Our fight is with those who do not share our values and who use terror to try and force us to accept theirs. When I say values, I mean those values based on our shared humanity on our shared understanding of the rights to life, equality, justice and opportunity, the principles of devotion to family and to society, and to faith, to good works, to good deeds, to charity.
‘Equality’ here is assumed to be a value the whole of humanity undoubtedly take on, and a value as he goes onto say is synonymous with good families, society and general goodness. That is an absolution sweeping assumption, that most do not question - But what I want to pledge today, is that, please, women, do question.
Behind the mask of being active in your community, the Government is attempting to entice Muslim women to leave their unique social standing given by Islam, and adopt a value which the West have ‘fought generations for’. By using Muslim women themselves to take this call out to the community, through seemingly innocuous calls such as help your community, the Government has been able to pressure and lure Muslim women to take on roles just like men – As of course, women are drawn as when packaged like this, we all want to fulfil our potential and give our due to our communities and our children. As it is not about being involved in the community, the problem I have with the whole agenda is the sweeping assumtion that somehow the lifestyles of specifically Muslim women, needs altering, and it is the values of therefore Muslim women that need changing. Cmon we all know that a lack of political participation and activism in society is absolutely shameful within the cruxes of mainstream British societies.
Therefore we need to understand in its entirety what this ‘gender equality’ is actually about and not fall for the rosy picture painted for us all. As Tessa Jowell very nicely pointed out, the idea of ‘gender equality’ arose actually out of the hostile battle women had to undergo in the West to simply attain certain rights for themselves in this society. Women in the West were faced with the inability to vote, leave a violent husband, own property and had poor rights in education and employment. Women were seen as lesser to men, having lesser mental capacity to be active in public life. It was therefore brave women who took it upon themselves to fight these oppressive circumstances and battle against the establishment and men, attempting to grab everything men had and were entitled to. It is this battle which has evolved to today, where women still feel on the defensive, fighting to have everything and be everything men are despite the consequences; and whether this is even the right thing to actually do.
The battle for equality has meant, that women in society have lost value for who they are as women, but are constantly trying to live upto the roles of men and thus contribute to the economy – as this is set as the measure of achievement. It means that women feel in order to be valued and feel successful, they must work – Whether this be delaying a family until an age when they regret not being able to conceive, or after having children assigning their care to other than themselves in the name of trying to still feel successful. Therefore how can this idea of equality lead to the successful building of the family and therefore society, when family incessantly becomes a second class priority?
Gender equality does not appreciate, in the workplace or in the home, the innate differences of the sexes rather ignores them leaving women to suffer. As when working women do bring home an income just like their partner, they find that the equality attitude does not stretch that far when it comes to the home. The majority of the housework still needs to be fitted in by them. An Oxford University study in 2001 showed that whether a woman works or not, this has little impact on the predominant amount of housework a woman does.The fact that better flexible working conditions for mothers and better maternity rights has also been a more recent ongoing battle shows how gender neutral laws and policies have done little to actually cater for the woman. And therefore women have been forced to betray equality in its essence in calling for such policies, just in order to survive in the workplace.
Thus the reality is real gender equality does not actually exist in society. This can be shown moreso in the fact that the gender pay gap between men and women still exists despite the lengthy equality battle so far - A study by the Office for National Statistics last year, claimed that this gap had widened to 17.1%. A report by the Equal Opportunities Commission in 2004 showed that women still faced a ‘glass ceiling’ when it came to progressing to senior positions in a variety of sectors. Finally equality in no way, has guaranteed the honour of women in society – A recent Home Office report found that there were over 650,000 reported cases of domestic violence in the last year, three times more than the previous year. Clearly the current viewpoint towards women in society is not working and it is time we look towards a viewpoint and solution which will guarantee women peace and tranquility and maintain their honour.
Islam views men and women in a totally different light to the West. In the eyes of Allah SWT, the Creator of mankind; all Muslims, men or women are equal in their intellect and in their ability to accrue good deeds:
‘Indeed the Muslim men and Muslim women, and the believing men and the believing women, and the men who obey and the women who obey, and the truthful men and the truthful women, and the patient men and the patient women, and the humble men and the humble women, and charitable men and the charitable women, and the fasting men and the fasting women, and the men who guard their chastity and the women who guard their chastity, and the men who profusely remember Allah and the women who profusely remember Allah – for all of them, Allah has kept prepared forgiveness and an immense reward.’ Surah Ahzab 35
However when it comes to men and women, Islam looks at the overall needs of society as well as individuals. Both men and women have the right to vote, have a political voice, have access to justice and are punished in the same way, as these are things are gender irrelevant. However when it comes to the family unit, the centrepoint of society and the role of men and women within this, Islam takes a unique view which places the good of the community and society before greedy desires of individuals and establishments.
Allah SWT designated different roles for men and women, according to their different needs and abilities. Women have therefore been given the primary role of looking after the home and family, whilst the father is given the role of the breadwinner and the guardian of the family. The Prophet SAW said:
‘Each of you is a guardian and each is resonsible for those under his care. A ruler is a guardian, a man is a guardian of his family, a woman is the guardian of her husband’s house and children. For each of you is a guardian and each of you is responsible for those under his care. ‘ (Bukhari and Muslim)
Neither role is better or lesser than the other, but each plays a vital role in society to build it prosperously and each role is valued for its contribution. Under the Islamic Khilafah rather, being a wife and a mother is not a cause for ridicule or failure, rather is looked at with great admiration by society as the Prophet SAW said, ‘Paradise lies at the feet of the mother’ and He SAW said of a virtuous wife, ‘The world and all things in it are precious, but the most precious of all is a virtuous wife’. Women would therefore not be pressured to juggle a career, home and family, just in order to feel successful; rather the Khilafah would deem a woman’s contributions to her family the best contribution she can make to society and value this. Muslim women therefore would not measure their contributions and successes against men, but by what Allah, their Creator, has prescribed for them.
Islam never set the status quo for women at a lower position than men, rather from the onset Islam enshrined the honour and value of women in an Islamic society as wives and mothers. Therefore there is no room under the Khilafah for derogatory attitudes towards women, treating them as commodities as is seen in the West. As the Prophet SAW warned the believers in his Last Sermon:
‘Fear Allah regarding women, they are a trust in your hands’
Therefore my dear sisters in Islam! Understand that this call for gender equality in the West may appear as giving you many rights and liberation, but in actual fact it will enslave you to the oppressive law of man and subjugate you. It is only the Deen of Allah SWT which can guarantee you value for who you are and the beautiful things you can contribute to the society around you.