Two young Muslim women in the heart of Istanbul are having lunch in April 2007.
© Chris Schuepp
Two young Muslim women in the heart of Istanbul are having lunch in April 2007.
Last updated: May 13, 2014

Think again. In these cities, Islamic rule gave women more power.

Banner Icon Be ready for some pretty sensational findings on women's rights and Islamism.

Within conventional Western studies and the dominant media narrative, there’s a widespread scepticism towards Islamist governance when it comes to women’s rights.

Well, we might need to think again. Professor Erik Meyersson at the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics (SITE) has completed a study illustrating the progressive nature of Islamic rule in Turkey. Here’s what the professor had to say:

”Does Islamic political control affect women’s empowerment? Several countries have recently experienced Islamic parties coming to power through democratic elections. Due to strong support among religious conservatives, constituencies with Islamic rule often tend to exhibit poor women’s rights.”

No doubt he is right about that. But wait, there’s more.

“In 1994, an Islamic party won multiple municipal mayor seats across the country … I compare municipalities where this Islamic party barely won or lost elections … (and) results reveal that, over a period of six years, Islamic rule increased female secular high school education. Corresponding effects for men are systematically smaller and less precise. In the longer run, the effect on female education remained persistent up to 17 years after, and also reduced adolescent marriages.”

So less child marriage? Yes, so it seems. And the positive effects remained intact almost two decades after Islamists came to power. The SITE professor also looked at democracy and women’s role in the public sphere. 

“An analysis of long-run political effects of Islamic rule shows increased female political participation and an overall decrease in Islamic political preferences. The results are consistent with an explanation that emphasizes the Islamic party’s effectiveness in overcoming barriers to female entry for the poor and pious.”

Pretty sensational findings. A blogger at the World Bank website is one of the few who even noticed these results.

Dr. Meyersson’s interpretation is that Islamic rule reduced barriers to female participation among the poorer and pious segments of society by making them more comfortable about sending their girls to school.”

Isn’t it odd though that seemingly no international media, despite its massive interest in Islamism and women’s rights, never felt like highlighting this? 

Adam Hedengren
Adam is co-founder and editor of Your Middle East. He has studied Arabic and Middle Eastern history, and previously lived in Syria and Tunisia. He is an active voice in Swedish media on issues relating to migration policy, integration, and the Middle East. Adam is also project manager for the educational initiative www.nyamellanostern.se
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