All too often we hear in the media, stories about the horrible things that Muslim extremists have done. We hardly ever hear about the accounts of heroism by the many others who are committed to the fight against terrorism. This does not refer to Western Governments but to Muslim’s themselves who put themselves at a huge amount of risk by protesting against religious extremism – in particular Muslim women.
I was given the opportunity to attend a talk held by Karima Bennoune – a professor of international law and member of the board of the network of Women Living Under Muslim Laws. Bennoune shared some of the untold stories of some of these heroes/heroines and made some very insightful comments about what is going on in the world today and how we could potentially alleviate the problems caused by Muslim extremism. Bennoune argues that the human rights struggles against fundamentalism are amongst the most important and most overlooked human rights struggles in the world today.
As much as we disagree with the values of Muslim extremists, we can not just sit back in disgust and observe what is going on without looking at the impact that their actions have on the human rights of many Muslim women. Bennoune tells many different stories. Stories of women beaten and humiliated, killed and disgraced. For example, she tells the story of a young Pakistani Muslim woman who was killed on the street by Muslim extremists because she was a student and they were against the idea of women being educated. Stories like this show us how important it is for us to recognise that huge human rights violations are taking place and they get us to think about what we can do to change this.
It is important that fundamentalism is fought against directly as it essentially lays the bed of terrorism. Society needs to be relieved of whatever it is that is leading people to Muslim extremism and violence. In addition Muslim women need to come together and demand change – at the moment there isn’t enough solidarity amongst Muslim women. Some are just too afraid. Bennoune speaks of Muslim women as being the most effective group to alleviate the problem.
It is also important that the international community become more involved. There should be international support to mobilise the people who are actually trying to eradicate these injustices. However, international support alone is not enough, serious debate needs to happen amongst the people that are actually of Muslim heritage themselves – they have a responsibility to educate their younger generations.
A really important comment that was made at the talk is that we need to talk about human rights and peace at the same time.