A new survey by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), published on Wednesday 5th March revealed that one third of women in the European Union have experienced physical or sexual violence since the age of 15, corresponding to 62 million people. The survey which is the largest conducted on the subject, covering 28 European countries also found that 1 in 10 women in the continent have suffered some form of sexual violence and 1 in 20 had been raped. 55% had experienced sexual harassment, often in the workplace, with 75% of women in qualified professions or top management jobs having been subjected to this form of violation against their dignity, dismantling the oft-repeated claim that employment is the path to elevating women’s status. It also described a link between heavy alcohol use and violence. FRA director, Moten Kjaerum stated, “The enormity of the problem is proof that violence against women does not just impact a few women only – it impacts on society every day”. Interestingly, countries with the highest number of incidence of violence were Denmark (52%), Finland (47%), and Sweden (46%) – states which have been praised for their gender equality laws and labelled as the most gender egalitarian according to the UN Gender Equality Index, the World Economic Forum report of 2013, and the European Institute for Gender Equality. Joanna Goodey, head of the Freedom and Justice Department at FAR asked the pertinent question, “We have gender equality laws for a number of decades but are they working in practice?”
The disturbing results of this survey highlights that extensive violence has become the norm of life for millions of women within Western secular liberal states which appear clueless as to how to solve this problem. Furthermore, it is an admission of failure of the Western ideal of gender equality which is used to condemn Islamic social laws and hailed as the silver bullet to secure the respect and wellbeing of women, to deliver on its promises. It begs the questions: Why do secular states, NGO’s and institutions such as the UN insist on peddling this faulty product to the Muslims world as the cure to women’s oppression – through treaties such as CEDAW or demanding its enshrining in constitutions? How do they have the audacity to assume the self-appointed global role of social police on women’s rights when their values and system has so clearly failed women in their own backyards? And how do feminists and secularists dare to accuse Islam of devaluing women due to gender differences in its marital and social laws when it is the liberal freedoms they espouse that has led to a lifestyle of heavy drinking and pursuit of selfish desires, generating a dangerous environment for women – all of which Islam abhors and prohibits?
The Western claim that ‘gender equality’ is the means to safeguard the dignity of women has served as nothing but a deception. When a well is dry, it is the height of irrationality to stubbornly insist that water can be extracted from it. Furthermore, tinkering with the problem through awareness campaigns, or changes to a few laws and policies, will prove futile in solving violence against women – as it has for decades. It is only the Islamic ideology implemented under the Khilafah system that places the protection of women as a key pillar of state policy at every level that can successfully provide a solution to this problem. It was delivered by a man, Prophet Muhammad (saw) who never raised his hand to his wives or female relatives or any other woman in general. It is a system that secures women’s honour, coupled with complementary laws which prevent the pursuit of individualistic desires and the devaluing of women, alongside constantly promoting their high status and executing harsh punishments on those who dare to harm them – creates a society in which women feel safe and respected. We therefore call Muslim women to reject the flawed Western ideal of gender equality as well as the defective secular liberal system and to shape the future of the Muslim lands upon the Islamic system alone.
Dr. Nazreen Nawaz
Member of the Central Media Office of Hizb ut Tahrir