The Role of Authentic Islam: The Way Forward for Women in Saudi Arabia

In: Hawwa
Author: Amani Hamdan1
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  • 1 University of Western Ontario Alumni

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Abstract

This paper explores the main reasons for which progressive Saudis can be optimistic that women will eventually achieve their rightful place in society in general and in the employment sector in particular. A critical analysis is performed of the social, cultural, and religious background to gender inequality as well as of the current state of women’s education and employment. The evidence considered of the everlasting gender discourses in Saudi Arabia includes examples from the girls’ home economics textbook for Grades 7 and 8. This paper confirms that Saudi society is witnessing a growing acknowledgment of the undeniable Scriptural basis for women’s participation in all aspects of public life and an accompanying dilution of the influence of the some conservative Ulama as enforcers of a narrow and literal interpretation of Islam. This paper also confirms that important institutional and policy changes are underway that are creating new educational and employment opportunities for women. The result is that the deeply entrenched gender issues that has for so long characterized the Saudi education system and society as a whole is being challenged by progressive Islamic principles and by a variety of institutional reforms, among other factors.

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