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Arab women activists call for "enlightened Islamic preaching"

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Manama (dpa) - Arab women's rights activists meeting in Manama Tuesday urged Moslem clergymen to support their efforts and espouse a more "enlightened approach".

Chairwoman of the Yemeni Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights, Amal Basha, said: "We are all Moslems, and among us there are the hardliners who impede the progress of women, while others support our drive for equality."

clergymen, she said, have "a huge influence on society", with people adhering to them more than they do to politicians or to leaders of the civil society.

Basha, speaking at the end of a two-day parallel conference of Forum for Future, pointed out that the strict approach by some Islamists had delayed the women integration into the society.

She attributed the rise in extremism to a lack of freedom and continued suppression of it in the Arab world, particularly of those who dare to differ with what is seen as common consensus.

The women activists were meeting to draft part of a proposal to be presented to a Forum of Future conference set for 11 and 12 November in Bahrain.

Syrian activist Nabela Ali said that they were in the process of collecting signatures to petition to amend family law already in place in Syria to help improvement. "We want to make the law more in- line with international standards," she said.

Some Islamic figures in Bahrain strongly oppose a proposed family law of the sort women activists are urging the government to adopt.

A 2005 Social Watch report launched in Bahrain last Sunday said minimum targets agreed by states attending the Millennium Summit 2000 would not be met.

It found that extreme poverty was not declining, and was even increasing in some countries in the Middle East and other parts of the world.

It added that Arab countries faced an added challenge of meeting Millennium Development Goals because of lack of poverty data and the deep rooted prejudice toward women.

The conference which ended Tuesday is to present recommendations to the foreign ministers of the G8, Arab states, and six European countries when they meet in Bahrain on Friday and Saturday.

Copyright 2005 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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