Women’s empowerment

Women’s empowerment

Nabeela Husni Mahjoub
Nabeela Husni Mahjoub

Nabeela Husni Mahjoub

The term “Shariah regulations” has been wrongly used as a weapon by officials in charge of women empowerment because they do not believe in the feasibility of the program and women’s role as an important factor in development.

Some officials who are against women’s empowerment elaborate this term to establish their argument and use the term to prevent activities and movement of women and cut their veins one after another as they did in my city Jeddah.

After the first meeting of the Jeddah Municipal Council, the anti-women lobby has been trying to postpone the council’s second meeting because of the participation of Dr. Lama Sulaiman and Rasha Hefdhi as its members, who were elected from two active constituencies.

Women should have full participation in municipal councils without any bureaucratic obstructions or hue and cry or creating artificial crisis as has recently happened in Jeddah Municipal Council.

Everywhere woman is considered an equal partner of man but some people think it would make them handicapped or weaken their position. Because of their anti-woman approach, they reminded the municipal chairman to take the trump card of “Shariah regulations” to defeat women.

Speaking to a satellite channel following a verbal dispute in the first meeting, the chairman emphasized that woman members should comply with Shariah regulations. The chairman could not give a convincing reason for what had happened in the first meeting as Lama and Rasha were following Shariah regulations without being instructed because they were aware of their responsibility.

Unfortunately some people wanted to lessen the capabilities of women and marginalize their role in society. They will not allow women to show their capabilities.

We all know that women do not cover their faces or hands while in the state of ihram for Haj and Umrah. They perform all religious rituals in the same place mingling with men. Allah did not order to build a separate Kaaba for women, who perform tawaf (circumambulation around the Kaaba), sa’ee (hastening between Safa and Marwa hillocks) and rami jamarat (stoning of Satan in Mina) with men.

If this is the case in a major spiritual journey, which is the fifth pillar of Islam, how can they prevent women from sitting around a table with other male members of the council when the law guarantees women the same rights of men?

It pained me a lot when I saw Dr. Lama and Rasha sitting outside the council meeting hall as if they are outcast or children and they don’t deserve to sit in like their male counterparts. If the women sit outside the hall or behind a wall they would not able to participate in the council effectively and men will exploit the situation. This will lead to the failure of women in municipal councils.

I have full confidence in the capabilities of Lama and Rasha as they will be able to overcome the mentality of opponents whose aim is not to implement the Shariah as repeated by the chairman but to weaken women’s participation in the council using the Shariah card.

We have seen women sitting beside men in the audiences of Makkah Emir Prince Khaled Al-Faisal and Jeddah Governor Prince Mishal Bin Majed. I have seen Rasha standing close to the prince and sitting with other members of the delegation without any barrier. Why did they not object to women’s participation in the audience of princes and keep quite? How can they sit with her in the audience of princes and refuse to sit with her around the table of meeting? Is she not the same woman?

Who said that the wooden or glass barrier does represent Shariah regulations during such meetings? I would like to underline here that Saudi women are in the forefront of people in following Shariah regulations. They are more committed to Shariah than anyone else because they respect themselves and their culture and fear Allah. They do not need someone to dictate them where to sit and put obstacles to restrict their contribution and stop their active participation in society.