(RNS) — For 20 years, Afghan women have laid the foundation for equality as they emerged from behind the closed doors of their homes and went on to serve as parliamentarians, policewomen, judges, activists and teachers.
Now, with the return of the Taliban, equality looks more like a mirage in a desert.
When they took over Afghanistan on Aug. 15, the Taliban declared that they were not the hardcore Taliban that ruled before, but a more accommodating “Taliban lite.” When asked about women’s rights, they offered reassurance that “women will get their rights provided they are within an Islamic framework.”
But Afghan women, who tend to be more accomplished and educated than the Taliban soldiers, don’t trust the group’s proclamations. “We want actions, not words; substance and not slogans,” one female activist said.
So the urgent question is, will this new “Taliban lite” play by the historic Islamic rule book, which emphasizes social justice? Will they forgive their adversaries as the Prophet did when he entered Mecca? Or will they — as in the past — misread or distort Islamic doctrine to deprive women’s rights?
The Quran, first among all the major sacred texts, introduced gender inclusive language. For example, in Surah Al-Ahzab 33.35 w e read:
“For Muslim men and women / For believing men and women / For true men and women / For men and women who are Patient and serene / For men and women who Humble themselves / For men and women who give In charity / For men and women who fast / For men and women who Guard their chastity, and For men and women who are In constant remembrance of God / For them God has prepared / Forgiveness and great reward.”