Amina Ladan Baki Mohammed
"Sharia is a way of life."
Women's rights activist
Amina Ladan Baki Mohammed is a Muslim living in Kano, West
Africa's oldest city, an ancient trading center and a sharia
state. She is the deputy general manager at Bank of the North.
She also works with Baobab for Women's Human Rights, a nongovernmental
organization that has helped Amina Lawal and others who have
been accused of adultery.
I remember when I started working with women on community
development. We used to go into the rural areas. People were
initially hostile. They did not accept us, they saw us as
(people) coming to brainwash them or their women. We had to
come down to their level. We go to their homes, sit on their
mats, eat on their calabash, we would share their food. Just
to show them we were people like them. And we trained them
in what they wanted initially -- handicrafts, basic hygiene.
And then gradually (we began) to put new ideas into them,
so that in the end they (come) to understand your mission.
there to criticize them, you're just there to pull them
up, to make them more aware.
You're not there to criticize them, you're just there to
pull them up, to make them more aware. ...We encourage women
to organize themselves in cooperatives. Small loans of about
20,000 naira [approximately US$163], as a group, to be able
to set up their small industry. We have a lot of rice farmers
and handicrafts. You saw a kind of surge of economic activity
made by women to be able to improve on their living conditions,
to be able to earn, and to know that whatever they earned
was utilized properly. They could clothe their children, train
them to a level that they'll be able to stand on their own,
not to be subservient, like them just sitting there, idle,
expecting the men to do everything.
In Katsina, like in other northern states, the research showed
that the women were lagging behind in knowing their rights.
... Women have to be brought out of themselves to be able to
participate in development, in their surroundings and most
especially in understanding their rights as Muslims, as people,
as Nigerians, and also to encourage them particularly to participate
in politics. In taking decisions that affect them and the
In some areas women are just sitting idle, not doing anything,
not participating. We said it was our duty to enlighten women
through seminars, workshops and lectures. To get them to understand
their position as women and what they can do to improve on
their condition. ...
Women are now appreciating their importance in the family.
Especially in a situation where you have polygamy, a man cannot
single-handedly take care of his four wives or three wives
or two wives and numerous children ... .
Sharia As a Way of Life
Sharia has been with us all along. Sharia is a way of life.
It is the way you live, you train your children, you survive,
you educate yourself, provide social services, leadership
and so on. If followed strictly, there will not be poverty,
there will not be immorality.
|Sharia has been with us all along. Sharia is a way of life. It is the way you live, you train your children, you survive, you educate yourself, provide social services, leadership and so on.
... Some people probably think that sharia is all about women
or drinking beer. But there's a lot more to it than that.
Take the example of paying Zakat, alms-giving. If people
could seriously consider giving a portion of their wealth
for the upkeep of the poor, and the money is strictly used
for that purpose, it'll be like a welfare state. There would
not be poverty, because people would be taken care of under
Sharia was made to test people's immoral behavior. But it's
up to you to accept it or reject it. There's no compulsion
in Islam. What really disturbs me is that it's only the women
that get punished in this respect. And there are arguments
about holding some tests to prove or disprove so that both
parties can be punished. But the courts don't want to hear
that, because it's men involved. ... It's always easier to accuse
a woman because she carries the baby.
On the Riots
When people are idle, the slightest news, the slightest provocation,
will ignite all sorts of negative behavior. (The rioting in
Kaduna) wasn't just a clash between Christians and Muslims.
My friends were on their way to Katsina from Kaduna; they
were really hassled, their cars were smashed -- and they are
Muslims, they were attacked by Muslims. ... There are so many
people who have nothing to do, frustrated, idle, the slightest
provocation and they start smashing things -- cars, looting
Using Islamic Law to Stand Up for Women's Rights
What I would like to see for women, at least among the Muslims
in the North, is for them to really go into their position
in Islam, to be able to stand up and fight for their rights.
Not to be satisfied by a man saying, "You're a woman and you
should do this and that." As a woman, you have a right to
be educated. As a woman, you have a right to lay out conditions
of marriage. ...
|Because he's a man, and they have decided to choose what they want to believe.
For example, you can say, "OK, I'll marry you, but provided
you don't have a second wife." It's your right to do that.
But people don't use it. We don't exercise our right. ... In
Islam, a woman is allowed to have her own property. At the
death of your husband, you have a right to a portion of his
... You have cases of women, our neighboring communities,
where the man dies, and everything's taken over by his relations.
Under sharia, you could not do that. In leadership, the leader
is supposed to be fair, honest, forthright and everything.
To build his society toward the truth. But what happens now?
You have leaders who come in. By the end of the day, you don't
have anything to show for all those years that they have served
people. That's not sharia.
They sideline other things and call it religion, when really
it's not religion, it's tradition. They pick up what's relevant
to them. Especially because men are the leaders. In the case
of Amina Lawal, why is it they're not listening to the other
side of the case? Why is the man able to go free? Why can't
they apply that same sharia to check him? Because he's a man,
and they have decided to choose what they want to believe.
This is a global problem. When it comes to a man, he can
get away with anything, but not a woman. Traditionally men
are the figureheads, and they have this hold. ... But gradually
things will change, our children and our grandchildren, we'll
be able to speak up [for] more of [our] rights. Now you have
women who often leave, to be apart [from] their husband. They
want to leave, they're educated enough and they have enough
to sustain themselves. ...
The opportunities aren't balanced, the women are so behind.
(But) I have confidence it will change because people, women,
are becoming more aware.
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