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Rafia Zakaria: Why Islam Needs Feminist Voices

Feminist voices

When the meeting was over, the Council, under the leadership of its chairman, Maulana Sheerani, issued a press release declaring that a man, under certain circumstances, was permitted to “lightly beat his wife.” These circumstances include instances of “wifely disobedience”: the Council enumerated the refusal of marital sex, interactions with male strangers, and even refusing to take baths of purity following intercourse or menstruation.

Revising exegetical premises and even the abolishment of certain Koranic verses has occurred historically and been accepted as valid by most Islamic scholars. Things, however, are never simple when women are involved. As a result, interpretations of verses like Surah-Nisa 4:34 that dislodge the wife-beating prescriptions of anti-women translators and exegetes old and new are difficult to dislodge and depose from the moral geography of Islam. One victory against their misinterpretations and distortions can occur if the Punjab legislature sticks to its guns and insists on enforcing the Protection of Women Against Violence Act (2015) in its original form, rather than reverting to a version acceptable to the Council.

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