10 Muslim countries that were ready for a female President, way before the USA

The United States of America, self-proclaimed ‘leader of the free world’ and ‘the greatest nation on Earth,’ this year voted in Donald J Trump, a consistently brazen misogynist- in place of the more qualified Democrat candidate, Hillary Clinton.

The recent political turbulence in America resulted in its first-ever potential female President losing not just to any old rival, but to the man who now more than a million people have marched against. And as asserted by The Atlantic, ‘except for her gender, Hillary Clinton is a highly conventional presidential candidate.’ The Public Religion Research Institute found that 52% of white men held a “very unfavourable” view of Clinton, which was 20 points higher than they viewed Barack Obama in 2012, and 32 points higher than in 2008. This could imply that, despite its cataclysmic racial history and sustained socioeconomic chasm between black and white people, the white male population of the USA was more ready to elect a black President than it was a female one, illustrating the truly dire extent of its sexist discrimination.

Meanwhile in the global political sphere, the USA, together with other Western powers, has become known for “bombing democracy” into the Middle East and Muslim-majority countries. The justification for such actions appear to be quite sensible to many; to instil the positive, “Western ideals” of freedom, liberation and progress.

In fact, in his inauguration speech, President Trump vowed to “eradicate radical Islamic extremism” (as opposed to extremism in all of its many forms - such as white supremacist, for example). It seems likely that this objective is based upon the same narrative of an ideological opposition to the supposedly regressive social and moral thinking of the Muslim world. In fact, following the staggeringly unitive Women’s March Against Trump, many conservative pundits such as Piers Morgan, for example, called out protestors’ lack of attention paid to women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, as an overtly oppressive and gender-unequal society. However, the “Muslim World”, often demonised through homogenous labelling and the likening of several distinct nations to places like Saudi Arabia, seems to not always suffer the same issue as the USA. America, as a whole, clearly isn’t able to accept a female leader yet, in 2017, whereas Muslim countries have had them for decades.

Pakistan’s 11th and 13th Prime Minister, first elected in 1988, was Benazir Bhutto, who went on to continue as Leader of the Opposition, and Chairperson of the Pakistan People’s Party. Turkey’s 22nd Prime Minister, elected in 1993, was Tansu Çiller, who as leader of the True Path Party, later served simultaneously as Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, and Minister of Foreign Affairs. Indonesia’s 5th President, elected in 2001, was Megawati Sukarnoputri, who took the position after being the country’s 8th Vice President.

And Bangladesh’s current Prime Minister, holding office since 2009, is Sheikh Hasina Wazed, who was first elected in 1996, and has alternated as non-interim Prime Minister with another woman, Khaleda Zia, since 1991.

Despite its recent political instability (likely contributed to by Western intervention), Afghanistan’s current National Assembly Vice President, elected in 2005, is Fawzia Koofi. And nearby, Kyrgyzstan’s 3rd President, elected in 2010, was Roza Otunbayeva who had previously served as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In the Middle East, Iran’s current Vice President, holding office since 2013, is Masoumeh Ebtekar, who is serving again after first being elected in 1997. In Africa, Senegal’s 6th Prime Minister, elected in 2001, was Mama Madior Boye, and its 12th was Aminata Touré, elected in 2014 and Mali’s 12th Prime Minister, elected in 2011, was Cissé Mariam Kaïdama Sidibé.

In Europe, Kosovo’s 4th President was Atifete Jahjaga, who was unanimously elected by the Assembly of Kosovo in 2011. Even non-Muslim majority countries such as Romania and Mauritius have elected Muslim, female leaders.

Writing as a student of History, I’m not particularly surprised at these disparities, knowing that America and other Western countries did not even allow women the vote until the 1900s. Seeing as though women have not only been enabled, but actually encouraged to partake in the political process since the very inception of Islam, over 1000 years ago, it seems quite rich, and frankly absurd for the secular/Christian West (Trump was sworn in over the Bible) to criticise the Muslim world’s enfranchisement of women, and its relationship with progressive and liberal ideals.

Of course, some of these Muslim countries do have many issues regarding both civil rights in general, and of women especially, but evidently we are yet to see any one nation that has entirely overcome gender inequality. It took until 2016 for Hillary Clinton to at least become the first female presidential candidate nominated by a major party. And even then, she lost to what is perhaps one of the most sexist, racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, dishonest, nonconformist, politically incorrect - and just generally incorrect - administrations in American history.


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