Muslim feminists confront a world of obstacles at conference in Barcelona

The third gathering of the International Congress on Islamic Feminism held in Barcelona produced conflicting concerns over where debates are heading and how to address women’s issues. Arifa Mazhar, manager of gender issues for the Sungi Development Foundation working in Pakistan, said that she grew tired of talking about religion – suggesting conference attendees debate the impact of culture, instead of debating about Islam. “Culture is so conservative in some tribal areas. Women can’t move around; they can’t work. There are a lot of social taboos and tribal traditions that oppress women and they have little to do with Islam,” said Mazhar. She argues that issues of culture are far more important, and instead of arguing about how it’s done in the West, local level feminism for local Muslim communities would provide more realistic and lasting grassroots efforts. Scholars attending the conference included Amina Wadud, Souad Eddouada, and Margo Badran, while several organizations such as Sisters in Islam were also in attendance.

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