Gender Equality and Islam

Video | 28 March 2014

Ratna Osman, Executive Director of the Malaysian group Sisters in Islam discusses the challenges associated with the struggle for gender equality in Muslim societies like Malaysia.

Transcript

Title: Gender Equality and Islam

Description: Ratna Osman, Executive Director of the Malaysian group Sisters in Islam discusses the challenges associated with the struggle for gender equality in Muslim societies like Malaysia.

Ratna Osman
Executive Director
Sisters in Islam

Within the Islamic context, the fight or the call for gender equality has always been an uphill battle because of this whole understanding of very classical interpretation of the religion, very patriarchal, the fact that male Muslims must always have the authority over women. Therefore, any language of gender equality has always been misunderstood as a product or creation of the West, when this is not true. In Malaysia, for example, a lot of the Islamic laws actually acknowledge gender equality. A lot of work must still be done, yet there has been grounds that has been achieved pushing for gender equality within the marriage, gender equality when it comes to women’s role now within Muslim society have also change. It’s no longer a unit where the husband is the bread winner.

Q: What challenges have you faced working towards gender equality in Malaysia?
A: The works of women activists like Sisters in Islam in Malaysia has always been to call for acceptance of gender equality within Islam and we produce Islamic argument to say that the spirit of the Koran have always been towards calling for equality between Muslim men and Muslim women. We also look at the life of the prophet as an example of how he’s always been advancing women’s position in the society. It is quite strange or something new that a group of Muslim women talking about gender justice, so we do receive quite a lot of intimidation and challenges within the Islamic pressure groups.

Q: How do you tackle entrenched attitudes within Islam towards gender equality, often based on traditional interpretations of the Koran?
A: This is something really unacceptable when they say that the relationship between men and women must always remain patriarchal and looking at the classical interpretation of the religion. If I take example, Malaysia, you know, Malaysia is all out when it comes to business, banking, finance, agriculture, education using Islamic arguments to advance, pushing for a developing nation. But only when it comes to personal law, male authority to control women, to control wives, or daughters then this whole argument that it’s divine, that it cannot be changed will ome in place.