The issue of women’s rights is age old, and has existed in almost every culture seen on every continent to some extent. There is evidence of this in almost every contemporary religion–analyzed best by the cultural differences the religion exists in. With specific regards to the Muslim world and women’s rights, the correlation in the contemporary world exists more as a cultural norm than a product of the religion itself, best illustrated by the recent Muslim uprisings, as well as the assimilation seen by Muslims existing in Western countries.
Looking first specifically at the Bible, the role of the woman is typecast very clearly in the New Testament. This is implicitly shown when it is Mary Magdalene is described as washing the feet of Jesus. Though she was a true believer that He was indeed the Son of God, the description of her washing the feet of Jesus was explained in detail, and apparently was important for the time it was given.
With specific regards to the Catholic faith, especially in Italian households, the females are traditionally supposed to be subversive to men, and more specifically their wives. This can still be seen to an extent in the media, specifically by the gorillas that paraded around the Jersey Shore, destroying the reputation of most real Italians who act nothing like that. Though it was tradition in Ireland as well as Italy for females to be subversive, this tradition has in very small ways translated culturally to America, and Western thought in general.
The primary region that Islam is practiced is filled with developing countries. Many of these developing countries are ruled by traditional Islamic governments– employing traditional cultural policies as law on their people. In the worst cases, rape was allegedly going unpunished, women could not show their faces, and even had to walk behind their men. Reports of widespread abuse on women in traditional Islamic countries were widespread when the United States decided to invade the Middle East. For many of these women, this was the first experience they had with Western thought.
Naturally there are outliers–some men and women who are transplanted stick to cultural roots, but on the whole the environment is the biggest factor when considering treatment of women in the Muslim community. There are many Islamic men and women who immediately rebel against the tight grip their culture had on them, and find assimilation easy.
There are places in the Middle East where some semblance of equality between men and women has been seen–or at least much progress is seen by comparison. The recent uprisings in the Middle East–specifically in Syria, Libya, and Egypt–have fueled this idea of equality in some sense. It seems to be the youth, now exposed to the rest of the world, have made movements towards ending oppressive rule, and with it oppression of women.
This is not always a short process–cultural norms can be very ingrained into the psyche of anyone, male or female. Again, there are traditional Italians that still follow this tradition, though to a much lesser extent. The main point is cultural and social influences have a much larger impact than the Muslim religion with regards to the entire faith as a whole–it is not a religious practice, it is cultural.