While politicians in Europe work themselves into a frenzy telling women what they can and can’t wear by banning burqinis at the beach, they may want to ponder this: the face of the global future is female – and Muslim.
You can’t argue with mathematics. While the world’s population is projected to grow 35 per cent in the next four decades, the number of Muslims is expected to increase by 73 per cent – from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.8 billion in 2050.
Globally, Muslims have the youngest median age of any group, 23 versus 30. Since study after study shows among younger generations a shift towards gender equality compared to their older counterparts, this bodes well.
But this isn’t just about numbers. The speed and scale of social change is fastest in many countries with rising Muslim populations. Just think about Indonesia, Egypt, Pakistan and India. The last 10 years have seen unprecedented change and this is set to continue.
It’s a poke in the eye for the burqini banners. But others should also take note. Western feminism needs to take a long hard look at itself: it cannot act as an ambassador for a white western view of women’s rights, set to “save” Muslim women; nor can it continue to underplay, disregard even, the experience of women of colour around the world, manyof whom are Muslim and as a result suffer multiple layers of oppression.
There are hurdles. A World Bank survey found women face legal obstacles in the workplace in 155 out of 173 countries. It will take 118 years to close the global gender wage gap. Domestic abuse and sexual violence dominate the lives of women around the world.
On the other hand, businesses are recognising that their consumer future is female both in being an untapped target audience but also because of their role in household decision-making. But this must be extended to a holistic view that offers those same women fair treatment within those businesses.