On 22nd September 2012, Al-Jazeera and various other media outlets reported that the decision by 36 universities across Iran to bar women from studying 77 academic subjects, with approval from the Iranian government came into effect. Graduate degrees included in this ban are engineering, accounting, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, and industrial management. The Science and Higher Education Minister Kamran Daneshjou gave his backing to the curtailing of female higher education by stating that a "balance" in the education system needed to be created, referring to the high female to male ratio in universities and in many fields of study. Reasons cited by others for the new gender exclusion policy include high female graduate unemployment in various fields, scarcity of good jobs.
Across the Muslim world, whether it be in Iran or Saudi Arabia whose governments parade themselves as so-called guardians of Islam, or in Turkey, Jordan, Pakistan, Indonesia or any state in the region, women are at the mercy of irrational leaders who are able to discard their Islamic rights at a whim, including the right to full access to higher education without discrimination. These are all states whose structure and legislation are based upon the dictates of parliament, clerics, or dictators, and not the Shariah. Consequently, even women's access to the institutions of the Islamic system that allow them to challenge, hold to account and overturn unjust un-Islamic policies such as the curtailing of their educational rights is absent under these oppressive regimes. They are therefore forced to simply swallow the injustice of their states, having been stripped of this Shariah legal right.
What a farce it is that the Iranian government hosted the 'International Conference on Women and the Islamic Awakening' in Tehran this July, falsely presenting itself as a supporter of those women who struggled to remove dictatorships in their lands in order that their basic rights be secured - while robbing women in its own backyard from their God-given rights. What a feeble excuse it is to claim that the curtailing of women's higher education is warranted due to high female graduate unemployment levels, scarcity of jobs or to "balance" the high female to male ratio of university entrants. The unacceptable level of unemployment in the country (20% of those under 30 being jobless), the disconnect between number of graduates – male and female – and the availability of good quality jobs, and the reluctance of many men to enter higher education leading to the 'imbalance' of female to male university students is a result of the Iranian system's weak non-Islamic economic policies that have failed to generate appropriate employment opportunities for graduates. It is the flawed basis of the Iranian economy that needs to be addressed, rather than excluding women from studying in particular fields that can only benefit the state.
As expected, opportunistic liberals hostile to Islam have seized upon this decision to blame the religion for this policy, despite the fact that a brief study of Islam would show the importance that Islam gives to female education. Islam was the pioneered women's higher education globally and which when implemented correctly by the Khilafah system created an Islamic civilization spanning over 1300 years under which women's education flourished. It is a state that historically generated thousands of female scholars; a state in which a woman, Fatima Al-Fihri established the first university in the world in the 9th century – the University of Qarawayyin in Morocco; a state where the prestigious Al-Azhar university in Cairo gave access to women as students and as lecturers – a right that women in the West only acquired centuries after; and a state where the proportion of female lecturers in many classical Islamic colleges was higher than in modern Western universities.
It is the Islamic principles upon which the Khilafah is based, unlike the pseudo-Islamic systems of today that obliges the state to give the immense importance and value to education that it deserves; to harness the potential of its women; and to ensure that their educational aspirations are met. This state, which is the true representation of the Islamic system, does not permit differentiation between men and women with respect to access to rights of citizenship or higher education, in-line with the requirements of the Shariah. Furthermore, since sovereignty in legislation belongs to the Shariah within the Khilafah and not individual rulers, clerics, or parliament, rights cannot be discarded or changed according to the whims of those in power. Alongside all this, the Khilafah implements the sound Islamic economic system that contains the foundation and pillars to generate a prosperous economy and plentiful employment opportunities including for graduates. Only a system that truly values and implements the Islamic laws in entirety can achieve all this.
We call Muslim women who truly wish to see the status and rights of women elevated in the Muslim world to call for the removal of the man-made systems of the region which are ugly oppressive regimes. We call you to give your support and efforts to the establishment of the Khilafah that will stand in the 21st century as it did over hundreds of years as a true model by which to secure and spearhead the rights of women.
وَمَنْ لَمْ يَحْكُمْ بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأُوْلَئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ
"Whoever does not rule according to what Allah has revealed, they are the oppressors."
Dr. Nazreen Nawaz
Central Media Representative, Hizb-ut Tahrir
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