Islamic Feminism in Historical Perspective (2017/18)

Course Description: 

This 2- credit course focuses on the theories, political goals, strategies and activism(s) of Islamic feminists regionally and nationally, within the context of the emerging global feminist movement. Following the rise of second wave feminism in the developing world, there have been a number of responses to the inherent marginalization of women of colour and devout women from this movement. As part of a much broader trend in post-colonial feminisms, Islamic feminism is part of a global and diverse response through women’s political organizations both in Islamic countries and as part of non-Islamic nations, to contribute equally to the development of civil society, social equality and a feminist re-interpretation of the Qu'ran. We will discuss how these women promote gender equality, social justice, and peaceful coexistence with all other races and religions based on a feminist reading of the sacred texts. We will look at how and why this form of expression has developed, and how an alternate theory of feminism is possible within a religion that frequently comes under attack for the perception that it undermines the position of women in the Arab world. We will explore how advocates of cultural relativism endorse theocratic gender relations in an effort to respect intersectional differences amongst women. Our goal by the end of the term is to determine how it is possible to foster a dialogue between secular and religious feminisms, by adopting a postcolonial feminist lens and focusing not only on the feminist praxis of Islamic feminism, but also the ways in which it offers a solution to global systems of inequality.

Questions to Consider

Is there an ‘organic’ Islamic feminism, or has this form of feminist interpretation developed in response to the colonial interpretation of secular/Western feminists writing on women the Muslim world?

Can we redefine feminism as an ideology (or praxis) situated in diverse regional and organizational contexts, in order to create a ‘space’ for Islamic feminism alongside mainstream Western feminisms?

Should feminism prioritize adherence to all human rights over religion and religious considerations? And if not, are there perhaps, many ways of ‘being’ a feminist?

How credible or effective are models of progress offered by Western women? And to that end, how can we bring Western and post-colonial feminists to the table in order to debate issues that impact the lives of Muslim women?

Learning Outcomes: 

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

• Understand Islamic feminism as a diverse movement that reflects many varied streams of interpretation and understanding of gender values and theory based on the breadth of experiences of Muslim women globally.

• Appreciate the complex interplay of religious, nationalist and ethnic issues in shaping and manipulating gender identity in Islamic communities and states

• Identify major feminist approaches to Islam, including text-based praxis, transnational ideological mobilization, and theory ranging across Marxist, nationalist, and religious fundamentalist areas of study.

• Understand Islamic feminist practices within the context of the transnational feminist movement against capitalism/globalization.

• Recognize key issues in the Western liberal feminist debate and understand how and why these have been detrimental to a number of groups, including Muslim religious women.

Assessment: 

Course Assignments and Grading 

  • Class Participation        30%
  • Book Review                 20%
  • Film Critique                  20%
  • Final Reflection Paper   30%

Please, find details in the syllabus.