Do you want religion or do you want rights?
Dalia Mogahed: Well, I think that one of the most interesting themes in our research is that sometimes here in the west, we can become prisoners of our own clichés, as Hussein ______ said today. Or prisoners of our own false dichotomies.
And so we sometimes look to Muslim women and we ask the question, “Do you want rights, or do you want religion?” And that’s the dichotomy.
What we find when we ask Muslim women themselves what they in fact want, the answer is both. And they see no contradiction between the faith they cherish and the rights they deserve.
I think that’s one of the most important findings is that we have to break out of these constructive, false dichotomies and really get a much more nuanced understanding of this population, which tells us that they admire much about the west. They see no contradiction between Islam and democracy, or Islam and women’s rights. But that these types of things have to grow out of their own cultural context. They cannot be imposed from the outside.
I think that there are definitely some ways that the interpretation of Islam needs to change; and many would argue to become more true to its spirit; that what Islam is essentially is really the collective understanding of its people, of its followers. And so that piece of human agency is very important. And what we find is that not only are the majority of Muslims interpreting their faith to be to offer a vision of gender justice, but that they are, in many ways, fighting for gender justice through the framework of their faith, rather than outside of it.
Recorded on: July 3, 2007.