Patriarchal culture as an obstacle
Religion and culture cannot be separated. Religion in its 'pure' form doesn't exist. Holy scriptures were written in a patriarchal culture. In order to understand a holy text, it is important to have an understanding of the holy scriptures as a whole, which means to find the red threads, or even the 'heart' of it. This has often to do with dignity for all and life in abundance, with love and justice. What happens when you re-read holy texts from that perspective instead of patriarchal, cultural perspectives?
Read what Dr. Riffat Hassan, Professor Emerita of Humanities at the University of Louisville, says in an interview with the Faith to Action Network:
"No religion, be it Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism or Buddhism, develops in a vacuum. When it is revealed, the religious principles are filtered through the cultural lens that is already in existence. In the context of Islam, the youngest of the world’s major religions, the teachings of the Qur’an are filtered through the existing cultural beliefs of the Jewish, Christian, Hellenistic, and pre-Islamic Bedouin Arab traditions. All the major five religions of the world developed in patriarchal cultures which were male-centred and did not regard women as equal to men. This has led to a clash between the affirmation of equality that you find in the religious teachings and the practice.
One thing that keeps the women I work with going is that they have very strong faith in Islam, they believe in God and his mercy and compassion. At the same time they are conditioned to believe that Islam has mandated that they cannot talk to a man and that they do not have the right to disobey male authority. Islam is used to constrain and limit them. A part of my mission as an educator has been to show Muslim women that Islam can be a source of liberation if they understand Islam correctly. If they do not understand the religion correctly and confuse it with cultural practices of Muslims, they are going to be oppressed.
I attach a lot of significance to this internal state of Muslim women because if women become strong internally, they can survive and attain dignity."