This was written by Sara Elghobashy and originally published at the elan blog.
Whenever a story breaks that Muslim women are suffering somewhere in the world, the press foams at the mouth. Headlines with the words “unveiled” or “veiled” pop up everywhere and the world goes on to sing the song of “Muslim women are oppressed. Someone save them from their religion!” Yet, when news emerges that Muslim women are gaining some footing, there isn’t a peep about it in Western news outlets.
This is exactly what happened earlier this month when the U.A.E. announced that next year it will be appointing its first state-sanctioned female muftis, respected interpreters of Islamic law who even have the decision-making power to issue fatwas. Six women are currently being considered for the training program, which will last several months. Women currently serve as religious advisors at the Abu Dhabi fatwa center but are confined to advising women on “women’s issues.” However, this new role will give women the opportunity to advise and issue decrees on religious matters.
Dr. Ahmed al Haddad, Grand Mufti of the UAE and head of the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department, said that Islamic tradition is “rich in examples of highly learned women acting as muftis and issuing decrees on all matters,” and added that “women too can order acts of virtue and ban acts of vice just like a man can and of course she can do that only with acquired scholarship and training, which is what female contemporaries of the Prophet have done as well as the women who came after them.”
Social attitudes have stood in the way of Muslim women for a long time now, but slowly, they are gaining the rights that are guaranteed to them by Islam in regions we thought would be unlikely to change. And as they overcome social hurdles and change the misconception that Islam is inherently oppressive for women, maybe we’ll see less of the stories we’re used to and more stories like these in media.