I am currently reading "Western Muslims and the Future of Islam" by Tariq Ramadan (maybe I should just start a blog about him, haha) and I thought I'd post some interesting points:
"The issue of women is a sensitive one in almost all Western Islamic communities, and it sometimes appears that the whole question of faithfulness to Islam centers on it. Moreover, the repeated allusions and questions of our fellow-citizens, intellectuals, and the media about "women in Islam" cause a sort of psychological pressure that drives Muslims to adopt a defensive and often apologetic stance, which is not always objective."
"We are far from the ideal of equality before God, complementarity in family and social relations, and financial independence, behind which many ulama and intellectuals hide behind by quoting verses and Prophetic traditions."
"One also finds all sorts of restrictions to do with women, such as the "Islamic" prohibition against their working, having social involvements, speaking in public, and engaging in politics. And what have we not heard about the impossibility of "mixing"! One can certainly find ulama in the traditionalist and literalist schools who declare that these are Islamic teachings, but it is essential we go back to the scriptural sources to evaluate these practices, and to draw a clear distinction between customs that are culturally based and Islamic principles.
AMEN! I couldn't have said it better. And he finally labeled what I've been wondering what to call - the traditionalists and literalists (commonly known as fundamentalists in the media).
He goes on to mention how Muslim women who work at grassroots level do not judge each other re. hijab, but rather see it as a personal choice, and accept each other's choices. That sounds strange to me, since it's definitely not what I see in blog world. In fact I think the issue of hijab has very severely split Muslims into opposing camps, with a lot of bitterness, judgment, and negativity being exchanged between the 2 "sides".
Great book, I recommend it to everyone. I actually found out yesterday that Tariq Ramadan was supposed to be the person supervising my thesis, if he had ended up coming to my university (which he didn't, even though he accepted the job. Not sure what happened after that). I'm sure you guys can imagine how annoying that was for me!
By the way here are the videos of the debate I posted about earlier (there is more but it wasn't posted):