News and Comment: Secularists Use Abduction Of Nigerian Girls As A stick To Attack Ruling By Shariah
News and Comment
Secularists Use Abduction of Nigerian Girls as a Stick to Attack Ruling by Shariah
Details emerged on the 6th May of more girls having been abducted from Nigeria’s Borno State to add to the kidnapping of more than 250 girls from a school in Chibok in the same region of the country almost a month ago. Some secularists have shamefully exploited this incident which contradicts Islam to replicate oft-repeated associations between the strict application of Shariah and the deprivation of education for women. On the 2nd of May, the UK Guardian ran an article entitled, “The kidnapped Nigerian girls show that religious conservatives hate education”, in which the journalist wrote, “for many girls around the world, walking through the schoolhouse door isn’t a right or an assumption: it’s a victory over conservative fanatics.” The writer goes on to say, “On the surface, these kidnappings follow a theme we’ve seen across the globe: religious extremists don’t want to see girls getting the kind of education that will allow them to enter the workforce because they correctly understand that education sets girls on a path to economic independence and self-reliance.”
Such secularists seem to have conveniently ignored the fact that it is secular and non-Islamic regimes in the Muslim world that have failed dismally to provide adequate education to millions of their girls. Nigeria as an example – a secular capitalist state – and largest economy in Africa, spends only 1.5% of its GDP on education, reflecting the lack of importance it places on the value of education for its citizens, a reality reflected in secular states across the region. It is hardly surprising therefore that in Nigeria 10.5 million children are not in school (including 6 million girls) according to David Archer of Action Aid. Additionally, more than two thirds of girls aged 15-19 in Nigeria’s north are unable to read and only 3% complete secondary school.
Such secularists seem to also disregard the destructive fallout of the foreign policy of their own secular Western governments who have not only robbed girls in the Muslim world of an education but also their lives. The war on terror and occupation of Afghanistan as an example has killed thousands of women and girls over the years and resulted in a climate of insecurity, lawlessness, and instability in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. All this has prevented girls from attending school out of fear for their life and dignity. Furthermore, the massive debt incurred upon developing countries due to interest-heavy loans from secular bodies such as the IMF or World Bank, accompanied by their poisonous economic prescription policies imposed upon states has resulted in many governments spending more on debt re-payments rather than public services such as education. The IMF has even pressured particular poor African states such as Malawi and Mozambique to freeze wages and recruitment of teachers in order to curb their public spending.
And such secularists, in typical orientalist fashion, espouse the Eurocentric idea that opposing Western education in the Muslim lands (that is used to import liberal culture into the region’s schools) equates to rejection of education per sé for girls and children. However, they should remember that while women under secular systems in the West struggled historically to secure basic educational rights, including access to universities, Islam gave the same importance to male and female education1400 years ago. This is why women under the application of the Shariah in the Khilafah were not only gaining an education in the most prestigious mosques, colleges, and universities of the state but lecturing in them and even founding them. Colleges such as the Saqlatuniya Madrassa in Cairo were funded and staffed entirely by women; Fatima Al-Fihri established in 859 in Qarawayyin, Morroco what is considered to be the oldest degree-granting university in the world; Al-Azhar University in Cairo gave access to female students and lecturers centuries before academic institutions in the West did the same. The history of the Khilafah is flooded with examples of thousands of female scholars in Islam and other subjects such as engineering, mathematics, medicine, astronomy, and calligraphy. The hospitals in the Khilafah are also considered to be amongst the first to employ female physicians, the most famous of whom were from the Banu Zuhr family who served the 12th century Khalifah Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur.
The educational aspirations of women in the Muslim world were secured by making Islam the sole basis of their state. It was a state ruled by the Shariah that does not embrace the flawed capitalist basis of Western education that views the purpose of educating girls as simply to prepare them to enter the workforce, seeing them as tools to feed the economy. This is a view incidentally that leads to capitalist regimes failing to invest in girls’ education if they see no economic benefit for the state emerging from it. The Shariah in contrast views the provision of education as a basic right of every girl and boy that gives self-fulfilment to individuals, should give them a love of acquiring knowledge, and enables them to become personalities that embody Islam. It views education as a means to empower people to function effectively as citizens of the state, understanding Islam’s solutions to the problems of life and contributing to the progress of their society and improvement of the lives of humanity. It is therefore not those who advocate ruling by the Shariah under the Khilafah who are a threat to the educational dreams of girls in the Muslim world, but rather those who argue for maintaining the secular and non-Islamic status quo of the systems in the region and the need to continue Western meddling in its affairs.
Written for The Central Media Office of Hizb ut Tahrir by
Dr. Nazreen Nawaz
Member of the Central Media Office of Hizb ut Tahrir