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Muslim women launch international 'gender jihad'

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  • Zafar Khan
    Muslim women launch international gender jihad Giles Tremlett in Barcelona Monday October 31, 2005 The Guardian
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 31, 2005
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      Muslim women launch international 'gender jihad'
      Giles Tremlett in Barcelona
      Monday October 31, 2005
      The Guardian


      Marching under the banner of a new "gender jihad",
      Islamic feminists from around the world this weekend
      launched what they hope will become a global movement
      to liberate Muslim women.

      The meeting, which drew women from as far apart as
      Malaysia, Mali, Egypt and Iran, set itself the task of
      squaring Islam with feminism. That meant not just
      combating 14 centuries of sexism in the Muslim world,
      participants said, but also dealing with the animosity
      to Islam of many western or secular feminists. They
      insisted that many of the fundamental concepts of
      equality embraced by feminism could also be found in
      the Qur'an.

      "Gender jihad is the struggle against male
      chauvinistic, homophobic or sexist readings of the
      Islamic sacred texts," said Abdennur Prado, one of the
      meeting's Spanish organisers.
      Those readings had been provided by Muslim scholars
      who, over the centuries, have been almost exclusively
      male. "Male chauvinism is the destruction of Islam as
      a well-balanced way of life," Mr Prado said.

      One of the leading voices was that of Amina Wadud, an
      African-American theology professor who provoked
      outrage in parts of the Muslim world when she led a
      mixed-sex congregation for Friday prayers in New York
      earlier this year. She said her commitment to change
      was born from her faith, two decades studying the
      Qur'an and the realisation that "horrific things were
      being done in the name of religion".

      With issues to address such as the stoning to death of
      women, polygamy and the legal inferiority of women in
      some countries, progressives at the meeting admitted
      there was a long climb ahead.

      The greatest danger was the spread of the radically
      conservative, Saudi-backed schools of Islam. "They
      don't want to go forward, they want to go back," said
      Prof Wadud, who also led mixed prayers at the
      Barcelona meeting.

      Raheel Raza, a Canadian of Pakistani origin who has
      followed Prof Wadud's example and led mixed-sex
      prayers in Canada, said it was not easy to break the
      mould. "I already have a fatwa against me. I don't
      want to be murdered on the street," she said.

      British Muslims were strikingly absent from the
      conference, which was led by western converts and
      emigrant families. Ghettoisation and the influence of
      Saudi-trained preachers were blamed for driving some
      second-generation immigrants in western countries into
      the hands of fundamentalists.

      Islam feminists urge gender jihad
      By Danny Wood
      BBC News, Madrid


      Organisers of the first international congress on
      Islamic feminism are calling for a "gender jihad".

      Organiser Abdennur Prado Pavon says the struggle for
      gender equality in Islamic countries involves refuting
      chauvinist interpretations of Muslim teachings.

      The congress is being held in Spain, organisers say,
      because they want their message to reach the growing
      number of Muslim women in Europe.

      Around 300 delegates are looking at women's rights in
      the Islamic world.

      Mr Prado, of the Catalan Islamic board, believes a
      common misconception in the West is that women's
      liberation is not possible in Muslim societies.

      Activists representing the Islamic feminist movement
      are in Barcelona to counter that view and discuss ways
      of achieving female equality in an Islamic context.
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