Are women in Islamic countries oppressed by men? Are women in Islamic countries oppressed by men? Should The West try to encourage them to be more independent or should we respect Islamic women as part of a different culture?

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In large part, I think we need to respect these women and men as part of a different culture.  I would certainly feel opressed if I enter the country, but they might not.  They might feel just as strange here in my country.  If the women of a particular area want to change their culture, then it would not be wrong to offer appropriate assistance.  I think it is wrong to step in and tell another culture that they are wrong because they are not like us.  We must accept that there are different societies in the world.  Just because they are different does not necessarily mean they are wrong nor does it give us the right to try to change them.

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When we western folks say that women in Islamic countries are oppressed by men, we are projecting our values onto a different culture. From a relativist standpoint, you can't judge one culture by another culture's standards. However, there are a certain amount of standard rights that we all consider human. Humans have the inalienable right to life, and that is severely questionable in some Islamic countries' treatment of women.
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This is a very thorny question. Gender and gender roles are culturally specific, which makes passing judgement on different cultures problematic. Another issue is that there are more than 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, and that within this massive population there are many other cultures. So making a generalization is basically intellectually irresponsible, even allowing for the cultural construction of gender roles. 

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This is so hard to say.  Of course they appear to be oppressed from our point of view.  But is that objective?  Let's look at it another way.  Are Catholic women oppressed because they cannot be priests and because the Church says that contraception is immoral?  Many Catholic women would say they are not.  So how do we determine whether Muslim women are truly oppressed (as opposed to just being oppressed relative to Western opinions)?

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