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Redefine Religion for Equality
[Opinion] Faith-based discrimination a misinterpretation of scripture
Smita Poudel (smita)     Print Article 
Published 2007-02-17 09:35 (KST)   
When it comes to raising one's voice for gender equality, religion is one of the first points to be raised and discussed. After all, one cannot expect a fair debate without bringing religion into the dialog. Religion has so much to do with the way people live and adapt, and attitudes towards gender relations are no exception.

The meaning of religion is a system of rules based on which people become bonded together. Since time immemorial people have been united in the name of religion. And it has played an important role in creating the stereotypical roles of females.

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More than a written code, religion has became a legacy for many. It is something passed on orally from generation to generation. For example, 10 years ago a person interpreted religious norms according to his convenience. He tells his beliefs to his son; the son takes his father's views for granted and passes them on to his children. This way it becomes the traditional norm and gradually turns out to be an "unalterable truth." People do not bother to turn the pages of the religious scriptures to learn the reality but follow made-up norms blindly. It is something like a man who thinks, "my father beat my mother, so maybe I should beat my wife, too."

When one blames religion for creating a fertile ground for discrimination in claiming it is Islam that has suppressed women or that it is Christianity that has blamed women for the original sin, this is just the reflection of misinterpretations that have for so long ruled society. Some Islam women have heightened their identity as have some Hindus despite the prevailing concept of male superiority. Liberal social attitudes must have helped them in their achievement, whereas women in orthodox societies having different religious background are lagging far behind in terms of what is regarded as equality with males.

Misinterpretations of religious doctrines have been quite successful in altering the truth guided by the religion. In the "Biographical Dictionary of Prominent Muslim Ladies," writers Kabir Kaushar and Inamul Kabir in the introductory part of the book write, "Islam gave women many privileges, legal rights and a high status in the society which in the 7th century AD she didn't possess anywhere in the world." The writers assert that those privileges were not given to them in the Western world until 1918, and Western women acquired those rights only after agitation and demonstration.

The above-mentioned fact is a contradiction, if compared to the real situation of millions of Islam women in many parts of the world. What has led to such a pathetic situation of women despite the freedom from the religion's side? Definitely, the answer would be misinterpretation with the pure motive of male supremacy. Such radicals can in no way be called religious; rather, they are hypocritical.

It is said that during the Caliphate of Abbasid from the 8th down to 12th century, Muslim women in Baghdad, the capital city of Iraq, presided over literary meetings and salons, worked as jurists and lectured on history in Baghdad University. But the images of women behind the dark veil have marred the glory of that time.

Women's confinement within narrow horizons in the name of religion prevents them from their quest of higher achievement. They were not allowed to study or work outside the kitchen, perhaps in the fear that their awareness would someday provoke justifications of the rules imposed upon them.

In some radical Islam societies, women are surviving a horrible life. Honor killings, the Purdah system and many other evils that are justified in the name of religion have tortured women. These people are twisting Mohammad's true meaning for the sake of their supremacy; similar is the case of radical Hindus.

Now it's high time to redefine the true spirit of religion so that the dream of equality becomes a reality. Religion is the very first point from which the battle should be announced. Better than saying that Islam suppresses women or that Hinduism and Christianity undermine women's roles, one should now point the finger towards the chauvinistic interpretations that have truly created the ground for discrimination.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Smita Poudel

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