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AKNEWS | 16.02.2012. original text

Religion involved in violence against women

The law for combating domestic violence is one of the most significant laws that Kurdistan Parliament has ratified because it is an important step towards equality between males and females in a community where half of its individuals suffer from gender discrimination.

By Bedran A. Habeeb

Excreting violence against females, which is an important portion of this big imbalance between both sexes, has become a dark spot for the reputation of the Kurdish community after its emergence in 1991.

We want to step forward but a hand from behind is grabbing our lappet, preventing us from completing our step. What is this hand? Is it only the retrogressive culture and a non-modern law "to rub our hands with" or is religion also involved in the existence and supremacy of this hand? In which front are religion and the religious men when it comes to the issue of violence and female genital mutilation (FGM), which was one of its most interesting articles in the law to combat domestic violence?

After the law was ratified on June 21, 2011, Kurdistan Supreme Fatwa Committee on July 6 voiced its stance in relation with the issue of FGM. As we know, a word from the Fatwa Committee should be regarded as very decisive, but its stance further blurred the view of religion over this issue. This means the said fatwa was not decisive. It was not a support for the Kurdistan law whereas the Fatwa Committee as an administrative organ of Kurdistan government has to support the law.

There was a very popular poem in the past which began and ended in "I want to say it but I dare not". The position of the Fatwa Committee was also like that. On the one hand it said FGM is not a duty but a tradition and on the other hand it said most of the Shafeis believe FGM is a duty. On the one hand, it said FGM is harmful for women's health and on the other it said that parents or guardians are free to practice FGM on their daughters.  

This statement, above all, implicitly, meant confronting a law which stipulated severe punishment for anyone who encourages the practice, but like the poet, the Fatwa Committee did not dare to confess that explicitly.

The fatwa of the Kurdistan Scientists in one way or another did not confront the violence against women. On the contrary, it promoted it. The fatwa said "it is a duty for Shaefi adherents" while our community is Shafei and will not disobey the committee's order. It said "guardians are free to do or not to do the practice", while certainly there are plenty of stupid and brainless guardians in this community who practice this tradition, supported by religion and those religious people who pave the way.

Apart from all this, why does the Fatwa Committee want to tell us that the tradition is not a duty? Tradition in Islam is something that if practiced is good for your belief. This means tradition is positive, not impartial. At least "here" it means a freedom to put some ugly and false work into practice, which is FGM. I can say this fatwa, creeping and in secret, tried to stifle the parliament law in its cradle. Later, as we will explain, the minister of endowment and religious affairs and a group of Mullas intended to abort the law completely. The minister joined the line of persuaders of violence against women.     

After the fatwa was issued, the Kurdistan Islamic Scientists Union on July 22 issued a clarification. It intended to cover the duality in the fatwa. It tried to replace the "positive" position of the Fatwa Committee about FGM with another position which we can call "indifference". Thanks to them for this. In this case indifference is better than a wrong position. For them silence is the best voice with regard to this issue, which has defamed our community.

In the context of this defamation, we also should not hide the role of independent women's organizations in Kurdistan, who do not have correct data about the rate of FGM. They talk about 70 percent and 80 percent which is not like that at all. I believe the rate is even less than 10 percent. What they say is just opinion but with too much exaggeration. The Kurdish community, if let free, has itself began its way towards development. Day by day change is more and more occupying the minds of people. If the religious extremist preventers allow it, new laws and traditions will impose themselves.

Let's come back to the main question: Is religion involved in the issue of FGM? As we saw, according to the view of the Fatwa Committee, which is a government agency, the practice is "implicitly" regarded as positive. As the Fatwa Committee said: "it is a tradition and Shaefis regard it a duty." This opinion tried hard to associate this practice with the pre-Islam era or nations other than Arabs. Nevertheless, justification, hiding and deception have not succeeded.

If you want to find out what the opinion of Islam and religious men is about violence against women, you can find the answer stated clearly and obviously in a petition which the the minister of endowment and religious affairs and 550 other people signed and sent to the presidency of parliament. This petition has not been publicized but I have a copy of.

The petition said: "We, a group of religious teachers, journalists, intellectuals and writers, believe that this law is against some Ayas of Holy Quran and the correct commandment of the Prophet and Kurdish culture and manners. Therefore, we demand that the law be amended." Look! How cheekily it said "the law for confronting violence is against religion". Then bit by bit it expressed the views of those who signed the petition about all the articles of the bill one by one until it reached FGM and demanded: "The paragraph on FGM should be taken out of the definition of the domestic violence, be circled and replaced with word Mobah [allowable]:Correct, because there are some commandments of the Prophet about that."

This is the word of those who signed the petition, including over 40 Mullas who fall under the classification of persuaders for FGM, a practice for which parliament law has stipulated a serious penalty. Among the signatures are a number of writers, university instructors and cadres of the Kurdistan Islamic Union and Kurdistan Islamic Group parties as well as senior government officials, including the minister himself.

The minister began the letter with a preface which read: "We support their demand and I also unify my voice with these citizens." The minister also wrote something else: "In the Iraqi Constitution it is said that no bills should be ratified in case they are contrary to the established laws of Islamic law. This is also the same in the Kurdistan constitution draft." All these words are threats and risks against the flow of development and progress, which the new smart generation hopes to escalate and take further forward.  

Back to the topic, in short violence against women has become a disgrace to our community. A law by Kurdistan parliament for countering domestic violence has touched on the most obvious existing and rising trends of violence. Only the most painful and disgracing phenomena have been spotted. There remain other sorts of violence which should vanish to give room for the creation of a community equal for men and women in every respect.

Certainly no one, including the Fatwa Committee, has any objection to the fact that violence in general and FGM in particular is oppression against women. It causes too much physical and psychological pain to cut off a part of a human body, a body that God and nature bestowed to human beings. FGM is as a wound in the eye or any other organ of the body which we use to enjoy life.

The 550-signature petition does not cite any commandment by the Prophet in this regard "though it asserts there are". But the view of the Fatwa Committee has clarified that the Mojtaheds (diligent) of Islam were of different minds and only the Shafeis support FGM as a duty. These are all discussions of the involvement of religion in the issue of violence against women, proof that "they themselves do not hide". But say "we have not said so".