Muslim women launch international 'gender jihad'
- Muslim women launch international 'gender jihad'
Giles Tremlett in Barcelona
Monday October 31, 2005
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
"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
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.