yes , muslim women are taking on more important roles in islamic states .
the changes are slow in coming , but they are coming . at this time the changes are coming from some of the better educated women in the more moderate states , but it seems that the changes will - gradually - work their way through muslim society .
looking back at the history of western society , it took women a long time to be accepted as "equals" . today more and more women are moving ahead and pushing obstacles aside - more quickly in some countries than in others .
it should be interesting to see the change in muslim society take place .
excerpt of article in the "los angeles times" :
Changing Persian Gulf:
First ladies of 2 conservative sheikdoms take on larger public role
By BARBARA SURK and ANNA JOHNSON
Associated Press Writer
8:18 AM PDT, September 21, 2008
DOHA, Qatar (AP) _ The first lady of this conservative Muslim sheikdom walked up to the podium in a luxury hotel banquet room and sized up the crowd of mostly wealthy businessmen. "Do not be afraid to take risks and to try," she told them. "Think out of the box."
Sheika Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned may have been wearing a traditional black head scarf and robe, but she took on a very untraditional role in rallying the men to support a $100 million initiative to tackle unemployment.
Like her counterpart in Dubai, Oxford-educated Princess Haya, Mozah is taking up the Western "first lady" model " activist, globe-trotting and involved in public affairs.
Mozah, who is believed to be in her 40s, has taken a starring role in the transformation. She is one of Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani's wives " it is not publicly known how many he has " and the only one who makes public appearances.
Her most prominent role is as chairwoman of the Qatar Foundation, which launched Education City, a 2,500-acre campus outside Doha and home to branches of prominent American universities like Carnegie Mellon and Georgetown.
Mozah is increasingly rivaling Queen Rania's globe-trotting, giving speeches at institutions in the U.S. and Europe. Last year, she claimed one of the spots on Forbes magazine's list of the world's 100 most powerful women. At home, she wears traditional long robes. In the West she wears stylish business suits.
"No Gulf royalty stands out as Mozah does," said Rima Sabban, a Dubai-based sociologist. "She broke all cultural barriers and shaped an image of a woman that is fully modern, fully confident and fearless of a backlash from the society... Mozah's strategy is part of her husband's goal to put Qatar on the world map."
In the even glitzier city of Dubai, Princess Haya is also breaking the rules " giving speeches on public welfare, working on public projects, appearing in magazines, keeping up personal Web sites and traveling the world. Dubai gained significant political influence in the region through the 2004 marriage of its powerful ruler, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, with the 34-year-old Haya, daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan.
But Haya pushes the traditional boundaries even further. She is rarely seen wearing a head scarf and is a sports enthusiast, a rarity in the male-dominated region. She represented Jordan in equestrian show jumping in the 2000 Olympic Games in Australia, is president of the International Equestrian Federation and even has a truck-driving license, obtained in Jordan to help transport her horses.
Other wives of Gulf rulers are active in campaigning for women's rights, charity and humanitarian issues, particularly in Bahrain and Kuwait, but they have not sought foreign attention or assumed highly public roles. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates both have women Cabinet ministers, and the Emirates recently appointed its first female judge. The Emirates' minister of foreign trade is a woman, as is the founder of Amwal, a top investment company in Qatar.
Seventy-seven percent of university students in UAE are women, according to the Ministry of Education and Labor. Three-quarters of students who graduated from Qatar University this year were women. Kuwait recently gave women the right to vote and run for office, and it has several female Cabinet ministers, though no woman has been elected to parliament.
"It's a domino effect. Success in one country has spilled over into other countries in the region. When a ruler in one country appoints a woman to a high-level post, others follow. It's a healthy competition because everyone wants to show that they are democratizing," said Rola Dashti, a Kuwaiti economist who has run for parliament.
link : http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/wire/sns-ap-gulf-first-ladies,1,4108578.story