AFT Blog # 33: Women in Muslim World

Women in the Muslim World: Several Cases

Jaque Parisien

First of all, the purpose of this blog is to provide an overview of several recent cases of injustice perpetrated against women in the Muslim world. However I will not burden you with an exhaustive list of the numerous cases which, every day, are reported in the media. I will therefore limit myself to several of the most recent and striking examples of the absurdity of Islamic fundamentalism. Of course I am well aware of the importance of distinguishing between Islam and Islamism. Nevertheless the fact remains that, although all monotheisms must be denounced, Islamism stands out particularly for its programme of domination and violence, but also for the absurd claim made by its representatives who would have us believe that Islamism is a religion of peace and tolerance.

The first case we consider is that of an eleven-year old Yemeni girl who fled her parents’ home because she had been promised in marriage to a much older man. The eloquence of this young girl and her explanation of her plight, coupled with the fact that we are able to see and hear her, are very moving and that is undoubtedly why the video[1] has gone viral. What exactly does she have to say? That her parents were on the point of condemning her to a life of submission, that she is only a child, that her childhood would be sacrificed forever and that she would rather die than accept this forced marriage. The absurdity of the whole situation lies in the fact that everywhere in the world, or almost, pedophilia is proscribed and pedophiles are severely punished. Yet, in the context of religion, (Mohammad apparently was gratified by several young wives) such marriages still take place. The same men who regularly condemn the west for its unbridled sexual mores and shameless women allow themselves to marry and abuse pre-nubile girls. One man’s vice is another man’s virtue.

Several cases have also come to light of women imprisoned for having dared to denounce publicly men who have raped them. I will not recap the case of Marte Deborah Dalelv, the Norwegian woman imprisoned and then “pardoned” as her case is already well known. But there is also the case of a 23 year-old British woman, celebrating her engagement with her 44 year-old partner, also in Dubai. She was attacked in a public toilet and then accused of adultery and carousing for having reported the incident. Her future husband fared no better as he was faced with similar accusations[2]. It is difficult to imagine how a person who demands the most basic justice could find herself or himself behind bars for offending public morals. The absurdity of the situation requires no further explanation.

However, thanks to women in the free-thought movement (we take this opportunity to send out a warm greeting to Nina Sankari), other cases merit our attention, among them the case of Arifa, a Pakistani mother of two children who was stoned for having in her possession… a cell phone! The guilty verdict was rendered by a panchayat[3] and carried out by members of the young woman’s family, including uncles and cousins[4]. Worse still, her burial was done in the greatest secrecy and even the children do not know where their unfortunate mother is buried. As far as is known, the executioners have not been accused of any crime. That a cellular telephone could be the motive for this horrible murder is enough to exacerbate the hostility – eminently justified – of freethinkers around the world. The absurdity of this tragic event is more than evident.

Still in Pakistan, a social worker Shamim Akhter was apparently beheaded[5] by her husband and a police officer. Why? Because she had insistently denounced police brutality. Absurd? Absolutely. And as if that were not enough to justify this blog, it has been reported that the victim’s younger sister Tasleem Akhter was also assassinated, by three men on motorcycles, because she tried to bring her sister’s murderers to justice. Two women dead in less than 25 days; their murderers still free and the police refusing to do anything to bring justice: a very revealing portrait of the brutality and crimes to which so many women are victim in the Muslim world.

Indeed, the list could cover several pages, even a small book. But the above recent cases, most of which received wide media attention, others less so, suffice to make my point. These examples clearly show intelligent and articulate women, trapped in desperate and impossible situations, taking measures which deserve our full support. Now, the question which must be asked is the following: the misogyny which is evident in Muslim laws and their strict enforcement, is it the result of fundamentalism only, or is it an essential aspect of the koran? The question is relevant and in order to answer it, all that is required is to consult that book and other foundational texts of Islam. Consider the following quotations, chosen among many similar ones:

“If any of your women are guilty of lewdness, Take the evidence of four (Reliable) witnesses from amongst you against them; and if they testify, confine them to houses until death do claim them, or Allah ordain for them some (other) way.” [6]

“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard.” [7]

To conclude, we remind you that Atheist Freethinkers supports the demand for gender equality between men and women and declares its principles clearly (see our manifesto[8]), rejecting magical thinking, homophobia and pedophilia. If there is one thing which we consider to be abundantly clear, it is the necessity for total separation between church and state, i.e. secularism which strictly forbids the state from offering any direct or indirect support or privilege to religions belief. To guarantee social harmony, the state must ensure that its laws and civil service be independent of any belief in the existence of a divine being or a parallel world.

If these cases have moved you, if the absurdity of the punishments inflicted leads you to share our convictions, may we suggest that you sign this petition[9], or become a member[10] of our organization, or at least join our Facebook group[11]. What this world needs is freethought, everywhere!


  1. 11-Year-Old Yemeni Girl Nada Al-Ahdal Flees Home to Avoid Forced Marriage: I’d Rather Kill Myself
  2. British woman ‘arrested in Dubai after being raped’
  3. Panchayat raj, Wikipedia
  4. PAKISTAN: A young woman stoned to death for having a cell phone after ruling by a Panchayat
  5. PAKISTAN: Sister of the slain women’s rights defender also murdered by the same police constable
  6. Sourate des Femmes (An-Nisâ’)
  7. Ibid.
  8. Atheist Manifesto, Declaration of principles of the association Atheist Freethinkers
  9. PAKISTAN: Sister of the slain women’s rights defender also murdered by the same police constable
  10. Become a Member, Atheist Freethinkers
  11. Facebook group: Libres penseurs athées-Atheist Freethinkers (LPA-AFT)

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