Women throughout the world who are struggling for recognition, participation in the political process –and freedom in general– they are the new suffragists. Someone to be acknowledged in this area is Ida Lichter, a psychiatrist who lives in Sydney, Australia. Her recent book, Muslim Women Reformers: Inspiring Voices Against Oppression, is a carefully researched and illuminating account of what Ida calls “the new suffragists” of today. I highly recommend it.
In a recent email exchange, Ida and I discussed the link between the U.S. suffrage movement and the “new suffragists.” Ida said: “Although there are different campaigns for equal rights in a variety of Muslim countries, I was struck by the passion, courage and determination of many women reformers to achieve equality with men by focusing on the injustice of discriminatory laws. They utilize scholarly exegesis to unmask the egalitarianism they believe to be inherent in the Koran but expunged by a patriarchal, tribal reading. Like the suffragists, they aim to achieve enfranchisement and equal rights, and many women, particularly in Iran, have taken part in well-organized peaceful protests and a One Million Signatures Campaign, risking injury, arrest and detention. They also want an end to the infantilization and idealization that characterized misogyny in the West for centuries and is still prevalent in many Muslim societies. In their quest, they embrace a historic revision of the patriarchy and a new definition of Muslim women by women.”
Ida is on Twitter and I’ve been following her recent posts so that our rich history and tradition can be linked to those struggling in the world today. It’s possible to offer much-needed support inspired by the “Spirit of 1776.”