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NCW responds to Muslim Brotherhood statement

National Council for Women denies the UN declaration on violence against women breaches Islamic Shari'a

 Egyptian women demand their rights on the occasion of the International Women's Day, (Photo by Mohamed Omar/DNE)
Egyptian women demand their rights on the occasion of the International Women’s Day, (Photo by Mohamed Omar/DNE)

The National Council for Women (NCW) denied in a statement released on Thursday that a declaration regarding violence against women currently being drafted in the 57th United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women breaches Islamic Shari’a.

The Muslim Brotherhood released a statement on Wednesday denouncing the declaration for “contradicting principles of Islam and destroying family life and the entire society”.

“The Brotherhood’s statement is completely unfounded,” the NCW said in its statement. The council added that the final draft of the declaration is yet to be released and voted on.

The council denied that the declaration goes against the principles of Islam, eliminates Islamic manner or destroys families. “This misleading allegation abuses religion to taint the UN and stall women’s rights,” the statement read. It added that the “accusations” referred to in the Brotherhood’s statement are all non-existent in the draft declaration.

“The points mentioned in the Brotherhood’s statement cannot be found in the declaration; neither literally nor metaphorically,” said Abeer Abul Ella, head of the NCW’s media office.

In its statement, the Muslim Brotherhood listed ten points allegedly present within the declaration which represent “the final step in the intellectual and cultural invasion of Muslim countries”.

The points include: granting girls sexual freedom as well as the freedom to decide their gender, providing contraceptives for adolescent girls and legalising abortion “in the name of reproductive rights”, granting adulterous wives and illegitimate children equal rights, granting equal rights to homosexuals and protecting and respecting prostitutes, allowing wives to legally accuse their husbands of rape or sexual harassment, allowing equal inheritance rights among men and women, replacing husbands’ guardianship with partnership, full equality in marriage legislation (which would allow Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men), removing the divorce authority from husbands and giving it to legal courts, and abolishing the need for husbands’ consent on matters such as their wives’ work, travel or going out.

“We support all international agreements and declarations which benefit women,” said Sabah Al-Sakkary, women secretariat for the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). “Yet, we won’t make such agreements following foreign measures; they shall be derived from the Egyptian family’s identity, be it a Muslim or a Coptic family.”

Al-Sakkary stated that the draft declaration was not criticised by only the Muslim Brotherhood. “Both the Libyan parliament and the International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS) condemned it,” she said.

The Libyan parliament released a statement on Wednesday also condemning the draft declaration, reported state-owned news agency MENA. The statement described the yet-to-be-finalised declaration as “false allegations, misleading calls, and obvious rebellion against all heavenly teachings and supreme ethics”. It also called upon Libyan legislative and executive authorities to reject this declaration.

“The Brotherhood’s statement is literally identical to that released by the IUMS,” said Nehad Abul Qomsan, director of the Egyptian Centre for Women’s rights. The IUMS is headed by Youssef Al-Qaradawy, Egyptian Islamic Scientist and Muslim Brotherhood affiliate who is currently the Mufti for Qatar.

The IUMS statement was released on 27 February, one week before the UN’s 57th Commission on the Status of Women began. The statement cited at least eight points identical to those mentioned in the Brotherhood’s statement. “It’s like the union prophesied the contents of the declaration,” Abul Qomsan said.

She stated that the Muslim Brotherhood did not read the declaration. “All that was mentioned in their statements are false accusations,” she said, adding that the statement is a “shame” to the Muslim Brotherhood.

In its statement, the NCW listed five points it claimed were the contents of the controversial declaration. The points included referring to international treaties, agreements and declarations issued by the UN and ratified by all member-states regarding human rights, women empowerment and defining violence against women.

The declaration also called on supporting national legislations and policies fighting violence against women, as well as identifying the causes of violence against women, supporting services provided to victims of violence and improving data and research on violence, according to the NCW’s statement.

The council also stated that implementing such declarations nationally is up to the discretion of the state. Al-Sakkary denied the truth to this statement, saying that if a member-state ratifies a UN declaration, then it must work on implementing it nationally.

“The points mentioned in the Brotherhood’s statement go against our mediocre Islamic teachings,” said Abul Qomsan. She stated that the statement follows the principles agreed on by the cross-regional alliance Egypt announced joining during the UN commission’s opening session. “This alliance intends on attacking women’s rights under the pretext of preserving cultural and religious concepts,” Abul Qomsan said, adding that such expressions are only used by fascist states to oppress their societies.

“Referring to the attempt to preserve our culture and religious concepts as fascism is an expansion of Islamophobia regarding women’s rights,” said Al-Sakkary.

In its statement, the Muslim Brotherhood urged leaders of Muslim countries to reject the declaration. It also called on Al-Azhar to condemn the declaration and provide a clear, Islamic viewpoint towards the issues addressed within the declaration.

“The Brotherhood’s statement itself defies Al-Azhar’s declaration condemning violence against women,” said Abul Qomsan. “It serves Qatari interests and puts them before Egypt’s interests.”

The 57th UN Commission on the Status of Women began on 4 March and will continue until 17 March.

An Egyptian delegation arrived in New York last week to attend the session. The delegation was led by Pakinam Al-Sharkawi, presidential assistant for political affairs. It included NCW head Mervat Al-Tallawi, and Fatma Khafagi, the NCW’s head of complaints office.

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