By Nicholas Kristof - New York Times columnist
When the Sudanese authorities picked up a dozen women in a cafe in July and charged them with breaking the law by wearing trousers, they didn’t realize what they started. Most of the women (some of them actually just girls) accepted what they saw as inevitable and received a flogging. The penalty is up to 40 lashes with a whip that can leave scars, and one teenage girl was so scared she wet her pants.
But one of those arrested that day was Lubna Hussein, a Sudanese journalist who has been fighting back. Lubna had been working for the United Nations but quit her post because she didn’t want to involve the UN or get any special immunity. She spread the word and invited friends to her trial. The judge, not knowing what to do, postponed the trial until today. Lubna helped focus global attention on Sudan’s flogging of women (I wrote about her previously here), and the judge clearly didn’t want further embarrassment. So the judge today tried to compromise by letting Lubna off with a fine of $300, but without a lashing, as my colleague Jeffrey Gettleman reports.
Not so fast! According to Bec Hamilton (who guest wrote the previous item about Lubna on my blog), Lubna says she will refuse to pay the fine. BBC reports from Khartoum that Lubna’s lawyers are trying to persuade her to pay, and that otherwise she will face a month in prison. Lubna’s concern all along has been less her own safety than the need to change the law for the sake of those who are less connected and less protected. She truly is the Rosa Parks of Khartoum — and I also feel enormous admiration for those Sudanese woman who took the risk of showing up at the courtroom today to support Lubna. Some wore pants, and a number were arrested and in at least one case beaten.
I hope Muslim leaders and journalists will speak out strongly for Lubna. Obviously, any initiative to flog women for wearing pants doesn’t reflect real Islam but a caricature. Indeed, that’s a blasphemy as great as any Danish cartoon, and it does more to harm the image of Islam around the world.
Those women like Lubna are truly holding up half the sky. The West can be most successful in bolstering human rights around the world if we aren’t out front lecturing other countries on what to do, but if we stoutly support those people like Lubna who are trying to bring about change from within. So, go Lubna! In Arabic, shidda haelik — be strong!
Go to original article http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/07/rosa-parks-in-khartoum/