Gender Studies

Gender Studies

Islam and Reform: Gender Perspectives on a Theme

The Modern Reformist Movement in Islam goes back to the closing decades of the nineteenth century with its epicenters spanning the major capitals of the Ottoman Empire and beyond it, the Saharan and riverine nodes in Africa and the Indo-Persian and Malay worlds in Asia, altogether constituting one extended vibrant field of magnetic resonance. Heir to a proud heritage of empire and culture, and once the crown of world communities because of its ethical foundations, the ummah, now saw itself dethroned and ousted as it heaved its way through the labor pains of a new age of uncertainties and false starts. While, at about the same period, Europe had reached its pinnacle of power and glory, exerting strong gravitational pulls throughout much of the globe, whether through outright military, political, and economic domination or, more subtly and detrimentally, through the seductive appeal of its model of civilization, the Muslim ummah had languished in its own weaknesses and complacencies and was caught unprepared for the challenges of the modern age. Vital reformist currents slowly emerged as the natural defenses of a threatened immune system would,  mixed reactions and responses to the traumatic dislocations experienced by the community in the course of an uneven civilizational encounter with the modern West.

A Proposed Outline for the Short course of Gender Studies

BIIT is working for developing curriculum on Gender Issue.The 1st meeting of the Gender &Women Studies group was held on 11th February, 2008. M. Abdul Aziz, Deputy Executive Director of BIIT presided over the meeting.
In the meeting, reform of existing committee by including new member was discussed primarily. Members in the meeting proposed the following names-


* Dr. U. A. B. Razia Akter Banu
* Mr. Mahmudul Hasan
* Dr. Abul Hossain
* Dr. S.M. Ali Akkas 
* Ms. Masuda M. Rashid
* Lawyers, related to women &Gender studies
* Other curriculum related persons.

Gender Anthropology in the Middle East: The Politics of Muslim Women’s Misrepresentation

The Western view of the role of women in Muslim societies presents a strikingly ambivalent attitude. On the one hand, the patrilineal, patriarchal structure of the Muslim family has been so emphasized that it is believed to be at the heart of the assumed subordination of women in Muslim societies (Rassam 1983; Joseph 1985). On the other hand, a matrilineal structure is believed to exist in at least some Muslim societies. Frantz Fanon speaks of how the French colonizers of Algeria developed a policy built on the “discoveries” of the sociologists that a structure of matriarchal essence did indeed exist. These findings enabled the French to define their political doctrine, summed up by Fanon as: “If we want to destroy the structure of Algerian society, its capacity for resistance, we must first of all conquer the women, we must go and find them behind the veil where they hide themselves, and in the houses where the men keep them out of sight” (Fanon 1965, 39).

Islamists and Women in the Arab World: From Reaction to Reform?

Broadly speaking, contemporary discourse assumes that Islamists are bad for women. Any gain in Islamist political influence is considered a disastrous regression in women’s human rights. At a time when the movement to put women’s rights on the international human rights agenda - a valuable movement indeed - seems on the brink of joining the group of world and regional powers targeting Islamists as the next great threat to humanity, it is urgent that Islamists formulate a strong and just analysis of the gender issue.

“Believing Women” in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur’an

Asma Barlas, Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 2002. 254 pages.

Does the Qur’an permit the oppression of women? Can women pursue equality and remain within the framework of its teachings? In this original and thought-provoking work, Barlas attempts to address these controversial questions. In the preface, Barlas asks whether the Qur’an is a patriarchal text, and acknowledges that while this question might not be meaningful from the perspective of the Qur’anic text itself, Muslim women today are confronted with frankly patriarchal exegeses. In order to open up a discursive space for her reading, Barlas asserts that various readings of the Qur’an should not be confused with the text itself, and that since Islam has no clergy, women can reclaim the right to interpret the Qur’an. Contrary to both conservative and progressive Muslims, she argues that the Qur'an challenges inequality and oppression.

Literary Representations of Female Identity: Feminisms in Arab-Muslim Societies and Clashing Paradigms on Conceptions of Modernity, Tradition, and Selfhood

The essay examines the texts of the two women writers – Leila Abouzeid (from Morocco) and Nawal El Saadawi (from Egypt) – as offering two female perspectives within what is commonly referred to as “feminine” writing in the Arab Muslim world. My main interest is to explore the various discursive articulations of female identity that are challenged or foregrounded as a positive model. The essay points to the serious pitfalls of some feminist narratives in Arab-Muslim societies by dealing with a related problem: the author’s setting up of convenient conceptual dichotomies, which account for the female experience, that reduce male-female relationships in the given social context to a fundamentally antagonistic one. Abouzeid’s novel will be a case study of a more positive but also realistic and complex perspective on female experience.

May Her Likes Be Multiplied: Biography and Gender Politics in Egypt

Marilyn Booth, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001. 335 pages.

Marilyn Booth’s remarkable study blends literary criticism with historical research to better understand the construction of modern Egyptian womanhood. Booth analyzes hundreds of women’s biographies that were written in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and published in the popular women’s press. She situates this activity within the context of Egypt’s nationalist struggle and burgeoning feminist movement at a time of foreign economic, military, and cultural domination. With the publication of biographies of women as diverse as the Prophet’s wives, Jeanne d’Arc, Hatshepsut, Jane Austin, and Safiyya Zaghlul, Booth uncovers the diversity of the Egyptian women’s press in its scope and vision of what Egypt should expect of its women.

Muslim Women: Crafting a North American Identity

Shahnaz Khan, Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000. 151 pages.

Shahnaz Khan’s study of Muslim female identity in Canada is a worthy contribution to the literature on Muslim experiences in the West. She explores how women negotiate their identities in-between the polarized discourses of Orientalism and Islam by occupying a hybridized third space. This third space is not only the site of resistance to the dominant Islamic and Orientalist prescriptives of Muslim female identity, but a starting point for Muslim women to engage in individual and collective projects to remap and reconfigure their identities in a process of cultural, political, and economic empowerment. Khan argues that progressive politics by and for Muslim women are possible only from this hybridized location. Her study elucidates this third space’s dynamics by examining the dialectic between the personal narratives of culturally diverse Canadian Muslim women and the political space they inhabit.

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