Monday, November 08, 2010

On Women and Shariah Law

I'm sure you have heard about that rather silly vote in Oklahoma advocating banning the use of international law and shariah law in Oklahoman courts. Well, the ban passed but is now the case for a lawsuit:

Days after Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to prohibit its courts from considering Sharia or international law, CAIR's Oklahoma director filed a lawsuit asking for an injunction against the law.

Muneer Awad, director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Oklahoma chapter, filed suit against the Oklahoma Board of Elections in federal court on Thursday. In the suit, he alleges the law both violates the First Amendment and harms his family's ability to carry out his will after he dies.

The proposition, which will go into effect once votes are certified on Nov. 9, amends the Oklahoma constitution and "forbids courts from considering or using international law [and] forbids courts from using or considering Sharia Law."

Awad said in the suit that in his will he directs that his possessions be divided "in accordance with the guidance contained in the prophetic teachings" of Islam.


As for the First Amendment, Awad contends that he will "suffer official disapproval of his faith communicated to him by Oklahoma through the document that organizes the state's existence: the constitution. The Shariah Ban, because the text only mentions and restricts the religious traditions upon which [Awad] draws his faith, will imply to Oklahomans that there is something especially nefarious about the Koran and the teaching of Mohammed that justified its exclusion from the state courts."
I'm not certain if there is anything "especially nefarious" about the shariah laws when compared to other religious laws created during the middle ages, and that's when most of them seem to have been created. They all tend to give women fewer rights than men, though. Considering that will of Awad:

"Allah commands you regarding your children. For the male a share equivalent to that of two females. " [Quran 4:11]

This first principle which the Quran lays down refers to males and females of equal degree and class. This means that a son inherits a share equivalent to that of two daughters, a full (germane) brother inherits twice as much as a full sister, a son's son inherits twice as much as a son's daughter and so on.


If there are any sons the share of the daughter(s) is no longer fixed because the share of the daughter is determined by the principle that a son inherits twice as much as a daughter.
Couldn't Awad just make a will leaving twice as much to his sons than to his daughters and not letting his wife inherit too much? I'm pretty sure that this is feasible.

Religious freedoms often clash with women's equality simply because religions do, and it's my job to point that out. This does not mean that I support the oppression of any religious group or islamophobia, in particular.