front cover of American Muslim Women, Religious Authority, and Activism
American Muslim Women, Religious Authority, and Activism
More Than a Prayer
By Juliane Hammer
University of Texas Press, 2012

Following the events of September 11, 2001, American Muslims found themselves under unprecedented scrutiny. Muslim communities in the United States suffered from negative representations of their religion, but they also experienced increased interest in aspects of their faith and cultures. They seized the opportunity to shape the intellectual contribution of American Muslims to contemporary Muslim thought as never before. Muslim women in particular—often assumed to be silenced, oppressed members of their own communities—challenged stereotypes through their writing, seeking to express what it means to be a Muslim woman in America and carrying out intra-Muslim debates about gender roles and women’s participation in society. Hammer looks at the work of significant female American Muslim writers, scholars, and activists, using their writings as a lens for a larger discussion of Muslim intellectual production in America and beyond.

Centered on the controversial women-led Friday prayer in March 2005, Hammer uses this event and its aftermath to address themes of faith, community, and public opinion. Tracing the writings of American Muslim women since 1990, the author covers an extensive list of authors, including Amina Wadud, Leila Ahmed, Asma Barlas, Riffat Hassan, Mohja Kahf, Azizah al-Hibri, Asra Normani, and Asma Gull Hasan. Hammer deftly examines each author’s writings, demonstrating that the debates that concern American Muslim women are at the heart of modern Muslim debates worldwide. While gender is the catalyst for Hammer’s study, her examination of these women’s intellectual output touches on themes central to contemporary Islam: authority, tradition, Islamic law, justice, and authenticity.

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Between Feminism and Islam
Human Rights and Sharia Law in Morocco
Zakia Salime
University of Minnesota Press, 2011

There are two major women’s movements in Morocco: the Islamists who hold shari’a as the platform for building a culture of women’s rights, and the feminists who use the United Nations’ framework to amend shari’a law. Between Feminism and Islam shows how the interactions of these movements over the past two decades have transformed the debates, the organization, and the strategies of each other.

In Between Feminism and Islam, Zakia Salime looks at three key movement moments: the 1992 feminist One Million Signature Campaign, the 2000 Islamist mass rally opposing the reform of family law, and the 2003 Casablanca attacks by a group of Islamist radicals. At the core of these moments are disputes over legitimacy, national identity, gender representations, and political negotiations for shaping state gender policies. Located at the intersection of feminism and Islam, these conflicts have led to the Islamization of feminists on the one hand and the feminization of Islamists on the other.

Documenting the synergistic relationship between these movements, Salime reveals how the boundaries of feminism and Islamism have been radically reconfigured. She offers a new conceptual framework for studying social movements, one that allows us to understand how Islamic feminism is influencing global debates on human rights.

[more]

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Citizenship, Faith, and Feminism
Jewish and Muslim Women Reclaim Their Rights
Jan Feldman
Brandeis University Press, 2011
Religious women in liberal democracies are “dual citizens” because of their contrasting status as members of both a civic community (in which their gender has no impact on their constitutional guarantee of equal rights) and a traditional religious community (which distributes roles and power based on gender). This book shows how these “dual citizens”—Orthodox Jewish women in Israel, Muslim women in Kuwait, and women of both those faiths in the U.S.—have increasingly deployed their civic citizenship rights in attempts to reform and not destroy their religions. For them, neither “exit” nor acquiescence to traditional religious gender norms is an option. Instead, they use the narrative of civic citizenship combined with a more authentic, if alternative reading of their faith tradition to improve their status.
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Contours of Change
Muslim Courts, Women, and Islamic Society in Colonial Bathurst, the Gambia, 1905-1965
Bala Saho
Michigan State University Press, 2018
Based on a previously unexamined body of qadi court records as well as two hundred oral interviews in Wolof and Mandinka, Contours of Change: Muslim Courts, Women, and Islamic Society in Colonial Bathurst, the Gambia, 1905–1965, offers a new perspective on the impact of British rule in West Africa. It focuses on the formation of present-day Banjul and the role of law, religion, and gender relations. Specifically, this volume explores how colonization affected the evolution of women’s understanding of the importance of law in securing their rights, and how urban women used the new qadi court system to fight for greater rights in the domestic sphere. The fascinating cases discussed in the text show that male Muslim judges often were sympathetic to women’s claims, and that, as a result, the qadi court created opportunities for women to acquire property rights and negotiate patriarchal relationships. Contours of Change sheds light on African subjectivities and the broader social, economic, and political changes taking place in colonial Gambian society during the first half of the twentieth century. This text breaks new ground in Senegambian history and makes a significant contribution to British colonial studies, African legal studies, Islam in Africa studies, and women’s history studies.
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Creative Conformity
The Feminist Politics of U.S. Catholic and Iranian Shi'i Women
Elizabeth M. Bucar
Georgetown University Press, 2011

Much feminist scholarship has viewed Catholicism and Shi'i Islam as two religious traditions that, historically, have greeted feminist claims with skepticism or outright hostility. Creative Conformity demonstrates how certain liberal secular assumptions about these religious traditions are only partly correct and, more importantly, misleading. In this highly original study, Elizabeth Bucar compares the feminist politics of eleven US Catholic and Iranian Shi'i women and explores how these women contest and affirm clerical mandates in order to expand their roles within their religious communities and national politics.

Using scriptural analysis and personal interviews, Creative Conformity demonstrates how women contribute to the production of ethical knowledge within both religious communities in order to expand what counts as feminist action, and to explain how religious authority creates an unintended diversity of moral belief and action. Bucar finds that the practices of Catholic and Shi‘a women are not only determined by but also contribute to the ethical and political landscape in their respective religious communities. She challenges the orthodoxies of liberal feminist politics and, ultimately, strengthens feminism as a scholarly endeavor.

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The Diversity of Muslim Women's Lives in India
Hasan, Zoya
Rutgers University Press, 2005

To what extent does Muslim personal law, such as polygamy and triple talaq (the allowance for men to instantly divorce their wives), affect the lives of Muslim women? Are these factors more or less important than other lifestyle issues such as socioeconomic status?

Over the past several decades, the most influential approaches to the study of Muslim women and nearly all the significant campaigns for their rights have focused on religious practices and the urgency to reform Islamic laws. Such focused views, however, give the false sense that religion is the main, if not the only, aspect of Muslim women’s lives.

In order to broaden the lens through which this demographic is typically seen, a group of researchers in India carried out a large and unprecedented study of one of the most disadvantaged sections of Indian society. The editors of The Diversity of Muslim Women’s Lives in India bring together this research in a comprehensive collection of informative and revealing case studies. The essays examine Muslim identity, not only in terms of religious doctrine, but as a heterogeneous set of characteristics produced at the intersections of class, religion, and gender.

Addressing issues of law, politics, education, race, and other neglected secular subjects, this volume is essential reading for policy-makers, social activists, and scholars.

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Do Muslim Women Need Saving?
Lila Abu-Lughod
Harvard University Press, 2013

Frequent reports of honor killings, disfigurement, and sensational abuse have given rise to a consensus in the West, a message propagated by human rights groups and the media: Muslim women need to be rescued. Lila Abu-Lughod boldly challenges this conclusion. An anthropologist who has been writing about Arab women for thirty years, she delves into the predicaments of Muslim women today, questioning whether generalizations about Islamic culture can explain the hardships these women face and asking what motivates particular individuals and institutions to promote their rights.

In recent years Abu-Lughod has struggled to reconcile the popular image of women victimized by Islam with the complex women she has known through her research in various communities in the Muslim world. Here, she renders that divide vivid by presenting detailed vignettes of the lives of ordinary Muslim women, and showing that the problem of gender inequality cannot be laid at the feet of religion alone. Poverty and authoritarianism—conditions not unique to the Islamic world, and produced out of global interconnections that implicate the West—are often more decisive. The standard Western vocabulary of oppression, choice, and freedom is too blunt to describe these women's lives.

Do Muslim Women Need Saving? is an indictment of a mindset that has justified all manner of foreign interference, including military invasion, in the name of rescuing women from Islam—as well as a moving portrait of women's actual experiences, and of the contingencies with which they live.

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Engaging Modernity
Muslim Women and the Politics of Agency in Postcolonial Niger
Ousseina Alidou
University of Wisconsin Press, 2005

Seizing the space opened by the early 1990s democratization movement, Muslim women are carving an active, influential, but often-overlooked role for themselves during a time of great change. Engaging Modernity provides a compelling portrait of Muslim women in Niger as they confronted the challenges and opportunities of the late twentieth century.
    Based on thorough scholarly research and extensive fieldwork—including a wealth of interviews—Ousseina Alidou’s work offers insights into the meaning of modernity for Muslim women in Niger. Mixing biography with sociological data, social theory and linguistic analysis, this is a multilayered vision of political Islam, education, popular culture, and war and its aftermath. Alidou offers a gripping look at one of the Muslim world’s most powerful untold stories.

Runner-up, Aidoo-Snyder Book Prize, Women’s Caucus of the African Studies Association, 2007

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Equals in Learning and Piety
Muslim Women Scholars in Nigeria and North America
Beverly Mack
University of Wisconsin Press, 2023
Equals in Learning and Piety is an intellectual history of the ‘Yan Taru (Associates) movement, a women-led Islamic educational organization that continues to this day in both northern Nigeria and in the United States. Drawing on extensive scholarship across disciplines including history, Islamic studies, anthropology, gender and women’s studies, and literary studies—and alongside rigorous ethnographic research and interviews with leading Nigerian Muslim scholars—Beverly Mack argues that this formidable Muslim women’s movement consolidated the religious and social order established by the Sokoto Jihad in the early nineteenth century. 

Mack shows how women scholars instructed rural Hausa and Fulani women in Muslim ethics, doctrine, traditions, and behavior that followed and replaced the traumatic experience of warfare unleashed by the Jihad. She shows that these unique social engagements shaped people’s agency in the dynamic process of social change throughout the nineteenth century. Women imaginatively reconciled Muslim reformist doctrines and traditional practices in Nigeria, and these doctrines have continued to be influential in the diaspora, especially among Black American Muslims in the United States in the twenty-first century. With this major investigation of a little-studied phenomenon, Mack demonstrates the importance of women to the religious, political, and social transformation of Nigerian Muslim society.
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The Female Voice in Sufi Ritual
Devotional Practices of Pakistan and India
By Shemeem Burney Abbas
University of Texas Press, 2002

The female voice plays a more central role in Sufi ritual, especially in the singing of devotional poetry, than in almost any other area of Muslim culture. Female singers perform sufiana-kalam, or mystical poetry, at Sufi shrines and in concerts, folk festivals, and domestic life, while male singers assume the female voice when singing the myths of heroines in qawwali and sufiana-kalam. Yet, despite the centrality of the female voice in Sufi practice throughout South Asia and the Middle East, it has received little scholarly attention and is largely unknown in the West.

This book presents the first in-depth study of the female voice in Sufi practice in the subcontinent of Pakistan and India. Shemeem Burney Abbas investigates the rituals at the Sufi shrines and looks at women's participation in them, as well as male performers' use of the female voice. The strengths of the book are her use of interviews with both prominent and grassroots female and male musicians and her transliteration of audio- and videotaped performances. Through them, she draws vital connections between oral culture and the written Sufi poetry that the musicians sing for their audiences. This research clarifies why the female voice is so important in Sufi practice and underscores the many contributions of women to Sufism and its rituals.

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The Forbidden Modern
Civilization and Veiling
Nilufer Gole
University of Michigan Press, 1997
This book by prominent Turkish scholar Nilüfer Göle examines the complex relationships among modernity, religion, and gender relations in the Middle East. Her focus is on the factors that influence young women pursuing university educations in Turkey to adopt seemingly fundamentalist Islamist traditions, such as veiling, and the complex web of meanings attributed to these gender-separating practices. Veiling, a politicized practice that conceptually forces people to choose between the "modern" and the "backward," provides an insightful way of looking at the contemporary Islam-West conflict, shedding light on the recent rise of Islamist fundamentalism in many countries and providing insight into what is a more complex phenomenon than is commonly portrayed in accounts by Western journalists.
Göle's sociological approach, employing a number of personal interviews, allows for both a detailed case study of these young Turkish women who are turning to the tenets of fundamental Islamist gender codes, and for a broader critique of Eurocentrism and the academic literature regarding the construction of meaning. Both perspectives serve as a springboard for the launching of theoretical innovations into feminist, religious, cultural, and area studies.
"A timely book, whose publication in English will contribute to a variety of scholarly debates. It promises to be provocative and widely read among scholars interested in issues of modernism and identity, women's social movements, the status of women in Islamic societies, and the broader issues of public versus private spheres." --Nilüfer Isvan, State University of New York, Stony Brook
The Forbidden Modern: Civilization and Veiling was originally published as Modern Mahrem by the Turkish publisher Metis and has been translated into French, German, and Spanish. Nilüfer Göle is Professor of Sociology, Bogaziçi University.
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Gender, Politics, and Islam
Edited by Therese Saliba, Carolyn Allen, and Judith A. Howard
University of Chicago Press, 2002
This collection extends the boundaries of global feminism to include Islamic women. Challenging Orientalist assumptions of Muslim women as victims of Islam, these essays focus on women's negotiations for identity, power, and agency as participants in religious, cultural and nationalist movements. This book gathers Signs essays on women in the Middle East, South Asia, and the Diaspora to explore how women negotiate identities and attempt to gain political, economic, and legal rights.

This collection shows Islam to be a diverse set of variable practices and beliefs shaped by region, nation, ethnicity, sect, and class, as well as by responses to many cultural and economic processes. In examining women's participation in religious and nationalist projects, these critics debate controversial issues: Does Islamic feminism provide an alternative, revolutionary paradigm to Eurocentric liberal humanism and western feminism? Is Islam more oppressive to women than the modern secular state? How are the lives and texts of Arab and Muslim women constructed for local or western consumption? These essays expose the shortcomings of the secularist assumptions of many recent feminist analyses, which continue to treat religion in general and fundamentalism in particular as a tool of oppression used against women, rather than as a viable form of feminist agency producing contradictory effects for its participants.

The essays in this book first appeared in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society.

Contributors:

S. M. Shamsul Alam
Amal Amireh
Mary Elaine Heglund
Shahnaz Khan
Anouar Majid
Val Moghadam
Julia Peteet
Elora Shehabbudin
Gabriele vom Bruck.
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Gendered Fortunes
Divination, Precarity, and Affect in Postsecular Turkey
Zeynep K. Korkman
Duke University Press, 2023
In Gendered Fortunes, Zeynep K. Korkman examines Turkey’s commercial fortunetelling cafés where secular Muslim women and LGBTIQ individuals navigate the precarities of twenty-first-century life. Criminalized by long-standing secularist laws and disdained by contemporary Islamist government, fortunetelling cafés proliferate in part because they offer shelter from the conservative secularist, Islamist, neoliberal, and gender pressures of the public sphere. Korkman shows how fortunetelling is a form of affective labor through which its participants build intimate feminized publics in which they share and address their hopes and fears. Korkman uses feeling—which is how her interlocutors describe the divination process—as an analytic to view the shifting landscape of gendered vulnerability in Turkey. In so doing, Korkman foregrounds “feeling” as a feminist lens to explore how those who are pushed to the margins feel their way through oppressive landscapes to create new futures.
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Gendered Lives in the Western Indian Ocean
Islam, Marriage, and Sexuality on the Swahili Coast
Erin E. Stiles
Ohio University Press, 2015

Muslim communities throughout the Indian Ocean have long questioned what it means to be a “good Muslim.” Much recent scholarship on Islam in the Indian Ocean considers debates among Muslims about authenticity, authority, and propriety. Despite the centrality of this topic within studies of Indian Ocean, African, and other Muslim communities, little of the existing scholarship has addressed such debates in relation to women, gender, or sexuality. Yet women are deeply involved with ideas about what it means to be a “good Muslim.”

In Gendered Lives in the Western Indian Ocean, anthropologists, historians, linguists, and gender studies scholars examine Islam, sexuality, gender, and marriage on the Swahili coast and elsewhere in the Indian Ocean. The book examines diverse sites of empowerment, contradiction, and resistance affecting cultural norms, Islam and ideas of Islamic authenticity, gender expectations, ideologies of modernity, and British education. The book’s attention to both masculinity and femininity, broad examination of the transnational space of the Swahili coast, and inclusion of research on non-Swahili groups on the East African coast makes it a unique and indispensable resource.

Contributors: Nadine Beckmann, Pat Caplan, Corrie Decker, Rebecca Gearhart, Linda Giles, Meghan Halley, Susan Hirsch, Susi Keefe, Kjersti Larsen, Elisabeth McMahon, Erin Stiles, and Katrina Daly Thompson

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Hausa Women in the Twentieth Century
Edited by Catherine M. Coles and Beverly Mack
University of Wisconsin Press, 1991
    The Hausa are one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa, with populations in Nigeria, Niger, and Ghana.  Their long history of city-states and Islamic caliphates, their complex trading economies, and their cultural traditions have attracted the attention of historians, political economists, linguists, and anthropologists. The large body of scholarship on Hausa society, however, has assumed the subordination of women to men.
    Hausa Women in the Twentieth Century refutes the notion that Hausa women are pawns in a patriarchal Muslim society.  The contributors, all of whom have done field research in Hausaland, explore the ways Hausa women have balanced the demands of Islamic expectations and Western choices as their society moved from a precolonial system through British colonial administration to inclusion in the modern Nigerian nation. This volume examines the roles of a wide variety of women, from wives and workers to political activists and mythical figures, and it emphasizes that women have been educators and spiritual leaders in Hausa society since precolonial times.  From royalty to slaves and concubines, in traditional Hausa cities and in newer towns, from the urban poor to the newly educated elite, the "invisible women" whose lives are documented here demonstrate that standard accounts of Hausa society must be revised.
    Scholars of Hausa and neighboring West African societies will find in this collection a wealth of new material and a model of how research on women can be integrated with general accounts of Hausa social, religious, political, and economic life. For students and scholars looking at gender and women's roles cross-culturally, this volume provides an invaluable African perspective.
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Heir to the Crescent Moon
Abdur-Rahman, Sufiya
University of Iowa Press, 2021
From age five, Sufiya Abdur-Rahman, the daughter of two Black Power–era converts to Islam, feels drawn to the faith even as her father, a devoted Muslim, introduces her to and, at the same time, distances her from it. Abdur-Rahman’s father and mother abandoned their Harlem mosque before she was born and divorced when she was twelve. Forced apart from her father—her portal into Islam—she yearns to reconnect with the religion and, through it, reconnect with him.

In Heir to the Crescent Moon, Abdur-Rahman’s longing to comprehend her father’s complicated relationship with Islam leads her first to recount her own history, and then delves into her father’s past. She journeys from the Christian righteousness of Adam Clayton Powell Jr.’s 1950s Harlem, through the Malcolm X–inspired college activism of the late 1960s, to the unfulfilled potential of the early 1970s Black American Muslim movement. Told at times with lighthearted humor or heartbreaking candor, Abdur-Rahman’s story of adolescent Arabic lessons, fasting, and Muslim mosque, funeral, and Eid services speaks to the challenges of bridging generational and cultural divides and what it takes to maintain family amidst personal and societal upheaval. She weaves a vital tale about a family: Black, Muslim, and distinctly American.
 
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front cover of Indonesian Women and Local Politics
Indonesian Women and Local Politics
Islam, Gender and Networks in Post-Suharto Indonesia
Kurniawati Hastuti Dewi
National University of Singapore Press, 2015
In an important social change, female Muslim political leaders in Java have enjoyed considerable success in direct local elections following the fall of Suharto in Indonesia. Indonesian Women and Local Politics shows that Islam, gender, and social networks have been decisive in their political victories. Islamic ideas concerning female leadership provide a strong religious foundation for their political campaigns. However, their approach to women's issues shows that female leaders do not necessarily adopt a woman's perspectives when formulating policies. This new trend of Muslim women in politics will continue to shape the growth and direction of democratization in local politics in post-Suharto Indonesia and will color future discourse on gender, politics, and Islam in contemporary Southeast Asia.
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Intimate Connections
Love and Marriage in Pakistan’s High Mountains
Anna-Maria Walter
Rutgers University Press, 2022
Intimate Connections dissects ideas, feelings, and practices around love, marriage, and respectability in the remote high mountains of Gilgit-Baltistan in northern Pakistan. It offers insightful perspectives from the emotional lives of Shia women and their active engagement with their husbands. These gender relations are shaped by countless factors, including embodied values of modesty and honor, vernacular fairy tales and Bollywood movies, Islamic revivalism and development initiatives. In particular, the advent of media and communication technologies has left a mark on (pre)marital relations in both South Asia and the wider Muslim world. Juxtaposing different understandings of ‘love’ reveals rich and manifold worlds of courtship, elopements, family dynamics, and more or less affectionate matches that are nowadays often initiated through SMS. Deep ethnographic accounts trace the relationships between young couples to show how Muslim women in a globalized world dynamically frame and negotiate circumstances in their lives.
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Liberating Shahrazad
Feminism, Postcolonialism, and Islam
Suzanne Gauch
University of Minnesota Press, 2006
Shahrazad, the legendary fictional storyteller who spun the tales of the 1,001 Arabian Nights, has long been rendered as a silent exotic beauty by Western film and fiction adaptations. Now, she talks back to present a new image of Muslim women.

In Liberating Shahrazad, Suzanne Gauch analyzes how postcolonial writers and filmmakers from Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia have reclaimed the storyteller in order to portray Muslim women in ways that highlight their power to shape their own destinies. Gauch looks at Maghrebian works that incorporate Shahrazad’s storytelling techniques into unexpected and unforeseen narratives. Highlighting the fluid nature of storytelling, Gauch demonstrates how these new depictions of Shahrazad—from artists such as Moufida Tlatli, Fatima Mernissi, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Assia Djebar, Leïla Sebbar—navigate the demands of a global marketplace, even as they reshape the stories told about the Islamic world.

In the face of both rising fundamentalism and proliferating Western media representations of Arab and Muslim women as silent, exploited, and uneducated victims, Gauch establishes how contemporary works of literature and film revive the voice of a long-silenced Shahrazad—and, ultimately, overthrow oppressive images of Muslim women. Suzanne Gauch is assistant professor of English and women’s studies at Temple University.
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Muslim Fashion
Contemporary Style Cultures
Reina Lewis
Duke University Press, 2015
In the shops of London's Oxford Street, girls wear patterned scarves over their hair as they cluster around makeup counters. Alongside them, hip twenty-somethings style their head-wraps in high black topknots to match their black boot-cut trousers. Participating in the world of popular mainstream fashion—often thought to be the domain of the West—these young Muslim women are part of an emergent cross-faith transnational youth subculture of modest fashion. In treating hijab and other forms of modest clothing as fashion, Reina Lewis counters the overuse of images of veiled women as "evidence" in the prevalent suggestion that Muslims and Islam are incompatible with Western modernity. Muslim Fashion contextualizes modest wardrobe styling within Islamic and global consumer cultures, interviewing key players including designers, bloggers, shoppers, store clerks, and shop owners. Focusing on Britain, North America, and Turkey, Lewis provides insights into the ways young Muslim women use multiple fashion systems to negotiate religion, identity, and ethnicity.
 
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Muslim Women Activists in North America
Speaking for Ourselves
Edited by Katherine Bullock
University of Texas Press, 2005

In the eyes of many Westerners, Muslim women are hidden behind a veil of negative stereotypes that portray them as either oppressed, subservient wives and daughters or, more recently, as potential terrorists. Yet many Muslim women defy these stereotypes by taking active roles in their families and communities and working to create a more just society. This book introduces eighteen Muslim women activists from the United States and Canada who have worked in fields from social services, to marital counseling, to political advocacy in order to further social justice within the Muslim community and in the greater North American society.

Each of the activists has written an autobiographical narrative in which she discusses such issues as her personal motivation for doing activism work, her views on the relationship between Islam and women's activism, and the challenges she has faced and overcome, such as patriarchal cultural barriers within the Muslim community or racism and discrimination within the larger society. The women activists are a heterogeneous group, including North American converts to Islam, Muslim immigrants to the United States and Canada, and the daughters of immigrants. Young women at the beginning of their activist lives as well as older women who have achieved regional or national prominence are included. Katherine Bullock's introduction highlights the contributions to society that Muslim women have made since the time of the Prophet Muhammad and sounds a call for contemporary Muslim women to become equal partners in creating and maintaining a just society within and beyond the Muslim community.

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front cover of Muslim Women in Postcolonial Kenya
Muslim Women in Postcolonial Kenya
Leadership, Representation, and Social Change
Ousseina D. Alidou
University of Wisconsin Press, 2013
In education, journalism, legislative politics, social justice, health, law, and other arenas, Muslim women across Kenya are emerging as leaders in local, national, and international contexts, advancing reforms through their activism. Muslim Women in Postcolonial Kenya draws on extensive interviews with six such women, revealing how their religious and moral beliefs shape reform movements that bridge ethnic divides and foster alliances in service of creating a just, multicultural, multiethnic, and multireligious democratic citizenship.
            Mwalim Azara Mudira opened a school of theology for Muslim women. Nazlin Omar Rajput of The Nur magazine was a pioneer in reporting on HIV/AIDS in the Muslim community. Amina Abubakar, host of a women's radio show, has publicly addressed the sensitive subject of sexual crimes against Muslim women. Two women who are members of parliament are creating new socioeconomic and political opportunities for girls and women, within a framework that still embraces traditional values of marriage and motherhood.
            Examining the interplay of gender, agency, and autonomy, Ousseina D. Alidou shows how these Muslim women have effected change in the home, the school, the mosque, the media, and more—and she illuminates their determination as actors to challenge the oppressive influences of male-dominated power structures. In looking at differences as opportunities rather than obstacles, these women reflect a new sensibility among Muslim women and an effort to redefine the meaning of women's citizenship within their own community of faith and within the nation.
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Muslim Women in War and Crisis
Representation and Reality
Edited by Faegheh Shirazi
University of Texas Press, 2010

Representing diverse cultural viewpoints, Muslim Women in War and Crisis collects an array of original essays that highlight the experiences and perspectives of Muslim women—their dreams and nightmares and their daily struggles—in times of tremendous social upheaval. Analyzing both how Muslim women have been represented and how they represent themselves, the authors draw on primary sources ranging from poetry and diaries to news reports and visual media. Topics include:

  • Peacebrokers in Indonesia
  • Exploitation in the Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Chechen women rebels
  • Fundamentalism in Afghanistan, from refugee camps to Kabul
  • Memoirs of Bengali Muslim women
  • The 7/7 London bombings, British Muslim women, and the media

Also exploring such images in the United States, Spain, the former Yugoslavia, Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon, and Iraq, this collection offers a chorus of multidimensional voices that counter Islamophobia and destructive clichés. Encompassing the symbolic national and religious identities of Muslim women, this study goes beyond those facets to examine the realities of day-to-day existence in societies that seek scapegoats and do little to defend the victims of hate crimes. Enhancing their scholarly perspectives, many of the contributors (including the editor) have lived through the strife they analyze. This project taps into their firsthand experiences of war and deadly political oppression.

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Pious Fashion
How Muslim Women Dress
Liz Bucar
Harvard University Press, 2017

Who says you can’t be pious and fashionable? Throughout the Muslim world, women have found creative ways of expressing their personality through the way they dress. Headscarves can be modest or bold, while brand-name clothing and accessories are part of a multimillion-dollar ready-to-wear industry that caters to pious fashion from head to toe. In this lively snapshot, Liz Bucar takes us to Iran, Turkey, and Indonesia and finds a dynamic world of fashion, faith, and style.

“Brings out both the sensuality and pleasure of sartorial experimentation.”
Times Literary Supplement

“I defy anyone not to be beguiled by [Bucar’s] generous-hearted yet penetrating observation of pious fashion in Indonesia, Turkey and Iran… Bucar uses interviews with consumers, designers, retailers and journalists…to examine the presumptions that modest dressing can’t be fashionable, and fashion can’t be faithful.”
Times Higher Education

“Bucar disabuses readers of any preconceived ideas that women who adhere to an aesthetic of modesty are unfashionable or frumpy.”
—Robin Givhan, Washington Post

“A smart, eye-opening guide to the creative sartorial practices of young Muslim women… Bucar’s lively narrative illuminates fashion choices, moral aspirations, and social struggles that will unsettle those who prefer to stereotype than inform themselves about women’s everyday lives in the fast-changing, diverse societies that constitute the Muslim world.”
—Lila Abu-Lughod, author of Do Muslim Women Need Saving?

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front cover of Preparing the Mothers of Tomorrow
Preparing the Mothers of Tomorrow
Education and Islam in Mandate Palestine
By Ela Greenberg
University of Texas Press, 2009

From the late nineteenth century onward, men and women throughout the Middle East discussed, debated, and negotiated the roles of young girls and women in producing modern nations. In Palestine, girls' education was pivotal to discussions about motherhood. Their education was seen as having the potential to transform the family so that it could meet both modern and nationalist expectations.

Ela Greenberg offers the first study to examine the education of Muslim girls in Palestine from the end of the Ottoman administration through the British colonial rule. Relying upon extensive archival sources, official reports, the Palestinian Arabic press, and interviews, she describes the changes that took place in girls' education during this time. Greenberg describes how local Muslims, often portrayed as indifferent to girls' education, actually responded to the inadequacies of existing government education by sending their daughters to missionary schools despite religious tensions, or by creating their own private nationalist institutions.

Greenberg shows that members of all socioeconomic classes understood the triad of girls' education, modernity, and the nationalist struggle, as educated girls would become the "mothers of tomorrow" who would raise nationalist and modern children. While this was the aim of the various schools in Palestine, not all educated Muslim girls followed this path, as some used their education, even if it was elementary at best, to become teachers, nurses, and activists in women's organizations.

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front cover of Rethinking Global Sisterhood
Rethinking Global Sisterhood
Western Feminism and Iran
Nima Naghibi
University of Minnesota Press, 2007

Western women’s involvement in Persia dates from the mid-nineteenth century, when female adventurers and missionaries first encountered their veiled Muslim “sisters.” Twentieth-century Western and state-sponsored Iranian feminists continued to use the image of the veiled woman as the embodiment of backwardness. Yet, following the 1979 revolution, indigenous Iranian feminists became more vocal in their resistance to this characterization.

In Rethinking Global Sisterhood, Nima Naghibi makes powerful connections among feminism, imperialism, and the discourses of global sisterhood. Naghibi investigates topics including the state-sponsored Women’s Organization of Iran and the involvement of feminists such as Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem in the Iranian feminism movement before and during the 1979 revolution. With a potent analysis of cinema, she examines the veiled woman in the films of Tahmineh Milani, Ziba Mir-Hosseini and Kim Longinotto, and Mahnaz Afzali.

At a time when Western relations with the Muslim world are in crisis, Rethinking Global Sisterhood provides much-needed insights and explores the limitations and possibilities of cross-cultural feminist social and political interventions.

Nima Naghibi is assistant professor of English at Ryerson University in Toronto.

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front cover of Visible Histories, Disappearing Women
Visible Histories, Disappearing Women
Producing Muslim Womanhood in Late Colonial Bengal
Mahua Sarkar
Duke University Press, 2008
In Visible Histories, Disappearing Women, Mahua Sarkar examines how Muslim women in colonial Bengal came to be more marginalized than Hindu women in nationalist discourse and subsequent historical accounts. She also considers how their near-invisibility except as victims has underpinned the construction of the ideal citizen-subject in late colonial India. Through critical engagements with significant feminist and postcolonial scholarship, Sarkar maps out when and where Muslim women enter into the written history of colonial Bengal. She argues that the nation-centeredness of history as a discipline and the intellectual politics of liberal feminism have together contributed to the production of Muslim women as the oppressed, mute, and invisible “other” of the normative modern Indian subject.

Drawing on extensive archival research and oral histories of Muslim women who lived in Calcutta and Dhaka in the first half of the twentieth century, Sarkar traces Muslim women as they surface and disappear in colonial, Hindu nationalist, and liberal Muslim writings, as well as in the memories of Muslim women themselves. The oral accounts provide both a rich source of information about the social fabric of urban Bengal during the final years of colonial rule and a glimpse of the kind of negotiations with stereotypes that even relatively privileged, middle-class Muslim women are still frequently obliged to make in India today. Sarkar concludes with some reflections on the complex links between past constructions of Muslim women, current representations, and the violence against them in contemporary India.

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Western Representations of the Muslim Woman
From Termagant to Odalisque
By Mohja Kahf
University of Texas Press, 1999

Veiled, secluded, submissive, oppressed—the "odalisque" image has held sway over Western representations of Muslim women since the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century. Yet during medieval and Renaissance times, European writers portrayed Muslim women in exactly the opposite way, as forceful queens of wanton and intimidating sexuality.

In this illuminating study, Mohja Kahf traces the process through which the "termagant" became an "odalisque" in Western representations of Muslim women. Drawing examples from medieval chanson de geste and romance, Renaissance drama, Enlightenment prose, and Romantic poetry, she links the changing images of Muslim women to changes in European relations with the Islamic world, as well as to changing gender dynamics within Western societies.

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Wombs and Alien Spirits
Women, Men, and the Zar Cult in Northern Sudan
Janice Boddy
University of Wisconsin Press, 1989

Based on nearly two years of ethnographic fieldwork in a Muslim village in northern Sudan, Wombs and Alien Spirits explores the zâr cult, the most widely practiced traditional healing cult in Africa.  Adherents of the cult are usually women with marital or fertility problems, who are possessed by spirits very different from their own proscribed roles as mothers.  Through the woman, the spirit makes demands upon her husband and family and makes provocative comments on village issues, such as the increasing influence of formal Islam or encroaching Western economic domination.  In accommodating the spirits, the women are able metaphorically to reformulate everyday discourse to portray consciousness of their own subordination.
    Janice Boddy examines the moral universe of the village, discussing female circumcision, personhood, kinship, and bodily integrity, then describes the workings of the cult and the effect of possession on the lives of men as well as women.   She suggests that spirit possession is a feminist discourse, though a veiled and allegorical one, on women's objectification and subordination.  Additionally, the spirit world acts as a foil for village life in the context of rapid historical change and as such provides a focus for cultural resistance that is particularly, though not exclusively, relevant to women.

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front cover of Women Embracing Islam
Women Embracing Islam
Gender and Conversion in the West
Edited by Karin van Nieuwkerk
University of Texas Press, 2006

Many Westerners view Islam as a religion that restricts and subordinates women in both private and public life. Yet a surprising number of women in Western Europe and America are converting to Islam. What attracts these women to a belief system that is markedly different from both Western Christianity and Western secularism? What benefits do they gain by converting, and what are the costs? How do Western women converts live their new Islamic faith, and how does their conversion affect their families and communities? How do women converts transmit Islamic values to their children? These are some of the questions that Women Embracing Islam seeks to answer.

In this vanguard study of gender and conversion to Islam, leading historians, sociologists, anthropologists, and theologians investigate why non-Muslim women in the United States, several European countries, and South Africa are converting to Islam. Drawing on extensive interviews with female converts, the authors explore the life experiences that lead Western women to adopt Islam, as well as the appeal that various forms of Islam, as well as the Nation of Islam, have for women. The authors find that while no single set of factors can explain why Western women are embracing Islamic faith traditions, some common motivations emerge. These include an attraction to Islam's high regard for family and community, its strict moral and ethical standards, and the rationality and spirituality of its theology, as well as a disillusionment with Christianity and with the unrestrained sexuality of so much of Western culture.

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front cover of Women from Traditional Islamic Educational Institutions in Indonesia
Women from Traditional Islamic Educational Institutions in Indonesia
Negotiating Public Spaces
Eka Srimulyani
Amsterdam University Press, 2012
In this insightful book, Eka Srimulyani provides a new look at the role of women in Islamic educational institutions in Indonesia. Women at these traditional schools, called pesantren, play a significant role in the shaping of gender relations in the Indonesian Muslim community, and have not, until recently, garnered as much attention in the academic community as they undoubtedly deserve. This deeply informative study offers a new perspective on why Muslim feminism has found a powerful foothold in Indonesia, and it creates a vivid portrait of the lives of pesantren.
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front cover of Women, Islam, and Abbasid Identity
Women, Islam, and Abbasid Identity
Nadia Maria El Cheikh
Harvard University Press, 2015

When the Abbasids overthrew the Umayyad dynasty in 750 CE, an important element in legitimizing their newly won authority involved defining themselves in the eyes of their Islamic subjects. Nadia Maria El Cheikh shows that ideas about women were central to the process by which the Abbasid caliphate, which ushered in Islam’s Golden Age, achieved self-definition.

In most medieval Islamic cultures, Arab Islam stood in opposition to jahl, or the state of impurity and corruption that existed prior to Islam’s founding. Over time, the concept of jahl evolved into a more general term describing a condition of ignorance and barbarism—as well as a condition specifically associated in Abbasid discourse with women. Concepts of womanhood and gender became a major organizing principle for articulating Muslim identity. Groups whose beliefs and behaviors were perceived by the Abbasids as a threat—not only the jahilis who lived before the prophet Muhammad but peoples living beyond the borders of their empire, such as the Byzantines, and heretics who defied the strictures of their rule, such as the Qaramita—were represented in Abbasid texts through gendered metaphors and concepts of sexual difference. These in turn influenced how women were viewed, and thus contributed to the historical construction of Muslim women’s identity.

Through its investigation of how gender and sexuality were used to articulate cultural differences and formulate identities in Abbasid systems of power and thought, Women, Islam, and Abbasid Identity demonstrates the importance of women to the writing of early Islamic history.

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front cover of Women, Islam and the State
Women, Islam and the State
Deniz Kandiyoti
Temple University Press, 1991
"The most significant theoretical advance in Muslim-world women's studies for years." --Voice Literary Supplement This collection of original essays examines the relationship between Islam, the nature of state projects, and the position of women in the modern nation states of the Middle East and South Asia. Arguing that Islam is not uniform across Muslim societies and that women's roles in these societies cannot be understood simply by looking at texts and laws. the contributors focus, instead, on the effects of the political projects of states on the lives of women.
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front cover of The Women of Karbala
The Women of Karbala
Ritual Performance and Symbolic Discourses in Modern Shi'i Islam
Edited by Kamran Scot Aghaie
University of Texas Press, 2005

Commemorating the Battle of Karbala, in which the Prophet Mohammad's grandson Hosayn and seventy-two of his family members and supporters were martyred in 680 CE, is the central religious observance of Shi'i Islam. Though much has been written about the rituals that reenact and venerate Karbala, until now no one has studied women's participation in these observances. This collection of original essays by a multidisciplinary team of scholars analyzes the diverse roles that women have played in the Karbala rituals, as well as the varied ways in which gender-coded symbols have been used within religious and political discourses.

The contributors to this volume consider women as participants in and observers of the Karbala rituals in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, India, Pakistan, and the United States. They find that women's experiences in the Shi'i rituals vary considerably from one community to another, based on regional customs, personal preferences, religious interpretations, popular culture, and socioeconomic background. The authors also examine the gender symbolism within the rituals, showing how it reinforces distinctions between the genders while it also highlights the centrality of women to the symbolic repertory of Shi'ism. Overall, the authors conclude that while Shi'i rituals and symbols have in some ways been used to restrict women's social roles, in other ways they have served to provide women with a sense of independence and empowerment.

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