Arab Women in the Middle East
Although of course there is still much Israel could do to improve the living standards of its Arab citizens, especially in employment and infrastructure, the success stories of women in Israel stand in sharp contrast to the reports abut discrimination against Arab women in the Arab and Islamic countries.
In Pakistan, a 14-year-old girl is shot by Muslim extremists for daring to call for education for women.
In Tunisia, a young woman who was raped by three policemen is about to on trial for committing an "indecent act." Her crime: she was sitting with her fiancé in a car when the policemen surprised them and brutally raped her.
Syrian refugee girls who fled the fighting in their country are being forced into marriages by Muslim men, who are exploiting the plight of their families to fulfill sexual fantasies.
In the West Bank city of Hebron, a Muslim woman who decided to run in the local election is being ridiculed and threatened by fundamentalists who insist that she should be only staying at home cooking and looking after her husband and children.
In the Gaza Strip, women continue to suffer from severe restrictions imposed by Hamas and other fundamentalist groups.
In Saudi Arabia, women are still not allowed to drive.
In Israel, however, Muslim women are not only allowed to drive and run for elections, but can also reach high positions. Not all Arab Israelis are an "enemy from within;" Muslim women in the Jewish state enjoy more rights and opportunities than their colleagues in Arab and Islamic countries.
While female Muslims are being abducted, raped, shot, tortured and forced into unwanted marriages in a number of Arab and Islamic countries, 33-year-old Maria Gharra has just become Israel's first Muslim woman to serve as a police officer.
Gharra, who is from a village in the Triangle area in Israel, is probably one of the most courageous Arab women in Israel.
"I'm part of the state and I even have no problem singing the 'Hatikvah' [Israel's national anthem]," she declared shortly after she assumed her new job.
Gharra represents those Arab Israelis who see Israel as their state and believe in its democratic system.
Her story also shows that Arab women often have more opportunities than in most Arab and Islamic countries.
Contrary to common belief, Gharra does not believe that her recruitment to the Israeli police is an unusual act. "I never felt different," she explained. "My working assumption is that we are all equal citizens. This is my state and that is why I want to make a contribution."
What is even more encouraging is that she has won the support of her parents, who say they are proud to see her serve in the Israeli police.
True, many Arab men already serve in the Israeli police, but this is the first time that a woman has been promoted to the rank of officer.
Amal Ayoub, 36, is one of the women making waves in biotechnology. The founder of Metallo Therapy, a startup developing gold nano-particles to enhance radiation therapy, she is the first female Arab Israeli high-tech entrepreneur.
Dr. Rania al-Khatib is the first Arab Israeli woman to become a plastic surgeon at Rambam Hospital.
These are only some of the success stories of Arab women in Israel.
The past two decades have also seen a number of Arab women elected to the Knesset a right that is denied to Muslim women in some Arab countries.
In recent years, hundreds of Arab Israeli women, ignoring calls from some leaders of the Arab community to boycott national service, have volunteered for the government's initiative.
Although of course there is much Israel could do to improve the living standards of its Arab citizens, especially in employment and infrastructure, the success stories of Arab women in Israel stand in sharp contrast to the reports about discrimination against women in the Arab and Islamic countries.
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by Burak Bekdil
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