A Shi‘ite Muslim cleric in Lebanon has issued a religions edict stating that women facing spousal abuse have the right to self-defense.
Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Hussain Fadlallah issued the fatwa, or religious edict, on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
“We consider that if a man used physical violence against a woman and she could not defend herself except by retaliating with similar violence, she can do so out of self-defence,” Fadlallah said in his fatwa. A statement by his office said Fadlallah stressed that Islam “does not approve of a man using any sort of violence against a woman, even in the form of insults and harsh words.”
Obviously all of this should be considered self-evident. But considering the fact that Islam is falsely represented by both religious extremists and racists as a religion that condones violent patriarchal control over women, it’s a vital ruling. It is particularly so in that it not only guarantees women the right to self-defense, but also condemns any sort of spousal abuse, including verbal abuse. That the Ayatollah chose to declare the fatwa on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is also a great sign and a powerful statement. And it’s extremely important to promote the fact that how a religion is abused and practiced by some is not a fair representation of the character of its followers or of the religion itself.
How widely this fatwa will be enforced is another question and one that I don’t have an answer to (any info?). But it’s still a great (and long over-due) step.