Stop Fundamentalism, November 5 – Muslim women from around the world gathered in Barcelona Friday to issue a call to a battle for equal footing in the Islamic world — one aimed at fighting against polygamy, domestic violence and a â€œmachoâ€ interpretation of Muslim Sharia laws.
The three-day international congress underscores a new reality: even as religious intensity is growing in parts of the Muslim world, â€Islamic feminismâ€ — the name of the Barcelona meeting — is gaining a tenuous foothold.
â€œWe realized that a number of Muslim womenâ€™s groups have been created in recent years to fight against discrimination and defend (their rights) within an Islamic context — such as in Malaysia, Nigeria and Pakistan,â€ said Abdennur Prado, a leading organizer of the Barcelona forum, first launched last year.
The advocates — mostly well-educated, urban women versed in the Quran — argue Islam must not be a pretext for cultural practices denigrating women, dictated by men with a monopoly on interpreting the Muslim holy book.
The meeting must â€œcontribute to consolidating Islamic feminism as a transitional movement by putting in place a network of grassroots organizations working on the question of womenâ€™s rights in Islam,â€ Prado said.
Professors, Islamic experts, members of non-governmental organizations and Spanish feminists are among some 400 participants expected to attend the conference, organized by a local Muslim organization, La Junta Islamica Catalana.
â€œIâ€™m going to see how feminists work within different contexts and what strategies they adopt to change sexist and discriminatory national laws and to play a role against extremist Islam,â€ said Iranian participant Nayereh Tohidi, an expert on feminism and Islam in her country.
But like other Muslim feminists, Tohidi fears the struggle for greater rights will take time within a Muslim world of 29 nations and nearly one billion inhabitants. Tohidiâ€™s native Iran is a case in point.
â€œAs in many other Muslim countries, women in Iran are faced with challenges and problems, particularly economic difficulties and unemployment that affect a growing number of qualified women,â€ she said.
Iranâ€™s clerical regime is another hurdle. The governmentâ€™s â€militaristic and anti-Western rhetoric is matched by appeals to put women in an even more traditional role,â€ said Tohidi, who claimed Teheran was currently trying to put tougher political and social restrictions in place.