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Muslim Women Newsletter, March 2009

Muslim women face 'crisis' over violence, inequality: UN

Muslim women around the world are facing a "growing crisis" as Islamic governments fail to honour commitments to end inequality and violence against them, a senior UN official has warned.

Yakin Erturk, the UN's rapporteur on violence against women, said at a weekend conference that women must demand their governments carry out pledges to grant equal rights and ensure their safety.

"There is no time left to lose any more as this is a growing crisis," she told AFP after a speech which dealt with the issue at an international conference on "Equality and Justice in the Muslim Family."

"Women must demand that their governments implement agreements on women's equality, rights and an end to violence against women, which have been signed but have yet to be carried out," she said.

"In these countries, those who speak on behalf of Islam still justify things like stoning or killing a woman for this or that reason as being part of their religion. I have heard this at the most official of levels," Erturk said without specifying which countries were to blame.

"Of course violence against women is not limited to Islamic countries but Islamic countries have become stigmatised as being mysogynist societies which are inherently anti-women."

Erturk said that very often, laws protecting women are not enforced or are weakened due to pressure from religious groups.

Her view was endorsed by more than 200 international delegates attending the four-day conference organised by Musawah, a new Malaysia-based global movement demanding equality and justice in Muslim families.

"Women are not being bad Muslims when they demand equality, demand justice, demand their husbands stop beating them," said Musawah project director Zainah Anwar.

"We want to say you can be a Muslim, you can be a feminist, you can demand human rights and women's rights, equality and justice and still be a good Muslim. We don't see any contradictions in those demands."

However, several Malaysian religious groups have opposed the forum.

"The Musawah meeting is seen to have an intention in questioning many Islamic principles... which had been agreed upon and passed by qualified council of Muslim scholars," Wan Salim Wan Mohd Nor, a leader of the Malaysian Ulama Association, said in a statement.

He also urged Muslims not to be influenced by "this Liberal Islam group's propaganda and not to meddle into Aqidah (Islamic creed) and other Islamic principles."

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