Monday, July 7, 2008

of COURSE Islam's original feminist was a man

A little blurb on Qasim Amin, an Egyptian intellectual of the late 19th/early 20th century who advocated for the integration of women into public life and for women's education, from the Canadian National Post.

Historically it's not 100% accurate - at the time that his books on women were published, girls' schools run both by the state and Muslim benevolence societies were open and operating. (Leila Ahmed contests the characterization of Amin as a feminist in her book "Women and Gender in Islam".) So, the journalist's assertion that he rocked society by advocating an education for girls gives Amin more credit than he deserves. It also takes the work out of the context in which it was meant, namely, as part of Amin's desire to initiate broader social transformation through changing the role(s) that women play. He felt that women's education, as well as the removal of their hijab, would help propel Egypt toward a more progressive, Western future.

I don't think most feminists would contest the idea that altering the role of women has the potential to fundamentally change society. And I don't think many neocons would contest the idea that encouraging women in Arab societies to more exactly mimic the behaviors of women in Western societies has the potential to make a society more "advanced". Women - putty in the hands of reformers.

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