…when Jordan’s government this year decided to promote women’s rights and drop its reservations over a United Nations anti-discrimination bill, Muslim clerics and the powerful Islamist opposition reacted with fury. “The government has violated the constitution and the country’s religion, which is Islam. It should be sacked,” the hawkish leader of the influential Muslim Brotherhood Hammam Said told AFP. “Giving a wife the freedom to leave her husband’s home and live wherever she wants will destroy their family.” Said was referring to a paragraph in Article 15 of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw). “The convention goes against our religion and values in many aspects. It’s unacceptable,” Said told AFP. The disputed paragraph reads: “States parties shall accord to men and women the same rights with regard to the law relating to the movement of persons and the freedom to choose their residence and domicile.” Jordan, a conservative Muslim country, signed the convention in 1980 and ratified it in 1992 while still retaining reservations over the wording in Article 15. This year the government decided to drop those reservations, in a move endorsed by the Western-educated King Abdullah II. Jordan’s fatwa council, the authority entrusted with issuing religious decrees, released a statement saying: “Anything in the convention that contradicts sharia (Islamic law) is prohibited.” “A wife should not live and travel as she likes because this will eliminate the meaning of family under sharia.” But for the government, such a statement—considered a fatwa in Islamist circles—is not binding. “We have no plans to cancel the decision and maintain our reservations. The decision was taken after careful examination and after making sure that it is not against sharia,” Information Minister Nabil Sharif said. “We respect all opinions about the convention, and are keen that government decisions be in harmony with Islamic teachings and society.” His remarks only fuelled the Islamist fury. The Brotherhood’s powerful political arm, the Islamic Action Front, fired off a letter to Prime Minister Nader Dahabi describing Sharif’s statements as “disastrous.” “The government has yielded to foreign pressures that seek to destroy our values and identity under the pretext of protecting women’s rights,” said MP Hamzeh Mansur, a hardliner who heads the IAF’s parliamentary bloc. “The government has violated the constitution, which stipulates that Islam is the religion of the state, ignored the majority in society, and listened to a few who seek to promote secularism.” Jordan’s constitution states that “Jordanians shall be equal before the law. There shall be no discrimination between them as regards to their rights and duties on grounds of race, language, or religion.”
An earlier post reported that the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood called on the government to withdraw from the treaty described by the U.N. as follows:
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, is often described as an international bill of rights for women. Consisting of a preamble and 30 articles, it defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.The Convention defines discrimination against women as “…any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.”
Previous posts have discussed the increasing role of “hard-liners” within the Jordanian Brotherhood.