Worldwide Islamic Reform

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Via Arts & Letters Daily comes this New Statesman survey of changes in Islam around the world. Writes Ziauddin Sardar,

The Muslim world is changing. Three years after the atrocity of 9/11, it may be in the early stages of a reformation, albeit with a small "r". From Morocco to Indonesia, people are trying to develop a more contemporary and humane interpretation of Islam, and some countries are undergoing major transformations.

Here's an example from Morocco:

The new Moudawana [traditional Islamic rules governing marriage, divorce, etc.] allows a woman to contract a marriage without the legal approval of a guardian. Verbal divorce has been outlawed: men now require prior authorisation from a court, and women have exactly the same rights. Women can claim alimony and can be granted custody of their children even if they remarry. Husbands and wives must share property acquired during the marriage. The old custom of favouring male heirs in the sharing of inherited land has also been dropped, making it possible for grandchildren on the daughter's side to inherit from their grandfather, just like grandchildren on the son's side. As for polygamy, it has been all but abolished. Men can take second wives only with the full consent of the first wife and only if they can prove, in a court of law, that they can treat them both with absolute justice—an impossible condition.

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  1. As for polygamy, it has been all but abolished.

    I guess from an individual autonomy perspective this is can be construed as a bad thing.

  2. “I guess from an individual autonomy perspective this is can be construed as a bad thing.”

    If you’re dealing with a society where women aren’t married off before reaching adulthood, and upon reaching adulthood, have the economic independence to reject marriage decisions made by family members.

  3. Sardar is grovelling for Western approval by characterizing these changes as a “reformation” even with a lower-case “r”. Muslim countries have been grdually adopting formal divorce proceedings, restrictions on polygamy, etc., over the past century or so anyway. With the exception of the Indonesian group mentioned late in the article (and the Indonesian region has never been particularly strict in its practice of Islam anyway), none of these changes seem to be the proximate result of reactions to Islamic terrorism.

  4. Eric II,

    Well, work on the legal issues associated with those things without creating “bad law” in the process.

    SR,

    Interesting comments.

  5. “Well, work on the legal issues associated with those things without creating “bad law” in the process.”

    Jean-Gary, getting rid of non-adult marriages is a legal issue. Economic independence, however, is as much cultural as legal, at least on a large scale.

  6. “Don’t know much about his-tory”
    …so correct me here, but Christian reform was not so simple and swift as Martin Luther nailing some papers on a church door, was it?

  7. I’m almost starting to wonder if there’s some conspiracy to boost Indonesia’s image, because in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, there’s an article (by a different author) on how Indonesia is really doing OK.

  8. Here’s some wonderful Islamic Reform:

    http://www.minaret.org/

    Our dual mission at the Minaret of Freedom Institute is to educate Muslims on the importance of liberty and free markets to a good society, while educating non-Muslims about the beliefs and contributions of Islam and the political realities of conflict between the two cultures.

    This site was featured previously as part of a blog thread here at H&R.

  9. Rick Barton-EricII,

    …getting rid of non-adult marriages is a legal issue. Economic independence, however, is as much cultural as legal, at least on a large scale.

    None of which of course justifies a legal regime which virtually outlaws polygamy between consenting adults.

    Ruthless,

    Martin Luther “reformed” Christianity? With regard to intolerance, violence, etc., the Protestant reformers were not any better than those they were rebelling against. Luther by the time was of his death was not averse to slaughtering Catholics en masse if he could get away with it.

    JD,

    There is an article in the NYT about Indonesia’s efforts to ban a publication their that has been critical of the government.

  10. Umm, I didn’t comment about getting rid of non-adult marriages.

  11. “None of which of course justifies a legal regime which virtually outlaws polygamy between consenting adults.”

    That’s quite debatable – in societies where arranged marriages are normal and cultural factors result in relatively few women obtaining economic independence, I see it as a no-win situation. Make it illegal, and consenting adults who are free to reject such a relationship don’t have the option. Keep it legal, and you’re going to have your share of women who are forced into such a relationship by their families.

    “Rick Barton-EricII”

    Ha! You could’ve at least affiliated me with one of those posters upon whom you project your fears of knee-jerk partisanship.

    Give it up, Jean-Gary. Your creation of a baguette-craving alter ego was thoroughly demonstrated on Friday. Own up to it, and I’ll be glad to refer to you by your actual first name.

  12. I just ran this topic past my sleeper cell friend, screen name, Wacki Paki.
    He’s not an anarchist nor libertarian, but he thought number of wives to be determined more by wealth of husband than local laws.
    In general, he’s not optimistic of any government moves doing much reforming. Take Pakistan as an example of many parts of the country in permanent secession from the government.

  13. Eric II:
    “in societies where arranged marriages are normal and cultural factors result in relatively few women obtaining economic independence”

    spare us the bull shit. Polygamy is illegal in the US and all western countires, where women have economic independence. So women who want to get into those relationships are not allowed to.

    So tell me why is forcing women into arranged marriages any worse than forcing them out of polygameous relationships that they chose willingly?

  14. because some analog can be attained with regards to polygamous relationships (polyamory as a whole, for starters) and arranged marriages tend to remove that decision making process entirely. being a slave to the family and all that gunk.

  15. This is almost as good as the news from Iran, where the ayatollahs showed mercy to a teen-age girl convicted of adultery by letting her die by beheading instead of stoning, and raised the marriage age for females to 10.

  16. I haven’t much of an opinion on consensual polygamy either way, but here’s one reason why it might be in society’s best interest to outlaw such marriages:

    Back in ’84, as part of a school field trip, I went to an Islamic center in Hampton, Virginia, and the guy who spoke to us justified polygamy on the grounds that in the old days, there were lots of wars which killed off a lot of guys, and polygamy was used to absorb the surplus women since there weren’t enough husbands to go around. Nowadays, though, there is no female surplus, so if we let a few guys have “more than their fair share” of wives then there will be large numbers of males with no chance of ever finding a mate. China and India are on the verge of discovering firsthand what kind of chaos that will lead to.

    As for balancing it out by allowing women to have multiple husbands–that would never work. Guys would be too insecure about who is or is not the father of whatever children are borne by said stud-mistress.

  17. “Polygamy is illegal in the US and all western countires, where women have economic independence. So women who want to get into those relationships are not allowed to.”

    When the hell did I say anything to refute any of that?

    “So tell me why is forcing women into arranged marriages any worse than forcing them out of polygameous relationships that they chose willingly?”

    I’d argue that while both are bad, the loss of freedom brought about by the first event (assuming that the woman objects to it) is worse than the loss caused by the second. There’s probably some argument about positive and negative freedoms to be made here.

    But regardless, when the hell did I oppose polygamous relationships between consenting adults free to reject or opt out of them? Like I said, from the perspective of personal liberty, the polygamy issue is a no-win situation for societies where arranged marriages are common and women typically lack economic independence. Obviously, America isn’t one of those countries.

  18. Jennifer,
    While I’m pretty sure I’d stand in a half block up to a full block queue to be one of your husbands, assuming wife number one would allow it, you slipped when you said something should be “outlawed.”
    Laws are lagging indicators of what ought to be done, assuming we are truly trying to be helpful to society.
    Evolution plus the hundredth monkey phenomenon are light years in front of the law.
    Anarchist speaking here: There should first not be a law. Then we could get an idea where complexity might oughta take us.

    Now could we all get back to comparing the reform of the Catholic Church to what could or could not happen in the Islam religion?

  19. “Nowadays, though, there is no female surplus,…”

    Except in places like Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan…

  20. Just returned from the Middle east. No changes in the Islamic way of reasonimg. Stop kidding yourselves. ” Every non-believer I kill brings me closer to Allah.”. Nothing has changed in the hardline Islamic community. Only death will eliminate them. /R

  21. Ruthless-Eric II,

    Keep it legal, and you’re going to have your share of women who are forced into such a relationship by their families.

    So? Are you arguing for some sort of social engineering here?

  22. Gary,
    Don’t like laws. Don’t like social engineering.
    I like to think of us here as ‘coon hounds: sensitive noses itchin’ to tree something.

  23. “So?”

    Jean-Gary, the debate was over whether abolishing polygamy was detrimental to personal freedom. I argued that in certain patriarchal societies, it both is and isn’t. That’s the point.

    “Are you arguing for some sort of social engineering here?”

    Call it that if you want. For certain countries, I see abolishing polygamy as the lesser of two evils for the time being. But as I noted before, America is far removed from being one of those places.

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