Indonesia’s Siti Musdah Mulia is a name to remember. That’s because she is showing Muslim women how to break out of bondage by using the words of the Koran.
Dr. Mulia was raised in a traditional Indonesian Muslim home and an Islamic boarding school. She was barred from contact with men. She was not allowed to laugh out loud. If she socialized with a non-Muslim, she was made to shower afterward.
Growing up, she traveled to other Muslim countries and found ways to understand Islam other than the rigid orthodoxy of her upbringing. Having earned a PhD in Islamic political thought, she has become a significant force in Indonesia and elsewhere for Muslim women’s rights. In 2007 she received the International Women of Courage award from then-US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Mulia is one of several courageous Muslim feminists who are challenging conservative male interpretations of Islam. As Isobel Coleman, a leading American authority on Islamic feminism and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told me: “Half of those men have never read the Koran in their own language.”
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