The Muslim Brotherhood’s fight against women’s rights

The New York Times reports: During its decades as an underground Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood has long preached that Islam required women to obey their husbands in all matters.

“A woman needs to be confined within a framework that is controlled by the man of the house,” Osama Yehia Abu Salama, a Brotherhood family expert, said of the group’s general approach, speaking in a recent seminar for women training to become marriage counselors. Even if a wife were beaten by her husband, he advised, “Show her how she had a role in what happened to her.”

“If he is to blame,” Mr. Abu Salama added, “she shares 30 percent or 40 percent of the fault.”

Now, with a leader of the Brotherhood’s political arm in Egypt’s presidential palace and its members dominating Parliament, some deeply patriarchal views the organization has long taught its members are spilling into public view. The Brotherhood’s strident statements are reinforcing fears among many Egyptian liberals about the potential consequences of the group’s rise to power and creating new awkwardness for President Mohamed Morsi as he presents himself as a new kind of moderate, Western-friendly Islamist.

In a statement Wednesday on a proposed United Nations declaration to condemn violence against women, the Brotherhood issued a list of objections, which formally laid out its views on women for the first time since it came to power.

In its statement, the Brotherhood said that wives should not have the right to file legal complaints against their husbands for rape, and husbands should not be subject to the punishments meted out for the rape of a stranger.

A husband must have “guardianship” over his wife, not an equal “partnership” with her, the group declared. Daughters should not have the same inheritance rights as sons. Nor should the law cancel “the need for a husband’s consent in matters like travel, work or use of contraception” — a reform in traditional Islamic family law that was enacted under former President Hosni Mubarak and credited to his wife, Suzanne.

Egypt’s Daily News adds: The National Council for Women (NCW) denied in a statement released on Thursday that a declaration regarding violence against women currently being drafted in the 57th United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women breaches Islamic Shari’a.

The Muslim Brotherhood released a statement on Wednesday denouncing the declaration for “contradicting principles of Islam and destroying family life and the entire society”.

“The Brotherhood’s statement is completely unfounded,” the NCW said in its statement. The council added that the final draft of the declaration is yet to be released and voted on.

The council denied that the declaration goes against the principles of Islam, eliminates Islamic manner or destroys families. “This misleading allegation abuses religion to taint the UN and stall women’s rights,” the statement read. It added that the “accusations” referred to in the Brotherhood’s statement are all non-existent in the draft declaration.

“The points mentioned in the Brotherhood’s statement cannot be found in the declaration; neither literally nor metaphorically,” said Abeer Abul Ella, head of the NCW’s media office.

In its statement, the Muslim Brotherhood listed ten points allegedly present within the declaration which represent “the final step in the intellectual and cultural invasion of Muslim countries”.

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