NEW YORK CITY: The Saudi deputy permanent representative to the UN on Wednesday said that his country has enacted a number of reforms that ban all forms of discrimination against women, legislatively, professionally and in the family domain.
Mohammed Abdulaziz Alateek said that Islam is a great positive force for the economic, social and political well-being of women, and it is essential that countries develop their national legislation on the basis of that understanding.
The envoy was speaking during an event at the UN headquarters in New York titled “Women in Islam,” hosted by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to mark International Women’s Day.
In Saudi Arabia “a number of commitments and objectives have been proclaimed to empower women, and a number of special laws have been enacted, or older laws amended, to guarantee the equality of women and men,” Alateek said.
He called for enhanced international and regional cooperation in efforts to empower women, and pledged Riyadh’s commitment to achieving this.
A large number of officials from the Arab world and international organizations spoke at the event and many called for negative stereotypes of Islam, and Muslim women in particular, to be debunked, with some warning that extremism and Islamophobia are two sides of the same coin.
Alateek said the sacred texts of Islam show great respect for women and guarantee them equal rights.
“Whoever does good, whether male or female, and is a believer, we will most certainly make their life happy and give them the reward for the best of what they've done,” he said, quoting the Holy Qur’an directly.
Islam has for 1400 years been a pioneer in its calls for the rights of women to be respected and upheld, Alateek told the gathering. He added that in the definition of Sadhak (or dowry) in the Qur’an “there’s a reference to wishing a happy and fulfilled life to all women and giving them the right to manage financial affairs and benefit from all that is good in this world.”
Women also play an active and important role in conflict zones, the envoy said, and he talked about 80 areas around the world where women who are particularly vulnerable, economically and socially, benefit from humanitarian assistance provided by Saudi Arabia in the fields of education, careers, and their general well-being.
The participants in the event were united in their condemnation of the Taliban’s violations of the rights women, in particular the recent ban that excludes girls from secondary education. Afghanistan the only country in the world with such a restriction.
“The international order, particularly in Islamic countries, unfortunately, runs into reality at some points in some countries that are far from the ideals proclaimed by Islam,” Alateek said.
Saudi Arabia is committed to strengthening the role of women in all societies by providing “various kinds of aid, specifically humanitarian aid, working with the international community to exchange good practices (that) strengthen the rights of women and empower them,” he added.
Alateek called on UN member states “to work with us to guarantee equality and to adopt policies and programs that truly guarantee the implementation of these principles in an effective manner, (while) taking into account the religious, cultural, and social traits of each specific country.”
He added: “We particularly work closely with those countries that share our vision and our views, but also, with others, we are prepared to engage in a debate and a discussion over the religious, cultural or social nature, as to what works best to promote the role of women in society.”
The envoy also called on religious scholars, particularly those in Islam, “to work with us to correctly interpret the message contained in the holy texts.”
International Women’s Day, which is celebrated on March 8 each year, was recognized by the UN General Assembly in 1977 and proclaimed to be the international day in celebration of women’s rights and peace.