I've been reading a few blogs and articles over the past few days, and a lot of them brought up the issue of the so-called contradiction between feminism and Islam. Is there a contradiction? Can a Muslim woman be a feminist, and can a feminist be a Muslim? I'd say yes, since I would describe myself as both.
I think one problem is the negative image feminism has in the Arab/Islamic world. People see it as a Western import that has no place in Islamic culture. It probably brings to mind images of women in short skirts burning bras or women trying to act like men. This is, of course, stereotypical. To me, feminism is simply giving women equal right. EQUAL, not the SAME. No one says that men and women should be doing the same things or playing the same roles, but they should get EQUAL value for what they do, i.e. a woman should be valued for raising children just as much as a man gets valued for being a C.E.O. (provided the woman chose to become a mother).
In this sense of the word feminism, is it really incompatible with Islam? I don't think so. As many scholars have said, the Qur'an out of the 3 holy books gives the most rights to women. The Prophet could probably be described as a feminist, considering that he was pro-women's rights and often spoke out against unnecessary cruelty against women, such as when they were beaten by their husbands. His actions alone were very progressive: he didn't beat his wives, his wives often spoke out against him publicly, and he clearly loved them, especially Aisha. Khadija in particular is a good example of the kind of man the Prophet was: she was older than him, economically independent, and she proposed to him! Can you imagine many Arab men TODAY marrying a woman like that? I definitely can't.
If anything, the Qur'an and the Prophet put forward a case for women's rights that has gradually been diminished over time, with women becoming more and more oppressed across the Islamic world. This is why I'm very interested in the idea of Islamic feminism: the idea that we can get equality for women through Islam, since Islam does advocate that women's rights are important.
It really gets to me when Muslims (especially women) get upset at feminists. Another example of women bringing their own sex down. You can be a Muslim and a feminist: there is no necessary contradiction, unless you have a radical defintion of feminism OR a radical definition of Islam, and since I have neither, I find it easy to be both.