In “Omani dissident promises to keep speaking out” from Agence France Presse (thanks to DFS), Taiba al-Mawali is called both an “Islamist” and a “human rights activist.” And, apparently with abundant justification, a “very unusual woman.”
It would be interesting to know whether she thinks general equality of rights should be accorded to women in Oman, or to non-Muslims, and if Amnesty International knew or cared about her positions on these matters before floating her name for the Nobel Peace Prize. It seems from her statement about changes in Islam that she opposes any attempt at softening Sharia provisions. But the Sharia-inspired violations of human rights are so far off the radar screen for most people that I think it is highly doubtful that these matters came up at all.
MUSCAT: For an Omani, Taiba al-Mawali is a very unusual woman. She is a militant human rights activist, unafraid to say what she thinks in a country where any criticism of the authorities is considered heresy. “I always say what I think is good for the country – and they don’t like it,” the former teacher and official radio journalist told AFP in an interview.
A fervent Islamist, Mawali, 42, has paid dearly for her beliefs – she spent six months in prison for criticizing the trial last year of 31 Islamists for having “plotted the overthrow of the government by force of arms … by forming an illegal underground organization.”
They were sentenced in May 2005 to prison terms ranging between one and 20 years but pardoned a month later.
The Islamist affair has left its marks on Mawali, a mother of six who is married to a policeman, turning her life upside down. Mawali says she has been under surveillance by the security services since her membership in the Majlis al-Shura (Consultative Council) from 1994-2000….
Then, at the beginning of 2005, dozens of people suspected of being part of an Islamist plot were interrogated, and 31 were later charged.
“I knew them personally. I had read their books and visited them in their homes. They love their country and His Majesty,” she said of Sultan Qabous bin Saeed, whom she says is misled by his advisers. Her friends, she said, had merely been trying “to teach religion to people as it should be taught.” Mawali claims the Omani authorities have changed “many things” in the teaching of Islam “in the cause of the Americans.”…
Last July, Mawali was sentenced to 18 months for her Internet articles and criticizing the authorities. She appealed. But she was afraid of being thrown in jail before this was heard, and fled to a friend’s house where she hid for 17 days. The day before the appeal hearing, she returned home “disguised as a man.”
Six months in prison was the verdict, and she was immediately taken into custody. She was freed a few days before the full term of her sentence, and believes this was done to avoid any public demonstration of support upon her release.
According to Amnesty International, which called her a “prisoner of conscience,” Mawali’s name has been put forward for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Mawali says prison made her more determined.
“We want proper and free elections,” she said, “[and] we have to have an independent judiciary. Because I know my religion, I fight for the rights of man and for justice.”
Man, yes. But woman?