On March 11, 2002, 15 Saudi Arabian girls died as they tried to escape fire in their school. While girls schools are usually locked in Saudi Arabia to ensure full segregation of the sexes, these girls did not die because of locked doors. They died at the hands of the religious police, the “mutawen” which would not let them out because they were not wearing headscarves and abayas which is required by the kingdom’s strict interpretation of Islam. This year will mark the fifth year since this incident has taken place and it is time that the Muslim community stepped up and reflected upon these events. It is time for our Imams, our scholars and our leaders to come together in an organized effort and discussed the unequivocal rights of the Muslim female.
It is time that fatwas be issued in defense of women’s rights rather than focusing on what is proper hijab for her. It is time to be vocal. It is the duty of every Imam, scholar and leader to revisit their interpretations. It is a time for reflection and through that reflection put an end to naming articles of custom and tradition as commandments of Allah. It is time to give women the freedom to submit to Allah rather than submitting to the will of human beings.
I call upon those of you who are looking upon this letter with scorn and contempt, to put aside your feelings of rage and in honor of your mother, your wife, your daughter, your granddaughter, to reflect. I ask of you to put aside your preconceived notions and to join in Ijtihad to restore the honor of Muslim women.
Once, Islam gave women unprecedented rights and somewhere over the course of time man has taken them away. While it is man and woman that create life, it is woman that Allah chose to bestow the honor of feeding and protecting the unborn soul. It is time stand up for her.
From today’s date through March 11, 2007 we will be collecting essays and statements from leading scholars, Imams and leaders in memorial of these 15 girls. These works will be displayed at www.equalityproject.wordpress.com
Please join us in this effort….