If there is one issue amongst others which sets off alarm bells in the minds of Muslims and non-Muslims, it's the status of women in Islam. While Western media, and more recently, secular feminist lobbies of the West and their sister lackeys in the East consistently attack the position of Muslim women, Muslims respond with anger and emotion. There is usually little said or done to address the real issues facing Muslim women in Muslim countries.
The problems of Muslim societies in the current context are numerous. Mostly corrupt elite run these societies. Most laws in these countries are based on a mix of western models with some cultural element. They lack values which Muslims cherish. The result is that law and those who are responsible for upholding the laws do not command respect of people. Weak people of all types, therefore, face oppression of one sort or the other in Muslim countries. These weak people include majorities like women. Here are some of the problems which Muslim women face.
Favoring boys over girls
Islam clearly came and wiped out this problem, condemning female infanticide and even condemned the attitude of unhappiness at the birth of a baby girl.
Yet today, the preference and favoring of boys over girls is still in swing. Not only are many baby girls simply unwelcome. They have to be reminded of this regularly, through attitudes and preferential treatment of their brothers.
Although the reports of the abortion of female fetus, common in China and India, are not found in the Muslim world, the attitude of preference could still be documented.
Access to mosques
During a visit to Karachi, Pakistan in 1992, it was time to do Maghrib. My brother, myself and my cousin were stepping out of the car when my cousin told me to wait because he had to "ask" if I would be allowed into the mosque. He came back after asking and told me he was sorry, but I would have to pray in the car. This was in a city where women can freely go to shopping malls, movie theaters, amusement parks. But the mosque, at least this particular mosque, no. This is a small example, but it's a significant one. Similar situations are played out in the Muslim world daily, where many women think going to the mosque is for men alone.
Statistics point to the low level of literacy of Muslim women in Muslim countries. This is a shame for the people who claim to follow Islam, a religion which has made it a religious obligation on both sexes to seek knowledge. Women's literacy, and in turn ignorance of Islam is a danger to Muslim societies and their stability. What kind of quality of life will an illiterate woman have? And what kind of children will she raise?
The core of the issue: Culture
These problem clearly stems from cultural attitudes that have been given precedence to Islam. The culture, by the way, is not only the "traditional" one, but also the new, neo-imperialistic Western one, which seeks to impose one vision for all women, with scant attention to the right of Muslim women, for instance, to maintain their own vision of rights and responsibilities within an Islamic framework.
Where do we go from here: women have to take control
Muslim women, in Muslim societies and abroad can no longer sit passively by as their rights are usurped, whether it is by ignorant "traditional" individuals, or bodies like the United Nations. They must clearly reeducate themselves, not on the basis of a secular, feminist agenda, which is alien to the essence and core of Islamic teachings.
Rather, we need to not find out exactly what the Quran and Sunnah says, and live it. Then share it, then be willing to really fight for our rights. The change has to come from within. As long as Muslim women, especially in Muslim countries, passively accept the agendas of those whose interest are not Islam but anti-Islam, whether it is cultural practices or secular agendas, the problems will worsen.
Photo Attribution: Russell Watkins/Department for International Development - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_Syrian_refugee_and_her_newborn_baby_at_a_clinic_in_Ramtha,_Jordan_(9613483141).jpg