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March 25

March 25 EDITORIAL PAGE 51 Ill-fated Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill Last week, for the third time in several years, the Senate voted against passing…

March 25


Ill-fated Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill

Last week, for the third time in several years, the Senate voted against passing into law the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill. The bill, which did not pass second reading, was aimed at domesticating international protocols aimed at bridging the gap between the rights of men and women in Nigeria. Presented by Senator Abiodun Olujinmi, the bill also sought equal rights for women in marriage, education and jobs as well as eliminating discrimination based on gender in the fields of politics, education and employment.

Among other things, the bill also sought to prohibit domestic and sexual violence against women. It also sought to end socio-cultural practices that it viewed as ‘antagonistic treatment’ of widows. The bill stated that widows “shall not be subjected to inhuman, humiliating or degrading treatment” and “shall have the right to an equitable share in the inheritance of the property of her husband.” The bill also sought to make 18 years the minimum legal age for marriage in Nigeria.

If the bill had been passed into law, a widow in Nigeria would automatically become the custodian of her children upon her husband’s death and she would inherit his property. A section of the bill sought to “ensure to women, on equal terms with men, the right to participate fully in all political activities, including the right to vote and be voted for in all elections and public referenda, and to be eligible for election to all publicly elected offices and bodies without any restriction, limitation or barriers whatsoever.”

The bill sought to create a Gender and Equal Opportunities Commission to implement its provisions. Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu supported the bill, saying “Those countries that are doing well are those that give women equal opportunities.” However, Senate Majority Leader Ali Ndume urged Nigerians to reject the bill and stick with their religious or traditional marriage. Senator Ahmed Sani argued that the bill was in conflict with the Nigerian Constitution. He said the bill negates the principles of Sharia law, which the Constitution recognises. Senator Emmanuel Bwacha said the bill conflicted with biblical teachings. When Senate President Bukola Saraki put it to vote, senators unanimously voted to discontinue consideration of the bill.

In the wake of the bill’s defeat, civil society groups and media writers unleashed insults of senators, particularly the ones that spoke out against the bill. We believe that this is unfair and unnecessary. The main argument against the bill, which made its rejection by the Senate near-unanimous, is that it is in conflict with some provisions of the Constitution. It is to be noted that the principle of equality and non-discrimination that the bill sought to enshrine in our laws is already enshrined in the 1999 Constitution, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender, among other things.

The issue however is, the Constitution consigns matters of personal law to customary and Shari’a courts. Matters of marriage, inheritance etc in Nigeria are largely governed by the Shari’a in the case of Muslims and by customary courts in the case of most non-Muslims. Their provisions are different in some details from the provisions of the international protocols. What the bill is calling for in effect is for the repudiation of Shari’a and customary rules of marriage and inheritance in favour of Western concepts of the same which they railroaded through the protocols. A bill passed by the National Assembly alone cannot achieve this; it will require an amendment to the Constitution to oust the jurisdiction of Shari’a and customary courts in matters of personal law.

Therefore, if advocates of this bill really want to see its provisions become the law in Nigeria, they should quit hurling insults at senators and instead begin the serious work of garnering enough support to suitably amend the Constitution and remove the obstacles. We predict that this is a tall order. That is not to say that state Houses of Assembly should not exercise their powers to amend aspects of customary law that they find to be objectionable.

Global peace in Islamic perspective (1)

By Mohammad Qaddam Sidq Isa

Today’s column is actually a paper I presented at the International Islamic Conference organized by the Jama’atu Izalatil Bid’ah Wa’ikamatis Sunnah in Nigeria, in collaboration with the Makkah-based Muslim World League, between 17th and 19th of March 2016, in Abuja, under the theme of ‘Security and Stability in the Face of Contemporary Challenges’. However, due to space constraint, I will serialize it over the next few weeks, God willing, barring any need to postpone a particular part(s) in the series in order write on another issue. Enjoy…

Today’s world is defined by mysterious paradoxes and inexplicable contradictions that affect our lives as human beings. Though, we are supposedly civilized, culturally and socially refined, yet real peace isn’t only increasingly elusive, but the alarmingly growing pervasiveness of violent conflicts across the world and the sheer barbarism that characterizes them are perhaps unprecedented in human history.

Besides, even against the backdrop of the current unprecedented technological advancement that has practically eliminated geographical barriers between races and nations, facilitated communal integration, revolutionized human lifestyle and indeed transformed the world into a global village, real global peace remains increasingly hard to achieve.

Moreover, though communication and information technology has facilitated easy flow of knowledge to the extent that it (i.e. knowledge) nowadays virtually pursues people, so to speak, instead of the other way round, which enables people to easily acquire expertise in all aspects of knowledge, including humanities, yet mutual suspicion based on baseless stereotypes and unfounded prejudices, which should have ordinarily disappeared as a matter of course, still persist and continue to fuel disharmony and dissension among people.

Likewise, despite the growing rate of sub regional, regional, continental and indeed global socio-political, economic and strategic partnerships and alliances, which have facilitated geopolitical proximity among countries, and interaction between people as individuals and communities, real peace continues to elude the world anyway.

From the protracted wars and armed conflicts ravaging some parts of Africa, for instance, to the fully fledged civil wars and looming wars between countries in the Middle East, the persistent proliferation of organized violent crimes in the Americas, rising rate of hate and intolerance related violence in Europe, the story remains the same and the future looks gloomy.

Obviously, this situation is not only paradoxical, but absolutely unjustifiable as well.

This is, therefore, a modest attempt to identify the underlying dynamics that hamper the achievement of real and sustainable global peace today, despite the existence of the tremendously favorable circumstances to attain and enjoy it.

It will, of course, be presented in the context of Islamic perspective that harnesses these favorable circumstances towards the achievement of real and sustainable global peace, without compromising its moral and ideological values.

The persistent failure to attain and sustain real global peace today despite the supposed global commitment towards achieving and maintaining it by governments, sub regional, regional and international governmental organizations, underscores the urgent need to review the adopted approach in this regard, which is basically an approach to achieve security, which, by the way, doesn’t necessarily guarantee real peace.

Interestingly, though security and peace are inseparably connected, as neither can be defined nor achieved in the absence of the other, yet, real and sustainable security can only be achieved against the backdrop of real and sustainable peace, which, in fact, represents the necessary background for adequate security to prevail, as a matter of course.

In other words, real and sustainable global security can’t be achieved, let alone sustained in a vacuum. It’s instead achieved and maintained against the backdrop of real and sustainable peace. After all, the mere absence of violence doesn’t actually mean real peace.

Besides, though failure to achieve real and sustainable global peace is rightly attributed to many factors, pursuing it by disproportionately focusing on security measures at the expense of other equally imperative factors remains one of the serious impediments that impede the achievement of both.

This, therefore, underscores the need to come up with a redefined and much wider concept of peace, and draw up unanimously agreed legal, political and administrative mechanisms on its bases to achieve and maintain sustainable global peace accordingly.

In any case, Islamic religion maintains the most comprehensive, hence the most realistic universally applicable concept of peace; the meaning of which transcends the mere absence of violence, of course. In Islamic perspective, the concept of peace encompasses, among other things, real peace of mind, real peace among people with diverse racial, cultural,

ethno-religious backgrounds and other differences, and, of course, real peace among countries, which collectively translate into real global peace.

Though global peace in particular is our topic in this regard, it’s nevertheless pertinent to briefly point out how real peace of mind particularly facilitates the achievement of real peace in all other aspects of life, and indeed how peace achieved against its backdrop is particularly sustainable. Real peace of mind is basically achieved by wholeheartedly embracing the Islamic religion, and acting according to its divine doctrines and moral values.

The concept of Islamic Monotheism i.e. *Tauheed* as represented by Kalimatush-shahaada that maintains that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah the Almighty, and that the prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is his messenger, perfectly embodies perfect peace of mind, which represents the perfect foundation for the achievement of real peace in all other aspects of life.

Accordingly, a Muslim rightly considers himself the vicegerent of Allah the Almighty on earth, hence he is not only expected to comply with Allah’s commands as an individual, but he is also expected to promote whatever will facilitate the achievement of real and sustainable peace on earth. After all, in recognition of the sheer value and significance of peace, which means As-salaam in Arabic, Allah the Almighty maintains it as one of his

Beautiful Names. He, the Almighty says; ‘*He is Allah beside Whom La ilaha Illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), the King, the Holy, the One Free from all defects, the Giver of security, the watcher over His creatures, the All-mighty, the Compeller, the Supreme. Glory be to Allah

(High He is) above all that they associate as partners with Him’ (The Noble Qur’an, Surah 59, Al-Hashr (The Gathering), Verse 23) A Muslim, therefore, imbibes inspiration accordingly, hence enjoys peace of mind and indeed exudes it also to influence and inspire others, depending on the extent of his commitment to Islamic teachings, which govern his interaction with his fellow human beings.

To be continued…….

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