This has come up several times in just the last few days. Especially because the emphasis in the discussion about morals and religion turns to women and segregating them. One story someone forwarded today mentioned there being bearded "designated chaperones" being part of meetings between the two genders...in New York City.
The point is this:
The very first convert to Islam was an independent, professional woman. And independent, professional woman who ran a tradiing business and had no problem proposing to and marrying a person who happened to be her employee.
And The Prophet of Islam had no problem working for that independent, professional woman. And no problem marrying a woman who was independent enough to be the one to propose marriage.
That's the religion as I know it.
And what my family has practised. My mother was founding head of the "Women Arabic Teacher's College" in what is now the capital of the first state in Nigeria to "adopt Sharia" as state law. She later founded and ran a primary school of her own in one of Karachi's, shall we say, less privileged neighbouroods. And with a degree in Islamic History and a very strong and traditional faith, she is often in arguments with Maududists in the family about, for example, their trying to stop the music at weddings.
That's the strong Muslim woman I learnt the religion from.
PS, March 8: Happy Women's Day!
Technorati tags applicable to this post: Women in Islam - Islam - Women