Hundreds of women gathered at the first international conference of Hizb Ettahrir in Tunis today. Entitled “Caliphate: A shining model for women’s rights and political role,” the summit addressed the shortcomings of liberal democracies with regard to women’s rights. According to Hizb Ettahrir, only an Islamic Caliphate state and the institution of Sharia law can ensure women’s rights and safeguard the rights and security of women within the family-unit and society.
Founded in 1953, Hizb Ettahrir is a global Islamist political party with membership and a number of supporters spanning more than 50 countries. It advocates the return of the Caliphate by political means. When questioned about the party’s funding sources, Hager Yaakoubi, a member of Hizb Ettahrir in Tunisia, explained that “members of the party donate monthly or even weekly.” The party remains legally unrecognized in Tunisia.
In addition to its female members, supporters of the Islamist party came from all over the world to discuss the benefits of an Islamic state for Muslim countries at the conference. Arab countries, such as Libya and Yemen, were represented among the conference’s participants as well as other non-Arab countries, including Indonesia and Turkey.
Not all of the conference’s goers were well-received in Tunisia. Dr. Nasrin Nawaaz from the central media office of the party’s British branch was held at the Tunis-Carthage International Airport for two hours. “This is my first visit to Tunisia. I was detained for two hours. They said that my name was on a black list. This raises the question that how much has changed since the revolution. Has Tunisia really changed after successfully toppling the regime of Ben Ali?” she asked.
Nawaaz came to Hizb Ettahrir’s inaugural conference with the conviction that the Caliphate can protect women from the domestic violence that so many women suffer in non-Islamic societies. ”Other systems have failed in providing security and protection for women. We need an alternative for the failed liberal democratic system, and the Caliphate is the alternative,” Nawaaz said.
Indeed, liberal democracy was largely perceived by participants as a hindrance to the liberation of women while the Caliphate an enabler for such an end.
Nesrin Boutharfi, member of the party in Tunisia, spoke during the conference about the role of women within the Caliphate system. “Women would play an active role in public and private life…be politically active. Women need to be free from capitalism. The Islamic legislation granted women economic rights to work and enter professional life,” she stated.
Imrana Jan, a member central media office of the party, stated that secularism and democracy only downgraded women’s status in society. “How can we adopt a man-made law like secularism and refuse God’s law? Secularism was made to serve interests of certain people,” she pointed out.
Not only does the Caliphate provide women with greater freedoms, argued the conference’s participants, but it also preserves their dignity. “Women in Islam are treated with respect, not as an object like in other liberal systems that have solely made women suffer,” Boutharfi added.
The fifth and last caliphate held sway under the Turkish Ottomans and was abolished in 1924 by the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.