Best columns: International
Lagging behind India on women’s rights
India’s Muslim community has taken a bold step forward on women’s rights, said Rafia Zakaria. Islamic leaders there have begun allowing women to train and to serve as qadis, or Islamic judges. Qadis are not clerics, but they can perform marriage ceremonies and settle disputes over Islamic law relating to personal matters, including divorce. One of the first Indian women to train for the role, Jehanara Begum, decided to become a judge after she left her abusive husband and her local qadi refused to help her secure alimony and child visitation rights. The idea that Muslim women have the right to a divorce and to various marital assets if a union dissolves is a basic tenet of Islam, but in practice many qadis instantly side with the husband. The new female qadis have pledged to “never tell an abused woman to ‘bear it’ when she comes to them for help.” It’s a welcome development that forces the question, Why hasn’t Pakistan done something similar? Muslims are a minority in India but a majority here, and “the problems of Indian Muslim women are all too familiar to Pakistani women.” Female qadis could “transform the way women see their rights and options within the marital relationship”—an evolution Pakistan desperately needs.
An alarming reverence for Stalin
Lietuvos Zinios (Lithuania)
It’s official: Russians once again adore Stalin, said Viktoras Denisenko. The Levada Center, an independent pollster, recently asked 1,600 Russians to name “the top 10 most outstanding people of all time and all nations.” Soviet dictator Josef Stalin came in first place, closely followed by Russia’s current president, Vladimir Putin. The results weren’t surprising. As soon as Putin came to power in 1999, “the semi-official rehabilitation of the dictator began.” Stalin became the face of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, which—despite massive losses on the Soviet side—is today “depicted as Russia’s greatest achievement.” Russians are encouraged to see themselves as defenders of the world against fascism, and Putin has used this rhetoric to justify his invasion of Ukraine, calling the pro-Western forces there fascists and ultranationalists. Stalin is equally adored for “turning an agrarian Russia into an industrial superpower” in just a generation. That he did so through ruthless purges, forced relocations, and oppression is “seen as an unfortunate historic necessity.” These depressing survey results show that the Kremlin’s relentless propaganda—repeated on talk shows, in movies, and in schoolbooks—has been “extraordinarily successful.” Post-Soviet Russians know all about Stalin’s crimes, but they have been conditioned to excuse them. ■