Bill On Women’s Rights: Don’t Pollute Our Clean Water – MURIC
The Nigerian Senate has been rushing through a bill on discrimination against women and equal inheritance shares since August 2016. The bill has gone through its second reading. But the Sultan of Sokoto and President General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Muhammad Sa‘ad Abubakar III, has already expressed strong objection to the bill.
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) is on the same page with the Sultan. We strongly condemn attempts to interfere in the private lives of Muslims without consulting them. The Nigerian Senate is fishing in troubled waters if it goes ahead with the bill as planned without considering the position of Muslims.
We assert that Islam has already liberated Muslim women and they are not discriminated against in any form. We remind Senate that discrimination against women was common around the world in ancient times. It never obtained in Islam. On the contrary, it was Islam which liberated women.
For the records, women were regarded as minors (no matter their age) and inferior creatures in ancient Greece. In Rome, they were given away in marriage without consent. Only males could inherit in India and any Indian woman whose husband died must be burned alive. In Persia they were pawned away in gambling. Female infanticide was the order of the day in ancient Arabia before Islam as the woman who failed to beget a male child had her female child buried alive!
But Islam changed all that. The Glorious Qur’an liberated women. They can work, earn income and own property (Qur’an 4:32). A Muslim woman is free to choose her own husband (Qur’an 4:19). Her dowry belongs to her (Qur’an 4:4). She can sue for divorce (Qur’an 4:128). The husband is under compulsion to feed, accommodate and clothe his wife according to his means (Qur’an 65:6 – 9).
What the brains behind the equal rights bill in Senate should have done is to study what obtains among the various cultures in Nigeria before attempting to impose any bill on us. It is an open secret that women are discriminated against in some places in this country, particularly in Southern Nigeria. Women are made to drink the water used to wash the corpse of their dead husbands to ascertain whether or not they had a hand in their husband’s death. They are not allowed to inherit their husbands.
But that does not apply to Muslim women. We accept the death of husbands as Allah’s wish. It is not in our character to demonise our women or to accuse them of witchcraft. We cherish them. We love them. Our women are our mothers and daughters and Allah has instructed us to show them love (Qur’an 30:21) and treat them with kindness (Qur’an 4:19).
Therefore nobody should pretend to liberate Muslim women from any perceived oppression. What have the champions of the equal rights bill done about Muslim women who are disallowed daily from using hijab in this country? Who gagged them when the hijab worn by a female Muslim candidate was yanked off by a WAEC supervisor in an examination hall in August 2016? What have they said so far since we have had to go to court to assert Allah-given fundamental human right of female Muslim students to use hijab?
We advise Senate to listen to the Sultan. The leader of Nigerian Muslims has spoken. We will not stand akimbo while a group of legislators rubbish the word of Allah. Islam has already legislated on the shares of women in inheritance and this is not debatable as far as Muslims are concerned. Islam does not discriminate against widows. It is certain traditional cultures which do. That does not warrant the imposition of unIslamic laws on Muslims who have already been protected by Islamic laws on inheritance.
It is equally didactic that the umbrella body of all Muslim women organizations in the country, the Federation of Muslim Women Associations in Nigeria (FOMWAN) reeled out its position paper on the issue on January 7, 2017. FOMWAN rejected the bill, supported the Sultan’s position and warned Senate not to meddle with Muslims’ affairs. We also have it on good authority that FOMWAN leadership met the originator of the bill, Senator Christine Biodun Olujinmi last week and they told her their position.
One major problem with Nigeria is that those who claim to be interested in reform always ignore the stakeholders, particularly Muslims. They always pretend that certain perceived inequalities are general. They therefore attempt sweeping changes. But Muslims do not need reforms which ignore their Allah-given fundamental human rights. Nobody can love Muslims more than the Muslims themselves. We refuse to be led by the nose. You cannot give us what we already have. We already have clean and pure water. It is from Allah. It is divine. Caveat emptor, don’t pollute our water.
Nigerian senators should learn from the Indian Succession Act of 1925. Under this law, every Indian woman can inherit equally with her male counterpart except those who are Bhudists, Hindus, Sikhs, Jainists and Muslims. This means that the Indian Act of 1925 recognized the laws of succession of Muslims and other faiths in India. In other words, our senators can go ahead with the bill, but please exempt Muslim women.
Permit us, therefore, to round up by affirming our rejection for the equal rights bill as passed by Senate. That law should not apply to Muslims. We have our own succession law which is already recognized by the Nigerian constitution. We support the application of the Senate bill to the oppressed women in other religions and cultures in the country. They need it. We don’t.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)