Thursday, June 4, 2009

President's Cairo Speech Addresses Women's Rights in the Muslim World

I have to say as a Muslim, as a woman, and as a feminist, the President's speech last night was inspiring and revolutionary to say the least. To have an American President reach out the way he did to the Muslim world is both humbling and historic.

While he has a lot to deliver on, the President tackled a host of "risky" issues in his roughly hour-long speech: from the Arab- Israeli conflict, the use of abhorrent violence by Islamic fundamentalists, to 9/11, to US engagement in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Heck, he even brought up the issue of polio in the Muslim world!

As a feminist, the highlight for me came when the Presdient addressed women' s rights in Muslim countries. While navigating a culturally and religiously sensitive topic, the President stipulated the importance of education--specifically, that denying women education denies women equality. He focused on the fact that no one should be denied the right to education.

This particular aspect of the speech made me think about my father and the reaction he got when he decided that all four of his daughters should be educated. At the time, most people in Bangladesh were shocked as families usually invested only in the education of their sons, not their daughters. I can still hear my dad saying, "But why would you not want all your children to be educated?" I always tell him those were his natural feminist instincts rising through ;)

The President also touched on the significance of investing in maternal and child health, and applauded the Muslim countries which had female leaders such as Bangladesh(!!!), Pakistan, and Indonesia to name a few.

To view the speech or read a transcript, click here.

No comments: