On her facebook page this morning, Islamic dissident and former member of the Dutch Parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali, highlights an interview with Ida Lichter, author of Muslim Women Reformers: Inspiring Voices Against Oppression, where she discusses what women are doing to reform Islam.
One passage reminded me that women really are leading the charge for reform in Muslim countries. It is these brave women who might just lead the entire Muslim world into a much needed renaissance where not just the rights of women but the rights of all are respected.
The term being used for this reform is called ijtihad and it means “critical thinking within Islam.”
FP: What changes are Muslim women reformers trying to achieve?
Lichter: Reformers are trying to overturn discriminatory Sharia laws like lenient sentencing for “honor killings,” stoning to death for adultery, polygamy, child marriage, temporary marriage, unilateral divorce, and inequality regarding custody, citizenship, inheritance and ‘blood money’ – the compensation paid by a murderer to the family of the victim. Under Islamic law, payment for the death of a man is twice that of a woman.
Women want freedom to choose their clothing, abolition of male guardianship, and in Saudi Arabia, the right to vote and drive a car.
Some reformers believe education is the best antidote to the ideologies of jihadism, takfir (accusing other Muslims of heresy) and fighting the infidels, and educated women are less likely to provide a role model of the submissive, fearful woman or be cowed into indoctrinating children.
FP: How are women reformers attempting to achieve reform and what successes have they had?
Lichter: Collectively, Muslim women reformers are rising up, even though many are lone voices and their organizations are new.
The majority want to change discriminatory legislation by making changes within Islam, reclaiming the rights they believe women were originally granted in the Koran.
Some have turned to theology and ijtihad (critical thinking within Islam), supporting their claims by reinterpreting discriminatory texts, emphasizing egalitarian ones, and placing meaning in a historical context. Certain exegesis requires selecting gender-sensitive meaning for words, for example, in the well-known passage that justifies domestic violence, women scholars chose “go away” for idrib, a word with 24 meanings, and commonly translated as “beat.”