Pamela Bone writes in today's Australian on a meeting of Muslim feminists in New York:
[I]f Islam is to be reformed, and the world consequently made safer and happier for all, it is women who will do it. Yes, there are male Muslim reformers, but in general most Muslim men do not see a feminist interpretation of Islam as in their interest. Why should they? Western men didn't see last century's women's liberation movement as in theirs. It had to be driven by women because the status quo advantaged men.Bone also refers to a comment from Maryam Namazie on the silence of the Western left about the oppression of Muslim women, putting it down to a belief that '[c]hange must come from within'. If this is indeed the basis of liberal silence, it's a poor one. The left hasn't previously lacked an understanding that solidarity with people fighting against oppression is an encouragement and resource to them in their struggle.
As to whether Islam oppresses women, there is no Islamic society in which women are free. The question is whether it has to be this way.
The Koran seems fairly clear about women's subordinate status, but then so is the Christian Bible. If Christian women have been able to argue, more or less successfully, that the misogynistic passages in the Bible are merely a reflection of the era in which they were written and have no relevance to today, there should be no reason Muslim women can't do the same.