NEW YORK — The President of the United Nations General Assembly, Shaikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, has issued a strong call for re-interpreting Islamic texts in order to address the social, educational and other constraints impeding the equality of women in the Middle East.
Pointing to the dynamism of Islamic Shariah to adapt to the changing situations, she called for new interpretations of the texts in the light of the new life circumstances.
"The concept of human rights is based on the notion that all human beings are born with equal and inalienable rights and fundamental freedoms," Shaikha Haya noted in an address to a panel discussion on May 16 on "Women and Human Rights in the Middle East" at Rutgers University, New Jersey, US.
She said the situation stems in part from the interpretation of Islamic text. "Women are subject to family laws that are Shariah-based, which strictly follow the interpretations of Islamic scholars who lived 1,000 years ago at the beginning of Islam. These interpretations are applied now without making any allowances to the very different social contexts of today," she said.
"In fact, these interpretations are sanctified as holy which prevent them from criticism and change. This is one of the main reasons behind the discrepancy between personal status codes on the one hand and the current social circumstances on the other."The General Assembly President blamed a "lack of rational interpretations of the texts that integrate the current social circumstances."