Cassandra Balchin – England

Linked with Women Living Under Muslim Laws WLUML, and with Musawah, there cannot be justice without equality.

Cassandra Balchin – Cassandra Balchin, formerly a journalist based in Pakistan, has been linked with the network Women Living Under Muslim Laws since the early 1990s. Her research and writing has focused on Muslim family laws and law-reform processes, and more recently on critiques of international development policy and practice regarding religion. She is currently concentrating on networking, advocacy, and policy work in the context of Muslim communities in Britain. (InformaWorld).

Cassandra Balchin is a freelance researcher, writer and human-rights advocacy trainer, and has been part of the network Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) for fifteen years. Formerly a journalist based in Pakistan, she has published on Muslim family laws and international development policy regarding religion … (openDemocracy).

… More recently, she has published critiques of international development policy and practice regarding religion, and has been assisting international development and human rights organisations to strengthen their analysis of fundamentalisms. She is currently focusing on networking, advocacy and policy work in the context of Muslim communities in Britain. Her more recent publications include: “‘Muslim Women’ and ‘Moderate Muslims’: British Policy and the Strengthening of Religious Absolutist Control over Gender Development”, in The Power of Labelling: How and Why People’s Categories Matter, Rosalind Eyben and Joy Moncrieff (eds.), Earthscan (2007); Recognising the Unrecognised: Inter-Country Cases and Muslim Marriage and Divorce in Britain, WLUML (2005). (full text).

She says: … I was in Pakistan for 17 years; 1983-1991 as a journalist and 1991-2000 with the Lahore-based women’s group Shirkat Gah, which is the Asia Regional Coordination Office of the WLUML network, and I helped them with their publishing programme. Then, in 2000 I left Pakistan and came to London to help the network set up its international coordination office … (full interview text, 10 February 2005).

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Cassandra Balchin – England

She works with Women Living Under Muslim Laws.

Book-review by Cassandra Balchin: Shari’a Has Never Been and Should Never Be the Basis for Family Law, February, 2004.

Shaping Women’’s Lives: Laws, Practices & Strategies in Pakistan, full article edited by Farida Shaheed, Sohail Akbar Warraich, Cassandra Balchin, and Aisha Gazdar. Lahore: Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre, 1998.

Islamophonic: Muslim marriageRiazat Butt is joined by Sunny Hundal to discuss Muslim marriage contracts, the centre for social cohesion, and tensions between Muslims and Sikhs, 2 September 2008: … many Muslim marriages are not registered in accordance with UK law. Riazat meets Cassandra Balchin and finds out why she is campaigning for the recognition of a Muslim marriage contract … (full text).

Find her and her publications on pipl; on openDemocracy: author presentation, and: pathways of women’s empowerment; on inauthor Google-search; on Google Book-search; on Google Scholar-search; on Google Group-search; on Google Blog-search.

She says also:

  • … The network (WLUML) as such does not privilege faith-based discourse. We are not a faith-based organization. We regard religion as a private matter. We, however, bring together both practicing Muslims as well as people who define themselves in other ways. The dichotomy between faith-based and secular discourse is very distinct in the West, where the two are generally seen as opposed to each other. The distinction is much less sharp in other contexts. Thus, for instance, Sisters-in-Islam, a leading Malaysian feminist group that works from a faith-based perspective, works closely with secular human rights groups. I think this owes in some way to the fact that in non-Western contexts religion is so much part of people’s daily experiences that people are more aware of what harm can sometimes be done in the name of religion. In turn, this means that they can also be more confident in challenging conservative or reactionary interpretations of religion. This sort of thing does not happen much in the West, where faith-based groups and secular groups rarely, if ever, interact. For instance, here in Britain, women from non-white communities see racism as the principal source of their oppression and so tend to cling to their community identities, which leaves little or no room for challenging patriarchal forms of religion. This is bolstered by what is called multiculturalism, with the state privileging religious discourse and male religious leaders in the name of community authenticity, and more often than not it privileges conservative, patriarchal interpretations of religion over other competing understandings. At the same time, secular human rights groups or white feminist groups, who could be allies of women in non-white communities, are so terrified of being accused of being being racist that they often fall into the trap of cultural relativism, allowing for patriarchy to remain largely uncontested … (full interview text, 14 February 2005);
  • … The network as such does not privilege faith-based discourse. We are not a faith-based organization. We regard religion as a private matter. We, however, bring together both practicing Muslims as well as people who define themselves in other ways. The dichotomy between faith-based and secular discourse is very distinct in the West, where the two are generally seen as opposed to each other. The distinction is much less sharp in other contexts. Thus, for instance, Sisters-in-Islam, a leading Malaysian feminist group that works from a faith-based perspective, works closely with secular human rights groups. I think this owes in some way to the fact that in non-Western contexts religion is so much part of people’s daily experiences that people are more aware of what harm can sometimes be done in the name of religion … (full interview text, 10 February 2005).

Global solidarity by and for muslim women, an interview with Cassandra Balchin, 2005-03-08.

… Freelance researcher, writer and human rights advocacy trainer Cassandra Balchin, who will also address the gathering, agreed that many issues affecting women in Muslim communities was directly linked with the question of family law and the general lack of inequality in the family. “There is always a constant fear at the back of the woman’s mind that she is in a weaker position.” Balchin, whose work has focused on Muslim family laws and legal reform processes, cited polygamy as an example of an ever-present threat hovering in the mind of every woman, although the actual number of polygamous marriages is relatively few. “In South Asia, it’s only about five per cent. Yet the problem of the threat of polygamy dominates every woman. Even if she remains in a monogamous marriage for 25 years, that threat is always there.” Similarly, Balchin said, the possibility of a unilateral divorce (or talaq) from the man and the fear that the courts are not going to give her financial protection is ever present … (full text, 13 feb 2009).

… Distinguishing between the Shariah (the path towards God) and the human process of deciding precisely what laws follow this path – known as fiqh or jurisprudence – these scholars say that because the laws are not divine, they can be – and in the past were – changed to match society’s needs. Middle Eastern historians note that in fact the codified family laws that dominate the region are the product of colonial times, and reflected dominant European Victorian notions of gender relations. The process was similar throughout West Africa and South Asia. While many Muslim countries are stuck with these laws, in most there is a visible movement for progressive reform of family laws. Ironically, the exceptions are mostly minority migrant Muslim communities in the West, where religious fundamentalists appear to have successfully drawn a veil over the extraordinary activism that is taking place in the supposedly ‘backward’ rest of the Muslim world. Although demands for Muslim family law reform date back more than a century, increasingly reform movements (as well as efforts to protect existing rights in places such as former Soviet Central Asia) are specifically demanding equality between men and women, and critiquing the classical notion of the Muslim family. This is a major shift … (full text, 12 February 2009).

… Sharia law: Amongst the UK’s Muslims there are sharply contrasting views about Sharia or Islamic law in the UK. Sharia is the historic legal foundations of the Islamic world – like English law, it has developed over centuries but is based on simple principles … // … But Cassandra Balchin, a convert to Islam and spokeswoman for the group Women Living Under Muslim Laws, is concerned about the growth of these minority legal systems. “Very often traditional forms of mediation can disadvantage vulnerable groups, such as women, within a community. “I’m concerned about how much choice the weaker party would have in submitting to the governance of these alternative forums.” Despite Ms Balchin’s fears, Sharia councils have already begun to follow the Jewish model of turning themselves into recognised courts of arbitration … (full text, 28 November 2006).

… The past three years have seen a stream of reports – in Britain and elsewhere – on Muslims and education. In a post-11 September 2001 context of rising religious fundamentalism across all faiths, this does not surprise groups such as the international network Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML). Its 2002 conference and research it published in 2004 on the “warning signs of fundamentalisms” found education and youth to be a major ideological battleground between the authoritarian religious right and secular and pluralist forces … // … Education and politics: The women quoted in She Who Disputes criticised the national education curriculum used in England as being entirely focused on western European culture, but also called for both Muslim and non-Muslim children to be taught about the diversity in Islam. The MCB document, by contrast, raises the troubling possibility of non-Muslim teachers policing the “Muslimness” of Muslim pupils – and with a monolithic, conservative definition at that. For example, it states: “In situations where Muslim pupils are merely observing non-Islamic acts of worship, it should be made clear that they are not to participate.” The language is a revealing slippage from the language of tolerance and inclusiveness. In a joint submission to the government’s current Commission on Integration and Cohesion, Southall Black Sisters and Women Against Fundamentalisms noted how policies on “community cohesion”, coupled with the reassertion of Christianity as the main signifier or characteristic of “Britishness”, have produced a separatist agenda. Indeed, the language of equally valuing other cultures disappears entirely in the MCB’s section on physical education. The high moral tone taken on, for example, dance lessons and communal showering after sports reflects a (to put it no higher) suspicion of the “other” … (full text).

… Cassandra Balchin reports: Filmed against the background of the bombings in London on 7 July, and the polarisation that those attacks both reflected and threatened, the Muslim journalist Anila Baig asks whether this conflict has always existed. Hoping to set the record straight, she highlights the positive contribution Muslims and Muslim cultures have made to life in today’s Britain. Incalculable benefits: Perhaps Islam’s most important contribution has been to give Britain zero – the zero – which was brought back to Britain around 1100 AD by Adelard of Bath after his visit to Muslim North Africa. There he found books by scholars such as Al Khwarizmi, including one whose title. Ilm al-jabr wa’l muqabalah, has given us the word ‘algebra’. It is a sign of how the exotic can become the ordinary and how cultures can fuse, that we forget how such concepts reached us … (full text, oct 4, 2005).

PRELIMINARY BIBLIOGRAPHY: “CRIMES OF HONOUR” … The co-directors of the Project, Lynn Welchman, Director, CIMEL, and Sara Hossain, Legal Officer (South Asia), INTERIGHTS, would like to acknowledge the work of Samia Bano, former Research Assistant on the Project, in producing this bibliography. We also thank the following people who have volunteered in preparing annotations and in suggesting further sources: Cassandra Balchin, Christina Brandt-Young, Leyla Gulcur, Connie Hackbarth, Fouzia Khan, Ana Paula Linhares, Lisa Malesky, Naz Modirzadeh, Elaine Ngai, Rupa Reddy, Javeria Rizvi, Ziyad Sheikh, Anjolie Singh and Anna Yarmon. We would like to acknowledge Amnesty International for annotations of their reports on honour killings in Pakistan and to thank the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) and the University of Minnesota Human Rights Centre for placing the bibliography on their websites … (full long text).

links:

Creativity not markets, 11 February 2009;

Inside The Harem, Polygamy, the positives, 13 October 2004;

The City Circle;

The BALCHIN FAMILY JOURNAL;

Comparative Human Rights Law and Society;

Abortion a right for rape victims;

Promoting Women’s Rights through strategic use of the marriage contract, 8 pdf pages;

Slaves for sale: young, sturdy, cheap, disposable! January 27, 2009;

The Google download book: The Power of Labelling, By Joy Moncrieffe, Rosalind Eyben, 2007, 189 pages.

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