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Liberty Criticizes Opposition to Women's Political Rights in Kuwait

London, 24 May 1999
All rights reserved.

While welcoming the decision by the Kuwaiti Amir, Shaikh Jabir As-Sabah to reinstate women's right to participate in the democratic process, Liberty for the Muslim World is dismayed by opposition to this decision, which is said to emanate from within certain Islamic circles inside Kuwait.

Rather than criticising the decision to permit women's participation in political life, Islamists would have been expected to oppose, as a matter of principle, denying women their legitimate right not only to vote but also to be nominated to parliament if this is what any of them desires to do. Denying women the right to actively participate in the administration of state and society and in decision-making at all levels has been considered by a number of renowned contemporary Islamic jurists and thinkers a violation of a fundamental Islamic value. For, as is evident from both doctrine and practice, Islam holds both men and women equally responsible for carrying out the injunction of enjoining good and forbidding evil; a principle whose materialisation in modern life is best accomplished through democratic procedure.

Liberty is astounded by the current opposition to women's political participation at a time when women have accomplished great successes in every single sphere of economic and social activity. Kuwaiti women in particular, and Arab women in general, have achieved high standards of education, have been actively engaged in business and have held senior administrative posts in both private and public sectors. It is just unacceptable, and illogical, that all such activities are permitted and lawful whereas political activity is forbidden or prohibited.

Liberty for Muslim World regrets that opposition to women political rights is attributed to Islam whose heritage is full of examples that point to effective and valuable political activity on the part of women especially during the Prophet's era and the era of the Rightly Guided Caliphate. It is true, however, that such activity took forms that were congruent with local custom and recognised norms. But, above all, Islam in principle does not prohibit women from political activity that is permissible to men.

Liberty appeals to those who protest granting women political rights on religious grounds to reconsider their positions by reviewing the manner in which they arrived at such a conclusion. Out of fairness to Islam and women, they ought to distinguish between the male tendency in certain Arab societies to restrict some spheres of public activity to men and the Islamic position vis--vis the participation of women in public life. It may be helpful for such purposes to engage in an open and clam dialogue and to avoid resorting to fatwa-issuing as a means of silencing those who disagree.

Liberty for the Muslim World
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Postal address: BM Freedom, London WC1N 3XX, U.K.
Tel no. 00-44-181-4526210
Fax 00-44-181-4502019

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