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Islam and Human Rights

Shirin Ebadi. (MKMK/Flickr)

Shirin Ebadi. (MKMK/Flickr)

A more important and remarkable issue is that the situation of women in Islamic countries is not always the same throughout the Islamic world. There are differences. Some countries have better laws and others still live like 13 centuries ago. So the main question is: which one is the true Islam?

The legal status of children is also very unfavorable in Islamic countries. Children are often regarded as objects, even if they are regarded as precious objects, they are regarded as the possession of the father's side of the family, his family or himself. And therefore very unsuitable laws have been drafted regarding the rights of the child.

Again, as an Iranian, allow me to talk a bit about what Iranian law says with regard to the rights of the child. According to the Islamic Penal Code ratified in 1370 (Iranian calendar year), that is 13 years ago, if a father or the paternal side of the family kills his child intentionally or not, he does not have to be punished. He will have to go through a ten-year prison sentence at the most. In other words, the killing of a child represents cases in which a sentence is commuted or a lesser punishment is given.

In Iran, the marriage age is low. Thirteen for girls and 15-years-old for boys. Also, the age for criminal liability is very low. Therefore, juvenile crimes have a very low threshold. Nine years of age for the girl and 15 years for the boy. In other words, if a 10-year-old girl or a 16-year-old boy commits a crime, they are treated the same before the law - they are given the same treatment by law as an adult person, the same as if I were to commit the same crime. And this is incorrect because the ability to think and contemplate in human beings is incomplete at least until the age of 18.

Muslims who are aware maintain that the general essence and prevailing spirit of Islamic laws have to be fully understood and that laws should be regulated and drafted in accordance with that general spirit and also based on wisdom and intellect, which is regarded as a source of legislation in Islamic Shar'ia. The words of God must be interpreted based on intellect and intellect is based on the knowledge of humankind. Clearly, an interpretation that came about 500 years ago, based on religion, is different from an interpretation that will come today.

This is nothing new or innovative in religion; rather it is the correct implementation of the religion of God. But what leads to such interpretations of religion or such misunderstandings of religion is the patriarchal culture in the East, specifically, in Islamic countries. This culture does not accept that men and women are equal but it also does not accept democracy and human rights.

Again, as an Iranian, and given the fact that I did say a few words about laws in Iran with regard to women's rights, allow me to refer to a law on democracy in Iran. In accordance with election laws, the Guardian Council must pre-qualify candidates for the Majlis or the Iranian parliament, the Consultative Assembly. In other words, people do not possess the right to vote for whoever they want. Instead, they must choose among the candidates who have already been qualified by the Guardian Council, and choose their representatives on that basis.

As we see, the rights of the child are directly connected to democracy. The rights of women are directly connected with democracy. That is to say, in countries where the legal status of women is weak under the law, democracy is also incomplete, and vice versa.

In such a culture, tribal customs still prevail. "Everyone for one, in the hands of one decision maker, and one for everyone," this is a slogan which is hard to say, but in practice it is actually done. The safeguarding and protection and transfer of this patriarchal culture is not specific only to men, because although women are victims of this culture, they have an effective role in transferring it, too.