Utilising the women’s participation can raise the potential of any country. The need is felt to bridge the gender gap between men and women in the Muslim world. The women’s human rights agenda can be enforced by studying the lives of the very first Muslim women who lived during Islam’s formative period as more than historical figures.
On 26th of September, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman issued a royal decree declaring that women will soon be allowed to apply for drivers’ licenses and drive legally. The ending of the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia is celebrated across the globe as a major royal gift to the women in the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam. The ban on women drivers has long been explained as being religiously motivated, but it is the only country in the world, of any religion, that had instituted such a ban. The Saudi women were at last, given voting rights in December, 2015.
The Saudi kingdom is one of the most male-dominated in the world. Now it is compelled to look as if it is treating women better to win over critics in the west. As a result, the Saudi state has embarked on a series of ‘cosmetic’ reforms. Increasing women’s participation or employment is part of that package. Recently, women have been allowed to work as cashiers in supermarkets or as cooks. But there are also plans to appoint them to high-ranking positions.
From Cairo to Jakarta, women are going back to Islam’s founding texts and questioning the way men have interpreted them for centuries. In the Middle-East, activists are contesting outdated family laws, which give men the power in marriages, divorces, and custody issues. In Europe and the United States, women are chipping away at the customs that have had a chilling effect on women praying in mosques or holding leadership positions. And as women’s rights improve, there’s bound to be a positive impact on overall human rights as well.
“Liberal” or “progressive” Islam has to win over “conservative” or “extremist” Islam. Democracy in Middle-Eastern countries will help women attain their rights easily. Women’s rising literacy across Muslim countries, and ultimately their rising religious literacy, is shifting the terms of debate. Lessons from the western world and the Arab revolution are forcing rulers to think Muslim dominance, rethink.