In preparation for a conference entitled "women and tradition", which will be held in September 2005, Etana press organized a seminar that dealt with the topic "women and religion"; one of the main topics in the coming conference's agenda. Attended the seminar representatives of women's organizations and civil associations in Syria.
Main speakers during the seminar were: Prof. Mohamad Shahrour, Shiekh. Hasan Shehada, Archimandrite. Anton Mosleh and Ms. Asmaa Keftarou who facilitated the
dialogue.Ms. Asmaa Keftaru opened the seminar welcoming the participants, and she talked about the importance of dialogue for the benefit of society and women, then Archimandrite. Anton Mosleh talked about women in Christian law starting from the old testament when polygamy and courtesans were spread, for example Prophet Suleiman had about 700 wives and 300 courtesans. Regarding the Jewish religion, or the Jewish personal status law, he elucidated that women do not have rights, and they have no dignity, and she is described as impure. But with the coming of Jesus Christ, most of these practices was changed. Then polygamy, divorce and brothels were all brought to an end, and women no longer were dishonored. The teachings of Jesus Christ came to give to women justice and equality. Christianity turned marriage into a sacred relationship, holy secret, and a pledge to God, with the obligation of approval by both parties on the basis of equality. Not only marriage, but also other many cases such as custody, expenditure, divorce and inheritance.
At the end of his speech Archimandrite. Anton Mosleh said that women have gone through hard conditions in the past, which made her way difficult, humiliated and enslaved her. Consequently we have to exert all possible efforts to liberate her from prejudice and domination.
Then Prof. Mohamad Shahrour raised some brave opinions and ideas that reflected his view of the Islamic stand regarding women. He separated between women in history and women in religion, then he spoke about polygamy. And said that polygamy was always the rule and monogamy was the exception to this rule during the time of the prophet Muhamad. And the ten important figures of Islam, the comrades of Prophet Muhamad who were promised of heaven, married more than 90 women!
About the liberation of women he said: the prophet started the liberation process, but he did not finish it. Also he spoke about the banning and divine prohibition. While banning is a legal right, divine prohibition is related to God, so nobody has the right to make prohibition laws, even Alazhar or League of Scholars. And he concluded that we need must reject knowledge through traditions, not history of traditions.
Followed by Sheikh. Hasan Shehada who focused on the importance of self-criticism, and not to wait an outsider to criticize us. Religious institutions should start reviewing their ideological, religious and theological heritage, especially in respect to women. He indicated the gap between the Bible and theology, and between Quran and its interpretations. Sources of this gap are multiple, of which the most important is the techniques of Islamic lawmaking and the invisible powers that took part in the forgery and distortion of many religious texts that are related to women. These powers control traditions and heritage. Now there are two problems: the first is that the supreme religious authority is submissive to such traditions, tribalism and paganism. The second problem is the crisis of relationship between the mullah and religious text, as this relationship can not produce knowledge while reality or human being is absent.
Sheikh. Shehada gave some suggestions for the coming conference; he suggested to discuss Islamic ideology and interpretation of Islamic religious law in regard to women, also he suggested the topic of the openness of interpretation of Islamic religious law, stressing the importance of interpretation not to be limited to one mullah, and this would lead to the openness of religious laws to development, economy and politics and this consequently would give the religious laws more genuine essence of the Bible and the Quran.
Then he gave the chance to other participants to say their opinions, comments and their suggestions for the next conference:
Started Lawyer. Daad Mousa who described the conference as a national meeting for the public, not merely for organizations and associations.
Ragheda Darwish: we must put the international charter for human rights into practice, and must not say we donít want to work according to the charter, because it contradicts religion. As the Muslim women in the west enjoy more rights than in Saudi for example
Mr. Anwar Al-Bounni, a Lawyer: whenever we want to discuss the situation of women, which is mainly related to law and politics, we have to resort to religion and religious leaders to give us their explanations about women's laws, in spite of the fact that religion always followed politics historically. And he commented on Archimandrite. Anton who said that Jewish religion is totally against women, despite that there are many teachings in Christianity and Islam stand against women. The interpretation of Islamic religious law is the basis that made the law system, this means that these religious laws are man-made which removes the property of religious taboo from these regulations. The origin is the warrant, not the prohibition. He tackled the problem of religious authority figures who abuse their power to accuse other people of infidelity, finally he asked the speakers whether they accept to put the CEDAW convention into practice?
Mrs. Hanan Laham: We can not separate human-being from religion. All civilizations were based on religion. What have women's association achieved after all these years. And she called for a new generation with a new character that refuses manipulation and feels the values of justice and equality.
Prof. Zobaida Shamot: talked about the participation in formulating societal rules that serve everyone, and about real partnership between men and women on the basis of justice.
Mrs. Rania AlJaberi: talked about separating religion from personal status, and called for educating children about their civil rights which requires cooperation between men of religion and law, and she advocated Prof. Shahrour in eliminating erroneous artificial laws that is based on religion, assuring that morals are not based on religion, but on education.
Ms. Yomn Abu AlHasan: There is a gap between Syrian constitution and Syrian laws, like for example custody and abusive divorce, with the pretext of religion. Which makes women mere babysitters, and this is a prejudice and a big problem in the way of women.
Sabah AlKhatib: women in the west are not better than women in our country. There was always many bad things that we followed because of the uneducated men of religion. We need new religious lawmakers to formulate new laws to follows.
Slawa Zakzak: with openness to other cultures, all ideologies have become doubtable. What is required now is openness to the other to unite humanitarian standards regardless of their ideologies. Because any cosmetic surgery to fix laws would not lead to a real civil law, or personal status law.
Hind Obaideen: personal status laws in the Arabic countries are based on religion that contains fake religious heritage. And she asked men of religion to find a solution.