Oz Muslim women start fighting back against a repressive patriarchal system

November 20th, 2008 - 1:21 pm ICT by ANI  

Melbourne, Nov 20 (ANI): Muslim women in Australia are starting to fight back against a repressive patriarchal system in which controversial Sheikh Taj al-Din al-Hilali is seen as a champion of womens rights.

A conference to be held at Melbourne University will duscuss three topics — Muslim women fight the patriarchal system, the mosque being seen as increasingly irrelevant and an educator defending Sheikh Hilali, The Age reported.

Leading Muslim spokeswoman Silma Ihram says new voices in the Muslim community, especially women, are bypassing the mosque seeing it as increasingly irrelevant. However, the lack of structure also makes space for radical groups to seek recruits.

Ihram, a noted educator who will present a paper to a National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies conference today, is one of several speakers encouraging Muslim women to fight against their second-class status.

In her paper, she defends Sheikh Hilali, who sparked an outrage two years ago when he compared scantily clad women with uncovered meat, saying he is considered one of the most outspoken supporters of womens rights.

She says he was the main supporter for the setting up of the Muslim Womens Association despite objections from his own male-only mosque board, and is reputed to support womens choice in marriage, divorce and ethnic intermarriage.

She said the sheikh changed his message depending on the audience. He has a conservative patriarchal community (at Sydneys Lakemba Mosque), and hes going to address them in a way they feel comfortable with.

At the same time he has to deal with younger Australian women, whose rights he is championing. So he has this contradiction: he says one thing to one group and another to another. A lot of imams have this problem, The Age quoted Ihram, as saying.

The paper says Muslim women in Australia are still denied essential rights spelled out in the Koran, but access to a Western education and a feminist discourse is helping them contest centuries of selective male interpretation of the Scriptures.

Ihram said new voices had begun to challenge the authority of ethnic religious leadership in the mosque, partly in frustration at the politics and limited capability of ethnic Muslim associations. (ANI)

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