January 21, 2001
The Guardian Council has rejected the recent measure, passed in Parliament, which allows girls and married women to use government grants to study for their doctoral programs at foreign universities without obtaining the written consent of their fathers or husbands. The council said the measure was against Islamic principles.
The government provides scholarships and educational grants only for male and female doctoral candidates.
However, there are no such restrictions for men and women who pay for their own education abroad, or for male students receiving government grants.
By removing the necessity of obtaining this permit, Members of Parliament meant to eliminate the existing prejudice against a number of students, namely women, who plan on furthering their education at foreign higher
Almost all the high echelon clerics who oppose the proposed bill are of the opinion that, given the social and cultural conditions in the West, Muslim girls and women cannot be sent there unsupervised. But this line of reasoning is flawed. What about the girls and women who pay for their own
Indeed, what about the young men who are given scholarships to complete their higher education overseas?
Do they not need supervision? What guarantee do we have that they will not fall prey to the various temptations in the West?
We must also point out that our own educational, cultural and social conditions are not exactly perfect either.
Also, if a female student is accepted in a Ph.D. program isn't that an indication of her firm resolve and her ability to avoid falling prey to the temptations on her way? And what if the father or husband of such a female student, due to lack of information about the educational system, decides that she should not pursue her studies? Who should be held answerable for stopping her from realizing all of her educational potentials?
Members of the Guardian Council should consider this issue from all possible angles. They must surely realize that when an Iranian, male or female, is bright enough that he or she possesses all the requirements for receiving a government grant, then the government must feel obliged to provide him or her with that grant.
Also, when a female student is sent abroad by the government to study, the purse string will act as a guarantee against most possible temptations, and if the government denies these talented individuals their right to higher education, they will find other ways to finance their education without any government supervision or control.
The Guardian Council must also realize that making a taboo of studying abroad will only make our young men and women more eager to go abroad for their higher education. It will also create the impression in our youth
that everything they want is in the West and that we are denying them the right to get a good education.
The final point is that the Guardian Council has rejected several measures introduced in Parliament on the basis that they contradict Islamic tenets.
Repeating this process will undoubtedly strengthen the belief among the people that the council is opposing the Parliament and the reforms introduced by the majority faction within that august body.
This perception is harmful to the council and its members.