Monday, January 17, 2011

Muslim Women Reformers by Ida Lichter

In Muslim Women Reformers, Ida Lichter does an exhaustive survey of the state of Muslim womens' rights in countries around the world and profiles women and organizations in each country working on the issues.  While there is some degree of suppression of womens' rights in each country as compared to Western countries, there are differences with some countries completely restrictive while some have started work on the issues.

The book covers the mid-Eastern countries that the reader would expect, but also covers Muslim women's rights and struggles in African countries as well as countries such as the United States and Canada.  The range of issues is wide.  Women are often considered legally half the worth of a man.  Honor killings are tolerated in some countries.  Education is a major issue in all the countries, as the reformers realise that without an educated female population, it is unlikely that reform will occur.  Female circumsion is very common in some Muslim countries, less so in others.  In some countries, focus has been concentrated on items as seemingly prosaic as a woman's right to drive a car.  While this is a commonplace right in Western societies, it is not as accepted in many countries.  There are issues with driving uncovered; taking a driver's license picture, and the ability to travel without male supervision.

The women who have been highlighted are heroes.  They have given up employment, been imprisoned, forced to live in secretcy, and even tortued.  Yet, they continue the fight, and slowly, slowly they are making changes.  Some are adamently opposed to Islam.  Others are devout Muslims who believe that the religion has been misinterpreted by male clerics.  They want to redefine Islam in a way that promotes gender equality, which they believe was the original intent.

This book is recommended reading for all those interested in human rights, and especially those focused on womens' rights.  The sustained courage and vision of these women is awe-inspiring, and it makes the reader question how far would they be willing to go to fight for their rights in a similiar situation.

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