Michael Gerson wrote a compelling piece in Friday’s Washington Post in which he discussed the emergence of a new kind of feminism–an Afghan feminism.  I found myself quite moved when he described the harsh conditions under which women in Afghan live and yet their response and main request going forward is simply for continued education for girls and better teaching of Islam for all. He writes:

“Afghanistan remains one of the most difficult places on Earth to be a woman. A reaction of anger and militancy would be understandable. But the Afghan women I met take a different approach. Uniformly, they argue that ‘education’ is the most important response. By education, they do not mean only literacy. ‘People need to be educated in the values of our own religion,’ says Rahela Hashim Sidiqi, a senior adviser at Afghanistan’s civil service commission. “They need to learn from other Islamic countries, such as Indonesia and Bangladesh. Even in Arab countries, education is not denied.”   “The main challenge, says Sidiqi, is ‘the lack of education about Islam itself, particularly in rural areas where culture and Islam are mixed. People don’t see the difference between tradition and religion.’ These women talk of the Koran’s teaching on property rights and respect for women as a source of progressive reform within Afghan culture. They speak with particular respect for Khadijah, Muhammad’s wife, who, they argue, was educated and conducted business while married to the prophet. And they identify a number of prominent Afghan imams who defend these views. ‘They are the key,’ says Sidiqi. ‘We need a positive approach.'”   “Clearly, this is a different kind of feminism. Rather than asserting an individualistic conception of rights, these women are arguing for respect and legal protection from within their religious tradition. They do not seek to overturn a cultural order but to expand and humanize it.”