The following is a translation from Arabic of an article written by Zahra Langhi, member of the Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace (LWPP), as well as WILPF’s partner for the MENA Agenda 1325.

Libyan Grand Mufti Ghariani issued a new statement denouncing the agreed conclusions of the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) on ending discrimination and violence against women. The report of which has not even been released!

Perhaps the Mufti was anticipating the event and denounced the document that the United Nations negotiations were still ongoing and which was to be announced on 16 March 2013.

Apparently the Grand Mufti exhibits a similar behaviour to the International Union of Muslim Ulema led by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. He mentions the seven points that have been written in the statement of the International Union of Muslim Ulema last week that I had seen during my participation in the activities of the 57th CSW session, which is still being held in New York.


Libyan WomenTo be honest I have many questions about the official position of Libya in this regard.  Firstly, the agreed conclusions concerning discrimination and violence against women at the CSW. It is known that Libya had signed the CEDAW Convention like many other Muslim countries with reservations on specific articles that conflict with cultural and religious norms. It should be noted here that the United States is not signatory of the CEDAW Convention or of any of the agreements on the violations of human rights- this is to end any confusion some people may have that the United States is supporting this agreement.

My question is: who officially represents Libya in the 57th CSW session? I ask this because I found the name of Libya among other 17 countries rejecting and denouncing the agreed conclusions. Among these countries were Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Vatican. I have not seen an official delegation, but now I read a statement by the Grand Mufti corresponding to the text of the International Union of Muslim Ulema.


My other question is regarding the position and the attitude of the International Union of Muslim Ulema, an institution that was established post-9/11, specifically at the beginning of the ‘War on Terror’.

The first fatwas that have been issued at that time (please feel free to correct me as I cannot remember this fatwa now, but back then it raised public commotion) that the American Muslim could fight in Iraq since he is a U.S. citizen.

The problem with this fatwa is that it prioritises nationalism over religion and I remember specifically it was Dr. Muhammad Saleem Al’ Awa and Dr. Jabir Alwani who announced this fatwa (the latter was then Vice President of the International Union of Muslim Ulema). They are both known for their ‘progressive’ fatwas on the rights of women.

Dr. Salim Al’Awa’s position against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), labeling it as a tradition and not related to religion as well as his support of women’s legal right to divorce and their right to political participation was also supported by Sheikh Qaradawi.
They both consider that private curatorship (male’s higher social position in this context) is strict to private marital and family relationship only, and not in all affairs of life. It does not mean forbidding women or preventing them at all; this is clearly explained in the texts of Qur’an and the true Sunna.

The meaning of Quwama (curatorship) is derived from its linguistic origin which indicates to ‘maintain’ something and ‘fix’ it, thus the verse that says ‘men are protectors of women’ is not correct to imply the denial and deprivation of women’s participation in public work and her right to take up positions that qualify her and that recognize her aptitude, ability and knowledge.
Moreover, Dr. Al’ Awa has an enlightened interpretation of the verse that says ‘men have degree upon women’ in which sheikh Al Qaradawi also agrees. However, it is manipulated by some opponents to object and refuse women’s political participation.

Al’ Awa refers to a number of interpretations of this verse in the books of precedent ulamas, in which they refer to “degree” as the men’s right to initiate divorce (other suggest that the decision of divorce and divorce itself is in men’s hands) which was approved by Sheikhs Ibn Jawzi and Qurtubi. Whereas other maintain that ‘degree’ allows men to express good treatment of women in domestic, financial, and other matters. Al’ Awa concludes that in the verse there is no evidence on preventing women from public work or of being denied her right to access to public functions.


I am now asking why this ‘backward’ position on women’s rights that are already granted to her by the tolerant Islamic Sharia? Why has the International Union of Muslim Ulema not presented its response to CEDAW Convention with an Islamic perspective in developing and adopting a document of women’s rights as we have seen in the document of Egyptian women’s rights in Al Azhar? Or have women’s rights become a political tool for manipulation so that during elections women’s political participation becomes so important and that her voice has to be heard and then, after the elections, hijab is imposed on her (and by hijab here I mean that she is isolated to stay back in the home).

Does the new Middle East, that was in need for a liberal Islamic perspective back during the War on Iraq, need to wear a ‘robe’ of militancy and religious extremism now? And of course in the new Middle East the issue of women’s rights, which is reduced to her hijab, remains the card mostly manipulated with by everyone.