“The cost of living has increased EXACTLY BECAUSE women have entered the workforce in droves.
Cape Town’s Ibtisaam Benzoin says it is widely recognised that “housing prices especially have been driven up by the emergence of the dual income household”. She explains that two incomes can afford double the amount on rent and house purchases when compared to their single income counterparts.
Benzoin caused quite a stir in her community when her submission to the Al Jama’ah Party’s March 2013 Shariah conference was featured on a local Islamic radio station.
Her submission looked at misconceptions on why women entered the working world suggesting that financial constraints were less of a motivating factor than the market changing to allow for two income families resulting in women being in the workplace. Her paper outlined the negative impact this had on marriages. With both men and women now becoming breadwinners it affected the power play between couples and disempowered men from fulfilling their primary role as breadwinners, she said.
One of her points that stirred a lot of emotions was that while there were many jobs that were suited for Muslim women, their presence in the work environment prevented men from being employed. This, she wrote, made it difficult for these men to take care of their stay at home wives and children who were dependent on their Rizq.
Benzoin says women pursuing jobs outside the home has been the worst thing that has ever happened to women, children and society at large. She has since written the follow up article Female Education and Employment, where she unpacks the common argument that women work because the cost of living is high.
“The prices of consumer goods did not just spike suddenly, “forcing” women into the workforce. When women first started pursuing higher education and careers outside the domestic sphere, the initial two-income households enjoyed an ostensibly higher standard of living than their single-income counterparts did. However, as more women entered the workforce, prices started adjusting to the two-income household model,” she writes on her blog.
Women leaving the domestic sphere and entering the workforce in large numbers is the biggest economic and social phenomenon of the last half century. Benzoin’s recommendation that “Muslim women pursue education and jobs “that do not deprive a man from a job” is not some strange “affirmative action” for men”, she says.
She explains that when a Muslim woman fills a position that could just as well have been performed by a man, she is most likely not observing true hijaab – taking her work environment into consideration, is less productive than her male counterparts if she is a mother – taking into account that working mothers tend to want to work less, is most likely neglecting her familial duties and is likely depriving another woman the choice of whether to work or not.
Benzoin clearly says she is not suggesting women not pursue an education, “My writings on female education are as a result of observations during my working life and discussions with other Muslim mothers, raised to pursue professional degrees (engineering, chemistry, computer science etc.) only to realise that these occupations do not align with the family-centric lifestyle espoused in Islam.”
Her blog, Fiqhonomics: Islamic Economics – Fact or Fiqh-tion covers a range of topics, like Hijab as job reservation for men. She writes that women have forsaken Hayaa and Hijab to compete with males for certain roles which are reserved for them.
Muslims have been caught up in the “gender empowerment” Western feminist movement where women, previously not able to study or work at anything, have now been given the rights to study and work at everything.
“Likewise, Muslims have adapted their concept of Hayaa and Hijaab based on presumptions of what working women “should” be able to do (everything!) instead of tailoring what they can do ACCORDING TO A CORRECT UNDERSTANDING OF HIJAAB. This is the Islamic middle way. A while back, a local Muslim women’s magazine ran an article on an accomplished Muslimah pilot, lauding her for “donning” her hijaab. However, a scrap of fabric on the head does not consitute hayaa or hijaab when one is alone in a tiny, confined space for several hours, with a non-mahram male, travelling 1000′s of km’s no less!”, she explains.
A question that many readers posed to Benzoin’s first paper was what of the single mother who has to work out of necessity. Benzoin says they have varying degrees of control over their employment and those who can take the information she shares and alter their working conditions should.
“At the very least, mothers must ensure their daughters do not encounter the same difficulties and challenges. However, at a time when Islamic private schools are making maths and physics compulsory for girls, and Muslim minister, Naledi Pandor, at a recent conference called for “more Muslim female scientists and engineers”, I fear my line of reasoning to be so progressive, as to be considered “backwards”!”
Benzoin’s Al Jama ‘ah submission was not intended to raise eyebrows, neither was it politically motivated. She wanted to counter a possible call for the economic empowerment of women. Her writings are a means of da’wah showing that Islam has already solved all social and economic problems.
“As long as zinnah and intoxicants remain un-criminalised, marriage cannot be reinvigorated and therefore, Shariah, only remains beneficial to those who apply it to THEMSELVES, I.e Muslims.”
S Suliman – Cii News | 24 January 2014/22 Rabi ul Awwal 1435