Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

CSID Conference Spotlights Muslim Women's Rights

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

CSID Conference Spotlights Muslim Women's Rights

Article excerpt

THE CENTER for Study on Islam and Democracy (CSID) held its eighth annual conference, on "The Rights of Women in Islam and Muslim Societies," at George Washington University in Washington, DC on April 27. Panelists came from as far away as Afghanistan to discuss one of the most pressing and controversial issues facing Muslim women today: their rights in Islam.

Divided into four sessions, the conference considered topics ranging from highly complex issues as "The Development of Islamic Feminism" to more specific regional-oriented issues as "Spiritual Capital of Politically Engaged Women in Kuwait" and "The Rights of Women in Afghanistan."

Belquis Ahmadi, senior human rights adviser for the USAID Afghanistan Rule of Law Project, discussed the challenges facing Muslim Afghani women today, and the steps being taken to promote women's rights. Ahmadi began her remarks by noting that despite the fall of the Taliban, "women's problems from traditions and customs are still substantial," in part because of "narrow and oppressive interpretations of shariah law." In Afghanistan, she explained, shariah, or Islamic law, is used by the mullahs (Islamic clergy) as a way to prohibit women from actively engaging, in Afghani society, whether politically, socially or economically. Ahmadi described her role in the Afghanistan Rule of Law Project-along with that of 45 other board members, ranging from moderates to conservatives-as to "reform women's rights through progressive interpretations of shariah law."

The project has developed a questionnaire that targets three pressing issues in Afghani society today: marriage and the appropriate age for women to marry (some conservatives feel that 9 years old is suitable); a woman's right to an education; and, finally, a woman's right to participate in society. …

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