Fundamentalisms

We, the women participating in the Arab Court of Women, held in Beirut, June 28-30, 1995, as testifiers and audience to those testimonies; we, who had the opportunity to take part in this great event, jointly assume the responsibility of what we heard of words of truth which broke the ring of silence that had long stifled our voices and sufferings of women.
Women's reproductive rights and the politics of fundamentalism: A view from Bangladesh [1]

Sajeda Amin and Sara Hossain


Will it be we, the women living in the Muslim city, who will pay the price…?
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.
Who we are

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 spiritual leaders.
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. Ithal Younis.

The following extracts from the book "Women in the Discourse of Crisis" by Prof. Nasr Abu-Zeid have been translated from Arabic by Marlene Tadros.

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 suspect.
We the undersigned representatives of Muslim women’s organizations concerned about the negative media reports of the apparent transgressions and abuses against our Muslim sisters in Afghanistan.

Wish To:


Ask the leadership of the Taliban to clarify their position on the status and role of Afghan women in society.

Recall That:


Fourteen centuries ago Islam liberated women and guaranteed them dignity and full rights to participate in the building and well-being of their communities at all levels.

The right of women to work outside
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 letter.
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