Muslim Society Caught in the Middle, Says Sociologist

Congress Focuses on Women and Religions

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MILAN, Italy, DEC. 19, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The Islamic attitude toward women indicates a rejection of "modernity," says a professor of sociology of the Muslim world.



Khaled Fouad Allam, professor at the University of Trieste, said, "Muslim society is living in schizophrenia between society´s signs of modernization in externals, with women doctors [and] lawyers and, at the same time, deep-rooted structures that intend to apply Islamic law to civil rights in Muslim countries."

Allam´s comments came at a congress on "Women and Religions," organized by the Province of Milan. The event Tuesday echoed an article written by Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci on Sept. 29, in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"What attitude should be adopted regarding the matter of the chador, or polygamy, or the principle that women count less than camels, and that they should not go to school, or to a doctor?" Fallaci queried.

The journalist´s article "Anger and Pride," published by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, has been translated into many languages and published by national newspapers abroad, eventually appearing in book form.

For his part, Monsignor Franco Buzzi, director of St. Charles Academy of Milan, explained that the historical context influences the way religious communities live their customs.

Beginning with Genesis, "there is the abstract principle of the absolute equality between man and woman; however, every period has lived this principle according to the culture of the moment," Monsignor Buzzi clarified.

The Catholic Church lived this dichotomy for centuries, "until Vatican Council II established absolute clarity," the theologian said.

"Prejudice and sexism lasted a long time in the Church," he added. "The position changed with Pius XII, due to the establishment of universal suffrage."

The Church emphasizes that women must be integrated into society, by contributing their specific gifts and not becoming masculine.

Tulia Zevi, former president of the Union of Jewish Communities, explained that in Jewish culture, woman has been regarded as a "transmitter of traditional values, which for centuries has conditioned her personal autonomy."

Whereas in biblical times woman studied just as men did, with the passing of time this equality diminished, and she was excluded from the study of the Torah, alleging her intellectual inferiority, Zevi said.

In the Jewish tradition, the Enlightenment opened the doors of education again to women. Zevi noted that today in the United States there are more than 300 women rabbis.