Campaigning for the EU? From the Christian Science Monitor, with thanks to Skeetstreet:
ISTANBUL – Covered in a pink and gray head scarf that tightly frames her round face, and adorned in a long, dark-blue overcoat, Zuleyha Seker hardly seems like a rebel. But as one of 400 women preachers, known as vaizes, currently working in several of Turkey’s state-run mosques, Ms. Seker is making waves.
“The vaizes like me are seen as revolutionaries in religious circles – we are always pushing for change,” she says with a gentle smile.
Indeed, women have brought significant change to Turkey’s Muslim order in recent years. Two years ago, women were appointed for the first time to lead groups of Turks making the pilgrimage to Mecca. And last year, Diyanet, a government body that oversees the country’s mosques and trains religious leaders, added 150 women preachers across Turkey.
Now, Diyanet is selecting a group of women who will serve as deputies to muftis, or expounders of religious law. From this post, they’ll monitor the work being done by imams in local mosques, particularly as it relates to women.
While these changes come in response to what Diyanet officials describe as a growing demand from women for more and better religious education, academics and Islamic intellectuals say these developments are also being forced by the rise of a new class of educated religious women who are demanding more rights within the country’s Islamic milieu.
“Now, women are more educated, they participate more in social life, and they are mixing more with men, so they are demand- ing more,” says Nevin Meric, a women’s education expert at the Istanbul mufti’s office. “Today they are aware of their rights and they are learning by reading and asking,” she says.
Buket Turkmen, a sociologist at Istanbul’s Galatasaray University who has studied the role of women in Turkish Islam, says that for many women who come from traditional homes where they would normally be limited in what they are allowed to do, religious education becomes a path to a certain kind of independence.
“It’s very paradoxical, but by choosing Islam, they can gain their individuality and their emancipation. In this context, Islam means modernization,” Ms. Turkmen says….
Mehmet Gormez, Diyanet’s deputy head, says the growing demand from women has forced Turkey’s religious institutions to act. “In Islamic doctrine, men and women are equal. This should also be applied in practice,” Mr. Gormez adds….
Is that so, Gormez? Can you please point me to the passage in the Qur’an that says that women can beat their husbands? What’s that? There isn’t one? Only one saying that men can beat their wives (4:34)? I see.
When Amina Wadud, an American Muslim and professor, announced that she would lead Friday prayers at an annex of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City last month, condemnation rang from orthodox circles. Sunni preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi of Qatar issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, saying “that leadership in prayer in Islam is reserved for men only,” and warning that a women leading prayers might arouse men…
Oh for cryin’ out loud.