The Macquarie Globe
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UN society discusses women and Islam

Macquarie’s United Nations Society’s seminar on Islam, feminism and the role of women attracted a diverse range of students and opinions last week.

The group listened to speakers Chris Houston, from the MQ Anthropology department, and prominent young Muslim businesswoman and Australian of the Year nominee, Hind Kourouche.

The speakers compared the experiences of Islamic women in Turkey and France. In both countries, women’s headscarves have become the symbol of a debate on women’s rights. 



Hind Kourouche (left) and UN Society President, Pouyan Afshar 

Chris discussed the Turkey’s ban on women wearing headscarves at university. He said, “women wearing Islamic dress is interpreted as a threat to the secular republic… (to the state) the headscarf symbolises polygamy, unequal inheritance, uneven power etc.”  

Hind explained that France’s banning of religious insignia was similarly based on an argument for a secular state. 
Ironically, in both countries the laws have actually removed women’s democratic right to choose what they wear.

The question time following the speeches was an opportunity for passionate debate about Islam’s treatment of women. The speakers were both in agreement that it is invariably culture, not religion that drives the treatment of women, and that religious texts can be interpreted in many conflicting ways.