As increasing numbers of
scholars have pointed out, the study of Muslim peoples and their societies -
including their faith, histories, behaviours etc. - has often been made
difficult by a number of essentialisms and conflations. Before turning to the
specific concern of this paper, I want to deal with some of these because of
their implications for the issue of sexuality.
We are a group of Afghan women and their supporters who live in Pakistan and
Afghanistan. In a country where over 90% of the women and girls are illiterate,
we are a group of women who were encouraged by their families to become
educated. Many of us have university degrees. Many of us previously worked in
Afghanistan as lawyers, engineers, professors and doctors. Now we are working
with NGOs (non governmental organizations), UN agencies and schools. Some of us
are widows. Many of us are the sole support of our families.
Senegal has eight million
inhabitants, 95% of whom are Muslim, with the remainder predominantly Christian.
There are very few animists who formally practice traditional religions. I say
formally because in fact traditional practices are present in the daily life of
all Senegalese, be they Muslim or Christian, because these practices are
profoundly rooted in their cultures.
Soon after the introduction
of Islam to Senegal, Muslims organized into Confreries*. This meant that the
first religious leaders taught Islam according to the tradition of their
Editors note:The work of Prof. Nasr
Abu-Zeid has been subject of concerted attack by fundamentalist groups in Egypt.
He is currently in exile following charges of apostasy brought against him and
the ruling of the Apex court in Egypt ordering his divorce from his wife Dr.
The following extracts from the book "Women in the
Discourse of Crisis" by Prof. Nasr Abu-Zeid have been translated from Arabic by
The discourse over women in
the Arab world is generally discriminatory.
The seizure of power by the Taliban has reduced the Afghan capital to a ghost city. Half of the men are out of work,
the women find themselves forbidden from the work place. To top it all, winter
is particularly trying.
The innumerable bans imposed by
Taliban renders everyday life a veritable punishment.
The latest orders for
regulating the life of Afghans came into force yesterday. Their severity reveals
the determination of the Taliban, out to capture the parts of the country that
have so far evaded them.
In Kabul, life has become a
never-ending punishment. Since the enforcement of law on "the commandment of the
good and interdiction of the evil", whose latest measures are applicable as of
yesterday, everything is forbidden. For the Taliban government, gaiety is
We seek to have a large international response
to stress to the Secretary- General the outrage that women feel. We also want to
show our solidarity with our sisters in Afghanistan, who have been asking what
we in the international community are doing to assist them. Therefore, it is
important to have NGOs from as many countries as possible sign-on to this
In referring to Middle Eastern
cultures, writers and speakers often allude to the Arab, Persian, Turkish etc.
Cultures. What do these terms mean? What do they imply? Are these the true
cultural boundaries in the Middle East?
Women’s issues are now an integral
part of modern Islamic discourses, as evidenced in the plethora of ‘Women in
Islam’ titles in religious publishing projects all over the Muslim world. In practice, this
has entailed re-readings of the old texts in search of solutions - or more
precisely, Islamic alternatives - for a very modern problem, which has to do
with the changed status of women and the need to accommodate their aspirations
for equality and to define and control their increasing participation in t