Although women’s rights and religious freedom are not commonly associated with one another in the world of the 1.6 billion Muslims, there is a correlation that must be uncovered.
According to Women and Religious Freedom by Nazila Ghanea, inherent in religious freedom is the right to believe or not believe as one’s conscience leads, and live out one’s beliefs openly, peacefully, and without fear.
Freedom of religion or belief is an expansive right that includes the freedoms of thought, conscience, expression, association, and assembly. For the Muslim world, the Quran reads in Sura 2:256, “Let there be no compulsion in religion.”
Individuals must not be forced to follow a literal interpretation of religious teachings and traditions. Faith under force is invalid and ingenuine. Therefore, it is never in the public’s interest to force belief on individuals, regardless of gender, and restrict their right to question, explore and fulfill their purpose.
The Muslim world is expansive and complex, and in growing numbers, Muslims value the ideals of religious freedom and pluralism, even though they may not discuss it openly.
According to Jennifer Bryson, former director of the Center for Islam and Religious Freedom,
Many Muslims are writing and speaking about religious freedom and Islam, not only in response to international human rights discourse, but, significantly and most of all, internally in their own intra-faith discussions about Islam and being Muslim.
When considering the growing movement of women’s rights around the globe, there are a number of shared values that women in Muslim and non-Muslim countries exhibit that show an increasing interest in religious freedom.
For example, similar to their counterparts in the West, Muslim women value the freedom to choose their own faith perspective and activities. Muslim women value choosing their own support network and marriage partners. Muslim women value the freedom to receive higher education and job training.
Muslim women value the freedom to travel and explore. Muslim women value the freedom to engage in media and access new ideas. Muslim women value the freedom to express themselves through fitness and fashion.
Muslim women value the freedom to work outside the home and in charitable causes. Many of these freedoms are connected to innovation and flourishing economies and business, including freedom of conscience and belief.
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Source: Christianity Today