Jordan’s islamists have a real problem with women’s rights

Photo by Al Ghad.

A media battle is being waged between Jordanian women’s organizations and islamist forces over the intention of the government to drop some of its reservation to the global agreement on women’s rights CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women). Both Jordan’s largest islamist party, the islamic action front, and dozens of sharia law scholars have urged the government NOT to drop the reservations. The IAF, went as far as calling the whole CEDAW agreement ‘dangerous’, as it supposedly contradicts islamic teachings and will “destroy” Jordanian families. They even want Jordan to withdraw from the agreement!

The women’s organizations, on the other hand, want the government to go ahead with the dropping of reservations to the agreement. Jordan is already a signatory of CEDAW since 1992, but retained some reservations to some clauses.

So what are those ‘dangerous’ rights that the Islamist want to protect us from?

As far as i understood it’s all about:

The right of a woman to choose a husband on her own. The islamists insist that the father’s/ or male care-taker’s approval must be obtained, even by an adult woman.

The right to choose a place of residence and travel. I guess the islamist want the father/husband/brother to control this too.

And, the most strange objection: the right of a Jordanian woman to give her nationality to her children. Now, the jordanian law does not permit that, because of certain political considerations. The law is clearly unconstitutional, and women have fought it in the past. But the islamists want to go a step further, making this a religious issue. Since when does islam have anything to do with the modern concept of state nationality?

All of this shows that the forces of political islam and conservative scholars really have a big problem with women’s rights and, by extension, human rights. They stick to a regressive understanding of islam, which has more to do with Arab tribal norms than with the universal values of human freedom.

Maybe they imagine that granting a woman the right to freely choose a husband, choose a place to live and give her children her nationality, will result in thousands of women running naked on the streets, and ultimately, the moral breakdown of society.

Instead of being driven by fear and conservative male-dominated thinking, wouldn’t it be better if the islamists started thinking about today’s realities and adopt a more progressive view of islam. Shouldn’t they consider that whatever ‘negative’ effect of giving women their full human rights are far less damaging than the injustice resulting from women being oppressed by a male-dominated society. How many stories have you heard of women being cheated out of their inheritance by greedy brothers? How many girls have been forbidden to marry by over possessive fathers?

Well, until that happens, men and women concerned with human rights should speak out, and not get shut up by people who wave the ‘un-islamic’ card in our faces at every occasion.

26 Responses to “Jordan’s islamists have a real problem with women’s rights”

  1. Sasa Says:

    Saudi also imposes certain reservations. These reservations allow us to keep this treaty in name only, while abiding by none of the principles of it. Drop all the reservations now.

  2. kinzi Says:

    Thank you, Ahmad. My jaw dropped when I read this today and needed a Jordanian man to translate exactly what those appalling words meant.

  3. rami Says:

    Thanks alot for bringing this up!

    Islamists such as the salafist brotherhood are the biggest danger to Arab society (as well as tribal-politics) as far as I am concerned.

    Sadly, and ironically, they are the biggest beneficiaries of any democratic development, only to reverse it when they run majority of seats in parliaments in Jordan, Palestine, Egypt…etc.

    They have been there before Jordan was established. I do not understand how a nation aspiring for democracy, well, sort of, allows such non-democratic movements. It should be technically illegal.

  4. Deena Says:

    Islamists have a problem with women? Why, don’t you see the three women in the picture behind the Sheikh! Or dare you ask for more than mere visibility??!

    check this out –
    and read the comments. frightening.

    apparently accepting the convention fully is a decalration of war between the male and female sex!
    And as sexist as that seems, there is a need to look deeper. This isn’t only about males wanting to dominate women. This is about men who have lost their sense of purpose in life (have run down jobs that don’t inspire them if they have jobs at all) and it is about men who have let go/lost their dreams, bcoz they wer too expensive an investment (emotionally).
    so they hung on to the closest thing at hand, women, and they controlled them instead of controlling their dreams and setting their life a purpose.

    rami – i don’t think making such movements illegal helps; in the case of Egypt it only made them more militant!

  5. Amer Says:

    what would happen if an official “liberal” organization/tribe was formed? Wouldn’t that balance the powers a bit?

  6. Nadine Says:

    Well… this is what we get for accepting life in a country without a vision and strategy for citizens and citizenship. This is what we get by avoiding addressing issues and lobbying for rights/results and simply remaining idle until the bros come up with something ludicrous. This is what we get for accepting an embarrassing parliament over and over and over. This is what we get for allowing fear to guide us. This is what we get for a non progressive media that dishes out sterile press releases and dozes of anesthesia. This is what we get for our lack of faith and laziness. This is what we get for not embracing inclusion, engagement, diversity. This is what we get for allowing ourselves to remain distracted on I don’t know what. This is the result of non-action!

  7. Nadine Says:

    And… I wonder what God these bros pray to

  8. Ahmad Al-Sholi Says:

    let them object to the right of travel and residence but the constitution safeguard it and no single law contradicts that, I do not really get why the government is conservative about this cause while all the practice and legal frames are in line with it.

    I.E she chooses to live by her own but her brother doesn’t like it, he beats her for example, she can put him into jail.. until unfortunately it reaches murder under the suspicion of honor.

  9. Hala Says:

    Of course we should all support CEDAW. It’s a worthy cause and we should all fight for women rights.

    The problem with those who claim to be liberal in this fight is that they are not uniformly focused on human rights abuses in Jordan. They are focused on shaming the political opposition.

    I never heard you people criticized the government’s role as a torturer for hire for the CIA? When was the last time you criticized corruption at the highest level? When was the last time you mobilized in support of women’s right when that right involved the right to wear hijab and not suffer a career setbacks? This is not about women’s rights and freedoms. Let’s at least be honest. Even in the fight against Honor Killing laws, not one of you pointed to the King and his central law in keeping these laws on the books to please his tribes even if it kills Jordanian women. And when was the last time you called for equality between all jordanians? that’s a human right. and the list goes on

    You all develop a liberal conscience only when the political opposition is in the hot seat. Today, it’s the islamists. Before, it was the Arab nationalists. Before, it was the communists. It seems our liberalism is activated when it’s in sync with government and US objectives.

    This does not sound enlightened to me. This sounds more like opportunistic behavior. That’s why you give liberalism a bad name. It has degenerated into an opportunistic ideology in the Arab world. opportunism is a subconscious behavior. Always siding with the strong. Always driven by self-interest. you are no heroes of human rights. You just march to the drumbeat of those you wish to curry favor with by criticizing their enemies.

  10. Batir Wardam Says:

    I really liked the photo. Hammam Said surrounded with women who are only brought about in the IAF to justify the negative perspective of women. A women’s voice for the Islamists is shame (aura) apart from elections when the women voice is considered priceless. Women are excluded from IAF activities and have no roles and then used as a tool to justify male dominance.

  11. Batir Wardam Says:

    Oops that was not Hamman Said in the photo but the more enlightened Ibrahim zaid Al Kilani! Hamman Said would never set with woemn in the first place at one table!

  12. Amer Says:

    lol.. yeah, was thinking about the same thing, women in the background dragged bil khawa, that’s a a best case scenario of course..

    Deena, that’s one bloody scary article by 3armooty, thanks for posting it.. and the supporters’ comments.. just manic.

    what’s even more worrying is that you cant even post a comment against that article!! (i tried that once with al ghad as well and “moderators” only allow comments that support the writers).

  13. Monty Says:

    The biggest problem we have is that our health system is so good that people tend to live forever, hence we have people like this old dude in the picture espousing their views that were formed 200 years ago, when he was living in a tent in the middle of the desert. Seeing as the boss is generally the elder member of the family, until these guys pop off, we will still be living in the stone age…one just hopes that those that replace them have learnt to be a little bit more open minded – with each generation, we advance a little more…so in around 200 years women should be able to at least choose which guy they would like their father to approve.

    But i would like to say – women can’t be trusted…once we let you off the leash, God knows what you will do…run naked in the street is one thing, but we all know you like those Israeli boys on the other side of the Jordan stream and will end up giving nationality, and ultimately this wondrous land, to the zionists!

    In all seriousness…where are the Jordanian suffragettes? You will not get your rights until you demand your rights – i could be wrong, but the three women in the picture above appear to be supportive of the old geezer! I’m willing to play the role of John Stuart Mill (although I’m probably not ideal), but where are the brave women that will stand up and say enough with this sh*t?

  14. big d from the usa Says:

    you just need to import some really fat american women who will sit on their husbands if they run their mouths :)
    problem solved.

  15. Humeid Says:


    You are making wholesale accusations here. You are accusing me and I presume the commenters here of being ‘bad liberals’ and that somehow we are siding with the ‘strong party’.

    Look, the “Islamists” are not exactly weak. They and their conservative paternalistic values are, in fact, the mainstream force. And if the Jordanian government wants to advance women’s rights, I am indeed going to applaud it and criticize the people who are trying to get the government to withdraw from the whole CEDAW agreement.

    I am not a professional political commentator covering all aspects of Jordan’s political life. I am free to choose the topics that concern me as a citizen. I am not obliged to follow your or others’ laundry list of criticisms of the government. And it’s not like fellow bloggers and journalists haven’t written about torture and corruption in Jordan. Even the mainstream media in Jordan is starting to do this.

    And let me correct you regarding the issue of ‘honor killings’ that you speak so fervently about. The King and Queen spoke out against these crimes. And do you know who stood in the way of reforming the laws. Our dear parliament.

    Accusing people of marching to the ‘drumbeat of the US’ is a wholesale accusation thrown in the face reformers to discredit them. So please don’t go there. And I do not think we should wait until we have a corruption free government (I mean which country has that?) to speak out against attempts to turn the wheel back on women’s rights.

  16. Abu Sasha Says:

    You succeed in making your readers to believe that your unreferenced “As far as i understood it’s all about:” list as facts and then you built a whole theory on IAF based on your unreferenced claims, accusations and most importantly your personal assumptions.

    I wonder if you have read the articles of the convention and probably you don’t know that the convention does accept ratification subject to reservations.

    Anyway, I’m not shocked and not even surprised.

  17. the truth Says:

    Islam was once considered to be the ‘liberator’ for woman and slaves. it gave woman rights that back in the day, were outrageous.

    its so very sad seeing such decisions in the hands of extremist, frustrated and probably uneducated people. I think our Prophet (pbuh) would be outraged if he knew of what today’s so-called-islamists are doing with our beautiful religion.

    end all extremes.

  18. Kman Says:

    It is absurd how you will not allow religious people to fight for what they believe their doctrines state. These are religious people who have dedicated their lives to the studying of the religion, its intricate laws and details.

    Do not argue with a baker over how much yeast you should use when making dough. If you don’t like his bread, stop eating his bread… But don’t forbid him from telling you what he believes… which is a result of experience, knowledge, and a life’s worth of dedication to arrive at a better and more comprehensive understanding of bread.

    You don’t like what these religious people are claiming… then perhaps you are not much of a religious person anymore… Don’t you judge this social issue by your non-religious standard and complain how religious people view things differently.

    In all cases… if you expect to give women freedom… then you should bestow freedom upon the religious to freely express their honest opinions about such matters.


  19. Abeer Says:

    I received a link that tells me to vote with / against supporting the new decision…..knowing that it won’t real change the decision in the end of the day ….I won’t …...but I read the post and the comments and I was thinking that we would never be able to influence things if we do not direct our dialogue to those people we regard as “the enemies of freedom”....if everyone yells in his own cave…he will only hear the eco of his voice.

    There is nothing completely wrong or right…and I do not see why in seeking our freedom we have to trash our religion and values….using “supposedly contradicts islamic teachings” against the freedom of speech of the counter-party….isn’t it .....maybe the solution is Win-Win …..not with or against….maybe there is a way to meet half way….after all this country is full of old religious “dudes” who did not die yet (grandparents, parents, uncles…etc)....I’m thinking one word “respect” for who we are, our values…...and one question “can’t we talk it through?”

  20. Kman Says:

    I can’t believe you removed my comment.

  21. Kman Says:

    Oh never mind, it is awaiting moderation. My apologies. Please ignore my last 2 responses.

  22. Humeid Says:

    Abu sasha: it’s not unreferenced. Read the Jordan TImes link I provided in my post. Also read Al Ghad’s coverage of the issue. The IAF is simply using this issue for political attention seeking.

    Abeer: I guess it all depends of interpretation. What I am against is narrow minded and paternalistic interpretations of religious texts and a literalist understanding of religion, which just becomes a veil for male dominated conservative habits.

    1. Do you see me ‘forbidding’ the ‘religious people’ from expressing themselves. Come on! They even have a daily newspaper in Jordan and all the mosques. Don’t be too worried about their freedom of expression. They have their full share of that freedom.

    2. Yes, your comment was in moderation. :-)

  23. Kman Says:

    My whole point was this:

    If you want to give us an opinion, please do so. But do not condemn other opinions that are oriented in certain angles (such as religious views). Leave the meat for the butcher, the bread for the baker, religion to those who’ve dedicated their lives to it…

    If you have an opinion that opposes that of people who have religious views, do not argue with them on religious grounds. They know better when it comes to religion. Argue with them on social grounds, political grounds, or other grounds of your choosing… But don’t you dare come and say that you know more about religion, or have your own religious point of view on the same topic.

    That just won’t cut it.

  24. Humeid Says:


    I get your point. Yes generally I agree that discussing something on a religious ground might be a losing game.

    However, the Islamists themselves had people among them who studies CEDAW in light of Islamic Sharia and its interpretations. So discussing this issue on religious grounds is also valid.

    Finally, there is no “priesthood” in Islam. Everyone with a brain is entitled to read and understand religious texts for themselves.

    The fact that a group of scholars agrees on something does not mean that their opinion is the FINAL word. Interpretations are never ending and freedom of thought cannot be curtailed.

  25. Malaak Says:

    As a Muslim woman, what I offend offensive here is taking ONE religious view within Islam and giving it the status of consensus. Take the issue of marriage. According to Hanafis, an adult woman may decide on a marriage w/o her guardian’s consent. They take the hadeeths to refer to age, not virginity. And Malikis also give greater latitude to women over 30 to make that decision. And as for housing, when the beloved Prophet(S) gave ash-Shifa her own house in Madinah, she lived there w/o asking any male guardian if it was o.k. Let’s get real. This is about Jordanian interpretation of Islam and for the Brotherhood to turn this into a religious issue undercuts the very fabric of Islam itself. I’m a religious Muslim too, hijab, prayer, you name it, but that doesn’t mean that I must conform to their brand of Islam. Islam is montheistic, not monolithic. No wonder the world thinks we’re mysogynistic. A few loud voices overwrite so many others.

  26. Feras Says:

    Dear Hummaid,

    Every now and then I read your blog to see what are the hot topics in Amman and Jordan are. I really believe that your blog reflects the concerns of Jordanians. I must say that I like the way you and other people who comment interpret these topics. However, I think we are opposing the IAF, or Islamists in general, without really understanding their point of view objectively.

    I am a Muslim, not really a good one (according to some Islamic definitions), however, I do understand what they mean by the three points mentioned in your post. We must be rational when we read these points. So I will try to give an interpretation of these three points ignoring the fact that they came from Islamists.

    The first point about a woman’s right to choose a husband on her own, I don’t think this point is completely wrong. Well I believe a woman SHOULD be the one who chooses her husband. But the family’s approval is also necessary. Who wants to get married without her family’s approval?? I’m not only talking about Jordanians by the way. We all know that these things are important all over the world. It does not reflect only religion, but also decency. Whether the family is right or wrong is a separate issue and has to do with openness and understanding. And who said that we always know what is the good for us? I think that one of the parents’ roles is to correct us when we are wrong, or when we are about to make a big mistake. Again, this thing varies from family to family. At least this is what I believe.

    The second point, the right to choose a place of residence and travel, well this is again is something that requires taking the family’s opinion. I know that everyone (men and women) has the right to travel or choose their place of residence, and that we have the right to choose our future. But common, lets be realistic here, not all of us have that level of awareness and responsibility to make that move. We are supposed to be free, this right should be used but not abused. Being free requires high levels of responsibility and awareness. I think this point has some prerequisites. Our Jordanian or Middle Eastern society do not teach kids how to be independent and responsible by the age of 18, not like the western society.

    As for the third point, I do think is strange and has nothing to with religion or society. So I am completely against it.

    I also want to say that I agree with what Malaak said. Sometimes its not about Islam, but more about Jordanian interpretation of Islam.

    What I want to say is that we shouldn’t be against the IAF or Islamists in everything they say. Culture and traditions are loaded with ridiculously backward rules that are illogical and not based on any religion. So in my opinion its more about culture and traditions rather than religion. We should fight the negative ideas in our culture and not religion.

    Its only my opinion.

    PS. I hope I wont be attacked after this post as we all have the right to freedom of expression.

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