Thursday, 3 March 2011

Good News from the Arab Spring Revolutions: "When Women Change, Everything Changes"

There's a hit counter on this blog, and one of the posts that continues to get lots of hits is one I did about the Muslim women and the veil in July 2009. "When a Veil Is Not a Veil: Fashion, Modesty and Evolving Rules" concerns the way many Muslim women arrange to look pretty and fashionable while following rules of modesty, and the way many non-Muslim women over time have worn veils in the same way and for similar reasons. "Fashion trumps all!" is the way I ended the post.

I might have added that wearing a veil does not mean a woman can't get involved in politics, and I was heartened to read Naomi Wolf's article "The Middle East Feminist Revolution" reprinted in The Globe and Mail. In it she writes: "The role of women in the great upheaval in the Middle East has been woefully under-analyzed. Women in Egypt did not just “join” the protests – they were a leading force behind the cultural evolution that made the protests inevitable. And what is true for Egypt is true, to a greater and lesser extent, throughout the Arab world. When women change, everything changes, and women in the Muslim world are changing radically."

This is good news. It is also news that is not particularly new in the sense that studies over the last two decades have showed that literacy rates among women correlate remarkably with such things as lower birth rates and infant mortality rates. Ismaili Muslims even say that if you can only educate one of your children, make it a girl because she will pass on values and culture to the next generation.

Maybe the thing to say now is: "Education trumps everything."

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