Muslim women on gender equality

January 14, 2007 at 9:59 pm Leave a comment

As long as I’m sharing unconventional perspectives on gender equality (see my last post on the American anti-suffragist movement), I thought I’d delve into the perspective of Muslim women on gender issues.

Not surprisingly, gender equality is something Americans cite as a major issue for the Muslim world. But according to a Gallup poll from this past summer, Muslim women themselves don’t necessarily view equality as a top concern.

muslim.jpgThey recognize their lack of legal equality in Muslim countries, and they want the opportunity to vote, be eligible for top government positions, and have equal opportunities with men to work whatever jobs for which they are qualified.

However, “Muslim women don’t spontaneously cite gender inequality as an aspect of Islamic societies they don’t like,” according to the Gallup report. For them, the lack of unity among Muslims, extremism, and political corruption are more important issues.

What is even more interesting to me is the Muslim perspective of women in the West. Though Muslim women admire gender equality in the West, they are also critical:

Many women in the Muslim world disapprove of the way women are treated in Western societies, just as Western women do the treatment of women in Islamic societies. Perhaps most revealing were the responses to the open-ended question, “What is it you most resent about the West?”, which often included descriptions of promiscuity, pornography, and public indecency – impressions gathered from Hollywood images exported daily to the Muslim world.

My two take-away points:

  • Western priorities on gender equality are not necessarily shared by the rest of the world. (Does gender inequality not seem as oppressive to them as to us?)
  • Gender equality does not necessarily mean less degradation of women. To an outsider, the West can look just as degrading to women as Muslim societies do to us. The Muslim veil may be a legitimate problem, but is our own version of equality obviously superior?
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DON’T give us the vote! If the myths resonate, the worldview is likely true

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Profile

profile.jpgI am working on my M.A. in Religion at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Besides having a big interest in theology, history, ethics, and the deep stuff of life, I am also very fond of Mediterranean food, snow, and the color red.

Email me: jamie.kiley@gmail.com

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