Women in present day muslim society
[ November 20, 2015 ]
One of the primary sources of conflict between radical Islam and the secular West is the role of women in society. Western and Muslim reformers have always sought to change how women are able to dress and behave in order to change Islam. Today, though, women aren"t always cooperating. The appeal of popular Islam among educated, privileged women...
poses an insidious threat to the regime in Egypt and a seemingly overwhelming intellectual challenge to secularists at home and abroad. The elite’s attraction to religion goes straight to the heart of the struggle between Islam and modernity and the effort by today’s Islamists to forge a workable compromise between the two, this time within the highly charged world of male-female relations. For decades the role of women in Muslim society has provided one of the primary battlegrounds in the cultural war between East and West, between the colonized and the colonizers.These educated, privileged women are not seeking to end education and working rights for women, but they are seeking to separate men from women in ways that would not even be contemplated in the West. For these women, it’s a matter of personal, religious, and cultural identity — it signifies that they aren’t simply copying women in the West but have their own values, ideas, and beliefs. To some extent, that’s only natural.
In reality, though, there will be those who don’t want to respect women’s basic rights and will use expressions of religious identity (like head scarves) as a thin wedge to force through their own political agenda. Head scarves are a symbol and symbols mean something, but they don’t mean the same thing to all people.
It would be unreasonable for anyone to expect women all around the world to become carbon copies of women in London, Berlin, or New York City. At the same time, though, reactions against such trends should not push so far back that they actually make things more difficult for women. The goal will be to find a balance whereby the basic human rights of women are respected without compromising their ability to affirm their cultural and religious identities as Muslims. Is it possible? In theory, there’s nothing that should prevent it. In reality, though, there will be those who don’t want to respect women’s basic rights and will use expressions of religious identity (like head scarves) as a thin wedge to force through their own political agenda. Head scarves are a symbol and symbols mean something, but they don’t mean the same thing to all people. Wearing one can symbolize accepting a certain identity while refusing to wear one can symbolize rejecting fundamentalism — but not necessarily the identity, too.
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