Islam and Women’s Lib

With so many areas of society leaning towards free speech, there is one that remains notably limited: talking about Islam in public without offending. Recent events at Charlie Hebdo might lead one to conclude: with difficulty.

The Taliban, not noted for their tolerance and open-mindedness may be relaxing their ban on girl’s schooling, but medieval laws are being adopted by self-declared caliphates, supported by armed groups and by free-thinking people.

In a free world, any view criticising religion is not automatically racism; it should be possible to comment from a purely social standpoint. For instance; how can it be that women choose to wear a veil, or burkha when they have the choice to do otherwise?

Wearing a Burka or complete face veil explained in feminist terms: I’ve heard some women wanting to protect or hide their bodies and that the ‘covering up’ is an advantage and even a backlash against the sexy street show-it-all mentally sometimes seen.

But is this the general rule or is it a question of tradition, or of male-dominated households where women have little choice? Is there a parallel here with Victorian England? In this bourgeois western Islam, it is not a question of life or death, but the Sharia of the Middle East appears cruel and antiquated, primitive in its application of rulings such as stoning, lapidation, ideas that are as surprising as abhorrent to modern western society.

No matter the philosophical teachings that may underly these ideas, it’s the visible tip of the iceberg that we see. How can Islam move forward? ย Does it expect to or hope to modernise, just as other religions created their liberal movements? What future does it have when its numbers are increasing and yet seemingly refuses self-critique?

While no-one can expect Islam to pander to the moderates, the world sees Islam today as radical and radicalised. Further, the mix-up between terrorist influences and religion are widely held views. When will Islam come out firmly against oppression and modernise its position on equality for women?

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