Women's Empowerment

How women fare correlates directly with how society fares overall. In recent years, many small but important victories for women in the Muslim world have been won. In the last decade, women in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Morocco, Bahrain and Qatar have won political and legal reforms that would have been considered unthinkable a decade before.

Meanwhile, the complex and appalling stream of news reports describing Muslim women being punished under Islamic law for everything from wearing pants to not having sex with their husbands to being raped cannot be ignored. Muslim women around the world are being disproportionately abused using outdated Islamic rulings and ages-old customs, while men who commit the same actions often go free.

For MPAC, women's empowerment is a core issue of concern. We believe it is our Islamic obligation to uphold the teachings of the Quran, in which God describes men and women as equal members of society who have a shared stake in public affairs.

In Fall 2009, MPAC released "Abusing Women, Abusing Islam: Re-Examining Sharia Court Rulings in Contemporary Time," a brief policy paper which exposes how patriarchal and distorted interpretations of sharia have been used to subjugate women and rob them of their fundamental rights, in direct opposition to the central teachings of Islam.

We have also worked with coalition groups to support the International Violence Against Women Act, a crucial piece of legislation that would direct more attention and resources to efforts to halt gender-based violence that affects women and girls around the globe.

There must be awareness-raising campaigns in the United States and Europe about human rights violations committed against women. Ultimately, the realization of women's rights in the Muslim world will require a multigenerational, cross-societal commitment to social change; the political will of international leaders, and the continued bravery of women who have fought, argued, lobbied, schemed, pushed, and badgered for women to enjoy life with dignity.

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