Imam's comments on women spark criticism

13/06/2013

A controversial statement is met with criticism from citizens and the Women's Caucus in the Kosovo assembly.

By Safet Kabashaj for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 13/06/13

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Female politicians in Kosovo have spoken out against a local imam's statements regarding women's immorality. [AFP]

Female politicians in Kosovo have joined their voices against Imam Irfan Salihu after his recent comments about women's immorality.

The Women's Caucus of the Kosovo assembly met June 6th with the heads of the Kosovo Islamic Community and asked for Salihu's suspension after a video emerged through social media in which the imam insulted women.

During a recent Friday prayer session, the local imam in Prizren said women who had been in a relationship before marriage were "whores," and he urged young men to abandon them.

Teuta Sahatqija, chairwoman of the Women's Caucus, said the statement carries dangerous consequences.

"It's a call for violence inside families, and it is absolutely unacceptable," Sahatqija told SETimes. She added that even in cases where women "deviate" from the path the Islamic community considers morally acceptable, they should not be expelled from their families, as suggested by the imam.

The Islamic community said it is reviewing the case and will respond in accordance with internal procedures and regulations.

According to experts, the imam's comments represent an extremist point of view, not consistent with Islamic beliefs.

Agim Gjakova, a Kosovo author whose works have won literary prizes in Kosovo and Albania, said Salihu's statement is a direct attack on society. "This approach is not just a kind of extremism, it is like being commissioned by the biggest enemy of the Albanian people to speak in that way," Gjakova told SETimes.

Ahmet Sadriu, Islamic community spokesperson, told SETimes that the imam's message was delivered in a way that is not allowed according to Islamic principles.

"We do not think that women's morality in Kosovo is at a level that requires such negative comments, but of course we are concerned with the presence of some new negative phenomena in society, such as drugs and prostitution, which undoubtedly are a fact that made Imam Salihu use inappropriate comments," Sadriu said.

"Imam Salihu has apologised to those who might have been offended by his comments, but his intention was not to hurt anyone, rather it was a manifestation of his concern with the rapid expansion of some negative phenomena in Kosovo society," he added.

Xhabir Hamiti, a professor in the Faculty of Islamic Studies at Pristina University, said the imam's statement was emotional, and it's up to the Islamic community to deal with it.

"Irfan, but also other religious leaders of all communities without exception, must be aware that [public statements], sometimes even spoken right but not well elaborated, can have negative connotations," Hamiti said.

Citizens, however, are divided in their feelings on the statement.

Merita Borovci, a student in the Faculty of Islamic Studies at the University of Pristina and an active member in the women's department of the Kosovo Islamic Community, said the imam's statement has been misunderstood.

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"In Islam, if someone regrets wrongdoings, even God forgives it. But if it continues without regret, I am in favor of having a different approach toward it, not in a way that imam said, but such a woman should not have the same privileges as moral women," Borovci told SETimes.

Adile Zeqiri, who lives in Gjilan, told SETimes she was insulted when she heard Salihu's accusations of immorality.

"It's such an outrageous claim," Zeqiri told SETimes.

Do you agree with Imam Salihu's comments? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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