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Thursday, 17 June 2010

Islam as a Tool for Women’s Empowerment and Peace Building

|Thursday, 17 December 2009 at 03:22|By Siti Musdah Mulia| Facebook|

This Essay was presented at Seminar in Melbourne "Islam as a Tool for Women’s Empowerment and Peace Building"

Siti Musdah Mulia is a Profesor on theology and Gender at the State Islamic University of Syarif Hidayatullah, Jakarta. She is also a reseacher at The Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI: Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia). She is well known as an human rights activist, especially she is very concerned on women and gender inequality.

Islam a source for women’s empowerment
As a Muslim woman, I do believe that the essence of Islam is revealed in the humanistic values it embodies. The most complete expression of those values is the recognition by Islam of the fundamental equality and unity of all humanity. All human beings are considered equal. All human are equally created by God. The only thing that differentiates one individual from another is the degree and quality of her devotion and obedience to God. And the only one capable of judging the quality of human devotion is God Himself.

Theologically, Islam is a blessing for all human being. There is no difference between male and female. Its teachings contain universal values that cover all aspects of human life, encompassing all the problems of human beings from the cradle to the grave. From the aspects of law, Islam covers various problems that human beings are facing in their role as both individuals and members of a society. From the psychological aspects, its teachings provide all-encompassing peace both materially and spiritually, physically and mentally. From anthropological aspects, its teachings are aimed at all the nations and peoples in the world.

Islam brings out the importance of the principle of equality among humankind. All the teachings of Islam bring to the fore the equality of standing and stature among human regardless of their sex, color, skin, geographical location, and social status, as provided in the Qur’an : O humankind, actually We have created you from a man and a woman and have made you nations and tribes so that you know each other. Verily the noblest person among you on Allah’s side is the person who is the most religiously devout to Allah among you. Verily, Allah is the Omniscient.

Even if there is a big difference among human, such a difference is not intended to oppress one another, to discriminate one another, and to be hostile towards one another. The main goal of the creating of human being is for a noble objective, that is, to know one another and to build mutual understanding among human.

The problem is that generally, Muslim community regards women as creatures whose share is half of that of her male counterpart, accordingly, woman’s rights of inheritance is only half of that of men; the number of goats offered for the akikah (ritual shaving of the head of in infant and ritual sacrifice seven days after birth) of daughters is half of that provided for sons; two woman witnesses are equalized to one man witness, and mahar (dowry), property brought by a bridegroom to his would-be bride) is always construed as the price of the vagina or the payment of the women’s body.

It is important to note that, in the context of women, the implementation of Islamic law in Muslim countries signifies the throwing back of women to the domestic confines of home, returning to passage of the principles of woman domestication; reestablishing woman subordination. It is blatantly evident that the efforts to implement Islamic law in the community first things first, always made with reference to the throwing of control over woman’s body, to the curbing of women activities, to the sending back of women to the domesticated life of home.

So, there rises a critical question: What’s wrong with women? And why are they always competed for in terms of public policy? The answer is very simple, is that: to conquer women means mastering life, controlling power, defending truth, and also maintaining morality in social life. As long as my work in this women issue, I have come to the conclusion that women always become objects of competition due to anything but their bodies, since they are embodiments of multifarious symbols: symbol of life, of power, of truth, of morality, and of purity of religious teachings. Women always become the first and paramount target of any campaign and effort of Islamic law implementation or formalization.

Islamic reinterpretation is a necessity
The main factor of the decrease of woman position in Muslim communities, is religion interpretation which are constructed by the owners of religious authorities, and that is not the religion it self. So that, the solution offered to settle the problem is reinterpretation of religious teachings or ijtihad.

It is very interesting to know that Muslim communities almost agree that ijtihad in the sense of building new interpretation and comprehension approach of Islam is a necessity, not only after the decease of the Prophet, even in the era of his life. The hadith of Muaz ibn Jabal indicates that necessity very clearly. The other hadith usually referred with regard to the importance of ijtihad is: innallaha yab’atsu ala kulli ra’tsi miati tsanah man yujaddidu laha dinaha. (Actually Allah will manages in every 100 years, a renewal agent who will renew the religious interpretation).

In my opinion, Islamic reinterpretation or ijtihad should be based on at least three principles as follows:

1. The principle of Tawhid
The core and foundation of Islam is the concept of tawhîd. Tawhîd is the basis for human devotion to God, and guides humankind on how to establish harmonious relationships among themselves. In every day life, tawhîd is the principal point of reference which leads guides humans to act correctly, in both their relations with God and with other humans and the universe. The sincere practice of genuine tawhîd will lead humans to a good life in this world and happiness in the hereafter.

What is the real meaning of tawhîd? When it is recalled that the essence of Islam is its system of human values, it becomes clear that tawhîd cannot be separated from our human relationships in every-daylife, and particularly the relationship between men and women. The next question, then, is what does it mean in the context of those relationships to acknowledge tawhîd?

This latter question leads us to a deeper understanding of the meaning of tawhîd, particularly its relation to and meaning for everyday life. This is important considering that the practical significance of tawhîd is often undervalued in such a way that it comes to be seen as an old-fashioned doctrine lacking any connection to the problems of contemporary life. Tawhîd is often superficially understood as a means for understanding the attributes of Allah, the pillars of faith, and so on. It no longer appears as a force that enlightens and liberates human being from injustice, oppression, and other forms of abuse, as was originally taught and practiced by the Prophet Muhammad.

From an etymological point of view tawhîd means ‘to truly know that something is one’. We can conclude, therefore, that tawhîd means to submit oneself completely to Allah and to no other, to obey all His decrees and prohibitions wholeheartedly, full of love and hope, and fearing only Him.

Many verses in the Qur’ân mention tawhîd, but the essence of the concept of tawhîd can be found in sûrah al-Ikhlas. This sûrah contains several important teachings, such as that Allah is one, that Allah is our support, Allah has neither parents nor offspring, and that Allah is utterly without equal.

The conviction that no human equals Allah has given rise to the principle of the equality of humankind, as all humans are Allah’s creatures. No human is superior to any other; all are fundamentally equal. No human may be deified in the sense of being made the source of guidance and support, to be feared, prayed to, and regarded as unquestionably correct. A king cannot be a god to his people, a husband cannot be a god to his wife, a rich person cannot be a god to a poor one. Because they are not gods, kings and leaders cannot be worshipped by their people like a god; an employee should not worship his or her employer; a wife should not worship her husband. Thus, fear of and unconditional obedience towards a king, a leader, an employer, or a husband that exceeds that which is accorded to Allah is a denial of the principle of tawhîd.

On a social level, the power of tawhîd gave the Prophet the courage to defend the weak, the oppressed and those who were rendered structurally and systematically powerless, such as women, slaves, and children, as well as those who were abused by their leaders and others who hold positions of power and hide their cruelty behind the name of God.

It is apparent, therefore, that tawhîd is not simply a static religious doctrine. It is an active force that enables mankind to recognize God as God and humans as humans. A genuine understanding of the meaning of tawhîd brings both salvation and prosperity to individuals and also forms the basis for a society that is moral, civil, humanitarian, and free of discrimination, injustice, cruelty, fear, and oppression towards individuals or groups. This is how the principle was used, taught, and introduced by the Prophet Muhammad PBUH.

2. The principle of Maqashid al-Syar’iyah
Although the Qur’an and Hadith generate and lay down legal binding rules, indeed, the number is very scanty compared to human problems, which require legal decision. Therefore, renewed interpretation or ijtihad is inevitable. Such ijtihad shall stick to Islamic legal resources namely the Qur’an and Hadith. In this regard, I would like to note that the understanding of the two resources shall not be based on literally meaning but rather more contextually with reference to the true objective of Islamic legislation (maqashid al-syari’ah). The objective of Syari’ah is clearly implemented in the value of justice (al-‘adl), virtue (al-mashlahah), wisdom (al-hikmah), equality (al-musawah), compassion (al-rahmah), pluralism (al-ta’aduddiyah), and human rights principles (al-huquq al-insaniyah).

Al-Ghazali, the prominent Islamic Scholar has formulated the values engraved in maqashid al-syari’ah into five basic principles of human rights which he designated as al-huquq al-khamsah. The said five human rights constitute the rights to live, rights to voice opinion freely, rights to have religion, right to have properties and right to reproduce offspring. The concept of al-huquuq al-khamsah subsequently leads to the importance of treating human beings as both the target and the subject of Islamic legislation.

Therefore, it is not exaggerated if Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyah, a prominent scholar in Islamic Jurisprudence in the school of Hambali, has stated: Islamic legislation is actually established for the interest and benefit of humankind and for humanity universal objectives such as virtue, justice, compassion, wisdom, and so on and so forth. It is these principles that shall serve the guideline in legislation making, and must inspire all law-making actors. What so ever they are. Any deviation from this principle means running counter to the true ideal of the Islamic legislation itself.

The other inspiring statement made by Ibn Rusyd. He said that the benefits for humankind constitute the root of various legislations stipulated by God. Even more, Izzuddin Ibn Abdissalam has arrived at the conclusion that all religious provisions are entirely directed for the benefit of humankind.

It is very important to note that grounded in the theory of Maqashid al-Syari’ah, Ibn Muqaffa’ classified Qur’anic verses into two categories: Firstly, ayat ushuliyah (universal verses) which is universal in nature since it describes the fundamental teachings of Islam, such as the Qur’anic verses regulating marriage, inheritance and social transaction. Secondly, ayat furu’iyah (particular verses) which is particular in nature since it discloses specific matters, such as the verses explaining the principles of justice, peace, gender equity, human right, and wisdom.

Unfortunately, most Muslims pay considerable attention to and are too much carried away in the implementation of particular verses and pay no heed to and discard the universal ones. It is not surprising that Muslims’ appearance seems rigid, exclusive, and very unfriendly women.

3. The principle of fiqh relativity
As a Muslim, I no doubt that the Qur’an is eternal and absolute truth, but its interpretation is not absolutely eternal and ever-lasting. Its interpretation is always relative. The historical development of many schools of Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh) constitutes a clear and positive evidence of the relative nature of the interpretation. Fiqh as we know today is truly the result of intellectual activity of Muslim scholars.

It is necessary to understand that a faqih, however objective he may be can hardly separate him self from his socio historical sphere, laws, traditions developing at the time of his life. Therefore, the codification of fiqh views prevailing in a gender – biased community will certainly produce books of fiqh which are misogynic.

Finally, I would like to recommend that Moslem people should realize that the Qur’an and the Sunnah are texts which should be read and interpreted contextually, namely by understanding the historical and political contexts on which the both were revealed. Context-based interpretation will lead us to an in-depth understanding and appreciation of the messages of universal Islamic morality, such as justice, peace, gender equality, human rights, affection, and freedom. It is this leading thread which should be understood when reading and interpreting the verses addressing the gender relation. It is this type of interpretation which will lead us to do efforts regarding women’s empowerment and peace building.

Allow me now to share my experiences have been highly focused on community development, particularly on women’s empowerment and peace building.

Promoting the health and reproductive rights of women
I devoted my time to this program for 20 years (1985-2005) through Fatayat NU organization. Fatayat NU is a young women organization in the circle of Nahdatul Ulema organization with the majority of membership at the grass-root level. The principal aim of this program was to promote women basic right, especially to woman groups at the grass-root level.

The implementation of this program in the society was not as easy as it was on paper. Because, talking about health means entailing a wide variety of other issues obtaining in the society, such as: community’s nutrition processing, ensured availability of potable water, environmental sanitation, the provision of immunization medication and family planning contraceptive, drugs and devices, the maintenance of health infrastructures and facilities provided by the government, and of no least importance was the family planning issue.

In addition, the table manner and is strongly influenced by religion-laden and legitimated patriarchal values. The culture and religious interpretation obtaining in the society indoctrinate that husband is the leader of the family. The man is the master, the boss of the household. As a consequence to this is that woman is no one but a maid, a domestic servant whose place of activity is never away from the kitchen. Therefore, men, fathers, or husbands are usually given the first helping to the meal with certainly larger portion and better quality.
Meanwhile, it is still considered that women (mothers and wives) shall wait for their turns. Because, the ideal wives are always considered as those who have great patience waiting for their husbands and never taking the meal before the husbands do. Customarily, they eat after their children do. It is not surprising that what they have is only the leftovers and thereby the food they have as the last diners is of lower quality.

Besides, society’s poverty has made them deprived of access to clean or potable water and to well-balanced nutritious food. Their religious standpoint also influences their decision to participate in the Family Planning program. Because, according to Islam as evidenced in a number of the Prophet’s hadiths (traditions) which appeal that married couples should have many children, and a strict prohibition of abortion. To make matters worse, there also goes the culture “The more children you have, the larger fortunes you will get”.

The success of this program was much attributed to the support and participation taken in by the eminent religious leaders. Through those leading figures, in a gradual but sure step are weeded out cultural values and religious interpretations which were not conducive to community development. Apart from this, we also adopted educative and advocacy approaches using the language and jargon of the religion. Because of this approach was deemed to be able to crash the deep-rooted tradition and gender-biased religious interpretation.

Thereafter, in a bid to increase the income of the community, we introduced income-generating program by providing rotating capital to the poor, underprivileged families. With such capital, women especially married ones were expected to be able to undertake economic activities, such as engaging in cookies-making, bags-producing, bridal making-up to increase the family’s income. Subsequently, such undertakings were in turn expected to fulfill the need of the entire members of the society for adequate nutrient’s and good health.

In the course of 20 years being engaged in this program, I really discovered and learned so many interesting lessons as follows: It was not easy to convince the society concerning the importance of maintaining children’s good health and the need of Family Planning Program. Several factors were presumably accountable for this unfortunate condition, which among others, were the lack of education; cultural values which always regard women as the object of development; and generally a mother is treated as a production machine; and still rampant gender-biased religious standpoints.

The biggest failure of this program was due to the placing women as primary targets. Meanwhile, the decision-makers in a family were generally men not women. The result is that the responsibility to take care children is back to the wives or the children’s mothers. The child’s father or husband does not view this as his duties. The same unfortunate condition also holds to the Family Planning program. As a result, the acceptors of the Family Planning program were predominantly women. Only few men (less than 1%) were willing to use birth control measures. On the other realm, the efforts to increase the family income poses multifarious burdens on women, and even had a tendency to bring about violence. Women still had to maintain the domestic household tasks while at the same time they had to distribute their time for the pursuit of family’s economic betterment. On the other hand, men do not care a damn to the efforts to fulfill children’s rights, including maintaining their sustainable lives. The men generally hold the view that the tasks to take care children all belonged to women or their wives!

Promotion of women political rights
To overcome the problem of society’s inferiority is offered an approach through the opening of public space, in which society have right to deliver their political vote. Its aim is to re-establish social democracy in the rural. This approach seems to be sufficient and effective rather than to start from the elite level. This is meant to increase capacity building of rural community about organizing government, particularly local government. Capacity of community is a constituent element in the frame-work of generating productive participations towards capacity local government. Without any capacity, the participation will be contra-productive against democracy spirit.

Political education to the villagers, especially women, is one of alternative process of democracy in our country. We hope that through this way they realize that democracy is one of the effective and efficient means for the manifestation of prosperity in each aspects of villagers’ life. Political education for the villagers might take the issues about democratic event like voter education.

My experience as a coordinator of voter education program, specially established for women voters at the grass-root level on the eve of the 1999 General Election in Indonesia is very relevant to be quoted on this priceless occasion. At that time I was an activist at Muslimat NU, a women wing’s Organization of Nahdlatul Ulama. This program was undertaken in 16 provinces in the pursuit of promoting woman political engagement, especially at village level where the majority of women live.

The Voter Education program lasted for almost a year, and it was concluded with the following important issues. First, the rural or village is the most numerous local community association found: 70% of the population live in the rural and more than 80% of them are women.

Second, even though Indonesia has become an Independent country for more than a half century, generally, women have not been aware of their rights especially political rights. As well, they have not understood what democracy means, and the importance of General Election in building Indonesian future, which is democratic, and establishing a just and prosperous society.

Third, this program has also made us aware of that political education has never been taught properly and systematically for women. The political system of the last New Order had treated political rights of women individually or collectively, in such way, that women experienced remarkable depolitization.

The depoliticization of women is reflected in the spontaneous questions and expressions cast by participants of voter education such as: In choosing a political party can we disregard parents’ views? As a wife, can we choose a political party which is different from that which is chosen by our husbands? Are not we sinful, to choose a party other than the ruling party? In choosing a party in an election, can we disregard opinion of imams or ulama? Is there any significance for women to be involved in politic? Is not politic dirty, cruel, full of hardships so that women should not be active in that sector? Is politic men’s domain because only men are entitled to be leaders?

Last but not least, it was appeared from the voter education that there are three women problems with respect to Indonesian politic: the problem of being insufficiently represented in public domain; the commitment of political parties are not yet gender-sensitive so that it can not yet provide enough access for the women interest; and the obstacles generated from bias-gender and bias-patriarchy cultural values and religious interpretation. In addition, people considerations that politic is dirty, cruel resulted in the unwillingness of women to be active in politic. There are not many women interested in politic because the role play in political party in internal policies in parliament has not friendly woman.

Proposing the Amendment of The Compilation of Islamic Law.
Social inequality and gender discrimination are not the result of any single cause, but arise from and are sustained by a variety of structural and ideological forces. One factor that has contributed to the preservation of gender inequality in Indonesian society is the law. Gender-based discrimination in the legal sphere operates on three dimensions simultaneously. First, on a structural level, insensitivity on issues of gender by officials with responsibility for enforcement of the law, especially among public prosecutors and judges, stimulates and reinforces gender inequality. Second, gender discrimination on the structural level is buttressed by unequal treatment of women under the substantive law. Finally, both the structures and the substance of the law are sustained by a legal culture that is suffused with patriarchal values.

A principal source of the patriarchal values that inform and legitimate the law is religion. Religious doctrine that has been incorporated in state law is an especially potent force for sustaining social inequality since the discriminatory values embodied in laws are justified and reinforced by religious authority. Groups that have been working to promote gender equality and fair treatment of women have long regarded marriage law both as a source of social problems and the cause of unfairness and inequality in the domestic life.

Family law is a matter of surpassing importance in Islam, and has been since the time of the Prophet. The law of marriage, divorce and inheritance is treated more thoroughly and in greater detail in the Qur’an than any almost other subject. One of the signal contributions of Islam to seventh century Arabian society was a dramatic improvement in the status of women within marriage. While Islamic doctrines regarding crimes and civil transactions have been replaced by laws modeled after the west in most of the Muslim world, family law continues to be governed by Islam.

The importance of family law within Islam is most often mentioned in connection with efforts to resist changes to classical era doctrines. Conservative rejection of proposals to limit male divorce and polygamy and to equalize male-female inheritance rights is frequently cited as evidence of the central place of family doctrine within Islamic jurisprudence. But concern with marriage and inheritance is not limited to conservative defenders of the received doctrine; family law is also vitally important to Muslims who are committed to reinterpreting or renewing the legal tradition in response to the needs and realities of contemporary life.

Regarding family life, Indonesia has The Compilation of Islamic Law (The Compilation). This Compilation is a code of marriage, inheritance, and charitable foundation rules that was promulgated in 1991as a guide for Indonesia’s Islamic courts. The Compilation was drafted by a committee made up of representatives from the Supreme Court and the Department of Religion, and ratified by an assembly of religious leaders convened by the government for that purpose.

The Compilation should be reformed because it discriminates against women. Again, the Compilation, especially regarding provisions on marriage have explicitly put Indonesian woman as a sexual object and substantiated woman subordinating position in terms of gender relation. Discrimination and inequality can be found in provisions on: definition of marriage, guardian in marriage, witness in marriage, age of marriage, dower of marriage (mahr), marriage registration, nusyuz, rights and responsibilities of spouse, earning livelihood, polygamy, inter-religion marriage, iddah (the waiting period), marriage contract and extra marital children.

In 2004, my team in Ministry of Religious Affairs has proposed The Amendment of the Compilation of Islamic Law in the name of the Counter Legal Draft of the Compilation of Islamic Law (CLD). This CLD differs from previous Indonesian family law, proposals in that the CLD embraces the implications of the Qur’anic commitment to equality and freedom in a thoroughgoing and uncompromising way. The code is constructed on the premise that the realization of the Qur’anic vision of the family can be achieved only if the values of equality and freedom are reflected in all aspects of the formation and regulation of marriage and family. The release of the code should be understood as a contribution and invitation to the ongoing quest to discover the true meaning of Islamic family law for contemporary Indonesian Muslims.

Promoting pluralism and peace building in pluralistic community
Indonesian Muslim community epitomizes a case of exceptional uniqueness. In spite of being designated as the world’s largest Muslim community, Indonesia is not an Islamic State. Such condition came up because the founding fathers of this republic -the majority of whom were Muslim- did not choose Islam as the foundation of the state. Rather, they chose Pancasila as state philosophical foundation and at the same time as the guideline in establishing the state’s political power. Certainly, such a choice was not made without reason nor was an easy thing to do.

Historical record has expressly displayed and born clear witness to the fact that the debate of the founding fathers of Muslim community had torn the group into two severely opposing poles: the nationalists and the Islamists was aggravatingly bitter and tough. The former advocated Pancasila, and the latter wanted Indonesia to be based on the Islamic Ideology. Such heated debate occurred in meetings prior to or in the wake of the Independence Proclamation, especially in the sessions held in the Parliament in the year of 1945. The choice of Pancasila as the foundation on which the state and nation life is based witnesses the victory of nationalistic Muslims. This fact also proves that since the onset Muslim key figures have put into account the importance of maintaining pluralistic and democratic value in shared life as nation in Indonesia.

The choice made was very realistic. There are at least two supporting reasons. First, Indonesia is the home to people of great ethnic diversity, with their respective distinct culture and language, inhabiting thousands of islands in the Nusantara Archipelago, spreading from Sumatera in the western tip to Irian in the most eastern part. Second, since long time ago communities inhabiting the Nusantara Archipelago have been known as religious communities who are willing to accept the arrival of religions originating from outside Nusantara, such as Christian, Islam, Budhism, and Hinduism. The logical consequence of this inclusiveness and of great tolerance, Indonesian society is highly diversified, adhering to different religions, not only to those aforementioned big religions but also to the hundreds of local religions which are generally beyond public cognizance.

The demise of Soeharto after more that three decades in power was followed by unprecedented political freedom, especially for Islamist groups who in the past had been severely restricted in the public sphere. As a result, Islamism flourished in as Muslims were now able to freely express and articulate their ideas in the public domain without fear of reprisals.

There were at least three important implications of the fall of Soeharto and his New Order Regime. First, is the establishment of numerous Islamic political parties that adopted Islam as their foundational basis, thus replacing the Pancasila. Second, is the emergence of Islamist groups throughout the country which considered by many as radical in their actions or ideology (or both), such as the Lasykar Jihad, FPI, Hizbut Tahrir and MMI. Third, is the growing demand for the formal implementation of shari'ah in some regions of Indonesia. Aceh was the first province to demand the application of shari'ah.

The main reason for implementing Shari'ah law throughout Indonesia is that Shari'ah is the most just law since it was revealed by God. The second reason is the failure of secular system. The past experience with Indonesia's legal system has shown that it has brought nothing less than brutality, a lack of justice, and corruption. The Increase in crime in Indonesia is mainly due to the use of secular law and the only solution to this problem is the implementation of Syari'ah law for it creates safety and establishes justice in society. All of this has left Muslim with a desire to see Shari'ah law implemented in Indonesia. The other reason is that the failure of communism and capitalism in the world should pave the way for Islamic law to be introduced in Indonesia.

Some of those Shari'ah law, structurally and specifically exert some rules of conducts on women. Alas, such regulations are not made in the framework of giving protection and empowerment, but rather more on their marginalization and restriction. The Shari'ah law have substantiated woman subordination, restricted women’s ways of personal donning; curbing woman’s activities and maneuver; as well as limiting their activities at night. Explicitly, such Shari'ah law has deprived, if not robbed women of their basic rights and freedom, rendering them as object of law and even worse, of sex. The Shari'ah law which disposed women of their sovereignty and dignity and are highly potential to trigger violence to women must be severely condemned and revised as they run against the honorable basic principles as stipulated in the 1945 Constitution.

A question rises, why does Shari'ah law always single women out as the main targets? The answer is not too far to seek. Most of the Islamist leaders still advocate the idea that women are morality-supporting pillars in society. So that, any efforts made to promote morality in the society must begin from women. This notion runs against the very truth of Islamic teachings, which underline that all Muslims whether be male or female, shall become morality-upholding creatures. Isn’t it true that the real intention of human beings to adhere to certain religions is to build morality which, in Islam, is designated as akhlak karimah (best characters).

Logical consequences of these teachings lead to the conclusion that men and women shall side by side become the morality-supporting agents. There won’t be any long awaited morality-grounded society ever come into being when only women are charged with and held liable for preserving moral values, as has been going on in the society up to this very minutes.
What also seems to be the problem is that the meaning of morality as construed by the Shari'ah law making bodies have been corrupted, deviating from the true sense of the words. Morality is only understood in the narrow sense of the word, only pertaining to norms of proper behavior and decorum and even reduced to merely the issues of female physical appearances.

In fact, what must actually be done is that when striving for the promotion of nation’s morality, the orientation to be adopted shall be more directed to the following endeavors: eradicating corruption which certainly has put the interests of many people at stake and has brought about acute injustice and grave depravity in the society; eliminating illiteracy, eradicating pandemic disease and doing away with drugs and HIV/Aids, wiping out all forms of pornographies, bringing children and woman trafficking to an end as well as abolishing all kinds of inhuman activities. Does the government uphold morality when it sees such crime go uncared?

Regarding this religion radicalism some solutions that have to be done. First, making critical action towards Islamic interpretations that has an extreme sense by look back to the substantive meaning of Islam. The way can also reveal the covered importance behind the interpretation that has burnt the hostility spirit rather than unity. Second, reconstructing religious tradition that put forward the spirit of non-violence, tolerant though enclosed with critical attitude. Third, the government must able to play its role in giving law protection fairly in the social life of society. Therefore, various religious consciousness and religious expression could enrich social discourse and creativity space besides spreading the beauty enchantment rather than the aroma of hostility and violence. On the other words, the government must not be the part that supports religious politicizing through arousing religion symbols that elicit the grudge and the rising of religious radicalism.

I have been being involved in the endeavors to promote pluralism and campaign of the right of religious freedom since 2000 as one of the founders of ICRP (Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace). This advocacy institution was initiated from the growing of religion-based radicalism and the desire to formalize Islamic law in Indonesia post reformation era. Meanwhile Indonesian constitution and national laws expressly state that the right of religious freedom is a fundamental human right. Government guarantees freedom of religion both as human right and civil right for any citizen. This guarantee is also given by Islam.

As a Muslim woman and as a human being, I must do whatever I can do and give whatever contribution I can make. I do all of these efforts is just for establishing Islamic teachings that compatible with democracy and human rights; campaigning Islamic teachings that friendly women; and last but not least for the birth of a civilization which respects humanity. With however small contributions that I can give, there at some point time in the future I will never repent having lived in this mortal world.