The paper thus outlines the social and political conditions that have
led not only to the development of secular feminist perspectives in Iran, but to
the emergence of woman-centred Islamists and their strategies which aim, thus
far with considerable success, to fundamentally challenge conventional gender
visions often presented as "Islamic." This analysis of the gender debates in
Iran, and by extension elsewhere in the Muslim world, reiterates that Islam,
particularly as a political ideology, is far from static and unchanging; it is a
dynamic and evolving ideological force that
In the early I990s the Arab world
has witnessed an extraordinary publishing phenomenon. An 800 page book on Islam,
Al-kitab wa’lqur’an: qira’a mu’asira (The Book and the Qur’an: a contemporary
reading), was first published by the Ahali Publishing House Damascus in 1990.
The book challenges a millennium of Islamic tradition. It is highly critical of
the social, political and intellectual state of contemporary Arab countries. The
author has been denounced as ‘an enemy of Islam’ and as ‘a Western and Zionist
agent’. To date eleven other books have been written attacking his theses.
Violence against women is
one of the sharp indicators of the subordinate position of women in the society.
Violence exists in different forms, different levels from personal to physical
violence to structural violence, justified by religion, culture and laws. Most
of the steps taken from the protection of women against violence tend in
addressing the women rather than men. These steps don’t enforce laws or take
action against men.
The women issues are
political issues. The social paradigms don’t recognize this.
There are few women interpreters in
the history of Islam because women are seen to be the subject of the Islamic
shari’a and not its legislators. Yet even the few interpreters who have appeared
during the long history of Islam have been kept at the periphery, their views
never allowed to influence Islamic legislation. Moreover, even men interpreters
who were open-minded about women were marginalized and, in some cases, found
their authority questioned.
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.
At the beginning of the
women’s emancipation struggle among the Muslims of the Indian sub-continent
access to education and the campaign against Purdah were the main points.
The late nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries were
characterized by considerable debate on these issues in the Muslim community,
throughout India. The reform effort by men on behalf of women was sparked by the
considerable progress made by other communities in India and was inspired by
changes taking place in Muslim countries of the Middle East.
Editor’s comment: The article of Stasa Zajovic from the
Women in Black-Belgrade rings a bell to all of us who live in multi ethnic,
multi religious, multi cultural countries, threatened by growing nationalism- or
communalism-, where the hatred of the Other closely entwined with population
policies (as a mild form which can evolve into its drastic form of ethnic
cleansing) put women at the forefront of these policies.
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
In late eighties, with the
consolidation of nationalism as the state ideology in Serbia, the propaganda
directed against women grew stronger. It is well known that in periods of acute
crisis, economic repression or marked repression, women are called to turn back
to "home and family"; they are referred to as "the angels of the home earth", as
ideal mothers, as faithful wives… Such propaganda, among other things, aims at
postponing or preventing social tensions, outburst of social discontent caused
by mass lay-offs of working men and women.
The attacks by Muslim
fundamentalists against Mr. Namassiwayam Ramalingum and against
L'Indépendant, the newspaper he is editor of, were accurately described
and rightly denounced in Index 3/1995. But Mr. Ramalingum has not provided a
clear enough picture of what was going on in general in Mauritius. This is a
pity, because knowing about the context helps towards a more thorough
condemnation of all the attacks on free speech in Mauritius.
Mauritius has seen vast
changes over the past fifteen years.