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Religion and Society

The Pioneer of Female Muslim Leaders

Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto’s appointment as Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1988 raised much criticism. In response, some female scholars sought to demonstrate that the taboo of female leadership is linked to a male chauvinist interpretation of Islam’s sacred texts.

This article was published in Oasis 30. Read the table of contents

Last update: 2021-01-13 14:57:42

With the 1988 electoral victory of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, for the first time in the modern era a woman achieved high political office in a Muslim-majority country. Whilst conservative religious circles contested the legitimacy of her election, some female researchers endeavored to demonstrate that the taboo of female leadership is connected to a male chauvinist understanding of Islam’s sacred texts.


In the West, women in Muslim majority societies are commonly perceived to be treated as second class citizens enjoying fewer rights than men. Yet nine Muslim majority states have had women heads of state or heads of government since 1988. Mauritius and Singapore, non-Muslim majority states, have elected Muslim women as presidents. Bangladesh and Senegal have each had two women Prime Ministers. Three Muslim women have served more than one term in office. See the table below for the countries and their women leaders.

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