News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Women and Islam

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Women and Islam

Perhaps it is not strange that the central issue in Islamic beliefs and practices comes down to its treatment of women. I believe it was Lincoln who said that you can tell how religious a man is by whether he goes home and kicks his dog. The treatment of women under the Taliban, by the Saudi extremists, and other examples shows that dealing with your ethical and spiritual problems starts at home, in your relationships with those you love or are supposed to love. ...

Pamela Taylor, co-chair of the Progressive Muslim Union, and director of the Islamic Writers Alliance, gives a glimmer of hope:

It's not often that one is asked to lead a grand mufti in prayer. Especially if one is a woman. Indeed, until Sunday (Feb. 19), no Muslim woman had ever been asked to lead a grand mufti in prayer. My anxiety was only heightened by the import of what I was about to do. For a woman to lead a mufti, even a mufti known for his liberal views, was not just groundbreaking; it was the linchpin in the effort to legitimize women imams. That Sohaib BenCheikh decided to go beyond simply issuing a ruling, and chose to participate in a women-led prayer himself, sends an unequivocal message, a message that cannot be ignored by his fellow al-Azhar alumnae, who are among the most respected scholars in the Islamic world. It's a message that I dearly hope will help assuage the doubts of those who are sitting on the fence, undecided as to whether Islam bars women from religious leadership or not.

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