In April this year, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shaykh ‘Ali Gomaa, told an interviewer what he meant as a flat statement of fact: that there are no female heart surgeons, as such work required strength and other capabilities that no woman possesses. He put it this way:
“You may have noticed that there is not a single female heart surgeon in the world… It’s amazing. It’s peculiar. Why do you think that there are none? Because it requires great physical effort — beyond what a woman is capable of. That’s in general. Along comes a woman who challenges this, and she succeeds in becoming a surgeon. But she is one woman among several million male surgeons.”
Now even a child could have carried out a simple Google search and realized that there are countless female surgeons and many female heart surgeons. It would not have taken long to find, for example, the US Association of Women Surgeons, which includes heart surgeons — and that would have settled his hash. But apparently deep-seated, pre-formed judgements about women’s abilities prevented Gomaa from using whatever powers of reasoning and intelligence he may possess.
Sadly, there often seems a profound absence of scientific probing within the Muslim world.