Gender Segregation In Islam Is NOT Discrimination!
But Stigmatising …
On Friday 4th March, the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal ordered Hizb ut Tahrir in Australia to stop so-called forcibly segregating men and women at its public events after judging that the practice constituted sexual discrimination. The ruling came in relation to a case raised by the former NT News journalist Alison Bevege who falsely claimed that she was forced to sit in a designated women s and children s section at a public lecture organised by the party in October 2014, even though it was a simple request.
The 19th century British colonial ruler Lord Cromer and other orientalists of bygone years would be proud! Their false narratives of Islam s mistreatment of women, engineered specifically to justify their colonisation of the Muslim world, are very much alive and kicking in the political, judicial, and media circles of 21st century Western states.
The absurd accusation that Islam s separation of the genders constitutes discrimination against women is born from the same Western colonial supremacist mentality held by Cromer and Co. that judges any culture or belief system that does not conform to secular liberal culture as oppressive or discriminatory by default. It is a typical example of the same old lazy approach of die-hard secularists towards examining Islam where the injustice and mistreatment of women in Western secular history, reflected by gender differences in particular rights and roles at the time, is then used in a cut and paste fashion, and mixed with a generous dose of wild assumptions, to interpret the meaning behind Islamic rulings.
They ignore the context of such laws and stubbornly refuse to study the religion upon its own merits, values, and system and the outcomes these produce for women and societies overall.
This 21st century attack against Islam s separation of men and women reflects an utter ignorance of the beliefs and culture of Islam. If these journalists and politicians who are so quick to take fire at the religion were to venture out even briefly from the confines of their secular bubble, they would realise that the separation of the genders in various aspects of life is established by numerous evidences from Islamic texts and hence is an integral part of the Islamic religion rather than a fringe anomaly practiced by extremists or Islamists as they are so fond of portraying.
For example, when the Prophet saw men and women mingling when they were leaving the mosque, he ordered them to separate and even made different entrances for the genders in the mosque to ensure separation. He also organised separate classes to teach men and women about Islam.
For the prayers, the Messenger arranged the men and women into separate lines and the women would leave the mosque before the men in order to prevent their mixing. Umm Salamah, the wife of the Prophet narrated,
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Whenever Allah s Apostle completed the prayer with Taslim, the women used to get up immediately and Allah s Apostle would remain at his place and so would the men who prayed with him. Reported by Al-Bukhari
All these evidences and many more establish that the general norm in Islam is that men and women are obliged to be separate but there are clear exceptions prescribed by the Qur an and Sunnah of where they are permitted to meet and interact for a clearly defined purpose for example in education, seeking of medical care, trade, accounting the ruler, raising their political opinions within society, and so on. Accordingly, gender separation is an orthodox and important Islamic tradition that is part of normal life within Muslim communities, practiced in mosques, Islamic weddings, Muslim schools, homes, protests, and many other gatherings organized by Muslims in Australia and across the world.
Furthermore, why is it that these liberal extremists only assume that separation of the genders equates to discrimination when it comes to Islam?
They are more than happy to embrace single-sex schools, hospital wards, prisons, gyms, sports activities, changing rooms and toilets within their societies without the generation of hysteria regarding the violation of women s rights or taking the organisers of these things to court! Indeed, such die-hard secularists would do better to focus on the causes of the epidemic level of TRUE discrimination women face within their societies such as Australia s national gender pay gap standing at a record high of around 25% (Federal Government s Workplace Gender Equality Agency), or the fact that half of pregnant women in Australia experience discrimination in the workplace (Australian Human Rights Commission Report 2014), or the endemic sexism that exists in the Australian parliament of which former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, a recipient of misogynistic insults from male colleagues, would I m sure vouch to.
And if care over the status and wellbeing of women is the true basis for this recent judicial ruling, then why does Australia allow the existence and promotion of the objectification of women in the advertising, entertainment and pornography industries which directly demeans women and fuels violence, sexual exploitation, and other heinous crimes against them? And if the state holds a genuine concern for the rights of women, then why not ask the Muslim women who help organise or attend Islamic events where there is gender separation in seating if they feel discriminated or devalued by it.
If they did, they would hear that many Muslim women want this arrangement for it allows them to engage in intellectual and political discussions in a manner that is in accordance to their values. But as has become all too familiar within secular liberal states, entertaining and sanctioning the Islamophobic prejudice of secular extremists takes precedence over preserving the basic religious rights of a whole community.
So if there is any discrimination happening here, it s being done by those individuals, authorities, institutions, and governments who are robbing religious communities of the right to organise their own events according to their own values; and in the process, stifling Muslim women from engaging in the important political debates of the day in a manner which they feel comfortable. Furthermore, it is not gender separation in seating plans which represents or fuels discrimination but rather the relentless stigmatisation and demonization of Islam and its values by the political and media circles of the West which alienates and marginalises Muslims, generates hatred and suspicion against them, drives wedges between different communities, serves as ammunition for the narratives of far-right movements and Islamophobes, and contributes to the high level of hate-crimes against innocent Muslims in Western states.
Moreover, the fact that there is one rule for the secular state and one rule for the Muslims when it comes to accepting gender segregation, and the fact that the Australian government has no qualms about hosting industries in the country which systematically denigrate the status of women, is clear proof that this current attack against gender separation in Islamic events has absolutely NOTHING to do with women s rights and EVERYTHING to do with the ongoing political crusade being pursued by Western states to coerce Muslims away from their Islamic beliefs and practices and to adopt a secular liberal identity through fear and intimidation.
It follows the same old familiar vein of other Islamic beliefs that have been branded with the extreme stamp, such as the niqab, the concept of a global Ummah, rejection of democracy, and support of Jihad, the Shariah, and the establishment of the Khilafah in order to pressure Muslims to submit to the secular thought police.
Hence, if there is any forcing going on in this liberal farce against gender separation in Islam, it is the policy of forced integration being implemented upon the Muslim community in Australia and in other Western states, achieved by the vilification and banning of particular Islamic practices. Furthermore, the attempt to equate gender segregation in Islam, which is adopted by Muslim men and women alike from their own religious convictions, to the emotive subject of racial segregation is a cynical, misleading and deplorable tactic employed by politicians and journalists alike to give moral and legal justification to this discriminatory reprehensible agenda.
In Islam, the separation of the genders has nothing to do with discrimination against women. Unlike Western secular history, Islam s view of women has always been that they have the same human nature, worth and intellect as men.
And Allah has made for you mates of your own nature
and the Prophet said,
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Assuredly, women are the twin halves of men.
Additionally, women had the same rights of citizenship as men from the time of the first Islamic state in Madinah 1400 years ago until the Uthmani Khilafah, the last seat of Islamic rule which was abolished in 1924.
Therefore gender separation in Islam does not indicate an inferior outlook on the woman. Rather, it is part of a comprehensive set of social laws that regulate the relationship between men and women, which aim to direct and restrict the fulfilment of the sexual desires to marriage alone. These social rules also include the Islamic dress code, and the prohibition of an unrelated man and woman being alone together, as well as the prohibition of the free-mixing of the sexes and intimate relationships outside marriage.
These laws have a tangible, positive outcome upon society of protecting the family unit and the rights of children, as well as ensuring healthy interaction between men and women that is productive and not cheapened nor hindered by sexual distractions. Even liberals cannot dismiss the fact of the benefits of single-sex schools. So, within sexually-free liberal societies where the family unit is in meltdown, where countless children are born not knowing their fathers, where there is an epidemic of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, where hundreds of thousands of single mothers struggle to bring up their children alone, and where there are shocking levels of rape and other sexual crimes against women the real question that liberal extremists and the Australian and other Western states who attack the Islamic social laws need to answer is: why do they not see the need for regulating the relationship between men and women!
As Muslims, we should refuse to accept that our sublime Islamic values and laws, which create a harmonious, safe and positive environment for societies and individuals, be demonised or placed in the dock without a response.
In addition to holding firm to our Islamic beliefs with patience and courage in this climate of intimidation, we should also counter the lies and absurd accusations that are being levelled against our noble Deen.
Alongside this, we should initiate a debate within the societies we live in which takes the discussion away from seating plans to which value-system truly discriminates against individuals and which can best guarantee the needs, rights and dignity of men and women, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.
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Alif-Lam-Ra. (This is) a Book which We have revealed unto you (O Muhammad) in order that you might lead mankind out of darkness into light by their Lord s Leave to the Path of the All-Mighty, the Owner of all Praise.
Director of the Women s Section in the Central Media Office of Hizb ut Tahrir