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Saturday, 2 March, 2002, 08:28 GMT
Muslim women seek positive image
Muslim women
The overall theme is a search for roots
By the BBC's Flora Botsford in Madrid

Muslim women from around the world are gathering in the Spanish city of Cordoba for a two-day conference on how to improve the negative image of Islam and the role of Islamic women in society.

Delegates will discuss ways of improving co-existence between people of different cultures in Spain and between Muslims of European origin and immigrants.

They will also debate how to combat stereotypes and negative images of Muslims and Muslim women in the media - especially after the 11 September attacks and the exposure of life for Afghan women under Taleban rule.

Other subjects will include family planning, domestic violence, female circumcision and the wearing of veils or headscarves.

Despite the presence of large numbers of Muslim women in Spain, there is a continuing public debate over Islamic customs affecting women.

Spain was for three centuries the centre of the western Islamic empire.

Then, more than 500 years ago, the Catholic monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand drove Muslims out of the country unless they agreed to change their religion.

Jews in Spain met the same fate.

Search for roots

Now, there are up to a million Muslims living in Spain, including not only immigrants but recent Spanish converts as well.

Cordoba is the former seat of the Islamic Caliphate in Spain.

The World Congress of Muslim Women being held over the weekend brings together 250 delegates and speakers from countries including Iran, Sudan and Bosnia-Hercegovina.

The overall theme is the search for roots, from the 15th-century kingdom of Al-Andalus in southern Spain to the common roots shared by all Muslims via the Koran and the shared experience of Muslim women.

Organisers have said that, in order to make the debate as open and diverse as possible, men and non-Muslims are welcome.

See also:

17 Jan 99 | Talking Point
Perceptions of Islam?
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