Inequality between the sexes is often regarded as a salient characteristic of Muslim societies. Some analysts hold that special challenges face women and girls in Muslim societies.1 According to a rival viewpoint, the status of females is not inferior among Muslims—or, at the very least, that non-Muslim observers often misread the meaning of institutions such as the headscarf or sexual segregation. According to such a view, the notion that women have it worse under Islam is based on misunderstanding and superficial evidence.
M. Steven Fish is a comparative political scientist who studies democracy and regime change in developing and postcommunist countries, religion and politics, and constitutional systems and national legislatures. He is the author of Are Muslims Distinctive? A Look at the Evidence (Oxford, 2011). He is also author of Democracy Derailed in Russia: The Failure of Open Politics (Cambridge, 2005), which was the recipient of the Best Book Award of 2006, presented by the Comparative Democratization Section of the American Political Science Association, and Democracy from Scratch: Opposition and Regime in the New Russian Revolution (Princeton, 1995). He is coauthor of The Handbook of National Legislatures: A Global Survey (Cambridge, 2009) and Postcommunism and the Theory of Democracy (Princeton, 2001). He served as a Senior Fulbright Fellow and Visiting Professor at the Airlangga University, Surabaya, Indonesia, in 2007 and at the European University at St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2000-2001. In 2005, he was the recipient of the Distinguished Social Sciences Teaching Award of the Colleges of Letters and Science, University of California-Berkeley.