Restoring the Rights that Islam Dictates

Living in Morocco argues that the Moudawana simply restores the rights granted to women by Islam in the first place.

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A Muslim-American woman living in Morocco 14 comments

Monday, March 29th, 2010


I first came across Moudawana in the Summer of ’09 when I started my blog and a research project related to women and work in Morocco.  I didn’t read the full contents of Moudawana at that time, but a summary on a website stated it included new laws that made it easier for women to obtain a divorce and provide clear provisions for child custody among other things.  This struck me immediately as somewhat odd, and I didn’t quite understand why a code of its nature would have to be created for such rights of women to exist.

Morocco may call itself a secular society, but the monarch is a Muslim, Muslim holidays are the only religious holiday for which all sectors of business and government shut down, and 99% of the population is classified as Muslim.  So, while it may be secular by name, for all intents and purposes it is a Muslim country.

Indeed, Morocco is a fairly progressive country when it comes to women’s rights.  Women have the right to obtain free education, work in many professional fields, hold government office, drive a car, and generally move freely about society.  However, even with all these opportunities and freedoms, there is still much progress to be made.

And so, the reason the need for a code made an impression on me is because these are rights women have been given to women by Allah over 1400 years ago.  And while they may have been restricted before the time of King Mohammed VI, the code is an opportunity to fully include the rights for women indicated by Islamic law.  Any Muslim who disagrees with any of the rights granted in Moudawana is either ignorant to or purposely going against the teachings Islam and commandments of the Quran.  Presumably, any other opponents are non-Muslims who don’t believe in women having particular rights.

After having read through the code for the purpose of this article, I felt good about the ways in which it secures the rights of women as binding law.  Thus, I feel that what women in Morocco need goes beyond Moudawana.  It stretches far beyond the major cities where upon first glance an outsider might think women have it good in Morocco.

Education for girls, especially in rural and remote areas, is still severely lacking.  Good access to education and some type of enforcement that they attend is needed so that they will learn what there God-given rights are, and will know how and when to demand them.

Girls are often held back from attending school to help with household tasks, and many people in these areas believe that women were created for the sole purpose of taking care of the home.  Unfortunately, culture and tradition born of ignorance have created a barrier that continues to keep girls from going to school.

However, Islam encourages education for both men and women regardless of what their eventual role in society might be.  With education, girls will know that they can break the norm and change their future.  They don’t have to fit into the mold of what cultural ignorance has lined up for them.

The problem is not just that families keep their daughters for attending school.  Access to schools in these areas is an issue as well.  In many of the more remote villages not only aren’t there enough schools, but they are often too far away for many children to attend.  The first focus has to come with providing better access to education including buildings, learning materials, and a way to ensure that all children attend.

When these needs are met, girls will have the access to education that will not only teach them their rights, but that they do not have to be boxed in by cultural norms that don’t value them in the way that Islam requires they be valued.  In time, they will teach others, and the idea that Moudawana provides too many rights for women will dissipate.

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Posted on Monday, March 29th, 2010

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14 comments on “Restoring the Rights that Islam Dictates”

  1. @LIM:

    > “Morocco may call itself a secular society”

    I beg to differ.

    This is a ludicrous statement that has absolutely no basis in reality. At no level could Morocco, even remotely consider itself “secular”.

    You have a very thwarted view of the issue. For every person that would consider Morocco “a secular society”, I’ll find you 20 who’ll vehemently disagree.

    Morocco is a Muslim country as per the constitution. Moroccan laws forbids drinking alcohol for all Moroccans (except for the couple of thousand Jews). Moroccan law prosecutes anybody who “insults” Islam. Islamic Education class is mandatory in public schools. Blasphemy laws are in place and enforced. The whole country goes bezerk over the evil MALI movement and their sandwiches.

    > “Indeed, Morocco is a fairly progressive country when it comes to women’s rights.”

    Once again, I disagree.

    Compared to the worldwide median, Morocco is a anything but “a fairly progressive country when it comes to women’s rights”. The Gender Equity Index / GEM can attest to that. In the Global Gender Gap index compiled by the World Economic Forum, Moroccan women score worse than Iranians and Mauritanians.

    For Heaven’s sake, daughters are treated like half a son when it comes to inheritance and you dare call the country “progressive”? You are very selective in your assessment of the situation, and I’ll venture that you lack insight into Moroccan society (a Moroccan woman living in Morocco who comes across the Moudawana in the summer of ’09 more than qualifies!).

    I’m quite disappointed at the editors for letting such blatant fabrications through.


  2. Living in Morocco

    Yes, Morocco’s official religion may be Islam, and it may forbid Moroccans of certain activities, but the fact that it allows it for others it why I made the statement about Morocco being a secular society. And, as a Muslim, I actually I wish Morocco didn’t allow such things as alcohol at all, because as much as they forbid it for Moroccans, my experience is that more Moroccans are drinking alcohol than any other nationality in the country and the “law” is doing nothing about it.

    And, in my view, women have more rights compared to some other Muslim countries in terms of the ways in which the current laws allow women to participate in and move about society. Sorry I didn’t check the Gender Equity Index for statistics. My writing is and has always been based on what I see and experience in Morocco. That’s where my insight comes from, selective as it might be- lacking or not I’ve only lived in this country for a little under two years. I am an American, not a Moroccan (a simple pass over the one-liner profile near my name would have told you that) and have been here since mid-2008. So, I’m sorry if I had a few other life changing events to deal with before getting to Moudawana.

    Daughter’s receive half of what a son receives in inheritance according to Shariah law. I trust in Allah and his commandments. If that is what he wishes for women, then I accept it as such- He knows best. In Islam, women are allowed to keep every cent of their accumulated wealth and have no obligation to share it with their husband, spend it or give it to any member of their family, while men do not retain such rights as they are expected to use their wealth to care for their wife, children and other family members as needed. So, from that perspective, as a woman, I’m not as concerned (for myself as I am able and capable of a good career) about receiving only half of any inheritance wealth since I have the opportunity to obtain plenty of wealth in other ways. People always look for the negative in things, but I choose to find the positive and good in every thing Allah created and commanded for us.


  3. @LIM:

    >”Yes, Morocco’s official religion may be Islam, and it may forbid Moroccans of certain activities, but the fact that it allows it for others it why I made the statement about Morocco being a secular society.”

    It doesn’t make your statement any less outrageous. So foreigners get a break because the country encourages tourism. Big bloody whoop! Moroccans aren’t even extended the courtesy of choosing their own religion and you talk about a “secular society”?

    What’s wrong with you?

    > “And, as a Muslim, I actually I wish Morocco didn’t allow such things as alcohol at all,”

    I’m perfectly familial with Islam’s standpoint on liberties. Nothing surprising in your position.

    > “And, in my view, women have more rights compared to some other Muslim countries”

    I agree. But just cause it’s not as oppressive towards women as Saudi Arabia doesn’t mean it’s not an Islamist state.

    Frankly, Islam should either reform or disappear. It’s a way too oppressive and totalitarian system for it to be tolerated further. As long as people like you think about banning a substance because the scripture said so, Islam will remain the biggest hurdle in the way of liberal democracy.

    You probably don’t care for liberal democracy anyway…


    • @ Fly
      I think you’re too harsh on the author. She’s just embraced Islam, let the born-again exalt the name of Allah :-).
      Broadly speaking all religions tend to oppress and impose strict social regulation when they are given institutional precedence. I am not defending Islam per se, but the idea that it’s a more violent religion than others is a political myth. I mean, compared to biblical version of the woman as helper (Genesis 2:20), half inheritance is small beer ! (no pun intended)

      the Alcohol issue is, very minor, just like extra/pre-marital intimate relations. And just think about it: Moroccans are quite tolerant towards those who do not prey, and even to the alcoholics, but they go berserk (as you put it) when it’s about Ramadan break-fasting; Let us not confirm Islamists and Conservatives in their beliefs by giving religious shape to a purely social phenomenon. On the other hand, I do agree with your criticism, Morocco is not secular, the backbone of the Monarchy’s legitimacy is religious;


      • “Broadly speaking all religions tend to oppress and impose strict social regulation when they are given institutional precedence. I am not defending Islam per se, but the idea that it’s a more violent religion than others is a political myth.”

        You may as well be right. But it doesn’t matter. Why? Because all the other major religions have been tamed (by being “too harsh” on the zealots who want to dictate a divinely-justified oppressive public policy). This included ridicule, scorn at irrationality, and tough words. If the author has decided to submit herself and her freedoms, allah y3awoun8a! None of my business. But that she describes my country as “secular” is an abject distortion of reality. I suffered my whole life from countless attacks on my personal freedoms that were all justified by Islam. There’s indeed a tolerance from the state and the society towards alcohol (which, as you point out, does not extend to Ramadan), but the laws forbidding alcohol consumption are still on the books and there’s no will to change that. Besides, a secular society is not one where people get arrested for blasphemy, sodomy and the like. It’s simply preposterous!

        There’s nothing I’m saying here that is gratuitously offensive. If anything, I should be the one offended by the author’s misrepresentation of a cruel reality. She can “exalt the name of Allah” all she wants. But her Islamist speech should not be tolerated. I’m certain that she means well, but so do most of the brainwashed people.


  4. I’m not sure where you make your home fly but in the context of the US there are PLENTY of people who wish that US laws would reflect Biblical law. Not the watered down biblical law but what’s in the whole book. Are they brainwashed too? What about your views, is it safe to say you’ve been brainwashed by your worldview? It’s really a subjective thing.


    • The people you’re referring to are a fringe minority in the US (whereas they appear to be the majority in Morocco). They’re constantly ridiculed for…being stupid. They don’t stand a chance to gain control and change the secular foundation through democratic means. They couldn’t even convince the average religious American, let alone the ever-growing agnostic chunk.

      And yes. Of course they are brainwashed. Break it down and you’ll find more than 90% of them had religious parents. It borders on child abuse if you ask me.

      There’s nothing subjective about condemning the sexist inheritance laws of Morocco or the reigning dictatorship. Arguments against divine legitimacy as basis for power don’t cut it in the modern era because – believe it or not – people can actually use their heads. This is the reason behind all those laws against “shaking the faith of a Muslim” or “attacking the king”. The system knows its basis for power would be ridiculed in an open debate, so it forbids said debate from taking place in the first place.

      In my case, I was raised and I still live in Morocco. I went through the regular brainwashing. I know how it works (learning scripture by heart, being smacked around for missing a “sacred” word, etc). I know that women can’t marry a non-Muslim, thus insuring a Muslim-majority. I know how primitive and superstitious the society is. So don’t give me crap about silly relativism.


  5. Living in Morocco

    Why is my “Islamist” speech not to be tolerated while your obvious anti-Islam speech is? I would expect you to think I’m brainwashed because ignorant people often use that excuse when they refuse to believe the truth themselves.

    In my book, alcohol is part of secular society. The need for a Moudawana is part of a secular society. Restricting the rights given to women by Allah is part of a secular society. Having laws that are against Shariah law is part of a secular society.

    While it may not be correct according to a dictionary definition or the Moroccan constitution, the above mentioned reasons (among many others) are what constitute a secular society versus a purely Islamic one in my view. I understand how according to your view Morocco is not a secular society, and if it helps I do agree with you that by written law it is not a secular society. My point was that it has elements of a secular that are not compatible with Islam.

    It seems to me Morocco wants to have it both ways, and I’ve always argued that it can’t- either it must be a truly Islamic society and follow Shariah law or create an entirely different set of laws that have no basis in Islam.


  6. I find it quite interesting when a person embraces or switches to islam then start talking about the fact that sharia law should be adopted. one word for you(taliban). I suggest for the new so called muslims to live in a place where sharia is being applied such as parts of sudan or somalia or even saudia arabia then come back to morocco after ur stay there for a couple of years. I wonder if u would stand by your beliefs still. Morocco might be islamic on paper and even when it comes to its laws, but noone wishes for sharia law and for that matter for any law that is based on couple of thousands year old book or books. so much waste of ink and time would have been saved if state and religion were 2 seperate entities. from a moroccan”muslim”. and good article by the way


  7. First, let me say that I am an agnostic American. I found this during a Google Search on “sexism in Morocco.” Anyway, I’m a bit surprised that as a woman, you’re okay with being perceived as “lesser.” I have nothing against the Islamic faith, but I am surprised that some Muslims feel like Shariah Law is proper, especially when many seem to take their version of it. Personally, I believe in separation of church and state, and that as long as a Muslim is a kind, honest person, Allah will honor him or her. Granted, if God, Allah, Yahweh, or other divine forces exist, I feel as though they would feel the same. I would think (and hope) that the divine believe in justice. Respecting men and women equally is part of that justice.


  8. Shame on you for hating on people who are seeking truth just as you do… you drank the atheist koolaid when you received your mainly SECULAR education in Morocco! Why would it be so bad for someone to have seen the beauty in Islam that you never saw and to have run away from the secular, atheist countries that you now admire. Each of us is searching for truth aren’t we? Regardless of religion, you could just try to be a nice person!


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