• April 8, 2006
  • 9 minutes read

Interview With The Palestinian Minister of Women’s Affairs

Interview With The Palestinian Minister of Women’s Affairs

Dr. Maryam Mahmoud Hussein Saleh is the Minister of Women’s Affairs in the new Palestinian government. She affirms that, through her new position, she will seek to reinforce the status of women in the Palestinian society, stressing that Moslem women are able to contribute to all fields. Women, she argues, are ‘the basis of society and not only half that society.’

The Palestinian Information Center met with Minister Saleh and conducted the following interview with her.

Moslem Women’s Engagement in Political Action is Necessary

We Will Seek to Enable Palestinian Wome to Occupy More Than One Ministry

* The new government formed by the Hamas movement includes only one woman. How do you explain that?

** This is not a negative decision or attitude regarding women. But because Hamas was waiting for the reply of other factions to join in a coalition with it, we were expecting other parties to participate by proposing women for certain Cabinet portfolios. Generally speaking, the door will stay open before other lists, parliamentarian blocs and factions to participate in the government. We seek to empower women to occupy more than one ministry. This also applies to our Christian brothers and sisters.

* Does the presence of a woman with an Islamic tendency in the Women’s Affairs Ministry mean that there is going to be a new policy?

** Treatment by the new minister of all staff members, males and females, will be excellent, God willing. We shall all be like one family working for the uplifting of the status of women and the homeland. We appreciate all the efforts exerted by the Her Excellency the former minister, Mrs. Zoheira Kamal and wish to address our thanks to all those who have contributed to the building of this ministry and will build on what they have achieved. The future will be better for everyone.

Our electoral program did not propose the Islamization of laws or of the society. Of course, we are a Muslim conservative society which often applies Islamic shari’a laws. The majority of our people apply the provisions of that shari’a without being obliged by anyone to do so.

We would like, however, to reassure all women that we will not force any one of them to wear ‘hjiab’ (Islamic dress) or to do anything in particular so long as their conduct is not incompatible with our traditions and values. We will submit our opinions and ideas to everyone in the best way and manner. Young women wear the ‘hjiab’ without compulsion, out of their conviction of the need to abide by the requirements of our religion.

On the other hand, we, and certainly all Palestinians, do refuse everything that contradicts with the provisions of the Islamic shari’a, including the adoption of any laws that contradict shari’a, our values and traditions.

* There are new statistics that show an increase in the rate of domestic violence and since you, as a specific ministry, deal directly with these issues, how will you address that problem?

** In our program, we stated that as Muslims we refuse such forms of treatment. We will reinvigorate the laws as a deterrent for everyone concerned. Parallel to that, all parties concerned must contribute to guiding the society, instilling our good values and manners in the minds of its children and shielding the society through Islamic education. If the law alone was enough, we wouldn’t have seen that rate of domestic violence against women go up in European counties.

* Because of your inability to go to Gaza, will the Women’s Affairs Ministry have two wings, one in Gaza and the other in the West bank?

** the Women’s Affairs Ministry is in the same situation as other ministries. Unfortunately, we are dismembered. We can be prevented from going to Nablus, al-Khalil or Jerusalem. If normal people’s movement is extremely difficult, it is more so if they happen to be ministers from the “Change and Reform” bloc (Hamas’ bloc). We will continue our work, however, and will find a way to arrange matters between the West Bank and Gaza, through the reactivation and establishment of the Ministry’s offices in all governorates. In the same way that women are partners in the resistance they are also partners in reconstruction and development and they deserve all attention and care from everyone. All people in the society must enable women to contribute to the reform and change process. It is true that women are half the society, but in practice they count more since they are the basis of society as they bring up generations and form men.

* There are arguments that women’s participation in cabinet and parliament is contrary to the principles of Islamic shari’a (law). What do you think?

** This talk is unacceptable because it is contrary to the practice of women at the time of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and his companions. From the beginning of da’awah (call to Islam), women stood side by side with men. They, together with men, gave allegiance to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, fled Makkah (Mecca) with men, and gave allegiance to the Prophet Muhammad in Madinah (Medina). They took part in battles even by carrying arms. They didn’t content themselves with giving drinking water to the thirsty and healing the wounds of those injured; whoever say that does not understand Islam or hasn’t read it well. From the beginning, God made women as essential as men, and mandated women with duties in the same way that He mandated men. Women’s participation in political action is a necessity that Islam has advocated strongly.

* How would you deal with women’s organizations, particularly those that receive foreign support?

** We do appreciate the efforts of every Palestinian woman who takes part in building and reinforcing our society. God willing, we will maintain good relations with those organizations and associations and will subject their work to scrutiny. In the final analysis, I think they seek to serve this society.

* Do you have a message to address to the mothers of martyrs and prisoners of war?

** Mothers and wives of martyrs are like a crown on the head of the whole nation. We take pride in this great section of our people, who have shown themselves to be steadfast and patient following the martyrdom of their children or husbands or following their absence behind the bars of occupation prisons. We must give them adequate attention, by multiplying our efforts for them and reinforcing and supporting the institutions that take care of prisoners and families of martyrs. We believe that they merit every care and attention until God the Almighty grant them relief, comfort and victory.

A Brief Personal Background

Dr. Maryam Saleh is married and mother of seven children. She is a refugee from the village of Nibala, Lid and Ramla governorate, in Palestine. She was born in the Deir Ammar Refugee Camp and lives in the Irsal neighborhood in Beira. She has a Ph.D. in Islamic Shari’a (law) from the Umm al-Qora University in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, and professor of hadeeth (Prophet Muhammad’s traditions, peace be upon him) at the Faculty of Islamic Propagation (Da’awah), at the University of Jerusalem. She is also a visiting professor at the Open Jerusalem University that belongs to Ramallah Educational Directorate.

Together with some sisters, she founded the Women Guidance Society at the city of al-Beira and chaired that society from 1997 to 2000. She is also a member of the Founding Body of the Khalil al-Rahman Association in the city of al-Khalil (Hebron).

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World Peace Herald – Washington,DC,USA