There is nothing in the Islamic tradition that prevents women from working, getting an education, or partaking in public social and political life. At the same time, the social and political advancement of women lags behind in most of the Middle East and North African countries. So how do we make sense of the diverse, and often contradictory, situation of women across Muslim countries today? Some scholars of Islam and of feminism emphasize the historical evolution of women's rights since the Qur'anic revelation. Another thread of scholarship explores the influence of Islam on the political changes in Muslim countries but neglects the historicity of women's rights in Islam. In this book chapter from Islam, Gender, and Democracy in Comparative Perspective, Jocelyne Cesari argues that Muslim women's rights are shaped by: (1) the modernized forms of Islam linked to the emergence of the postcolonial state; and (2) the overall theological discussions of women's rights in Islam that take place within this state framework, as shown in case studies from Algeria, Egypt, Turkey, and Pakistan.
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