Women Living Under Muslim Laws Releases Statement on Libya and Sharia Law
Posted on: Tuesday, November 1, 2011
The following statement was issued by Women Living Under Muslim Laws in response to the Libyan National Transition Committee's decision to impose sharia law as the country's primary source of legislation.
Women Living Under Muslim Laws Statement on Libya
25 October 2011
WLUML is deeply concerned that the first public act of the Libya's National Transition Committee has been to proclaim on October 23rd, 2011, that a number of laws would be considered annulled and that 'sharia law' was to replace them. Libya’s National Transition Committee is an interim government – what it has responsibility for – and its first action should have been to put into place a mechanism for elections for the new government after the fall of the Gaddafi regime.
WLUML feels the urgent need to reflect and raise a number of questions regarding this statement on ‘sharia law’:
First, if we accept that democracy means the law of the people expressed through their votes. It is disturbing that the first act of this transitional government (following an autocratic one which it has denounced), is governing by decree, rather than by consulting the people through democratic means. Laws should not be annulled by the will of a ruler or rulers; they should be changed after due democratic consultation, by the will and vote of the people. Doing otherwise is to replace one undemocratic rule by another, and to confuse democracy with monarchy, autocracy or oligarchy.
WLUML will support any move by Libyan independent women and civil society organisations, to demand that democratic rules be applied.
Second, when we consider which laws have been de facto annulled and changed for religious ones, we see that these are laws that directly affect the rights of women in marriage, divorce, guardianship, polygamy, inheritance, etc. i.e. family codes or laws of personal status. Women are directly targeted by this change in laws and will lose many acquired rights in the process.
Finally, what is this 'sharia law' being invoked in the Libyan statement? WLUML knows from its own research* that laws said to be Islamic, which laws are said to derive from Islamic jurisprudence or ‘fiqh’ (often wrongly referred to as ‘sharia’), or considered in conformity with Islam vary enormously from country to country - hence proving laws and the jurisprudence (fiqh) they are said to have been derived from are man-made rather than God-given. Furthermore they include elements from culture and traditions that have nothing to do with religion, as well as colonial laws when these best suit the interests of local patriarchy. This is how local traditions such as muta'a marriage or FGM (female genital mutilation) are adopted as part and parcel of ‘religion.’ This is also how the newly independent Algeria in the 1960s deprived its women citizens of any access to contraception and abortion, using a long abandoned French law dating from 1922. And, in Mali, the family law voted by the Parliament in 2009, provoked such an outcry by conservative Muslim organizations for alleged non-conformity to ‘sharia,’ that notwithstanding the democratic vote and the support of non-conservative Muslims – including women and secularists, the President suspended it sine die (indefinitely). Most recently, Saudi Arabia had also come under pressure for having banned women from driving and voting for decades (which appears poised to change), again, relying on their interpretation of fiqh. Further, Libya has signed women's rights international conventions which undertook, amongst others, to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women.
From the religious point of view alone, the Qur'an itself can be read and interpreted in different ways. Diversity (iktilaf) is an accepted tradition in Islam. Tunisia took the historic decision in 1956 to forbid polygyny (aka polygamy), as legislators pointed out that the Qur'an clearly indicated both that equal treatment between wives is required and that it was not possible for a man to treat several women perfectly equally; conversely Algeria in 1962 used the same verse to allow a man to have 4 wives and legitimize polygamy. Which of these contradictory interpretations conforms with 'sharia'?
We denounce the loose use of the term 'sharia' to give a false religious legitimacy to patriarchal interpretations of religion, as well as to patriarchal traditions.
WLUML calls on women's organizations and progressive people around the world to remain alert to the contradictions between pretending to be a democracy and decreeing the application of undefined religious laws.
We also call for the utmost protest when governments and political groups justify their patriarchal moves in the name of 'sharia'.
*Knowing Our Rights: Women, Family, Laws and Customs in the Muslim World - 3rd edition, London, 2006
All who would like to endorse this statement, please email email@example.com with your name, organisation (if applicable), and location.
Archives"Press Room" Home October 2014 September 2014 August 2014 July 2014 June 2014 May 2014 April 2014 March 2014 February 2014 January 2014 December 2013 November 2013 October 2013 September 2013 August 2013 July 2013 June 2013 May 2013 April 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 November 2012 October 2012 September 2012 August 2012 July 2012 June 2012 May 2012 April 2012 March 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 November 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 July 2011 June 2011 May 2011 April 2011 March 2011 February 2011 January 2011 December 2010 November 2010 October 2010 September 2010 August 2010 July 2010 June 2010 May 2010 April 2010 March 2010 February 2010 January 2010 December 2009 November 2009 October 2009 September 2009 August 2009 July 2009 June 2009 May 2009 April 2009 March 2009 February 2009 January 2009 December 2008 November 2008 October 2008 September 2008 August 2008 July 2008 June 2008 May 2008 April 2008 March 2008 February 2008 January 2008 December 2007 November 2007 October 2007 September 2007 August 2007 June 2007 May 2007 April 2007 March 2007 February 2007 January 2007 December 2006 November 2006 October 2006 September 2006 July 2006 June 2006 April 2006 March 2006 January 2006 December 2005 November 2005 September 2005 August 2005 July 2005 April 2005 March 2005 November 2004 October 2004 April 2004 March 2004 January 2004 December 2003 October 2003 September 2003 June 2003 April 2003 January 2003 September 2002 June 2002 January 2002 November 2001 October 2001 September 2001 August 2001 January 2001
MADRE & Our Partners Make News
Forbidden Talk - Prostitution in the Middle East (Levant TV, October 7, 2014)
Women's Organizations Fighting Against Gender-Based Violence in Iraq (Girls' Globe, October 1, 2014)
We all know about jihadists, but what about those waging an 'anti-jihad'? (Reuter, October 1, 2014)
Breaking the gridlock of climate change negotiations: learning from allies (openDemocracy, September 29, 2014)
Arab and Jewish midwives find a common language (Haaretz, September 12, 2014)