Examples of hijabs in different regions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Written by Nicola Hugo (1)
Purdah is the strict enforcement of seclusion rules upon (typically) married Muslim women. They are expected to remain indoors, except in extreme cases such as to receive medical treatment or to attend marriages and funerals with their husbands’ permission. If women do venture out, they need to be completely covered by a hijab, and in some instances also escorted. Violating these regulations may result in accusation of promiscuity or even divorce.(2)
Human rights bodies have criticised the practice, saying that it limits women’s social, economic and political participation. But supporters of purdah say that it is an act of honour, respect and dignity. They point out that women find creative ways to participate, especially economically. This paper will attempt to better contextualise these opposing views by focusing on purdah in northern Nigeria. It also aims to challenge the Eurocentric image of these women as passive and counterproductive victims.
Purdah in Nigeria
Purdah in northern Nigeria was introduced by the Islamic jihad (religious struggle) led by Usmandan Fodio during the 18th century. This jihad took control of several major Hausa states, eventually establishing the Sokoto Caliphate, a Muslim empire.(3) At the beginning of the 19th century Islam was well established in all the major centres of the Hausa and Borno states. However, a group of Muslim intellectuals were dissatisfied because rulers in these states allowed the practice of Islam to be mixed with traditional religion. This meant that nowhere was the Islamic law observed in full.(4) This resulted in the Sokoto jihad that was fought, in a series of emirates, between 1804 and 1808. It was led by young men under the leadership of a Shaikh and young men from Fulani pastoralist families.(5) (The Fulani are a people of obscure origins who expanded eastward from lower Senegal in the 14th century. By the 16th century they were proceeding into Hausaland.)(6)
One of the aims of these (and later) jihads was to eradicate syncretic practices, including the free mixing of the sexes. Free mixing of adult females with non-family members of the opposite sex needed to be avoided due to the evil or negative potential consequences of such mixing; infidelity for example. It is an Islamic imperative that women’s modesty be strictly guarded.(7) Enforcement of purdah thus aims to create a pure or chaste society and serves as a measure to prevent the disintegration of the family, further giving men legitimate control over their wives’ behaviour.(8) This has caused profound changes in the social, political and cultural conditions of Muslim Hausa women in the area.(9)
Posted in Africa, Islam, Security, War & Conflicts, Women Rights
- Tagged BokoHaram, Fulani, Hausa, Islam, Muslim, Nigeria, Northern Nigeria, Sokoto Caliphate
English: Over 2 millions protesting in Tahrir Square after Mubarak’s speech saying that they’ll go to his palace tomorrow. February 11, 2011 – 12:18 AM (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Friday, June 08, 2012
Today there is a mass demonstration of thousands in Tahrir Square in Cairo against what many Egyptians felt was a light sentence for Hosni Mubarak in his trial.
The women in the protest better watch out.
Her screams were not drowned out by the clamor of the crazed mob of nearly 200 men around her.
An endless number of hands reached toward the woman in the red shirt in an assault scene that lasted less than 15 minutes but felt more like an hour.
She was pushed by the sea of men for about a block into a side street from Tahrir Square. Many of the men were trying to break up the frenzy, but it was impossible to tell who was helping and who was assaulting.
Pushed against the wall, the unknown woman’s head finally disappeared. Her screams grew fainter, then stopped. Her slender tall frame had clearly given way. She apparently had passed out. The helping hands finally splashed the attackers with bottles of water to chase them away.
The assault late Tuesday was witnessed by an Associated Press reporter who was almost overwhelmed by the crowd herself and had to be pulled to safety by men who ferried her out of the melee in an open Jeep.
Reports of assaults on women in Tahrir, the epicentre of the uprising that forced Hosni Mubarak to step down last year, have been on the rise with a new round of mass protests to denounce a mixed verdict against the ousted leader and his sons in a trial last week.
No official numbers exist for attacks on women in the square because police do not go near the area, and women rarely report such incidents.
But activists and protesters have reported a number of particularly violent assaults on women in the past week. Many suspect such assaults are organised by opponents of the protests to weaken the spirit of the protesters and drive people away.
Mahmoud said two of his female friends were cornered Monday and pushed into a small passageway by a group of men in the same area where the woman in the red shirt was assaulted.
Posted in Middle East, Politics, Security, War & Conflicts, Women Rights
- Tagged Associated Press, Cairo, Egypt, Egyptians, Hosni Mubarak, Mona Seif, Protest, Tahrir Square
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
An Egyptian woman looking on during a rally to mark the one year anniversary of the revolution, Tahrir Square, January 25, 2012
To Kenneth Roth:
In your Introduction to Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2012, “Time to Abandon the Autocrats and Embrace Rights,” you urge support for the newly elected governments that have brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Tunisia and Egypt. In your desire to “constructively engage” with the new governments, you ask states to stop supporting autocrats. But you are not a state; you are the head of an international human rights organization whose role is to report on human rights violations, an honorable and necessary task which your essay largely neglects.
Posted in Islam, Middle East, Muslim Brotherhood, Politics, Security, Terrorist Supporters, Women Rights
- Tagged Egypt, Human Right, Islamism, Kenneth Roth, Muslim, Muslim Brotherhood, Sharia, Tunisia, Yusuf al-Qaradawi