Re Frida Ghitis’ March 22 Other Views column, Muslim moderates speak up for freedom: Self-proclaimed progressive and women’s-rights advocate Ayaan Hirsi Ali forgets that, long before Europe and the West gave women the right to own property, Islam gave this right to women in the 7th century. It took another 13 centuries before women in Europe and the West got the same rights.

Before women in Europe and the West became involved in family business, Muslim women were already successful in this endeavor. The wife of Prophet Mohammed was a successful and powerful woman in Arabia. And it is Islam that gave women the right to vote long before Pitcairn Island extended those rights to women in 1838.

If the goal is to reform Muslims (and not one-upmanship), then well-wishers need to partner with those Muslims who have demonstrated love for their faith and who are symbiotically connected to their communities.

America will be best served if the mainstream American Muslim community, which recent polls show to be highly educated, well-integrated and patriotic, is taken as full partner in this quest for reforming Muslim societies.


I was shocked to read how misinformed Frida Ghitis was about the Secular Islamic Summit. She leaves the impression that the majority of the attendees were Muslims. Of the 200 or so who gathered in St. Petersburg, only a handful were Muslims. The occasion drew a blend of extreme right-wing and neoconservative voices with a history of prejudice against the faith.

As a Muslim, I am not against reform. Reform and adaptation always have been part of the Islamic culture. But the reform has to come from within by people who have a deep love for the faith, not by people with a preestablished agenda of politicizing world events for their benefits.

You cannot expect to give a dose of Western values to the Muslim world or privatize their religion expecting Western-style democracy to flourish.

As increasing numbers of Muslim women become more educated, majorities are becoming more religious while also taking part in what are called Islamic feminist movements, which stretch from Egypt to Turkey and Morocco. These women, who often wear head scarves to express their religiosity, have found this gray area between modernity and traditionalism. They are fighting for more rights to participate in politics and greater equality in “personal-status” laws — the right to gain custody of children or to initiate divorce. But they also view Islam as their moral compass.

MEHER SULTANA, Fort Lauderdale


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