Purdah: Separation of the sexes in northern Nigeria

Examples of hijabs in different regions

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)

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Qaradawi Organization Rasies $6.5 Million For New Islamic Endowment; Qaradawi Donates Large Amount

QassamRocket

QassamRocket (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gulf media is reporting that a recent charity dinner for an Islamic endowment sponsored by the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) has raised over $6.5 million dollars for the project. Of particular interest is that the Gulf News report indicates that Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi personally donated over half a million dollars of that amount:

May 15, 2012 A charity dinner in Qatar has raised QR 24 million ($6,586,170) for the ‘Renaissance of a Nation’ endowment project launched by the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS). The project aims to raise enough funds to help the union, headed by Doha-based scholar Yusuf Al Qaradawi, be financially self-sustained. The dinner was attended by Qatar’s Crown Prince Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, ministers, diplomats and business people, local Arabic daily Al Sharq reported on Tuesday. ‘Your generous donations and the funds raised by selling some rare items will help us build a tower and acquire buildings and shares for the endowments of the union,’ Shaikh Ali Mohieddeen Al Qardaghi, the union secretary general, said in his address. The union has plans to invest up to $100 million within the next 10 years to help secure financial returns that will be used for its charity work. Antique carpets, clothing The sale of historic carpets and Ottoman-era clothes and copies of the Holy Quran from Turkey raised QR17 million. The amount was topped by a QR 5 million ($1,372,120) donation by Shaikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani, owner of Al Faisal Without Borders Charity Foundation who was awarded the Personality of the Year distinction by the union.  Al Qaradawi donated another SR2 million ($548,847). Al Faisal Without Borders Charity Foundation was set up in June 2011 by Shaikh Faisal, a prominent businessman, as a foundation ‘for the benefit of all, at home and abroad, without any reservation or discrimination on the basis of nationality, race or religion.’

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Women and Islam: A Debate with Human Rights Watch

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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.

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El-Katatney: Protests continue, Egypt’s revolution has cost $3.5b so far and ‘we’re beginning to lose sight of the big picture’

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Egyptian Coptic Christians carry the coffin of a victim of sectarian clashes during a funeral in Cairo on May 8, 2011 as Egypt’s military rulers warned they will use an ‘iron hand’ to protect national security after clashes between Muslims and Christians in the Egyptian capital killed 15 people and injured scores.

May 13th, 2011 09:36 AMET

El-Katatney: Protests continue, Egypt’s revolution has cost $3.5b so far and ‘we’re beginning to lose sight of the big picture’

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Jay Kernis – Senior Producer

ONLY ON THE BLOG: Answering today’s five OFF-SET questions is Ethar El-Katatney, award-winning journalist, blogger, and author.

She has worked as a staff writer at Egypt Today, the leading current affairs magazine in the Middle East, and at its sister magazine Business Today Egypt. She has also been a contributor at Muslimah Media Watch, a website that critiques how Muslim women are represented in the media and popular culture. (More biography below.)

Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman reports that there were some 10,000 demonstrators between Cairo’s landmark Tahrir Square and the Egyptian State TV building. (8:40 am ET)  The group was divided into three separate protests: around 7,000-8,000 people are gathered in central Tahrir Squareto rally in support of the Arab Spring and the Palestine. The protesters waved flags of other Middle Eastern nations and chanted “Egypt and Palestine are one hand.” The second group of demonstrators in the Tahrir Squarearea called for unity among Egyptians and a return to the ideals of the Jan 25th revolution. Another group of demonstrators gathered in front of the Egyptian State Television building in Maspero called for greater rights for Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority.

Here’s our blog interview with El-Katatney: Continue reading

Ayloush Qazi: FBI spying on Muslims merits hearings

FBI Badge & gun.

Image via Wikipedia

By HUSSAM AYLOUSH and AMEENA MIRZA QAZI

Ayloush is executive director of the Greater Los Angeles Area office of CAIR, the Council on America-Islamic Relations. Qazi is the deputy executive director and staff attorney for CAIR-LA.

As Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., launches congressional hearings this week on Muslims and radicalization, we wonder at the expenditure of time to examine an issue whose conclusion has long been self-evident: that American Muslims have worked tirelessly alongside fellow Americans to uphold and strengthen the time-honored values of religious freedom and equality and to protect our nation against all threats. Continue reading

Nigeria: Islamic Violence Growing

The 12 Nigerian states with Sharia law

Image via Wikipedia

February 8, 2011; Islamic radical group Boko Haram has demanded that the army withdraw from the northeast, and stop searching for Boko members.
If the troops do not leave, Boko Haram will continue its assassination campaign (which concentrates on politicians and security force commanders, not troops and street cops.) The government refuses to back down, and more troops are being sent after the pro-Taliban terror group. The organized violence in the Niger Delta has been greatly reduced by military and police action. But many of the armed men have simply gone back to purely gangster activities, leaving politically motivated violence behind. Continue reading

Armed gangs free Muslim militants in Egypt

CAIRO – Gangs of armed men attacked at least four jails across Egypt before dawn Sunday, helping to free hundreds of Muslim militants and thousands of other inmates as police vanished from the streets of Cairo and other cities.

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo told its citizens in Egypt to consider leaving the country as soon as possible, and said it had authorized the voluntary departure of dependents and non-emergency employees, a display of Washington’s escalating concern about the stability of its closest Arab ally. Continue reading