Letter to the editor, Financial Times
Sir, Peter Johnson (Letters, July 9) displays a lack of knowledge about the status of women, and women’s rights, in Islam. In particular, he confuses cultural attitudes with religious requirements.
He ignores that Islam and the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) gave women a number of rights in respect of marriage, divorce and inheritance centuries before these rights were made available to women in “modern western” society.
The fourth Surah (chapter) of the Koran is titled An-Nisa (Women) and deals specifically with these issues. If these rights are not being applied, then this is generally due to the strength of local customs and traditions.
For instance, Islam says that a “mahr” payment should be made by Muslim men to their brides at the time of marriage, as a gift to the bride for her to use as she wishes. However, typically on the Indian subcontinent, we hear of a dowry from the bride’s family to the man – contrary to the religious requirement, but in line with local customs.
To claim, as Mr Johnson does in his letter, that Islam “adapted beliefs and practices that may have been appropriate at the time but are no longer so”, is offensive to me as a Muslim – particularly so during this holy month of Ramadan.
For all Muslims, these beliefs are consistent and appropriate for all time. The specific issue of how these beliefs are applied and interpreted in respect of the veil or hijab, should be a matter of a woman’s personal choice. But for myself and I am sure many other British Muslims, there are more pressing and relevant issues for us to work on – not least of which is ensuring that the positive aspects of Islam receive as much exposure as the negative points always seem to.
Zahid Nawaz, Chandlers Ford, Hants, UK