Time has an interesting article up about women in Islamic countries. It talks about how Mohammed might’ve improved the state of women in 7th century Arabia, but his ideas are just plain backwards by today’s standards – and, even worse, now that women’s roles are defined by a 7th century document, they are blocked from gaining equality with men. It is entrenched inequality.
Part of the problem dates to Muhammad. Even as he proclaimed new rights for women, he enshrined their inequality in immutable law, passed down as God’s commandments and eventually recorded in scripture. The Koran allots daughters half the inheritance of sons. It decrees that a woman’s testimony in court, at least in financial matters, is worth half that of a man’s. Under Shari’a, or Muslim law, compensation for the murder of a woman is half the going rate for men. In many Muslim countries, these directives are incorporated into contemporary law. For a woman to prove rape in Pakistan, for example, four adult males of “impeccable” character must witness the penetration, in accordance with Shari’a.
Even worse, women believe it is part of God’s religious order that they are subjugated. (What better way to prevent a slaves revolt than to successfully convince them that it’s God’s divine plan that they remain as slaves?)