I think Sholto is right on two fronts: thatÂ the first female mufti could be the thin end of a wedge towards equality for women in Islam. Secondly that any change to the status of women in Islamic practice needs to come from within Islam, rather than imposed from without, or by removing or replacing Islam.
Sad to see the comment from Ayesha:
Overall I’d rather be a woman in a conservative Catholic country than a woman in almost any Muslim country.
Ayesha’s comment could arise from a number of foundations: perhaps she’s an expat from an Islamic state; or perhaps she’s familiar with both forms of patriarchy and considers one to be less unacceptable than the other; or perhaps she is just plain anti-Islam. It’s sad that she is choosing between two forms of patriarchal imprisonment.
What’s quite sad, in Sholto’s article, is that he is so clearly unaware of the many engagements with feminists in Islamic states which are not posited on the abolition of faith; he sets up a binary folly of setting Islam against Roman Catholicism as if that church was representative of Christianity as a whole; and of course he doesn’t refer to the women who were instrumental in the Gospels and in the early church.
Yes, it’s good that there may be a female mufti: whether she makes the kind of difference in the UAE that women ministers have made in the UK for over 100 years remains to be seen… if she gets appointed. I wonder who’s on the shortlist?
You are right about setting up a binary distinction: always foolish. I still see the fact of change coming from within as key. This isn’t to denigrate or underplay the activities of (e.g.) feminists and the example of more liberal states that have made the change possible at all.