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 Muslim girls struggle for education

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How Many Sister Feel Trapped By Current Laws?
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PostSubject: Muslim girls struggle for education   Wed Jan 02, 2008 9:20 am

How many of your sisters agree with this article that was written by a BBC corespondent a while back? What would be your resolution to destroying tribal laws (Don't confuse with Islamic laws!). Islam gives women the right to education, but unfortunately, this is what we have to deal with: villagers who are still stuck in the Medieval Periods!

You guys read the article below or here: Muslim girls struggle for education

Muslim girls struggle for education
By Safa Faisal
BBC Arabic Service

In the major capitals of the Arab world, it is very common to find girls, rather than boys, on the front pages of newspapers, celebrating their academic success.

Safa Faisal interviewing girls in a class in Jordan
Muslim tradition in Jordan is particularly restrictive
But this conceals the fact that in total numbers, far fewer Arab girls than boys are completing - or even going into - education.

In countries like Sudan and Yemen, the situation is particularly bad. Indeed, Sudan is actually going backwards - 45% of children of school age are not attending school.

And literacy rates of women in the Arab world, according to the latest report of UNDP, are around 55%.

Traditional society

The reasons for girls' comparatively poor performances are varied, though some are common to girls' education throughout the Arab world.

In Sudan, they are undoubtedly linked to the civil war and Sudan's desperate economic situation - as well as the fact that it is such a vast country, with parents simply unwilling to let their children travel the long distances needed to attend school.


Syrian father with daughter
When we asked parents why they did not allow their girls to school, they would say "because it's wrong, it's irreligious, it's improper - they should stay at home to prepare for their real life, their married life"
A similar problem exists in Yemen - where it is exacerbated by poor resources and funding that means children have to be taught in classes of a hundred or more.

Girls also face an added hurdle in that Yemen, as a conservative society, would usually object to the girls being educated by male teachers and mixed sex education.

But in Jordan, enrolment is excellent at 86 percent - however, girls drop out in secondary school because of early marriage.

Jordanian society is very conservative with tribal traditions and many girls are pressurised into marrying young. Some still continue their education after marriage - but many of them do not, especially if they have children.

Sociologists in the country - such as Dr Nazih Hamdi - pointed out to me that a girl's role in Jordanian society is heavily stereotyped, and this is reflected in the education students receive. The system tends to make very strong statements in school books to children, such as "my father is working and my mother is cooking".

At one Jordanian girl's secondary school, 80% of the girls I spoke to said that the first role of the woman was to stay at home and bring up her children.

I met the head of student affairs in the Jordanian Ministry of Education, who said, "in our experience, women tend not to endure work like men".

Failing

While teaching as a job is very popular to women in the Arab world - as is the case all over the globe - teachers are not paid well, and rarely receive enough training. Many also teach using very old-fashioned methods.

I found that the quality of education was affecting both girls and boys - but especially girls.

If the school environment is bad, if it is remote, unclean, and has no toilets, it is the girls who tend to give up and go back home. If the teacher is bad and is not qualified, the girls tend to simply fail at the end of the year.

Class in Syria
Some women are returning to school after having their children
After failing two or three times, the girls simply give up altogether.

When we asked parents why they did not allow their girls to school, they would say "because it's wrong, it's irreligious, it's improper - they should stay at home to prepare for their real life, their married life".

The latest UNDP report stated that education in Arab schools in the future is likely to be split into two parts - very expensive private education, enjoyed by the better-off minority, and poor quality government education for the majority.

Should this happen, it is likely it will be the girls who suffer more - Egyptian sociologist Dr Abdel-Basset Abdel-Moti said such a split would be "dangerous" for girl's education.

In the Arab family there is a tendency to pay for boys' education but not girls'.

I met a Syrian father who said to me, "I can pay for my son. But not for the girl. This is the way we are thinking in our society and this is the life that we are used to."

One of the results of these long traditions is a vicious circle whereby very few women receive the education needed to become policy-makers - and therefore education policy remains male-dominated.

Further, some Muslims in the region believe that there is little point in paying for a girl's education, as they are destined only for a life as a mother, and not a career where they could make money.

Thus money is spent on boys, who could eventually pay it back.

Restrictions

However, there are many who argue that this situation derives from a specific way that Islam has been interpreted in the region, rather than from Islam itself.

The Mufti of Egypt, Dr Ahmed Al-Tayeb from Luxor, told me he found a huge difference between his society and what he had been taught about Islam at university.

Class in Egypt
Parts of Egypt offer some of the best education for girls in the region
The principles of Islam - such as allowing women to give back her dowry in order to obtain a divorce - were not happening. In Jordan, and attempt to pass such a law failed - whereas it was accepted in the Prophet Mohammed's time, 1400 years ago.

All these problems would make a gloomy picture. However, there were always bright success stories in the countries that I visited.

I met many teachers committed to their own profession.

Fatima in Sudan, for example, agrees to run a small basic school for two villages, teaching the children in their home rather than their struggling to school. Her "nomadic school" is very popular with girls.

Elsewhere, a girl who married very young and had three children had now chosen to go back to university and is now looking at completing a Masters degree.

Meanwhile educated girls in Egypt and Sudan have begun campaigning against female circumcision - and their campaign for women's rights has even involved going out and protesting in their holidays.

Where it is received, education is obviously changing the character of Arab girls. The task now is to make sure many more are able to access it.

A six-part series on this topic is being broadcast on BBC Arabic over the next five weeks.

What do you think of this article? Send your comments using the form below.

Your comments:

All people, regardless of age or gender deserve a good public education. There are no exceptions to this rule (assuming normality) and any attempt to make excuses is unacceptable. "Tradition" is just an excuse to oppress someone.
Michael, USA

Once again the corruption of a country has been associated with the teachings of Islam. One would find it impossible to quote anything in the traditions of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) or in the Holy Quran that allow, much less demand, lesser education for women. This is a case of the rich minority using Islam as their excuse for suppressing the poor majority.
Qasim Rashid, USA


In many Arab countries girls actually outnumber boys in high school and college attendance
Rasha Al-Mahroos, USA
While the article is correct in many aspects, it is very misleading to generalize and to say there is a problem with female education in the entire Arab world. The article only portrays the negative. However, in many Arab countries girls actually outnumber boys in high school and college attendance. In Bahrain for example, the majority of the top 10% of high school graduates are females and female attendance in the university of Bahrain is much higher than males. The 'problem' has reached a point that the university's admission's board is actually considering lowering the minimum high school GPA requirement because most male high school graduates do no meet that minimum. I know for a fact that the same problem is occurring in Kuwait as well as Oman.
Rasha Al-Mahroos, USA

In the Arab world girls are restricted by cultural beliefs not by religion. In fact, Islam encourages girls as well as boys to educate themselves, and whoever does will be rewarded. But the common problem is the ideology that says girls are made to stay at home. This is what keeps girls from going out and participating in society.
Faisal Ibrahim, Oman

Problems with female education are not restricted only to Arab countries but to the third world at large. Most countries in the third world have a rather high illiteracy rate for females as compared to males. This is not restricted to the poorer classes but even to the conservative rich ones.
Taha Suglatwala, USA/ India

I grew up a Christian in Amman, Jordan and received private schooling all the way through my Masters degree, including college.in the US. The Muslim tradition of lesser education for women has also been passed on to Christian families in the Arab culture. A major indicator of a country's civilization is the quality of its education.
Omar, USA

For the third year in a row in Iran, more women have gone to university and colleges than men.
Mohammad Ali, Iran


Islam emancipated women
Irfan, Pakistan
I do not have the slightest clue why Islam is blamed for the so called lack of women rights in the so called Islamic countries. We must be careful not to confuse real Islam with the prevalent form of twisted Islam. Contrary to the common perception, Islam emancipated women and gave them their deserved respect. The West did not give women the right to vote till early 1900s whereas Islam did this 1400 years ago. Headings such as "Muslim girls struggle for education" cause confusion and lead some readers to believe that it is Islam that is the cause of this struggle.
Irfan, Pakistan

I find it quite rewarding to find that more and more women are getting their education. Unfortunately many people in the Middle East and in other parts of the world where Islam is practiced feel that women do not need education. This is contrary to Islamic beliefs and what the Prophet has written and said. Islam specifically says that women should be treated equally.
Ali, Canada


Any nation that wants to improve its status must educate its girls
Pat Young, USA
Statistics tell us clearly that the status of women in a country determine the status of that nation. Women spend a higher proportion of what they have on their children, they often determine whether and how well their children will be educated. An educated woman is better able to nourish her children, both emotionally and physically. Any nation that wants to improve its status must educate its girls. This is often an issue more of culture than religion. Has anyone looked at the statistics between Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India? We need to separate these issues in order to consider them fairly.
Pat Young, USA

Even if the girls are not to be educated in order to carry on into a profession they have the right to an education according to the Unicef charter. Apart from that, a wife and mother who is educated is a definite bonus to any man and his family. Unfortunately the impression that many gain from this behaviour of the male dominated society in the Muslim world is that men are frightened of what the women could do with a little education. This will of course be refuted but as the western world is slowly coming to realise woman has her place beside her man. Neither above him, nor below him.
Anne-Marie, Germany


It would be better to compare the literacy rates between genders to present a more accurate picture of the problems involving education in the Arab world
Melissa M, USA
I think this article in general presents a slanted view on education for women in the Arab world. In response to the quote: "Literacy rates of women in the Arab world, according to the latest report of UNDP, are around 55 percent." My question is what are the literacy rates of men in the Arab world? It would be better to compare the literacy rates between genders to present a more accurate picture of the problems involving education in the Arab world. As a university student who studied Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies, I am aware of issues involving equality for women in the Arab world and Middle East and believe there are obstacles to overcome, however I think there are other issues that need to be explored more that are relevant to the lack of education in the Arab world - such as poverty and sociological issues.
Melissa M, USA

From the quote: "When we asked parents why they did not allow their girls to school, they would say "because it's wrong, it's irreligious - they should stay home." This implies an uneducated study, like the interviewer took this out of context. In fact, Islam encourages education for females as well as males. Those who release such phrases are unfamiliar with Islam themselves. On the contrary, it is unreligious to keep females from being educated. As long as it is within a decent environment, education is highly encouraged. Unfortunately, the Western media emphasises undermining the Muslim world, forgetting the great Muslim and Arab history.
Othman, USA


I don't think that the higher illiteracy rate of women has anything to do with Islam
Amany, Egypt
The general information is ok, but I don't think that the higher illiteracy rate of women has anything to do with Islam. It is all about tradition and general poverty. Has the writer made any comparison in the rate of literacy between Muslim Egyptians and Christian Egyptians for example? Not only in literacy, but I think it can apply also to male and female circumcision.
Amany, Egypt
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PostSubject: Re: Muslim girls struggle for education   Wed Jan 02, 2008 8:05 pm

Assalamulaykum


There are a couple of fatwas that are worth reading such as this one:

There were questions proposed by Women, therefore the answer will be answered in first person tone as in the person answering the questioner will say "dear sister"...etc.

First Fatwa:


Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.


In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.


All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.


Dear sister in Islam, we would like to thank you for the great confidence you place in us, and we implore Allah Almighty to help us serve His cause and render our work for His Sake.


It goes without saying that in Islam parents have no right to compel their daughter to get married or to stop her from pursuing education. They have every right to advise their child to get married, but the ultimate decision is in the hands of the child. Moreover, every Muslim woman has a right to basic education and skill training.


In his response to the question in point, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:


“While parents in Islam have every right to advise their children and persuade them to get married, nevertheless, the ultimate decision when and with whom they wish to get married lies exclusively in their own hands, and not in the hands of their parents. In other words, parents have no right to compel you to get married now, should you choose to do so after completing your course of studies. If you were coerced into it, then such a marriage would be deemed as invalid in Islam.


In Islam every woman has a right to basic education and skill training. Parents cannot stop her from pursuing it. It is important for girls living in this society to get least their basic education and skills training in order for them to function as intelligent mothers as well as to be able to take care of themselves without being a burden on others, should their marriage fail. So have a free and open discussion with your parents on this issue. You should be able to convince them of the following:


1. Marriage in Islam is ultimately your decision, and parents have only the role of a guide or adviser; since you are the person who must live with the person, you must be able to decide for yourself. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) clearly established this precedent in authentic traditions.


2. Education is a necessity in this day and age. Islam exhorts us to get educated in order to be able to face the many challenges of life. In this day and age, no one gets anywhere in life without at least a basic education and skills training. We must learn a lesson from the pious Caliph `Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) who advised parents saying: 'Remember you are born in a different age; so they need to acquire certain skills which you were not required to learn in your time.'


3. It is you and you alone who must decide when you will be ready for marriage. But at the same time, it is not advisable for you to postpone the marriage indefinitely once you have acquired the basic education, or if you wish to enter into a marriage contract which stipulates that you will be allowed to complete your education even after marriage.


4. Should you find yourself unable to communicate with your parents, you may ask help of some wise people or imams who are respected for their sound knowledge and wisdom to talk to your parents. I pray to Allah to guide your steps and bless you in your decisions. Never fail to pray to Allah, for surely Allah is always with those who do the right things. Ameen.”


Excerpted, with slight modifications, from: www.muslims.ca


This is the Link: http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar/FatwaE/FatwaE&cid=1119503547008

Second Fatwa says:

Wa`alaykum As-salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.



In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.



All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Dear sister in Islam, thanks for this interesting question. We really commend your efforts in pursuit of truth. This is what is required of all people, to seek truth and not to give in to anything that may cloud their minds with false ideas about Islam.

First of all, it should be clear that a woman is equal to a man in the pursuit of education and knowledge. When Islam enjoins the seeking of knowledge upon Muslims, it makes no distinction between men and women. Almost fourteen centuries ago, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) declared that the pursuit of knowledge is incumbent on every Muslim, male and female. This declaration was very clear and was implemented by Muslims throughout history.

Focusing more on the question you posed, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:




Every Muslim, whether male or female, is obligated in Islam to seek at least the basic education in religion.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Seeking knowledge is a duty of every Muslim.” If women had been excluded from this exhortation, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would have certainly said so. In fact, in another version of the same hadith, it is said, “…on every Muslim, male and female”. Allah tells us in the Qur’an: (Ask those who know, if you have no knowledge.) (An-Nahl 16: 43)

Based on many such proofs in the Qur’an and Sunnah, Muslim scholars have ruled that seeking essential knowledge of the beliefs and practices of Islam is an obligatory duty of every Muslim, regardless of gender.

It is common knowledge that as Muslims we must practice Islam in order to gain salvation. Scholars tell us that our practice of religion is not valid or acceptable unless it is based on sound knowledge. It follows from this that seeking knowledge about the essentials of religion is an obligation on both males and females.

Religious education aside, Muslim women must also strive to acquire essential life-skills that would make them self-reliant. If we take into account the volatile nature of social circumstances in this daytime and age, it would be suicidal for Muslim women to ignore such training; Allah warns us against dragging ourselves into perdition.

Still another factor to consider: In Islam, women’s roles in rearing future generations of Muslims are far more crucial than that of men. It goes without saying that we cannot rear intellectually and physically healthy children unless mothers are educated and can, therefore, educate children. Based on this fact, it is not at all amazing when we see that all of the great scholars of Islam had educated mothers who planted the first intellectual seeds of greatness in their lives.
Quoted, with slight modifications, from: www.islam.ca

here's the link: http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar/FatwaE/FatwaE&cid=1119503546096
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PostSubject: Re: Muslim girls struggle for education   Fri Jan 18, 2008 1:39 pm

I like the west in many other ways, but the way girls and boys view each other, just bewilders me. I can't go for a women's looks and the way she dresses. Propriety and how she'll bring up the next generation matters to me a lot more.

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