The subject that focuses on the role of women in Islamic countries is very controversial. Women in Islamic countries feel like their rights to participate in the development process of their countries are violated. Essentially, these women do not have the same freedoms as other women living in civilized nations (Roald, 2003). Islamic women have very little power to address social-economic and political aspects.
Women are excluded from public life, as they are required to take up the motherhood role as their full responsibility. Education empowers people to express every aspect of their life; however, according to research, women in Islamic countries do not have equal opportunities for education as the males have. The low illiteracy level among women and the violation of women’s rights bring severe intimidation in the female fraternity. The Quran limits the education woman, her employment rights, property rights, her dress code, and her age of marriage among many other aspects of life. This paper will give a stringent analysis of the challenges that women in Islamic countries encounter. The challenges will be inclined towards their effects on women’s representation in politics.
Education is the key to success in every aspect of life. An educated woman will always have an upper hand in everything that she does as compared to an illiterate woman. However, religion has always played a critical role in guiding women’s schooling in most Islamic countries. While the ministry of education oversees male education, the Department of Religious Guidance restricts the education levels of a girl child. In the ancient times, religion restricted the females from having advanced education (Hamdan, 2005). According to the Islamic religion, the girl ought to have elementary education that would help her to become a good wife and mother.
Women would only pursue some basic education to become teachers and nurses. Essentially, education in Islamic nations was divided into male and female, where the ministry of education would allocate more cash for the educational programs of male students than that of female students. The unequal education opportunities dominate some Islamic countries up to date. Limiting the access of women to higher education, and restricting them from studying political science courses is a violation of the female rights. Obviously, a partially educated woman cannot take part in political matters.
Negatively Stereotyped Women
Women in Islamic countries encounter many injustices from their male counterparts. Women are regarded as inferior creatures that ought to be indoors caring for the babies. The inequality perspective is structured in people’s minds, and it is quite difficult to change their minds. The negatively stereotyped women are naturally non-present in the public sphere, as they feel intimidated. Therefore, the women cannot have the courage to advocate for their rights. Girls at a tender age develop the habit of being submissive to their male counterparts. In some incidences, parents favor their sons over their daughters, where, the daughters have to put up with the habit. The negative stereotypes play a great role in excluding women from public life. They grow up with some form of inferiority complex that cannot allow them to have the courage to take part in political matters.
Segregation of the Women
In most Islamic countries, women experience discrimination in every aspect of their life. The unequal access to education opportunities acts as the baseline to discrimination of women in social, economic, and political aspects. In any office, the woman will always take an inferior position, where, she has to be answerable to a male incumbent. The education and training opportunities in most Islamic countries will only offer women with “glass ceiling” competence and leadership capabilities. Unless a woman is lucky to study outside the Islamic country, she cannot beat her male counterparts in a lucrative job opportunity.
Similarly, a woman cannot have the guts to contest against a male candidate in any political seat. Other than the lack of professional qualification, fellow women disbelieve in a woman’s potential to take a political position. The conservative religious leaders have made it their role to implant the perception that the females ought to be the listeners and not actors. Therefore, in spite of the level of open mindedness, an individual will always have some negative attitude towards women taking political positions. The struggle to balance between modernity, western culture, traditions, and the Islamic religion is an enormous issue for women in Islamic countries.
Most women in Islamic countries have limited rights in their marriage life. They are intimidated with social evils such as “honor” killings that do not carry weight in the contemporary world. The domestic violence and abuse of women in Islamic nations bring injustices to life of a girl child. According to Islam, the injustices are not evils as they are in accordance with the Islamic concept. Essentially, Islam leaders advocate that people should not compare their women with those in civilized nations.
They argue that they handle Muslim women in accordance with the Islamic teachings. The Islamic laws and cultures will dictate the female’s age of marriage; they will determine the marriage contract, as well as their freedom to consent to marriage. Interestingly, the customs will further dictate the use of contraceptives, and they will dictate their ability of women to receive justice in case of sex crimes. From a critical point of view, some women in Islamic nations are oppressed, as they have to seek for their husbands’ permission to even leave the house. Therefore, it is almost impossible for such women to take part in political matters.
As discussed, most women in Islamic countries lack education empowerment. The Islamic teachings restrain women’s educational choices, which bar them from accessing lucrative jobs. Moreover, religious conservative scholars restrict the education gained by the girl child (Othman, 2006). Essentially, women only have the freedom to study and earn academic degrees. Women can only qualify to become teachers and nurses, and only the rich can afford to send their daughters to obtain the degree of their choice outside their countries. While the number of people adhering to the practice has dropped significantly, some Islamic countries still adhere to the practice. Women who do not qualify to be scholars have no choice, but to depend on their husbands entirely for their economic well-being.
Another aspect that brings some financial distress to the female fraternity is the fact that the Quran backs men to marry girls of tender ages. A girl, who is married and having less than 14 years, is not matured psychologically. The girl is harassed in her family life, but she has to submit to the breadwinner, who happens to be the husband. The psychologically and physically tortured woman cannot even afford to have the freedom of getting out of her house to address political matters.
Feminist Islamic Teachings
Whenever a girl child is born in Islamic countries, the mother is overwhelmed by the possibilities that may happen. In fact, in ancient days, mothers would witness their unwanted female children buried alive, and they could do nothing. Although the practice is not common in the contemporary world, some women abort their fetuses once scans reveal that they are carrying a female child. Gender inequality still prevails in most Islamic countries; therefore, women in such countries have battered bodies, troubled souls, and distressed minds. Their minds are preoccupied with the thoughts of the injustice, as such they cannot have time to think about political matters.
Analysts have always associated Prophet Muhammad to a feminist who always enshrined women’s inequality in some form of immutable law. Muhammad would attest that the laws were God’s commandments and he would have them recorded in the scriptures. Surprisingly, a female testimony’s in court is valued as a half of a male’s testimony. Such Quran scriptures downplay women with political aspirations. Obviously, politics are prone to disagreements that may force one to seek refuge in the courts. Therefore, intimidating women’s testimonies is a clear pathway to discouraging women to take part in politics (Blackburn, 2004).
It is evident that selfishness is the key issue in Islamic countries. Men are so selfish, such that they want to have everything happening on their favor at the expense of their women. They want to be the breadwinners of their families as the females bow down on them. They want to have the most lucrative jobs, as the females take junior positions. They desire to have the greatest influence in the political positions in the government while their women cannot even afford to argue with them. As much as the Quran is gender insensitive, egoism prevents women from taking part in public policy matters.
As evident from the discussions, the gender inequalities that ought to be outdated in the contemporary world still prevail in some Islamic countries. Although women activists have played a great role in fighting for the rights of women, it is evident that women cannot dislodge those issues through a single action. Women ought to work collectively to ensure that they have equal education and employment opportunities as their male counterparts. Essentially, higher education is the key indicator of social development. Women in Islamic countries are obligated to devise strategies to fight gender inequality to achieve social justice and take part in political matters.
It is encouraging that some parents living in Islamic countries send their daughters to other nations to pursue careers of their choice. However, foreign education is not a viable solution, as poor families may not afford to send their daughters abroad. In fact, female activists should struggle to ensure that the ministry of education does not segregate the male and female students. Female activists should struggle to enlighten the women to forget about their outdated traditions and fight to adopt the lifestyles of females in civilized nations.
Blackburn, S. (2004). Women and the state in Modern Indonesia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Web.
Hamdan, A. (2005). Women and education in Saudi Arabia: Challenges and achievements. International Education Journal, 6(1), 42-64. Web.
Othman, N. (2006). Muslim women and the challenge of Islamic fundamentalism/extremism: An overview of Southeast Asian Muslim women’s struggle for human rights and gender equality. Women’s Studies International Forum, 29(1), 339-353. Web.
Roald, A. (2003). Women in Islam: The western experience. London: Routledge. Web.