Even in accepting the apologists’ arguments, that Islam was essentially a peaceful religion, and it was only through a myopic and agenda-driven misinterpretation of the holy texts that the “Islamist” perspective emerged, there was still a problem. It seemed to me that all around the world, where there were “insurgencies” or other forms of violent conflict, at least one side was Muslim. The separatists in Chechnya, the Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines, the Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia, the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group in Spain, and last but not least, Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda – active in multiple places.
Gender inequality, even where it takes on a distinctly “Islamic” character, is not specific to Islam as a religion, or Muslim society. Rather, it is a consequence of patriarchy – a phenomenon that knows no religious or cultural boundaries. How patriarchy manifests in any given society, the ways that people – particularly women – respond to it, are simply different. We must be careful not to presume that these differences are qualitative.