Promoting an understanding of Islam that recognises the principles of
justice, equality, freedom, and dignity within a democratic nation state

Panel Forum: Equality in the Muslim Marriage: Challenges and Possibilities (7 Dec 2012)
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About the forum:
In the Muslim legal tradition, men are viewed as protectors and providers for the family and thus accorded certain rights and privileges. However, in practice, this entitlement is often translated to mean male dominance and disciplining power over women, thus resulting in inequality and injustice in the Muslim family. In Malaysia, the Islamic Family Law of 1984, which was once regarded as one of the most progressive family laws in the Muslim world, has seen several rounds of regressive amendments, which chiselled away at women’s rights. A re-examination of Islamic sacred texts and primary sources suggests that the relationship between men and women in Islam is one of mutual protection and alliance and thus such inequality contradicts Quranic precepts.

What does justice and equality mean in marriage? Is the notion of gender equality compatible with sharia’a law? What are the rights and responsibilities of a husband towards his wife, and a wife towards her husband in Islam? Do these change over time?  In this forum we will explore the challenges and possibilities towards achieving equality in the Muslim marriage with a focus on rethinking the twin concepts of qiwamah and wilayah (traditionally understood to sanction male dominance over women) and by examining the transformation of the Islamic family law in Malaysia. We will also take a closer look at the lived reality on the ground through the life stories of Muslim women in Malaysia.

Please register to attend.

About the speakers:

1. Ziba Mir Hosseini
Dr. Ziba Mir-Hosseini ( is a legal anthropologist, specialising in Islamic law, gender and development. She has a BA in Sociology from Tehran University (1974) and a PhD in Social Anthropology from University of Cambridge (1980). A Professorial Research Associate at the Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic Law, University of London, she has held numerous research fellowships and visiting professorships, including Fellow of the Wissenschaftskollegzu Berlin (2004-5), and Hauser Global Law Visiting Professor at New York University (2002-8). Her publications include Marriage on Trial: A Study of Islamic Family Law in Iran and Morocco (I. B. Tauris, 1993, 2002), Islam and Gender: The Religious Debate in Contemporary Iran (Princeton University Press, 1999), Islam and Democracy in Iran: Eshkevari and the Quest for Reform (with Richard Tapper; I. B. Tauris, 2006) and Control and Sexuality: the Revival of Zina Laws in Muslim Contexts (with VanjaHamzic; Women Living Under Muslim Laws, 2010). She has also directed (with Kim Longinotto) two award-winning feature-length documentary films on contemporary issues in Iran: Divorce Iranian Style (1998) and Runaway (2001). Dr Mir-Hosseini is a founding member of the Musawah Global Movement for Equality and Justice in the Muslim Family, and her latest book is Gender and Equality in Muslim Family Law: Justice and Ethics in the Islamic Legal Tradition, edited with Lena Larsen, Christian Moe and Kari Vogt (London: I. B. Tauris, 2011)

2. Dr. Maznah Mohamad
Dr. Maznah Mohamad is Associate Professor at the Department of Malay Studies and Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore. She was formerly Associate Professor at the School of Social Sciences, USM and Visiting Professor of ASEAN and International Studies at the University of Toronto. She specializes in the study of Family, Gender and Religion. Among her publications are The MalayHandloom Weavers: A Study of the Rise and Decline of Traditional Manufacture (ISEAS 1996), Feminism and the Women’s Movement in Malaysia: An Unsung (R)evolution (Routledge 2006; co-authors: Cecilia Ng and Tan BengHui), Muslim-non-Muslim Marriage: Political and Cultural Contestations in Southeast Asia (ISEAS 2009; co-editors: Gavin Jones and Chee Heng Leng); Changing Marriage Patterns in Southeast Asia: Economic and Socio-Cultural Dimension (Routledge Press 2011; co-editors: Gavin Jones and Terrence Hull), Melayu: The Politics, Poetics and Paradoxes of Malayness (NUS Press 2011; co-editor: Syed MuhdKhairudinAljunied) and Family Ambiguity and Domestic Violence in Asia: Concept, Law and Strategy (Sussex Academic Press,  forthcoming May 2013; co-editor: SaskiaWieringa).

3. Ratna Osman
Ratna Osman is the Executive Director of Sisters in Islam, a Muslim women’s NGO committed to promoting an understanding of Islam that recognises the principles of Justice, Equality, Freedom and Dignity within a democratic nation state. Her work at Sisters in Islam includes creating public awareness and advocating for reform in laws and policies by promoting and developing a framework of women’s rights in Islam, taking into consideration women’s experiences and realities. She joined Sisters in Islam in 2009 as the Programme Manager for the Advocacy, Legal Services and Reform Unit, and was involved in the advocacy campaign together with Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) in pushing for the amendments of the Islamic Family Law Bill. Ratna has delivered talks on the works of Sisters in Islam at various international events like the Universities in Australia and New Zealand, at the Carter Centre in Atlanta, USA. She was also in Barcelona, Spain to receive the 2011 award from Casa Asia on behalf of Sisters in Islam in recognition of their work advocating for the rights of Muslim women.

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