There is a feminist movement within Islam. There is no question that in Arab culture there is an important problem with how women are treated. There is a chauvinistic attitude amongst many Muslims in Arab countries that must not be confused with Islam. This attitude is more the result of traditional tribal culture and a patriarchal and primitive society, the very things that Islam intended to fix in its origins. Of course, it is quite hard to stop people from going back to their old ways after a while.
There is a significant problem with the modern place of women within Islam. There is plenty in the actual teachings of Islam to promote an equality of both sexes under the law and in society. In fact, the teachings of Islam integrate well with many of the ideals of the Western feminist movement. It is no coincidence that mistreatment of women is not endemic to Islam but rather to several third-world nations that happen to be Muslim. The appalling mistreatment of women in countries like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan is not a consequence of Islam, rather it is a consequence of a society that has lacked contact with modern ideas and still embraces traditions and practices that in the rest of the world were stopped many decades ago. It is not the result of Islam but of backwards economical, technological, and societal development mainly due to the effects of war, politics, and a patriarchal and conservative sector of the population that refuses to change its ways.
Islam teaches equality in its most basic aspects. In fact, if one looks through the Qur'an as well as Islamic law and the sayings of the Prophet, one will find that the ideals expressed are completely opposite to many of the practices that are prevalent in many Arab societies; especially today. Some of these practices include the treatment of women as second-class citizens, needing permission from a male guardian to do practically anything, as well as more severe transgressions against the rights of women. Unfortunate and tragic happenings like so called “honor killings” in which husbands murder their wives over a perceived infidelity, polygamy, underage marriage (sometimes with girls as young as nine or ten years old,) and the marginalization and poverty of divorced and widowed women are all forbidden clearly by the Qur'an. These are not the result of Islam but rather the result of the disobedience of Islam by people that do not want to follow the righteous path.
It is important to remember that even in modernity there are other Muslim countries that have played an important role in advancing the feminist cause. Muslim women are prominent in many fields, from science to political activism and have an important say in most Muslim communities. It is also important to note that countries that are majorly Muslim have elected women as presidents or prime ministers. It is quite absurd to accuse the majority of Muslims of being against women when the very leaders of many countries that are in majority Muslim have been women, something that still has not happened in most countries in the West, like the Untied States of America. Some Islamic countries that have elected women as their heads of state are Bangladesh, Indonesia, Kosovo, Turkey, Senegal, and Pakistan. Some even having women prime ministers or presidents in consecutive terms.
-- Al Arabiya Digital