An initiative by Tunisia’s president to make inheritance and marriage rules fairer to women is reverberating around the Muslim world, Some denounce it as a violation of Islamic law while others embrace or think it as revolutionary.
The 90-year-old president, Beji Caid Essebsi, argues that Tunisia needs to fight
discrimination and modernise.
He’s gambling that he could shepherd through such changes because his secular party is in a coalition with an Islamist one, and because his overwhelmingly Muslim country has a history of relatively progressive views toward women.
Tunisia comes under the spotlight again because it is rewriting the rules about what women can and can’t do in an Islamic country. It should it be a role model for its Muslim neighbours.
Women have more rights in Tunisia than in any other Islamic country.
Women life in Tunisia is heaven compare to places like Saudi Arabia where women are not allowed to drive or even go out on their own without a male escort.
In other places like Pakistan and basically all other Islamic countries where they believe women are part of men’s property and should be treated as such. The men will dress in western clothing but keep their women dressed covered up in Islamic
Other Islamic Young Women Tunis Islamic Young Women
Since independence in 1956, the Code of Personal Status banned polygamy, gave women almost the same rights in law as men – the freedom to divorce them – and the right to be educated.
Following this came the right to vote, stand for office, set up a business, demand equal pay, and the right to an abortion eight years before American women won their right to choose.
But has society kept pace with these advances in the law? A recent report indicating that 53% of Tunisian women experience violent attacks in their lifetime suggests legal equality is only part of the story.
Its still to do with the Islamic religion, some women believe being beating up by their partner or husband is part of a relationship, love and most of all their religion. Some have been brainwashed to think that ‘allah wants it so’
The Presidential Proposals
In a speech last month, Essebsi proposed allowing women the same inheritance rights as men, instead of the current system based on Islamic Shariah law that generally grants daughters only half the inheritance given to sons.(Very Unjust practise)
The president also suggested allowing Muslim women to marry non-Muslims; currently Muslim men are allowed to marry non-Muslims but not the other way around.
He announced the creation of a commission led by a woman lawyer and rights activist aimed at drafting revised rules.
Mainstream Muslim clerics almost universally see the inheritance rules as enshrined in the Quran, Islam’s holy book, and consider the rules on marriage to be equally unquestionable in Shariah. The question here is if the equal share of inheritance and the new marriage proposal is inline with the Quran, How come the women have been so cheated and robbed of so much of life over many years?
Most Muslim-majority countries in the Middle east and Asia enforce the rules since they use Shariah as the basis for personal status and family law. Some worry that such changes could stir up extremist anger in a country that has already suffered deadly attacks. But such is not likely since the mainstream Muslim clerics says its actually inline with the quran.
The president argues that existing practice violates Tunisia’s constitution, adopted in 2014 in the wake of the Arab Spring revolution, and that he wants Tunisia to reach “total, actual equality between men and women citizens in a progressive way,” as called for in the charter.Bravo for the president and VICTORY for the women who have been meaninglessly cheated for so long.
He said wants to fight discrimination in a country where half of engineers are women, as are a majority of medical, agricultural and textile workers and those with higher education.
The first president of independent Tunisia, Habib Bourguiba, championed a landmark social code in 1956 that set a standard for the region by banning polygamy and granting new rights to women unheard of in the Arab world at the time. But even he didn’t dare push for equal inheritance.
The chief editor of daily Le Maghreb, Zied Krichene, expressed hope that Essebsi’s initiative would bring a “second revolution.”
But in Egypt, the world’s foremost seat of religious learning for Sunni Muslims, Al-Azhar, swiftly rejected the proposals.
Inheritance inequality a great injustice to women
“Calls for the equality of men and women in inheritance do an injustice to women, don’t do women any good and clash with Shariah,” Abbas Shoman, Al-Azhar’s second most senior cleric, said in a statement.
In defense of the ban on non-Muslim men marrying Muslim women, Shoman said that while Muslim men were likely to respect the beliefs of their non-Muslim spouses and freedom to worship, non-Muslim men were unlikely to do the same for their non-Muslim wives.
But the proposals sparked a heated debate on social media networks among Egyptians. Supporters of Essebsi’s initiative said Al-Azhar was showing its true colours as a bastion of religious militancy.
Muslim parents who see the inheritance laws as unjust often resort to putting assets in their daughters’ names during their lifetimes.
In Lebanon, some Sunni men convert to Shiism to take advantage of what they see as the minority sect’s more equal treatment of women when it comes to inheritance. Tunisia is overwhelmingly Sunni.
Moroccan academic Nouzha Guessous welcomed the Tunisian proposal as “a beautiful bright spot in the grim political and social skies in Morocco and elsewhere in the Muslim world.” Writing in the Moroccan magazine L’Economiste, she said the Tunisian president could “go down in history … as an enlightened Muslim leader characterised by a political conscience and attuned to the changes in society.”
She expressed hope Tunisia could set a precedent across the Muslim world.
“As a proud, full-fledged Moroccan woman, I must admit that today, yes, I would have liked to be Tunisian,” she wrote.
There are some Muslim theologians who argue that the one-half inheritance for women is not absolute in the Quran and that it is open for reinterpretation to fit the Quran’s requirements for justice and equality.
Still, the mainstream view is deeply entrenched. In Tunisia, the country’s leading imams and theologians issued a statement denouncing the president’s proposals as a “flagrant violation of the precepts” of Islam.
Tunisia’s Islamist party Ennahdha hasn’t taken an official line yet, but party No. 2 and former prime minister Hamadi Jebali warned against anything that would “threaten social peace” and said the president’s ideas aren’t taking into consideration the feelings of all Tunisians, just a liberal segment of the population.
“Either the chief of state doesn’t know that a text codified by the Quran cannot be subject to interpretation, or it is a political calculation,” he said on his Facebook page.
Several analysts suggest the president is trying to win back support from women who supported him widely in 2014 elections for his modernising program, but then grew disillusioned after he allied with the Islamist party.
Tunisian professor Mohamed Hédi Zaiem said the proposals give a new impetus to moderate Islam. “The only moderate Islam is that which recognises the need and the right not only to interpretation but also to evolution,” he said, calling the battle for renewing religious discourse “the mother of all battles.”