Islam & Feminism

Introduction

Islam and Feminism is a digital resource exploring the relationship between Islam and feminism from both an historical perspective and through the diverse lives of Muslim women today.

 

The resource highlights the broad range of thinkers on Islam and feminism and avoids rigid definitions that often lead to polarised discussions. As one of our contributors says, feminism should not be an exclusive club; the ideas should be accessible to everyone.

For some, Islam and feminism are often seen as incompatible, but as a number of our contributors point out, for them Islam provides a strong foundation for gender equality and social justice.

This resource is a conversation, and we expect the content to evolve with new material and new contributors. We hope this will be an open conversation and as such there will be both common ground and disagreement. But what remains vital is that this conversation happens so that the breadth of ideas and knowledge is available to everyone.

The Need 

  • We embarked on this project due to the consistently polarised conversations around Muslim women and the issue of gender equality in Islam. The multitude of negative stereotypes about women and Islam can make it appear that feminism has no place in Islam.

  • Negative media stereotyping: mainstream media has perpetuated the idea that the term ‘Muslim feminist’ is an oxymoron. Muslim women are often portrayed negatively and generalised as an oppressed group in need of liberation.

  • Tensions with mainstream feminism: ‘mainstream’ feminism has historically seen religion as incompatible with their demands for women’s equality and may be unwilling to associate with efforts that make arguments within a religious structure. 

  • Tensions within Muslim communities: feminism can be seen as a ‘western’ import which is alien to Islam and threatening to Muslim values. ‘Women’s rights’ have been used to justify colonial policies and the invasion of Muslim countries, both historically and also in recent times. This means feminism has a negative image in many Muslim communities.    

  • Despite the fact that Islam has a rich history rich history of important people and movements working for improving women’s rights and autonomy, this knowledge is often purposefully ignored or erased in the interests of maintaining male power, and the idea that men and women are not equal, or have gendered roles.

  • Conversations around readings of religious texts and gender equality in religion can often be scholarly and inaccessible. We wanted to create a resource that could be used and understood by everyone, including those with no prior knowledge of issues around gender equality and Islam. We know this is important if these ideas and conversations are to reach people from all walks of life.

What We Did 

  • We launched the digital resource to coincide with International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month in 2014. 

  • This sparked a range of media discussions in the UK around Islam and Feminism and as a result the resource was covered in a range of national and international media including The Observer newspaper, BBC Radio 4, BBC Asian Network, The Daily Telegraph, the Taipei Times, The Debrief and The National. We took part in a range of discussions with groups including Arcola Theatre and SOAS University. 

  • We have held workshops in schools in the UK, and in Hong Kong, framed around this resource and are always open to discussing possibilities to do workshops focusing on the resource with different groups including schools, community and youth groups and other charities. 

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