Thursday, August 03, 2006

Moroccan Islam and Feminism

A few weeks ago, I noted this in an interview with Nadia Yassine of Morocco's Justice and Charity Group:
"First we need to understand what sharia means; is it only the divinely-ordained penalties or is it dynamic and in need of rediscovery? The problem with Muslims is that they have come to understand the sharia as set texts. We envision the sharia as a spirit that the heart must discover. This is why our charitable educational programs, which are related to Sufi (Islamic mystic) schools, are so important.

"Thus, the most important thing in this field is the preparation of a new generation to acquire the essential tools of intellectual ijtihad (interpretation) in all fields—particularly women, who have been consistently wronged when ijtihad was performed before. The group's general leader Abessalam Yassine emphasizes that the tragedy of Muslims is due largely to the lack of female knowledge of ijtihad, or, more precisely, the exclusion of women from ijtihad. We are now seeing a renaissance of thought relating to women, who are returning to studies generally and particularly to ijtihad in order to acquire real skills."

I just read from Moorish Girl that Morocco is now training female religious leaders. This is being done under royal auspices, and fits the pattern I've noticed in the Arab world of rulers supporting social reforms in order to divide their proponents from political reformers. However, together both the monarchy's recent actions and the views of its Islamist opponents (Yassine supports a republican government) show that there's a lot happening out on the Maghreb that amount to a revivial of Islam's historic dynamic and progressive spirit.

(Crossposted to American Footprints.)

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