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May 29, 2013

Where's the Coverage? The Proper Way to Beat a Wife


The Women Deliver 2013 conference runs May 28-30 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Organizers call it, “The largest global event of the decade to focus on the health and empowerment of girls and women.�?

Though not getting a lot of coverage from major dailies in the United States, the conference is getting press attention including from Forbes magazine, Ms. Magazine, the Huffington Post, Voice of America and others. The Guardian newspaper of the U.K. ran several articles and an opinion piece. (Not surprisingly, the newspaper could not keep itself from zinging Israel, by running a photograph of a sad little girl in Hebron, even though Israel and the Palestinians are in no way a focus of the conference.)

On the schedule for the second day of the conference is an hour-and-a-half session entitled, “Ending Violence Against Women.�? (One of the panelists scheduled is the former Minister for Women’s Affairs of Iran. Yes, the same Iran where women accused of adultery can be sentenced to death by stoning. But we digress.)

Despite this conference on the health and empowerment of women –and even the panel focusing specifically on violence against women– and the fact that the conference convenes in a predominantly Muslim country, there has been virtually no coverage of the sanction by some prominent Muslim clerics of the widespread practice of wife-beating.

Though not specifically related to the conference, the Tanzania Daily News recently ran a story about wife-beating in Zanzibar, also predominantly Muslim:

Does Islam permit husbands to beat their wives? Majority of the people in Zanzibar are Muslims and there have been conflicting views from Muslim scholars about beating women.

The majority, however, confirm that beating a woman is not good. Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradhawi, one of the most respected Muslim clerics in the world, argues that: “It is forbidden to beat a woman, unless it is necessary. One may beat up a woman only to enhance Islamic behaviour.�?

Dr Muzammil Saddiqi says it is important that a wife “recognises the authority of her husband in the house" and that he may use physical force if he is "sure it would improve the situation.�? Sheikh Dr Ahmad Muhammad Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, the head of Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's most prestigious institution says that “light beatings�? and “punching�? are part of a programme to "reform the wife."

Dr Jamal Badawi endorses corporal punishment as “another measure that may save the marriage.�? While Egyptian cleric, Abd al-Rahman Mansour, was recorded last year saying beatings would inspire the wife to “treat him with kindness and respect and know that her husband has a higher status than her!�?

There are dozens of interviews with clerics with the same message including this one: an interview with Egyptian cleric Sa'd Arafat on Egypt’s Al-Rahma TV, which aired February 4, 2010 and was translated and posted by MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute. To prove “the honoring of the wife in Islam,�? the cleric explains:

Sa'd Arafat: Allah honored wives by instating the punishment of beatings.

Interviewer: Honored them with beatings? How is this possible?!

Sa'd Arafat: The prophet Muhammad said: "Don't beat her in the face, and do not make her ugly." See how she is honored. If the husband beats his wife, he must not beat her in the face. Even when he beats her, he must not curse her. This is incredible! He beats her in order to discipline her.

In addition, there must not be more than ten beatings, and he must not break her bones, injure her, break her teeth, or poke her in the eye. There is a beating etiquette. If he beats to discipline her, he must not raise his hand high. He must beat her from chest level. All these things honor the woman.

When the media report on women’s rights in the Middle East, they lavish column-inches and airtime on whether or not Israeli women wear prayer shawls or where they sit on the bus but they use not a drop of ink or a flash of the airwaves on this endorsement of wife-beating.

Ms. Magazine purports to be “the media expert on issues relating to women’s status, women's rights, and women's points of view.�?

Forbes recently ran its annual, “Most Powerful Women�? list. What about the least powerful?

Honoring wives through beatings? Where is Ms. Magazine on this? Where’s Forbes? Where’s the coverage?

Posted by SC at May 29, 2013 02:33 PM


Is "Ms" magazine covering it or not covering it? The article suggests/says both.

Posted by: mike barker at May 30, 2013 10:57 AM

Mike, the article says that Ms. Magazine covered the conference, not the wife beatings. That's quite different.

Posted by: Sara at June 7, 2013 08:36 AM

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