Preserving the Rights of Half of Our Society!
Al-Ittihad, UAE, August 6
There is a known saying by the theologian Matthew Henry according to which “women were created from the rib of man to be beside him, not from his head to top him, nor from his feet to be trampled by him, but from under his arm to be protected by him, near to his heart to be loved by him.” This phrase, which is also often attributed to the great Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, reveals intense romance. But it also calls to attention the fact that men hold no superiority over women. Each person can be the master of their own fate, regardless of the gender to which they were born. The problem is that our society often treats women as something that was created from men: something inferior, weaker, and dependent on men. This idea remained subconscious even in the most advanced societies. I still recall how, when I first arrived in Belgium as an immigrant over a decade ago, I witnessed the traumatic story of a Belgian woman of Arab origin whose parents refused to let her attend university. Despite excelling in her studies and having the fierce support of her mother, she wasn’t allowed to leave home due to the whims of her father who opposed the idea of education for women. His decision is the one that ultimately prevailed and the young woman was sent to study at a religious institution in the father’s home country – in the hope that she would meet her groom there. The mother used whatever little power she had to convince the father that their daughter should remain in Belgium without completing her education, claiming that there are “suitable grooms” in their local community. After the woman turned down a local match, her father forced her to marry a local illiterate man who didn’t have legal residency status in Belgium and wanted to obtain it through marriage. In doing so, the father guaranteed himself the ability to maintain authority and control over his daughter’s life. While this story is upsetting, it is far from the only one. Stories like this one have plagued our societies – and have become far too common. These are obvious manifestations of violence against women and we must do everything in our power to fight them and eradicate them from among us. Women constitute roughly half of the Arab world. We cannot subjugate half of our society! –Malik Al-Athamna (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)