How Stigma Links to COVID-19 in Indonesia

Sadly, discrimination against groups, including religious communities, that become scapegoats was widely predicted as a likely response to COVID-19 in many settings. Specific instances are indeed emerging.

Worrying examples are reported in Indonesia. In one case a large crowd intercepted an ambulance carrying a body, threatening to set both ambulance and body on fire. In another, a family brought home, with force, a body for burial because they feared that the hospital had not followed religiously appropriate procedures and, significantly, the family had not been able to witness what was done. Both cases involve dangerous actions because they risked spreading the disease. And in both cases the community was concerned in large part about the stigma they would suffer. Such stigma has material consequences such as shunning by neighbors and strict government surveillance, including blocking the people involved from leaving their village.

Anthropologist Lies Marcos highlights the tight links between culture and religion drawing on these examples. Illness carries harms that range well beyond disease. In the history of communicable diseases, with leprosy and HIV/AIDS prominent examples, stigma associated with a disease is often more malevolent than the disease itself. Stigma arises for many reasons, drawing on enduring myths and prejudices. It often extends far beyond the person who is ill to their family and even ethnic or religious group. Stigma links to shame and cowardice. Marcos cites the example of a fellow student in her high school who bled to death after a botched abortion, concealed because her family feared stigma. Collective denial of disease at a national level is another example of how shame and fear translate into denial.

Responding to COVID-19 requires not just information about how to combat the spread of the disease but also honesty that can be difficult to achieve. Communications and messages to inform people and encourage behavior change need to be carefully honed so that they avoid the risks of stigma and ostracism. Ministries of health and other public authorities cannot achieve this alone. Institutions with strong relationships with communities need to play their part. That includes NGOs and religious communities.

Distancing, yes; ostracism, no!

(Based on: June 19, 2020, Jakarta Post article)

Source: https://mailchi.mp/111b2e37d9b7/covid-19-june-23-highlight-4534?fbclid=IwAR3pw7ttfDIyTeV3oIQCGUajloUSAP_sfnNNXT0Bp9bu2_qxdRw4ecKG2Yc

COVID-19 kills as stigma harms families and society

On June 17, Kompas TV reported that hundreds of people had intercepted an ambulance and threatened to set it on fire and forcibly remove the remains of a person who had died after being exposed to COVID-19. It seems they thought they would suffer major problems if the body was buried under COVID-19 protocols. They would, perhaps, be under constant observation by public health personnel and the COVID-19 task force, and their village might be locked down. They might be prohibited from leaving their homes or their neighborhood. They felt they might be shunned by residents of other villages and not even allowed on the roads passing through other villages. Not only might they be ostracized, but the acknowledgement that one of their residents had died of COVID-19 could lead to restrictions on their access to normal activities, including earning a living.

Elsewhere, in a separate report, a COVID-19 victim’s family forcibly brought the remains home from the hospital and prepared the body for burial in accordance with their religious beliefs. They feared that the treatment of the body at the hospital had not followed the procedures required by their religion since the family had not been allowed to witness the process. They could not accept the fact that the body had been placed in a coffin, which they associated with the burial traditions of another religion. The family worried that they would be ostracized because the body had not been prepared according to religious tenets.

Such incidents as these, I believe, require a solution, because seizing mortal remains in this way is extremely dangerous. It was reported that 15 of the people involved in the process of bathing and wrapping the body later tested positive for COVID-19, and their village did, in fact, become a cluster under observation.

During my studies of Medical Anthropology in Amsterdam, we discussed topics such as these in our epidemiology class, viewing them as a cultural issue. “Illness” is actually more than merely the physical condition of a person who is unhealthy. It also involves traditional and cultural values and ways of thinking, which cause the illness to carry a range of other problems, such as prejudice and stigma.

One of the most ancient stigmas was that associated with leprosy. Historically, leprosy originated in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia, particularly India, and then spread throughout the world, including to Indonesia. This disease arrived with the era of colonialism in the 19th century. The bacterium responsible for the disease was first identified by a Swedish scientist in 1837. The traffic of persons between continents in the context of colonialism brought a variety of diseases with it caused by bacteria such as leprosy. The response required not just addressing the disease caused by the “leprae” bacteria but also addressing the additional disasters caused by fear and stigma. To address the spread of the disease and also to stop the “hunting” of lepers, the colonial government built special leprosy hospitals. This followed the model set by a Catholic order that built leper colonies on isolated islands. To reduce stigma and ostracism, these special leprosy hospitals were sometimes called “Lazarus Homes”, taking the name of Saint Lazarus, the patron saint of lepers.

Going beyond the issue of disease, leprosy later became a term to convey racial hatred. Leprosy was used as a metaphor to justify the ostracism or eradication of groups seen as belonging to the “other” on the basis of race, ethnicity or other distinguishing features. Even though leprosy can now be controlled with treatment and quarantine, this metaphor for hatred is still used as an excuse for eliminating others.

In the history of communicable diseases, the stigma is often more malevolent than the disease itself. People living with HIV provide a good example. The legendary singer Freddie Mercury had to keep his illness a secret until just before he died. Although the stigma of persons with HIV is not quite as severe as that of leprosy, a person still needs to think very thoroughly before publicly declaring they have HIV or even a disease considered more common, such as tuberculosis. The “informed consent ” procedure is therefore applied to protect a person’s confidentiality.

Stigma arises along with myth and prejudice. Stigma can be so strong that the patient’s family may also suffer from it. They may repeatedly deny or cover up the fact that someone in their family suffers from a disease that is stigmatized. Experience teaches us that the impact of stigma is often more severe than the disease itself. The sick person will be isolated, shunned or treated as an enemy. The family also suffers shame and humiliation because of the origin or cause of the disease. The custom of pillorying persons with mental problems is one such form of hiding shame. Similar things are often done when a family member has a physical or mental disability.

This sense of shame associated with illness is predictable given the social pressures that are experienced, even though it is not justified. Such feelings are often a form of cowardice of the healthy when they are around someone who is ill. It seems they are unable to imagine the multiple layers of consequences they would face if they did not cover it up. I remember when I was young and living in a village, there was a commotion over the death of a man who died in a firewood storage shed in the middle of a field. It seems the family was trying to hide this old man, a distant relative who was staying with them, because he suffered from acute tuberculosis. The family was afraid they would not be allowed to use the village well. In addition, they were embarrassed that a family member had TB, a “poor people’s disease”. When I was in junior high school, a student below me died from bleeding when her parents tried to perform an abortion because she was pregnant out of wedlock. She was only 13 at the time. The family concealed the pregnancy and did not take her to a doctor when she suffered severe bleeding – all out of a sense of shame.

Feelings of shame or a fear of stigmatization and its consequences, are not only experienced by patients and their families. In the case of COVID-19, fear of being isolated spreads to the wider community, giving rise to collective denial. In other cases, this is done by the authorities in the name of political and economic stability. So, in this situation, the handling of COVID-19 requires not just information about how to combat the spread of the disease but also honesty.

Explanations are needed that will change people’s attitude about COVID-19 so it does not lead to stigma and ostracism. In this regard, the handling of COVID-19 must not only be done by the Ministry of Health but also by institutions that deal directly with the public, such as the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Here, the methods of NGOs that work to combat discrimination and hate speech can also be employed. Cultural experts must join the struggle! Distancing, yes; ostracism, no!

***

Lies Marcoes is a researcher at Rumah Kitab, Jakarta. The original Indonesian version was published on the Rumah Kitab website on June 18.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.

 

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2020/06/19/covid-19-kills-as-stigma-harms-families-and-society.html?fbclid=IwAR1rVhvaM9sbLOQiJ6UpBe-uWxN76qbXgYT2Rtsw3C9oMUWweHQEESdL-uY

What the Pandemic Reveals About the Male Ego

Why are the rates of coronavirus deaths far lower in many female-led countries?

By 

Opinion Columnist

President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan at a military base this spring amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Credit…Ritchie B. Tongo/EPA, via Shutterstock

 

Are female leaders better at fighting a pandemic?

I compiled death rates from the coronavirus for 21 countries around the world, 13 led by men and eight by women. The male-led countries suffered an average of 214 coronavirus-related deaths per million inhabitants. Those led by women lost only one-fifth as many, 36 per million.

If the United States had the coronavirus death rate of the average female-led country, 102,000 American lives would have been saved out of the 114,000 lost.

“Countries led by women do seem to be particularly successful in fighting the coronavirus,” noted Anne W. Rimoin, an epidemiologist at U.C.L.A. “New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Norway have done so well perhaps due to the leadership and management styles attributed to their female leaders.”

Let’s start by acknowledging that there have been plenty of wretched female leaders over the years. Indeed, according to research I once did for a book, female leaders around the world haven’t been clearly better than male counterparts even at improving girls’ education or reducing maternal mortality.

There has been solid research that it makes a difference to have more women on boards and in grass-roots positions, but evidence that they make better presidents or prime ministers has been lacking — until Covid-19 came along.

It’s not that the leaders who best managed the virus were all women. But those who bungled the response were all men, and mostly a particular type: authoritarian, vainglorious and blustering. Think of Boris Johnson in Britain, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Iran and Donald Trump in the United States.

Virtually every country that has experienced coronavirus mortality at a rate of more than 150 per million inhabitants is male-led.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that some of the best-run places have been run by women: New Zealand, Germany, Taiwan,” mused Susan Rice, who was national security adviser under President Barack Obama. “And where we’ve seen things go most badly wrong — the U.S., Brazil, Russia, the U.K. — it’s a lot of male ego and bluster.”

I think the divergence has a great deal to do with that ego and bluster.

“We often joke that men drivers never ask for directions,” observed Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel of the University of Pennsylvania. “I actually think there’s something to that also in terms of women’s leadership, in terms of recognizing expertise and asking experts for advice, and men sort of barreling ahead like they got it.”

He has a point. Those leaders who handled the virus best were those who humbly consulted public health experts and acted quickly, and many were women; in contrast, male authoritarians who botched the response were suspicious of experts and too full of themselves.

“I really get it,” Trump said when he visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in March. Surrounded by medical experts, he added, “Maybe I have natural ability,” and he wondered aloud if he should have become a scientist.

(Given that Trump said in January that Covid-19 was “totally under control,” he has his answer. And peer review might not have been kind to his ideas about bleach.)

Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand.

Credit…Pool photo by Mark Mitchell

Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor.

Credit…Pool photo by Andreas Gora

While women have generally outshone men as international leaders, that does not seem true within the United States. Some female governors have done better, others worse, so there isn’t an obvious gender gap at home.

It’s also possible that this isn’t about female leaders but about the kind of country that chooses a woman to lead it.

Companies with more female executives on average perform better than those with fewer women, but analysts think that the reason isn’t just the brilliance of women leaders. Rather, companies that are culturally open to having senior women are also more willing to embrace other innovations, and it may be this innovative spirit that leads to higher profitability. Likewise, countries willing to elect female prime ministers may be those more inclined to listen to epidemiologists.

Yet I think that there’s also a difference in the leadership itself.

“Women lead often in a very different style from men,” said Margot Wallstrom, a former Swedish foreign minister, citing examples from Norway, Germany and New Zealand of women with low-key, inclusive and evidence-based leadership.

Wallstrom also noted that public health is a traditional “home turf” concern for many women leaders. Grant Miller, an expert in health economics at Stanford University, found that as states, one by one, granted the vote to women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, those states then also invested more in sanitation and public health — saving some 20,000 children’s lives a year. Boys were thus huge beneficiaries of women’s suffrage.

One trap for female politicians is that brashness can be effective for male candidates, but researchers find that male and female voters alike are turned off by women who seem self-promotional. That forces women in politics to master the art of communicating effectively in a low-key way — just what’s needed in a pandemic.

“Perhaps the skills that have led them to reach the top,” said Rimoin, the U.C.L.A. epidemiologist, “are the same skills that are currently needed to bring a country together.”

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Nicholas Kristof has been a columnist for The Times since 2001. He has won two Pulitzer Prizes, for his coverage of China and of the genocide in Darfur. You can sign up for his free, twice-weekly email newsletter and follow him on InstagramHis latest book is “Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope.” @NickKristofFacebook

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/13/opinion/sunday/women-leaders-coronavirus.html

The personal price of lockdown

By NIKEN KUSUMAWARDHANI

Indonesia must strengthen its anti-domestic-violence services during the coronavirus crisis

 

Widespread restriction of mobility has been required to deal with the spread of COVID-19, including stay at home orders, but not all homes are safe, Niken Kusumawardhani writes.

The chance to be able to stay at home in safety during lockdown is truly a privilege. The fact is, under quarantines women carry the burden of caregiving, both for children and the elderly, and face a higher risk of unintended pregnancies and domestic violence. Without well-established emergency services and shelter systems, women locked up with abusive husbands are becoming unwitting victims of the pandemic.

COVID-19 has brought a lot of uncertainty, and has placed limits on choices that people can make. During this time, perpetrators can be triggered to try and regain sense of control and power over their lives, and this can manifest itself in abuse.

A combination of distress, both economic, from lost work or higher costs, and emotional, from increased isolation and confinement, the risk of domestic violence has risen considerably during the pandemic crisis.

Over the years, domestic violence has been the most prevalent type of violence against women in Indonesia, and a recent report shows that during the first month of limited mobility in Jakarta, numbers of reported cases of domestic violence, rape, and sexual assaults have dramatically increased compared to the usual figures.

The cultural taboo against revealing marital problems has become the main barrier in Indonesia for filing reports of violence, causing domestic violence to be severely underreported. Even among victims who come forward, only a handful report to police. Research has found that one of the main barriers preventing women from reporting to police is unfamiliarity with the procedure.

Another barrier for women is financial dependence. There are fears that reporting abuse may land their husband in jail, and the victim will be left with limited resources to survive. This situation will only get worse as the pandemic progresses, as some women who become unable to work will be even more financially dependent on men, and find it even more difficult to leave if their home becomes a toxic environment.

Failure to deliver services for domestic violence survivors during the pandemic may increase the severity of violence cases, and eventually put more burden on the already-strained national health system. As large-scale social restrictions have been imposed in several major cities in Indonesia, it is imperative that governments categorise services for domestic violence victims as essential.

The availability of emergency safe houses and psychological services that are easily accessible by women impacted by domestic violence must be considered a priority for Indonesian policymakers during the coronavirus crisis.

The government must also allocate extra spending to deal with the domestic violence wave that will accompany the rest of the crisis. Unfortunately, none of the 405 trillion rupiah spending for the COVID-19 pandemic is dedicated to anti-domestic violence initiatives.

Before the pandemic, safe houses were only available in some districts, with varying quality and capacity. As construction of new safe houses will take a long time, transforming hotels into a potential safe house for survivors fleeing domestic violence is a more feasible option for the duration of the pandemic.

The government could also use the extra spending to pay for accommodation, food, and other essential needs for women who are forced to leave their homes due to domestic violence.

Recently, the Indonesian government launched a hotline service to connect psychologists with people who need mental health support during the pandemic, including those impacted by domestic violence. This is a great step, but it will still be difficult for victims to call the number while locked up at home with their abusers.

Features such as online chat services, texting, or the usage of secret code words during a call to discreetly seek help would make it easier for victims to reach out, and simple to implement. In addition to psychologists, the hotline service should also be backed up by a team of police and health workers who are well-trained in responding to domestic violence. Formation of this team may require additional economic resources but is surely important enough to be funded using the extra spending set aside for the pandemic.

Initiatives at the grassroots level can help strengthen existing anti-domestic violence measures during the coronavirus crisis. Steps taken by civil society groups, rather than government, to help survivors of domestic violence have started to flourish, especially in Greater Jakarta, the epicenter of the pandemic in the country.

As  some villages already implement their own measures to ensure distancing and caring for infected neighbours, they should also incorporate anti-domestic violence initiatives into their activism in the community.

For example, village volunteers and neighbourhood watch members could be educated, empowered to detect signs of violence, and then maintain regular communication with the neighbours. Village chiefs and community leaders should also increase their readiness in providing safe houses and receiving report from survivors.

More than just a global health issue, the COVID-19 pandemic has created serious disruption for so many aspects of everyday life. In the middle of high death tolls from the disease itself, it is easy to overlook the scale of what COVID-19 is doing to those who do not contract it.

Policies designed to limit mobility in the pandemic should not come at the expense of the safety of women, and Indonesia must use this hard time as an opportunity to strengthen its domestic violence services. A failure to provide comprehensive domestic violence services will create greater loss for Indonesia, both to its health care system, and society, and amount to an act negligence toward its own people.

If you or someone you know are experiencing domestic violence in Indonesia and require support, you can contact P2TP2A or Unit Pelayanan Perempuan dan Anak (PPA) Polda for help. In Australia, you can find resources to get support here or dial 1800 RESPECT.

Source: https://www.policyforum.net/the-personal-price-of-lockdown/?fbclid=IwAR0atPWbATut3NEH_Gsr3f1smWlq_0DWujoUNqAlpBh9Oqw7WX90XoEm9tU

Why Are Women (Still) Comfortable in Islam?

By Lies Marcoes (Researcher, Rumah KitaB)

Please show where and how women are placed with dignity in the conceptual framework (epistemology) of Islam? This question resounded in my mind following the discussion of Dr. Zahra Ayubi’s book Gendered Morality: Classical Islamic Ethics of the Self, Family and Society, (Columbia University, July 2019). This is not some strange or eccentric query, but rather an accusation that demands an honest answer. Where?The virtual discussion was held on the morning of 20 May 2020 by WE LEAD, an empowerment network of seven feminist NGOs, three of which are Islam-based. We all perceive the strong rising tide of fundamentalism that threatens women’s bodies and existence as well as the diversity of Indonesia. This was truly a very special discussion, in terms of the quality of the book, the discussants, and the dialogue. Dr. Ayubi herself participated throughout the discussion, even though it was before dawn in California. The discussion was led and notes were provided by Ulil Abshar Abdalla, M.A., who has for the past several years been an expert on Imam Ghazali’s work Ngaji Ihlya. It was important to have kyai Ulil involved, because one of the texts discussed in Gendered Morality is the works of Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali, better known as Imam Ghazali. Meanwhile, Dr. amina wadud (who officially prefers her name written without capital letters), serving as one of the discussants, led the discussion straight to the heart of the problem. She asked Dr. Ayubi to explain about her motivation, the basis of her arguments, and her analysis of the three texts of tasawuf (mysticism) she explored: Kimiya’i Sa’adat by Imam Ghazali, Akhlaaq-i Nasiri by Nasiruddin Tusi, and Akhlaaq-i Jalali by Jalaluddin Davani. These last two books are more popular in Iran.In his introduction to the discussion, kyai Ulil- and I concurred,  explained that mysticism has long been considered a discipline that is friendly toward women – for example, by presenting the “feminine side” of God. For many Muslim feminists, tasawuf is a branch of knowledge that can help to console them in their frustration with the teachings of Islam in other areas, which are often misogynistic and patriarchal. For example, in fiqh or dogma, women are discussed by first of all positioning them as subordinate to men. A woman is the property of her father or of some other man in his line of descent, or of her husband. Women are deemed to be only half the equal of men, and this assumption pervades practical matters such as giving testimony, inheritance rights, polygamy, and not being allowed to lead communal prayers. Sachiko Murata’s book The Tao of Islam is a study on Islamic spirituality that explores the balance of Yin and Yang and the masculine and feminine aspects in the characteristics of God. Other books, such as My Soul is a Woman by Annemarie Schimmel, also explore the feminine aspect in Islamic spirituality. But Dr. Zahra’s study and analysis leads to a very different conclusion. The construction of the teachings on akhlak (ethics), as explored in these three mystical works, is full of male-centered bias. The entire conceptual framework of thinking in mysticism about ethics solely discusses how men should behave and achieve superior moral character. In her book, she presents evidence of how these medieval Islamic intellectuals created a system of ethical philosophy that inherently has gender implications by ignoring the experience of women as subjects.

Ayubi’s study is very important and counts as new because until now, scholars of Islam who explore the issues of gender have generally criticized the patriarchal interpretations of the Qur’an, the hadith, or traditions of fiqh. In the Sufi teachings as portrayed in the three works she studied, the ideal concept of a human is a man who is able to control his passions. Such an attribute can only be achieved by the elite (the nobility, higher social classes), because only these upper classes are considered intellectually capable to grasp the concepts of philosophy and to achieve realization as persons of noble character.

 

Methodologically, what Ayubi has done is to “interrogate” the text. To be able to analyze how gender is understood in the texts, she first examined the masculinity and the class bias contained in the texts, particularly how men – and specifically, men from the elite class, in terms of wealth, education, and power – are conditioned from birth to become patriarchs/ leaders in society. It is important to recognize here that the issue is not simply that women are not included in a given text, but rather how, overall, the texts on ethical behavior require a certain form of relationship that is based on the subordination of others (for example, wives or slaves) to men in the effort to become more ethical.

 

According to Ayubi, in the understanding of mysticism, the studies of akhlak and fiqh occupy different “strata”. Fiqh is seen as discourse on ethics for the common people, who do not need heavy ideas but just require practical guidelines on what is and is not permitted; in contrast, akhlak is seen as discourse on ethics that is formulated by philosophical thinking, and therefore is intended only for the upper classes/ nobles. In her research, Ayubi concluded that the discourse on ethics in tasawuf suffers not only from male gender bias but also from class bias, because it is oriented toward the male elite. Obviously, the discussion of akhlak does include some discussion of women, and also of slaves. But the main thrust of these studies is on how a man should act ethically when facing (the temptations of) women or slaves. Hence, women are discussed in their role as the touchstone to test the quality of a man’s ethics, as a direct object to test the purity of men’s souls.

 

The concept of akhlak in mysticism is “refinement of nafs” (purification of the heart). Kyai Ulil added that the process of purification of the heart in tasawuf consists of three concepts: takholi (cleansing the heart of negative characteristics), takhali (filling it with good characteristics), and tajali (the peak of human endeavor, becoming a person who always acts ethically). amina wadud explained how this relates to the concept of Insaan Kamil, the ideal person, which revolves around purification of the hearts of men. According to Zahra, this “refinement of nafs” is in fact a concept that is solely for cleansing the hearts of men. In this way, no different from the epistemology in the fields of fiqh and tafsir, the texts on akhlak in tasawuf are full of misogyny and gender bias.

 

According to Dr. Ayubi, essentially the discipline of ethics (akhlak) offers a basic perspective on the meaning of being human, especially in the concept of dien according to Islam, which offers a way and a path of life for all humans. But apart from this rich discourse on ethics, there are still many other assumptions that need to be unpacked so that the humanity of every person can be fully recognized, so that this discourse can contribute to answering how to achieve the superiority and nobility of humankind in the perspective of Islam, i.e. as insaan kamil as mentioned by amina wadud.

 

Dr. Ayubi notes that in these texts, the question of gender can be raised not only in those matters that often discuss women, such as marriage, but in fact in all aspects discussed in the texts. Everything includes the issue of gender. She sees that, first, although the texts she studied were written in Persian, in which the pronouns do not literally distinguish between masculine and feminine, when we read them in context it is evident that these texts specifically refer only to males. For example, when discussing how to be a better person and Muslim, or when discussing the concept of nafs (the psyche) and how to control it, what is actually meant by the text is how to become a better Muslim male and be able to control one’s nafs. As another example, in the discussion on society, such as how to be a good leader and how to deal with opponents, the entire context is men’s leadership in society.

 

Second, the construction of akhlak in Islamic tradition as a way of life has to date been an exclusive effort. The ethical discourse aimed at purifying and upgrading oneself continues to exclude other groups based on gender, ability, rationality, social class, and race.

 

Rationality is one aspect that causes women to be treated unequally in the epistemological constructs of tasawuf, as in the other epistemologies (Fiqh, Aqidah, Philosophy, Politics). In fact, all these epistemological constructs focus on rationality. Perhaps this is why women are excluded in the texts. In fact, rationality should have no gender and need not always follow the same path.

 

But women’s reproductive capabilities, such as menstruation, pregnancy, giving birth, postnatal confinement, which are recognized in the text of the Qur’an as extremely burdensome events, “wahnan ‘ala wahnin”, have been used as a unilateral argument that women’s rationality is lower. This also relates to the ways in which women are obstructed in performing worship. The reproductive events that women experience have been used as a judgement on their inequality with men. Their essential ability has become a stigma implying that women are less rational than men, as well as further implications departing from the same prejudice – doubting their rationality.

 

For Dr. Nur Rofiah, one of the initiators of KUPI (Congress of Indonesian Women Ulama), Zahra’s book further reinforces her view that there are problems within Islam’s system of knowledge, including in mysticism, which has until now been considered neutral. It turns out that tasawuf is also characterized by a masculine awareness (using males as the standard). For many centuries, the experience of women with their bodies and their reproductive capability has not been taken into account in the system of teachings/ knowledge of Islam. The long history of human civilization, including Islamic civilization, is characterized by a tradition that “does not treat women as human”. This gives rise to a collective view (including in women’s own thinking) that men are considered the standard for women’s humanity.

 

Yet women’s biological and social experiences, such as giving birth and nursing their children, as well as their social implications, are never experienced by men. Women’s experience with reproduction seldom even enters into men’s awareness. Meanwhile, men hold strategic positions, including in constructing the concepts of knowledge. It is this situation that creates the gaps and differences in determining the standards of benefit in gender relations. The concept of “maslahat” (benefit, advantage) relies entirely on the standard of males. The most obvious example is that when determining permission for polygamy, in terms of both ethics/ fiqih and akhlak, polygamy is justified because women have certain time restrictions for engaging in sexual relations. Rather than having some empathy for women who are menstruating, pregnant, or in post-partum seclusion, men perceive that these obstacles interfere with their own benefit, and they therefore formulate their rights themselves so that they can continue to enjoy having sex whenever they feel they need it. On this basis, they formulate polygamy as a right that is permitted for men. Another example is marriages between young girls and adult men. This practice, which creates suffering and trauma for the girls, is considered beneficial because such marriages bring benefit to men, who feel they have the right to repeatedly deflower virgins by marrying young girls!

The importance of reproduction for the survival of living creatures, which brings with it many biological experiences for women, will never be compatible with the concepts of akhlak according to masculine bodies and experience. For amina wadud, a rereading of this issue requires us to radically integrate the bodily experiences of all humankind (not just women) in constructing an understanding of humankind, insaan kamil, and then enhancing it so that spiritual refinement is not allocated only to formal rituals of worship.

 

Returning to the question I raised earlier, if women are treated so badly in the epistemology of Islam, why are women (still) comfortable being in Islam?

Dr. Zahra Ayubi stated that texts such as the ones she explored should not automatically be ignored. An effort is needed to reexamine them critically and in depth, and to raise critical questions at a more philosophical and cosmic level. We can ask what the ethical basis is in interpreting the meaning of being a Muslim, what is the purpose of human existence, and what it means to surrender oneself to Allah. She recommends that Muslim intellectuals should collectively and sincerely think about a more inclusive philosophy of ethics that does not merely construct happiness based on the concept of use of reason (such that rationality holds the most important position and neglects other kinds of experience). The current definition of akhlak is problematic, because it excludes the experience of women.

 

Ideally, the texts on akhlak should be able to acknowledge the diversity of humankind – not just in terms of gender, but also race, ability, and class. The recognition of this diversity could give rise to a diversity of standards – not just a single standard for achieving “refinement”. And this would be more appropriate, because the various differences, social constructs, and structural challenges will lead to differences in defining the obstacles each individual faces in achieving the potential of their nafs.

 

I held a virtual discussion with several of my feminist colleagues. They provided some answers that seem quite reasonable to me. The most common answer was that women lack the courage or willingness to leave Islam, because the ties that bind them are so tight and strong. Imagine: from the day she is born, the first stones are laid in the walls that guard her; she is the daughter (binti) of a particular father, and the entire family line of the patriarchal hierarchy feels they have rights over her. Starting even as a baby, she is told of her obligation to maintain the dignity of the family, and then of ever-widening circles, until she must protect the reputation of the entire “Muslim community”. If she chooses to become an apostate, for example, how many people will feel they have the right to punish her? In this sense, the question of “comfortable or not” becomes irrelevant.

Second was an answer which asserts that within religion there are in fact aspects of affection, warmth, a feeling of peace, a devout relationship between individual women and their God. This experience is not codified as a discipline of knowledge, nor is it institutionalized. This is because women’s experience is not known by the men who have for so long constructed the epistemology of Islam. These aspects of warmth in religion live and are passed on as a secret among women from generation to generation. The experience of reproduction is something only they experience, which they do not share with those who will never be able to understand it (men) and who consider it a taboo subject. They choose to maintain an internal love, with their Creator, whom they treat as their beloved.

Another option is to leave Islam and take up some other religion or ideology that defends women, such as secular philosophy and thinking that is based on the legal system. But such an option does not necessarily provide space for women. And finally, and I think this is the path that is now being pursued by feminist Muslims, including Dr. Zahra Ayubi: seize the tafsir (interpretation)! The epistemology of Islam already offers a wealth of methodologies that can be criticized and reused to provide a critique that presents the experiences of women as valid truth. In this way, the epistemology of Islam can be reexamined and reconstructed! []

 

THE WORTH OF A GIRL

What does a child bride bring to a marriage — a dowry, social status, domestic labor, business connections? What is her value to two families, the one she leaves and the one she joins? And what is the cost to the girl?

 

Somaya was 13 years old and finishing seventh grade in Herat, Afghanistan, when her father sold her for 250,000 afghani ($3,300) to marry his relative’s son.

She moved into her new husband’s family home, she says, and her father then spent much of the money on her bedding, clothes and jewelry. When Somaya asked if she could go back to classes, she says both her mother-in-law and husband beat her.

“I kept telling them that I wanted to go to school,” Somaya says. Like many Afghans, she uses only one name. “But my in-laws told me, ‘If you go to school, who will do the house chores? We bought you.’”

About 650 million children and women alive today were married before age 18, roughly 17% of the global female population, according to UNICEF. In a yearlong project, Voice of America set out to meet child brides from Albania to Pakistan to Tanzania, putting faces and voices to a practice that the United Nations is trying to eliminate by 2030.

Ending child marriage is pivotal to improving global health, eliminating poverty and expanding human rights, UNICEF says. Married teen girls are often physically abused, and their lives of chores and childbearing perpetuate centuries-old cycles of gender inequality in their communities.

The leading causes of death for girls ages 15 to 19 are complications from pregnancy and giving birth, according to the World Health Organization. Babies born to girls younger than 18 also have higher risks of death and stunting.

Global perspective

Percentage of women married before 18

Early marriage doesn’t happen in only one region or in one religion. The U.S. state of Missouri raised its minimum legal age for marriage to 16 just last year. Couples from neighboring states have long crossed into the Midwestern state to wed, often because the girl was pregnant and the baby’s father feared prison for statutory rape.

In northern Nigeria, where more than 65% of girls are married before they turn 18, according to Girls Not Brides, a London-based partnership of more than 1,000 organizations working to end child marriage, the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram reportedly rewards its young militants with wives.

On Lombok, a lush island east of Bali in Indonesia, a girl who’s still single at 16 shames her whole family.

“People tend to think that this is an issue that affects a couple of hundred girls in small villages around the world,” says Lakshmi Sundaram, who was executive director of Girls Not Brides from 2012 until earlier this year. “It’s happening everywhere. It may look a bit different in different places, but it is a universal issue.”

The term child marriage refers to formal marriages and informal unions in which a girl or boy lives with a partner as if married before the age of 18. An informal union is one in which a couple live together over time without a formal civil or religious ceremony.

Despite the crushing consequences, more than 12 million girls a year still marry by age 18, according to UNICEF. They are often forced into a union because they may be valued by parents and others in ways that impede the basic right to grow up, get an education and make their own choices.

The practice overwhelmingly affects girls from poor and rural areas, where child marriage is an ingrained cultural practice that some people see as protecting women with limited options.

Global worth

VOA journalists around the globe focused on the worth of a girl, looking to reveal how a young bride is valued by two families — the one she leaves behind, and the one she joins — and the cost to the girl herself of marriage before adulthood.

To solicit global views during the reporting process, VOA news teams and affiliates reporting in 12 languages posted short videos on Facebook and Instagram of girls and women talking about their experience as brides and young mothers.

These clips received millions of views and thousands of comments, from tearful emojis to arguments for and against child marriage that are steeped in faith, money, culture, power, sexism and love.

In the first of her two videos, Somaya, now 15, sits on cream-colored pillows as she calmly tells her story. Her voice breaks only when she talks about school.

“I loved to go to school every day,” she says, her green eyes tearing up. “I lost my chance to get an education.”

Among the girls and women whom VOA interviewed, this theme dominated: They regret being pulled out of school and vow to help other girls, especially their daughters, avoid the same life.

In Kayapinar, Turkey, Sultan Mustafa Tumerdem, now 58, says she has had a happy life with a husband and two adult sons. Her parents forced her to marry a boy she didn’t know when she was a child, she says, and she wouldn’t wish the same for others.

“Don’t get married early, because people feel crushed when they get married early,” she says. “I didn’t go to school, and so I was crushed.”

In Honduras, Olga Emelina Vasquez Pena moved in with her boyfriend when she was 17 and pregnant. They share a home in El Granadillo and have a 15-month-old daughter. Olga says that in her village near rural La Paz, where lucrative jobs are hard to find, “few people get married.

“When you have a partner, he can help you get things,” she says.

Olga’s mother, who sits with her in the video, left school after the second grade, she says, and regrets her daughter not getting more education. Still, Olga, now 19, says she didn’t consult with anyone before her union.

“Here, kids get together with partners around 17 to 21 years old,” she says. “When you are part of a couple, you have more responsibility. You have to do things, even if you don’t want to.”

International effort

The United Nations’ efforts to end marriage before age 18 are part of a global agreement that outlines 17 so-called Sustainable Development Goals.

The SDGs include gender equality and a written target: “Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.” It asks that governments, civil society organizations, religious and community leaders, and families work together to essentially re-evaluate the worth of their girls.

The economic case for change is powerful. By limiting girls’ education and lifetime earning potential, child marriage may be costing trillions of dollars, according to a report by the World Bank and the International Center on Research for Women, which was released in 2017. The report looked at child marriage in 25 developing countries where at least a third of women marry before age 18.

The enormous economic drain also comes from high fertility rates and poorer health outcomes for mothers and children, and from the strain on government budgets, according to the report.

“If you have high population growth, it’s very difficult to provide quality services for everybody, whether it’s for school … or whether it’s for health services or even basic infrastructure,” says Quentin Wodon, a World Bank lead economist and the report’s co-author.

Wodon emphasizes the importance of keeping a girl in school and delaying marriage.

“Investments in adolescent girls tend to have very high economic returns,” he says. That’s “not the most important reason to end child marriage — the moral argument is — but these economic returns are very useful to convince various policymakers to invest in ending the practice.”

For now, the pressure on millions of girls to give in to a family transaction that includes their marriage can be overwhelming. The deal may be monetary — a payment received or a payment given — or part of a complex set of relationships that involves household labor and grandchildren. To many parents, a daughter’s value may be wrapped up in her virginity and security, or their own honor and status.

Orkida Driza, 40, lives in Albania’s capital city, Tirana. She married at 14 and saw no other choice: Her sister needed surgery, and the woman who wanted her as a wife for her son was friendly with doctors at the hospital.

“I did it to save my sister’s life,” Orkida says.

While Orkida didn’t want her own daughter to marry before finishing her education, economic circumstances dictated otherwise. She allowed her daughter to marry at 12.

In Kalar, a city in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, Shaima Mahmood Muhammed married at 15 because she couldn’t get a job, she says, and felt she had to relieve the financial burden on her father, a Kurdish national soldier with three other children.

Photo of Somaya unfurling a wedding dress she had sewn.

(Photos by Khalil Noorzai for VOA News)

Living life

In Afghanistan, Somaya has had a different outcome. VOA returned to her in Herat five months after the first interview and found her sewing dresses alongside her mother in a sunny living room. Her father was gone, jailed for two years for abusing her and having forced her marriage.

Helped by Medica Afghanistan, a nongovernmental organization that works on women’s legal rights and offers counseling, Somaya was able to divorce her husband in February. She is learning to read the Quran with a tutor’s help and is considering becoming a tutor herself someday.

For now, “I sew clothing with my mother, and my brother works in a factory. We are the breadwinners,” she says. “My life is better.”

Reporting by Eva Mazrieva, Lina Correa, Jaffar Mjasiri, Carolyn Presutti, Muhammad Saqib, Carol Guensburg and Lisa Kassenaar.

Source: https://projects.voanews.com/child-marriage/?fbclid=IwAR2xhSUm9P9ViEVRUwpsZJuJ6YxzwAa9_ArqGubmpatUVOXj_wIyATVwp2o

COVID-19: Indonesian police deny higher crime rate solely due to release of prisoners to curb outbreak

JAKARTA: Indonesian housewife Lila Kusumah, 37, is worried about her family’s safety after several houses nearby were said to have been robbed this month.

The security guards in her neighbourhood in South Tangerang, on the outskirts of Jakarta, claimed that about 10 people have been arrested.

Residents were also told that the alleged perpetrators were among the 38,000 convicts released from overcrowded jails nationwide in early April to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Upon hearing these, Mdm Kusumah is taking extra precautions to safeguard her house.

“At night I used to ask my eldest son to lock the gate, but now I do it myself to be really sure it is locked tightly,” she said.

“I’m now very vigilant. Every time I have to go out (on my motorbike), I always look at the rear view mirrors to make sure no one is following me.”

Early last week, Indonesia’s national police spokesman Grand Commissioner Asep Adi Saputra said there had been an 11.8 per cent increase in crime rate in the country during the first two weeks of April.

“In week 15 (of 2020) there were 3,423 cases and in week 16, there were 3,827 cases,” he told CNA.

Crimes committed were largely theft such as motor vehicle theft.

Another police spokesman Brigadier General Argo Yuwono revealed on Tuesday (Apr 21) in a press conference that 28 ex-convicts have committed crimes after their release, although he clarified the next day that not all of them were recently released from jail this month.

He added that the police have taken preventive measures such as patrolling and guarding certain areas to deter crime.

However, the police said the release of prisoners is not the only factor contributing to the higher crime rate. At the meantime, non-governmental organisations also urged the government to look into ensuring social support for these ex-convicts, so that they do not return to the path of crime while trying to fend for themselves.

EX-CONVICTS NOT THE ONLY FACTOR FOR INCREASE IN CRIME: POLICE

The government has granted the early release of about 38,000 convicts as of Apr 28 to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in overcrowded prisons in Indonesia.

Only those who committed general crimes and juvenile inmates who have served at least two-thirds of their sentence were set free.

In capital Jakarta, about 2,000 prisoners were discharged.

The Indonesian police have acknowledged that the release of these convicts may have led to the increasing crime rate, but stressed it is not the only contributing factor.

“The rise and fall of crimes are influenced by many important factors. The prevention and handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Indonesia do not only have an impact on formal workers but also informal workers … especially those who have lost their income,” said the head of the national police security maintenance agency Commissioner General Agus Andrianto.

He noted that it is especially important for social aid to be distributed quickly to ensure the livelihood of everyone, not just former convicts.

“There are also people who take advantage of the situation when all are focused on handling the spread of COVID-19,” Commissioner General Andrianto said.

 

He added that to prevent crime, the police are also educating people on how to spend their time at home and coordinating with local head villagers to create work programmes. The police also encourage people who are not economically affected by the pandemic to help those who cannot fulfil their basic needs.

To ensure that they do not turn to crime again, authorities are using online methods to guide and supervise them, said Andika Dwi Prasetya, head of the correction facilities of the Law and Human Rights Ministry for the Jakarta region.

The ex-convicts and their family members must be contactable any time, Mr Prasetya explained.

“If we lose contact with them, our officers from the correctional centres will immediately go to their places of residence,” he told CNA

The department also liaised with relevant parties such as the police to help supervise the former prisoners.Authorities are cautious and firm, Mr Prasetya added.

 

“If they do commit crime again we will send them back to jail to serve their remaining sentence, and there will be a tougher sentence.

“Of course we will also process the new crime,” Mr Prasetya said.

He hoped the public understand the government’s purpose of releasing the inmates amid the COVID-19 outbreak. If people chance upon these ex-convicts committing crime, they should immediately inform the ministry’s office in their respective neighbourhoods, he added.

ENSURE ACCESS TO SOCIAL SUPPORT

Mdm Lies Marcoes, the director of Rumah Kitab, a non-governmental organisation focusing on research and advocacy for minority and marginalised groups, said even under normal circumstances, crime prevention efforts need to address the root causes such as social inequality.

“Now in the abnormal situation due to COVID-19, extra measures are needed. Law enforcement efforts and crime prevention must be raised by increasing the number of officers in crime hotspots and intensifying self-protection campaigns,” she said.

 

Mdm Marcoes added that the government must ensure people have access to food and other basic needs such as water and electricity.

“Equally important is the availability of jobs without stigma even in the midst of a job crisis. The point is that the state must boost its effort to protect citizens from criminals who take advantage of the current vulnerable situation,” she said.

Mr Prasetya, head of Jakarta’s correction facilities, said the department is arranging for these ex-convicts to be part of the government’s social aid programmes, so that they can receive assistance immediately.

Full access to income support, social services and medical care will keep the ex-prisoners out of trouble, the Indonesia director of Amnesty International Usman Hamid told CNA.

“The government also has the obligation to make sure that equal access for COVID-19 related programmes such as income support is given to people with certain vulnerabilities, especially those who have just lost their daily income and jobs amid their limited access to social services and medical healthcare,” he said.

The government must also work with civil societies and organisations that have been working on prison reforms, Mr Hamid added.

 

Source: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/indonesia-covid-19-release-prisoners-higher-crime-rate-12682864

 

What Do Countries With The Best Coronavirus Responses Have In Common? Women Leaders

Looking for examples of true leadership in a crisis? From Iceland to Taiwan and from Germany to New Zealand, women are stepping up to show the world how to manage a messy patch for our human family. Add in Finland, Iceland and Denmark, and this pandemic is revealing that women have what it takes when the heat rises in our Houses of State. Many will say these are small countries, or islands, or other exceptions. But Germany is large and leading, and the UK is an island with very different outcomes. These leaders are gifting us an attractive alternative way of wielding power. What are they teaching us?

 

Truth

Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, stood up early and calmly told her countrymen that this was a serious bug that would infect up to 70% of the population. “It’s serious,” she said, “take it seriously.” She did, so they did too. Testing began right from the get go. Germany jumped right over the phases of denial, anger and disingenuousness we’ve seen elsewhere. The country’s numbers are far below its European neighbours, and there are signs they may be able to start loosening restrictions relatively soon.

Decisiveness

List of Countries with Female Leaders and Coronavirus death rates

Data from the European Centre for Disease Control as of April 12, 2020

 20-FIRST

 

Among the first and the fastest moves was Tsai Ing-wen’s in Taiwan. Back in January, at the first sign of a new illness, she introduced 124 measures to block the spread, without having to resort to the lockdowns that have become common elsewhere. She is now sending 10 million face masks to the US and Europe. Tsai managed what CNN has called “among the world’s best” responses, keeping the epidemic under control, still reporting only six deaths.

Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand was early to lockdown and crystal clear on the maximum level of alert she was putting the country under – and why. She imposed self-isolation on people entering New Zealand astonishingly early, when there were just 6 cases in the whole country, and banned foreigners entirely from entering soon after. Clarity and decisiveness are saving New Zealand from the storm. As of mid-April they have suffered only four deaths, and where other countries talk of lifting restrictions, Ardern is adding to them, making all returning New Zealanders quarantine in designated locations for 14 days.

Tech

Iceland, under the leadership of Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, is offering free coronavirus testing to all its citizens, and will become a key case study in the true spread and fatality rates of Covid-19. Most countries have limited testing to people with active symptoms. Iceland is going whole hog. In proportion to its population the country has already screened five times as many people as South Korea has, and instituted a thorough tracking system that means they haven’t had to lockdown… or shut schools.

Sanna Marin became the world’s youngest head of state when she was elected last December in Finland. It took a millennial leader to spearhead using social media influencers as key agents in battling the coronavirus crisis. Recognising that not everyone reads the press, they are inviting influencers of any age to spread fact-based information on managing the pandemic.

 

Love

Norway’s Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, had the innovative idea of using television to talk directly to her country’s children. She was building on the short, 3-minute press conference that Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen had held a couple of days earlier. Solberg held a dedicated press conference where no adults were allowed. She responded to kids’ questions from across the country, taking time to explain why it was OK to feel scared. The originality and obviousness of the idea takes one’s breath away. How many other simple, humane innovations would more female leadership unleash?

Generally, the empathy and care which all of these female leaders have communicated seems to come from an alternate universe than the one we have gotten used to. It’s like their arms are coming out of their videos to hold you close in a heart-felt and loving embrace. Who knew leaders could sound like this? Now we do.

Now, compare these leaders and stories with the strongmen using the crisis to accelerate a terrifying trifecta of authoritarianism: blame-“others”, capture-the-judiciary, demonize-the-journalists, and blanket their country in I-will-never-retire darkness (Trump, Bolsonaro, Obrador, Modi, Duterte, Orban, Putin, Netanyahu…).

There have been years of research timidly suggesting that women’s leadership styles might be different and beneficial. Instead, too many political organisations and companies are still working to get women to behave more like men if they want to lead or succeed. Yet these national leaders are case study sightings of the seven leadership traits men may want to learn from women.

It’s time we recognised it – and elected more of it.

 

Source:https://www.forbes.com/sites/avivahwittenbergcox/2020/04/13/what-do-countries-with-the-best-coronavirus-reponses-have-in-common-women-leaders/?fbclid=IwAR36nQtLPGG827vxLnIWjFtsGLBaDMV02oMKY5W48IDKD48DlGhcZRuz11E#48e867943dec

The First American Woman Imam Explains the Rise of Islamic Feminism

Since Dr. amina wadud led her first public sermon 25 years ago, Islamic feminism has taken root and sprouted globally.

 

From the way we see ourselves to the way we are seen, being Muslim means so many different things to individual women across the world. In honor of Muslim Women’s Day this year, we’re focusing on the way Muslim identity presents itself differently—in our personal relationships, our professional endeavors, and more—and how no one experience can speak for us all.

Twenty-five years ago, I was on a two-week lecture tour in South Africa. It coincided with the first one-hundred days of Nelson Mandela’s presidency; equality and justice were in the air. I accepted an invitation to deliver a sermon (khutbah) in front of the Friday congregation at the Claremont Main Road Mosque. It was my first major experience of embodied ethics, when just words are not enough. In August 1994, gender equality in Islamic ritual worship was beyond my imagination. Since then, a quarter of a century has passed, and more of the unimaginable regarding Muslim women’s religious authority has taken root—and sprouted.

Like those of other great religions, Islam’s fundamental canons were established by only the voices of men. As the centuries passed, men’s disproportionate privilege gave them the exclusive right to act as leaders for the sacred rites and rituals obligatory upon all Muslims. Women were consigned to silent participation in supporting roles.

 

Religious authority in Islam starts with the Qur’an as sacred text and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as exemplar. Although there is no text in the Qur’an and no statement of the Prophet ( hadith) restricting women from fulfilling the role of Imam, religious leaders and scholars arrived at a near unanimous opinion that only men should be imams. While all source texts confirm that women have full spiritual agency in Islam, that truth was rendered invisible.

 

A critical analysis of the way these scholars arrived at the male-only conclusion unveils the same foundation of patriarchy as it is practiced around the world. Only when women began to analyze this history as full intellectual agents—as mandated by both the Qur’an and the Prophet—did its logic come undone. Pro-faith or Islamic feminism tackled the methods of textual interpretations, re-examined the canonical sources, created new interpretive methods, and constructed new knowledge.

Islamic feminism uses the lived realities of Muslim women to inform the way we establish authority, responsibility, and well-being. In the past 20 years, Muslim women reached a critical mass in reclaiming their agency and responsibilities. In every country, at every economic and educational level, in the arenas of politics, law, art, civic society and of course, in sacred public ritual, we have tackled the biased assumption of authority belonging exclusively to Muslim men.

Islamic feminists like the Musawah network have demonstrated there can be no justice without reciprocal equality. Using gender as an analytical lens, we re-examine the underlying assumptions in patriarchal interpretations of the sacred texts and devise more egalitarian conclusions. Among the more well-known Islamic feminist thinkers in the West are its first-generation: scholars like Fatima Mernissi, Rifaat Hassan, and Leila Ahmed; the second generation: Kecia Ali, Sa’diyya Shaykh, Asmaa Barlas; a whole new generation, including Jerusha Lamptey and Aishah Hidayyatullah. Their scholarship has led the way in challenging entrenched and persistent double standards in all aspects of women’s lives.

 

We have tackled the biased assumption of authority belonging exclusively to Muslim men.

 

More than a decade after my first major experience of embodied ethics for gender equality, a mixed-gender congregational prayer was organized at the community level in a highly publicized event in New York City in 2005. I was invited to deliver the sermon and lead the prayer. The unimaginable was becoming part of our communal identity. In the decade that followed that sermon, queer Muslims began their own Inclusive Mosque Initiatives, and Muslim women started their Women’s Mosque movement.

A future is unfolding where such a dichotomy between male and female devotees will not survive. Muslim women advocate on their own behalf, and they create their own sacred spaces—permanent or temporary—and perform the full spectrum of ritual observation. While staying in accord of the mandates of our faith, we have moved beyond the confines previously placed upon us by those who maintained dominion over patriarchal spaces in the name of Islam. In other words: Women are no longer waiting for approval from the very ones who restricted us in the first place. While once I could not imagine that, now it is part of our modern Islamic legacy. I look forward to the next 25 years, when women and men’s equal spiritual devotion is presented in every sacred place.

 

Source: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/wjm3kn/amina-wadud-islamic-feminism-muslim?utm_campaign=sharebutton&fbclid=IwAR1YkyXrKwL4RbBtomFYqoHEzi_zP7GdxQvHpsJwKuMRDV7miybgpi54sjI

How coronavirus challenges Muslims’ faith and changes their lives

As the world faces the greatest disruption of our lifetimes, Muslims throughout the world are also grappling with the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic.

But the Islamic cultural, spiritual and theological dimensions offer Muslims myriad ways of coping.

Adapting to new social norms

Muslims have relatively large families and tend to maintain extended family relations. Prophet Muhammad encouraged Muslims to keep strong family ties. The Quran inspires Muslims to be generous to kin (16:90) and treat the elderly with compassion (17:23).

These teachings have resulted in Muslims either living together as large families or keeping regular weekly visits and gatherings of extended family members. Many Muslims feel conflicted about the need to apply social distancing on one hand and the need to be close to family and relatives for comfort and support. Tighter restrictions on movement in some parts of Australia (NSW and Victoria) mean Muslims, like everyone else, are not allowed to visit extended family anymore.

One of the first changes brought about by social distancing has been to the Muslim custom of shaking hands followed by hugging (same gender) friends and acquaintances, especially in mosques and Muslim organisations. After a week or two of hesitation in March, the hugging completely stopped, making Muslims feel dismal.

Visiting the sick is considered a good deed in Islam. However, in the case of COVID-19, such visits are not possible. Checking up on those who are sick with phone calls, messages and social media is still possible and encouraged.

Cleanliness is half of faith

One aspect of coronavirus prevention that comes very naturally to Muslims is personal hygiene. Health organisations and experts promote personal hygiene to limit the spread of coronavirus, especially washing hands frequently for at least 20 seconds.

Islam has been encouraging personal hygiene for centuries. The Quran instructs Muslims to keep their clothes clean in one of the earliest revelations (74:4), remarking “God loves those who are clean” (2:222).

More than 14 centuries ago, Prophet Muhammad emphasized “cleanliness is half of faith” and encouraged Muslims to wash their hands before and after eating, bath at least once a week (and after marital relations), brush their teeth daily, and to groom their nails and private parts.

Additionally, Muslims have to perform a ritual ablution before the five daily prayers. The ablution involves washing hands up to the elbows, including interlacing of fingers, washing the face and feet, and wiping the hair.

While these do not completely prevent the spread of disease, they certainly help reduce the risk.

An interesting detail is that Muslims are required to wash their genitals after using the toilet. Even though Muslims use toilet paper, they are required to finish cleaning with water. This requirement led to some Muslims installing bidet sprayers in their bathrooms.

Closure of mosques and Friday services

Congregational prayers in mosques are important for Muslims in instilling a sense of being in the presence of the sacred, and a sense of being with other believers. Accordingly, they line up in rows with shoulders touching. This arrangement is extremely risky during a pandemic. Australian mosques are now closed because of coronavirus.

Deciding to skip optional daily congregational prayers was not too difficult for Muslims, but stopping Friday prayers has been more challenging. Friday prayer is the only Muslim prayer that has to be performed in a mosque. It consists of a 30-60 minute sermon followed by a five-minute congregational prayer conducted just after noon.

Stopping Friday prayers on a global scale has not occurred since it was introduced by Prophet Muhammad in 622, after he migrated to the city of Medina from the persecution he and his followers endured in Mecca.

Iran was the first to ban Friday prayers on March 4. While countries like Turkey and Indonesia tried to continue Friday prayers with social distancing, it did not work, and soon the entire Muslim world closed mosques for prayer services.

Fortunately for Muslims, the closure of mosques does not mean they stop daily prayers altogether. In Islam, individual prayers and worship play a greater role than communal ones. Muslims can pray five times a day wherever they are, and often home is a place where most praying takes place.

The void left by ending of Friday sermons in mosques has been filled to some extent by Friday sermons offered online.

Effect on Ramadan and the annual pilgrimage to Mecca

Two of the five pillars of Islamic practice are the fasting in Ramadan and the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

Ramadan is only three weeks away. It starts in the last week of April and goes for a month. During this month, Muslims refrain from eating, drinking and marital relations from dawn to sunset on each day of the month. This part will not be affected by COVID-19.

What is affected are the evening breaking of fast dinners (iftar) and daily evening congregational prayers (tarawih). Muslims generally invite their friends and family members to these dinners. In Western countries, the invitations include non-Muslim acquaintances as well. Islamic organizations have already announced the cancellation of iftar dinners.

The three-day end of Ramadan festive celebrations (eid) will also be limited to family that live together.

The impact on pilgrimage is far greater.

The minor (and optional) Islamic pilgrimage (umrah) happens throughout the year, intensifying near Ramadan. With Iran a hot spot for coronavirus, Saudi Arabia suspended entry to Iranian and all other pilgrims as early as February 27.

The main pilgrimage (hajj) season occurs in late July. Although there is the possibility of the spread of the virus slowing by July, a pilgrimage involving more than two million people from just about every country on earth would almost certainly flame the virus into a second wave. Saudi Arabia is likely to cancel the main pilgrimage for 2020.

In the 14 centuries of Islamic history, pilgrimage has not been undertaken several times because of war and roads not being safe. But this is the first time in pilgrimage may be called off due to a pandemic.

As pilgrims reserve their spot and pay the full fee months ahead, the cancellation of hajj would result in losses of savings for millions of Muslims and cause massive job losses in the pilgrimage industry.

The balance between precaution and reliance on God

An early debate in Muslim circles around coronavirus has been a theological one. Muslims believe God created the universe and continues to actively govern its affairs. This would mean the emergence of the virus is an active creation of God.

So like some other religious groups, some Muslims argue that coronavirus was created by God to warn and punish humanity for consumerism, destruction of the environment and personal excesses. This means fighting the pandemic is futile and people should rely (tawakkul) on God to protect the righteous.

Such thinking may help in reducing the sense of fear and panic such a large-scale pandemic poses, but it can also make people unnecessarily complacent.

The vast majority of Muslims counter this fatalistic approach by arguing that while the emergence of the virus was not in human control, the spread of disease certainly is. They remind us that Prophet Muhammad advised a man who did not tie his camel because he trusted in God: “tie the camel first and then trust in God”.

Prophet Muhammad sought medical treatment and encouraged his followers to seek medical treatment, saying “God has not made a disease without appointing a remedy for it, with the exception of one disease—old age”.

Further, Prophet Muhammad advised on quarantine:

If you hear of an outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it; if the plague outbreaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place.

Sometimes affliction inevitably comes our way. The Quran teaches Muslims to see life’s difficult circumstances as a test — they are temporary hardships to strengthen us (2:153-157). Such a perspective allows Muslims to show resilience in times of hardship and tribulation, with sufficient strength to make it to the other side intact.

In times like this, some people will inevitably lose their wealth, income and even their lives. Prophet Muhammad advised the grieving that property lost during tribulations will be considered charity, and those who die as a result of pandemics will be considered martyrs of paradise.

As Muslims continue to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, they, like everyone else, are wondering how their lives might be changed afterwards.

Mehmet Ozalp, Associate Professor in Islamic Studies, Director of The Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation and Executive Member of Public and Contextual Theology, Charles Sturt University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

If you want to help in the fight against COVID-19, we have compiled an up-to-date list of community initiatives designed to aid medical workers and low-income people in this article. Link: [UPDATED] Anti-COVID-19 initiatives: Helping Indonesia fight the outbreak
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Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/life/2020/04/02/how-coronavirus-challenges-muslims-faith-and-changes-their-lives.html