The treatment of women in "so-called Islamic states" is not according to the spirit of Islam, the president of the Ahmadiyya Mulslim Jamaat in Malta said today.

Speaking in a seminar organised by the Islamic denomination to commemorate 100 years of Women's Day, Laiq Ahmed Atif said that Islam favoured equality between both sexes and that the subjugation and cruelty to some women in the Arab world was "a misrepresentation of Islam".

Opening the conference, Michelle Muscat, wife of the opposition leader, said the current state of affairs made it difficult – if not impossible – for women to aspire to a career or politics and raise a family.

The point was also raised by Kate Gonzi, who said that the government and political parties, "made up mostly of men" "need to appreciate the different, albeit complementary contribution that women can make, and embrace female participation".

After both giving speeches on the respect and honour women had in their respective religions, they were challenged by an (Anglican) woman in the audience who asked them why they did not have woman priests and imams.

In his reply, Fr Lawrence Attard said there was "no binding enough theological argument excluding half of mankind from any sacrament".

However, through experience, the introduction of women vicars in the Anglican Church had created a lot of discord, most of which, he was surprised to find, "came from women themselves".

Fr Attard said, however, that if a way was found to introduce female priesthood without creating unnecessary friction, then "we'll try it".

He said that he was still waiting for an official ruling from the Church on the matter.

On his part, Mr Atif said the difference between men and women in Islam was "not negative, as God has put less burden and responsibility on women than on men".

He said that women could be Imams to other women, and that the unfair treatment of women in "so-called Islamic nations" was a "misrepresentation of Islam", and cited various instances of respect to women by Prophet Mohammed.

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