Source: International Herald Tribune
The religious order banning women from dressing like tomboys was bad enough. But the fatwa by Malaysia's leading clerics against yoga was the last straw.
"They have never even done yoga!" said Zainah Anwar, head of a Malaysian women's rights group called Sisters in Islam.
Anwar argues that the edict, issued late last year by Malaysia's National Fatwa Council, was pure patriarchy. Islam, she said, was only a cover.
It was frustrations like these that drew several hundred Muslim women to a conference in this Muslim-majority country over the weekend. Their mission was to come up with ways to demand equal rights for women. And their tools, however unlikely, were the tenets of Islam itself.
"Secular feminism has fulfilled its historical role, but it has nothing more to give us," said Ziba Mir-Hosseini, an Iranian anthropologist who has been helping to formulate some of the arguments. "The challenge we face now is theological."
The advocates came from 47 countries to participate in the project, called Musawah, the Arabic word for equality. They spent the weekend brainstorming and learning the best Islamic arguments to take back to their own societies as defense against clerics who insist that women's lives are dictated by men's strict interpretations of Islam.