Typing "human rights" and "Islam" into Google seems a great way to find nothing. So instead I asked an Indonesian woman to help me find something worth talking about. She pointed me to this event from 2009 because it was the first time she'd participated in a human rights anything.
As I read this article, a few things immediately jumped off the page. The first being the comment made by the author that simply the ability to have this discussion in Malaysia was a step in the right direction. That such repression of an ideal we Americans take for granted everyday is rampant in places as secular as Malaysia and Indonesia took me aback. I assumed those types of things occurred in Afghanistan, but in southeast Asia?
The second thing that really struck me from the internal discussion were the competing ideas for the concept of basic human rights. That there was a mainstream push for "equality" that does not seem to live up to its billing as well as a push for what I can only classify as a westernized equality of religious ideals rooted in constitutional protections. What happens to these insufficient changes and doctrines with respect to meeting the Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights or even organizations like Human Rights Watch? How much progress is sufficient?
Obviously there is a problem in the area of women's rights in the family in many Islamic countries and there are significant strides being made that are not televised. But to what end? Are we expecting Islamic women to have the freedoms of Catholic women in the US or Atheist women in the Netherlands? 70 years ago, few women were in the American workforce. 100 years ago they couldn't vote. A few hundred years ago, the property rights of women varied by state. If we hold the Islamic women's rights movement to a western standard, we'll be standing here waiting quite some time. Hopefully they have a shorter learning curve.