May 27, 2013
The Gendered Misinterpretation of the Qur’an In the Islamic Culture in Afghanistan
In the Islamic culture, gender roles for men and women vary greatly and have been clearly defined by the sacred Islamic text, the Qur’an. The principally accepted interpretation of the Qur’an does not encourage abuse or oppression of women, however in practice, many women are suffering and being persecuted under religious laws and Islamic governments. This is occurring in several parts of the world but the focus will be placed specifically on the Islamic nation of Afghanistan where women’s rights are all but non-existent. As a result, women living in these nations experience many varying forms of inequality throughout their lifetimes. Cultural practices in conjunction with misinterpretations of the Qur’an, have lead to unfair treatment of women from childhood to marriage and through motherhood.
The cultural inequalities between females and males in the Islamic culture begins from birth. Stated in the Qur’an, disappointment and shame is brought to new parents upon learning that their baby is a girl.
When news is brought to one of them, of (the birth of) a female (child), his face darkens, and he is filled with inward grief! With shame does he hide himself from his people, because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain it on (sufferance and) contempt, or
bury it in the dust? Ah! what an evil (choice) they decide on?(Qur’an 16:57-58) While this religious teaching typically encourages couples to prefer to bear male children, it does not encourage the abuse or murder of female infants. Female infanticide is a common problem in Afghanistan, and although the Qur’an does not discuss it, cultural views have led to female babies being considered invaluable, or even a burden. The cultural oppression of girls who survive to childhood affects their education as many parents do not find it necessary to send their female children to school. Approximately, 40% of Afghan girls attend elementary school, one in twenty girls attend school beyond the sixth grade (Trust in Education, par.1). To that end, there are approximately three times more boys attending school in comparison to girls in Afghanistan (Trust in Education, par.1). Many all-girls schools in Afghanistan have been demolished, teachers who educate female students have been threatened and murdered, and female students have been physically harmed for attending school (Trust in Education, par.1). The Taliban regime, an Islamic fundamentalist political movement that governed Afghanistan from 1996 - 2001 based upon radical interpretations of Islamic teachings, banned women from studying at schools, universities or any educational institution, believing instead that women should remain submissive, uneducated, and in their homes (Abrams 14).
Given that a female is of little value, or even seen as a disgrace, to Islamic families in Afghanistan, many parents prefer to marry their daughters off without any consideration for her wishes. While the Qur’an does not encourage this, in practice, over 50% of Afghani girls are forced by their parents into marriage (Trust in Education, par.1). Afghanistan’s rate of married girls aged 15 to 19 is 54% (The Situation of Girls & Young Women 6), and most of these
girls marry men that are more than twice their age (Trust in Education, par.1). Moreover, these young brides usually they meet their spouses-to-be for the first time at their wedding ceremony (Trust in Education, par.1). Forced marriages occur not only because of the desire to free parents of the ‘burden’ of their daughter, but also to abate the high risk of kidnapping and rape, which would render the family dishonoured. Alternately, for families in poverty, it is preferable to give their daughters away because of the cost to feed and look after them. Older and wealthy husbands...