Recovering the voice of women in Islam: lessons for educators and others
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AbstractThe issue of women in Islam is predictably one of the most controversial of the many features of modern revisionist scholarship in and about Islam. What is probably less debatable is that the issue was taken up more seriously in early Islam than is evidenced in any religious establishment before its time. The debate is more about the directionality of the attention that was given to the issue and hence how Muslim women should position within the terms of the debate. One polarization in the debate is between those who hold, on the one hand, that Islam represented a revolution around the issue, quite likely presaging by 1,000 years or more Western movements towards equality and ‘liberation’ for women and, on the other hand, those who hold that inherent to Islam is a subjugation of women to men. Furthermore, subtleties within the debate which many Muslim women would wish Western liberationists and feminists to note are that even those who believe that Islam did indeed impel a revolution around the issue do not necessarily hold that this can be equated with predictable Western expressions of such a revolution. Hence, the wearing of the veil, as an example, be it the simple hijab or, more contentiously, the full burqa, might not be the contrary expression of Western values that many Westerners would suppose. In this chapter, we wish to give voice to a range of opinions and, above all, to allow the voices of our research subjects to be heard.