I get quite intemperate during alcohol-fueled arguments about how backward cultures that subjugate women need to be "smashed"—preferably as Marx predicted ("The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilization."), but not only. Of course, I am accused of being anachronistic—that there were good explanations for why women's freedom was curtailed by earlier primitive cultures, not least of which was the desire of men not to work and provide for children not their own. That's true, but so what now? Two centuries after the Enlightenment finally began the process of emancipating women there is no excuse for denying them dignity and worth equal to that enjoyed by men. Cultures that refuse to recognize the autonomy of women are by definition backward.
Anyway, the foregoing outburst was inspired by an article in the Toronto Star about a recent talk by Princeton University Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis in which he argued that Muslim women are the hope for finally modernizing those societies.
I firmly believe that women are our best hope in dealing with the Muslim world, because they have so much to gain from modernization…
[W]omen have made enormous progress in some countries, although by no means all, and that is in education. And here, one of the encouraging features of the situation is that one of the countries where women have done best is in Iraq. Now, don't misunderstand me, I'm not speaking of rights—the word "rights" has no meaning at all in that kind of society—I'm speaking of opportunity, of access. Women in Iraq—and this goes back a long way; it started under the monarchy and continued under the various succeeding regimes—had access to higher education to a degree without parallel in the Arab world, with the possible exception of Tunisia. They could go to university. They could enter the professions.
This, I feel, is a very hopeful sign for the future. Women generally do not receive the brain-deadening indoctrination that passes for education in many of these countries, because they're not thought important enough to be given it.
This does have a beneficial result, and I would say in many respects women are the greatest hope for much of the Islamic world, notably—but by no means exclusively—in Iraq.
Whole thing here.