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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Women and Islam (again)

I come back to this subject over and over. My hope is that someday the rights of women in Islam will be as important to American feminists as a rich woman someday teeing it up in Augusta, Georgia without going as the guest of a member.

Top ten rules in the Quran that oppress women

Raped Pakistani Woman Brings Fight to U.S.
By WILLIAM C. MANN, Associated Press Writer
Tue Nov 1,10:54 AM ET

WASHINGTON - In a quiet voice — almost a whisper — Mukhtar Mai spoke of her fight against a system back home in Pakistan that allowed a tribal council to deem it acceptable that four men could rape her to avenge their honor after her brother allegedly had sex with a woman above his class.

"I am fighting a fight against oppression, where women and the poor are oppressed ... by feudal lords," she said Monday night through an interpreter, reading from a prepared statement and addressing a group of human rights activists. "They have power and money, and all I have is you and your support. God willing, truth will have victory."


Mai allegedly was ordered raped in 2002 by a council of elders in Meerwala, her home village in eastern Punjab province, as punishment for her 13-year-old brother's alleged affair with a woman from a higher caste family. Mai and her family deny any affair ever took place and say the brother was in fact sexually assaulted by members of the other family.

In Pakistan, the method of restoring a family's honor by rape is commonplace. Often, the victim kills herself in shame.

Not Mai, 36. Her outcry drew international attention and brought the men who attacked her to the national courts of Pakistan.

A trial court in 2002 sentenced six men to death and acquitted eight others in Mai's rape. In March, the High Court in Punjab province acquitted five of the men and reduced the death sentence of the sixth to life in prison.

After an emotional appeal by Mai, the acquittals were overturned in June and the 13 men who had been released were rearrested. They remain in jail while Pakistan's Supreme Court considers the case.

Mai said she has no intention of leaving Pakistan, as did another woman who says she was forced out of the country after being raped by an army officer.

"I think that the fight can be fought only by living in Pakistan," she said. "You cannot fight by leaving."

Even coming to the United States posed a significant challenge. Mai had been invited by the U.S.-based women's rights group Asian-American Network Against Abuse of Women earlier this year to tell her story in the United States. But authorities confiscated her passport.

After officials in the United States and other countries strongly condemned the move, Islamabad rescinded the ban and returned her passport.

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a strong ally of Washington, acknowledged that he had ordered the travel ban to prevent Mai from casting Pakistan in a bad light.

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