Minor Thoughts from me to you

Freeing Women in Algeria

Algerian women are slowly doing what women in few Islamic countries are able to do -- they are gaining independence from the men in their lives. I couldn't be happier.

Women make up 70 percent of Algeria's lawyers and 60 percent of its judges. Women dominate medicine. Increasingly, women contribute more to household income than men. Sixty percent of university students are women, university researchers say.

How is this happening? Well, mainly through the laziness and apathy of Algeria's men.

Algeria's young men reject school and try to earn money as traders in the informal sector, selling goods on the street, or they focus their efforts on leaving the country or just hanging out. There is a whole class of young men referred to as hittistes -- the word is a combination of French and Arabic for people who hold up walls.

University studies are no longer viewed as a credible route toward a career or economic well-being, and so men may well opt out and try to find work or to simply leave the country, suggested Hugh Roberts, a historian and the North Africa project director of the International Crisis Group.

Algerian women have been quick to take advantage of the opportunity. They have also learned to use traditional Islamic dress as a tool to further their goals.

Sociologists and many working women say that by adopting religion and wearing the Islamic head covering called the hijab, women here have in effect freed themselves from moral judgments and restrictions imposed by men. Uncovered women are rarely seen on the street late at night, but covered women can be seen strolling the city after attending the evening prayer at a mosque.

As a result, they may be able to do more to modernize Algeria than anyone ever dreamed.

Women may have emerged as Algeria's most potent force for social change, with their presence in the bureaucracy and on the street having a potentially moderating and modernizing influence on society, sociologists said.

Many of today's Algerian women have a decidedly Enlightened view of religion and work.

"I don't think any of this contradicts Islam," said Wahiba Nabti, 36, as she walked through the center of the city one day recently. "On the contrary, Islam gives freedom to work. Anyway it is between you and God."

Ms. Nabti wore a black scarf covering her head and a long black gown that hid the shape of her body. "I hope one day I can drive a crane, so I can really be financially independent," she said. "You cannot always rely on a man."

This is the perspective, attitude, and action that American feminists cannot endure. Rather than violently overthrowing the "patriarchy" and "men's religion", Algerian women are working through religion and the patriarchy to achieve their goals. If they succeed, they can be model to Muslim women everywhere. They will also be another crack in the wall of traditional Muslim barbarism and oppression.

Go, go, go!

This entry was tagged. Civil Liberties Islam