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Islam and Gender Inequality

            It has long been debated by many that Islam promotes inequality, it could be argued that if one does not look deeper into the matter, it would seem like that would be the case. What one can tend to do is solely blame it on religion; which is often the case. Looking at Middle Eastern states such as Saudi Arabia and Iran; it would be easy to say that Islam paints a picture of gender inequality from a broad perspective. In Saudi Arabia women require a male guardian; there are restrictions on dress and behavior, and women just recently got the permission to drive a car (with a male guardian). Whilst in Iran it is not permissible for a married women to make foreign travels without the permission of her husband; restrictions on dress and behavior are also in the constitution. The list could virtually go on but one has to put these facts aside and see if these restrictions and gender inequalities are there because of Islam or are there any other possible reasons? Asma Barlas (2002:1) asked if the Quran was a patriarchal or misogynistic text; whether it represents God as a Father/male or even if the Quran teaches that God has any special kind of relationship with males and that if women are by nature unclean, weak or sinful. The answer is no, The Quran does not advocate any kind of "one" gender superiority; it is the muslims who are to blame due to misreading and misguiding of Islam (Barlas:2002:2). Kandiyoti (1991:23) states that Muslim scholars argue for that Islam is equal; using the Hadith and Quran as the major sources to back the argument up. It could be argued that there are other factors behind the reason why the rate of gender inequality has been high in Middle Eastern countries. State ideology can make a difference such as in Turkey when Ataturk made state reforms which would affect gender in Turkey. Habib Bourguiba did something similar in Tunisia which points to the fact that state ideology plays a major factor to gender roles in the society; case study examples of this will be given in later on in this paper.

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