of Libya as they were trying to get to Europe. It was found out that during this dangerous journey, one woman lost her life in her quest to reach the promised land.


The coast guards that under took the rescue mission reported that twenty rescue missions were coordinated to save over 4,300 migrants that were travelling on non-seaworthy rubber boats and barges. A further 335 migrants were picked up by Greece rescue missions and were directed to Italy to disembark. These rescue missions were the collective efforts of the Italian coastguard and navy, humanitarian agency Doctors without Borders, the Malta-based Migrant Offshore Aid Station, a merchant boat, a Croatian vessel under the European Union’s Triton rescue mission and naval ships from Germany and Britain under the EU’s EUNAVFOR Med mission. Now Europe is having a hard time coping with the unwanted migrants as they leave Africa to seek a better life.


Perhaps the new Africa that our independence icons dreamed of was not meant to be. After all we did waltz back into the control of our so called oppressors. From independence, to begging , to selling our loyalties, to losing the pan-African spirit and back into chains and the vessel has been neopatrimonialism by our very selves. No strings attached? They lied.

  • Makafui Amezah and Christian Biassey- Bogart

Link to the news story:  http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/09/19/us-europe-migrants-italy-idUSKCN0RJ0PG20150919

Pitcher, A. & Moran, M. H. & Johnston, M.(2009). Rethinking Patrimonialism and Neopatrimonialism in Africa. African Studies Review 52(1), 125-156. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved September 20, 2015, from Project MUSE database.