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    Prayer leaders to peach women's rights

    KABUL (PAN): A non-governmental organisation (NGO) is trying to conduct women's rights awareness programmes through religious leaders and distribution of booklets on the subject in Afghanistan.

    A two-year pilot programme, featuring 20 prayer leaders in Kabul and 10 in eastern Nangarhar province, will be implemented by the Noor Educational & Capacity Development Organisation,  established in 2001 in Pakistan.

    Programme coordinator of the organisation, Fazal Ghani Kakar, told Pajhwok Afghan News during the first two years of the project, 25,000 booklets on women's rights from the Islamic perspective were distributed to residents of different provinces.

    The awareness drive was conducted with financial support from the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA). The project has been extended for three more years.

    The awareness programme would be implemented in Kandahar, Nangarhar, Herat and Balkh provinces, Kakar said.

    ASMA Executive Director Daisy Khan said they had done projects for the promotion of the Islamic culture in Muslim countries, including Afghanistan.

    None of the world's religions gives as many rights to women as Islam does, according to Khan, who said they are trying to project the true face of Islam. The project had yielded desirable results in Afghanistan by helping prevent a minor girl's forced marriage, she claimed.

    A prayer leader, trained the programme, was asked to solemnise the marriage but he refused to be part of the nikah (marriage contract). As a result, the wedding was nullified, she added.

    Kakar said lack of awareness among men was one of the key reasons for violence against women, premature and forced marriages, deprivation of education and socio-political rights.

    "We have launched the programme because Afghanistan has a traditional society, led by religious leaders. If prayer leaders inform people on certain issues, it would have a positive impact on the overall situation of women," he believed.

    The organisation plans to distribute 50,000 booklets on women's right to inheritance, education, freedom of marriage and participation in socio-political activities.

    A copy of the booklet received by Pajhwok Afghan News, cited verses of the Holy Quran, ordering Muslims to give women their share in inheritance.

    One verse says: "Allah orders you about (the share of inheritance of) your children: A male's share shall equal that of two females -- in case there are only daughters, more than two shall have two-thirds of what has been left behind. And if there be only one daughter, her share shall be half -- and if the deceased has children, the parents shall inherit a sixth each, and if he has no children and the parents are his heirs then his mother shall receive a third, and if he has brothers and sisters then the mother's share is the same one-sixth. [These shares shall be distributed] after carrying out any will made by the deceased or payment of any debt owed by him (the deceased). You know not who among your children and your parents are nearest to you in benefit. This is the law of Allah. Indeed Allah is wise, all knowing."

    Those who deny women their rights and cling to unwholesome traditions commit such a serious sin as can expel them from Islam, because they violate God's orders, the booklet adds.

    By giving women their share in inheritance, Allah's command is obeyed, social justice promoted, women's economic emancipation ensured, begging prevented and bonding among family members strengthened, Kakar argues.

    Compliance with Allah's orders regarding women's right to inheritance promotes social justice, he says, regretting that some Afghans choose traditions over Islamic injunctions. The women feel ashamed of asking for their rights, but their families do not realise their religious duty.

    He refers to two verses on girls' education. The first verse of Surah Al-Alaq orders men and women to “read” while the 9th verse of Surah Zomar asks: "Are those who know equal to those who don't?"

    Prophet Hazrat Mohammad (peace be upon him) says: "Seeking knowledge is the duty every Muslim man and woman."

    Education brings women several benefits in areas of worship, looking after their children, understanding the religion and obeying Islamic teachings.

    Provision of dowry, inheritance, food, clothes and shelter is the husband's religious duty towards his wife, Kakar explains.  

    When a Muslim woman has economic independence, she is protected from problems associated with poverty, could better bring up her children and do other good things, he added.

    He also cited a Hadith that says: "A widow cannot be forced to marry against her will and a girl could not be engaged to a man if she doesn't agree." However, forces marriages remain common in Afghanistan.

    The Ministry of Women's Affairs says 27 cases of forced marriage were registered with it during the first four months of the ongoing year.

    Ascertaining the girl's choice in matrimonial matters promotes love and respect among spouses in addition to building a happy family and minimising the possibility of divorce.

    Just like men, women are also bound to obey religious teachings in social, cultural, political and economic fields, Kakar remarks.

    mymn/frm/mud