There are days for just analyses. Femin Ijtihad has posted two analysis on the thought of representation and gender equality in Islam and Muslim societies. These are some excerpts.
Syed Jamil’s article on the representations of Muslim women in neo-colonial imagination, Islamic canonical texts, and the feminist response.
“…this essay does not seek to establish the ‘Truth’ regarding Muslim women as it exists in the world of social reality. Rather, it seeks to examine how various representations of Muslim women, as networks of signs where the signified is infinitely delayed, are constructed and to what effects and consequence these representations are mobilized” (432).
So long as we confine our conception of the political to activity that is openly declared we are driven to conclude that subordinate groups essentially lack a political life or that what political life they do have is restricted to those moments of popular explosion. To do so is to miss the immense political terrain that lies between quiescence and revolt and that, for better or worse, is the political environment of subject classes. It is to focus on the visible coastline of politics and miss the continent that lies beyond (Scott 1990: 199)’” (438).
“This is the unspoken ground of the unsaid on which patriarchy traces the narrative of women’s subjugation: the existence of a deep-seated and insubordinate – almost subversive – consciousness directed against the patriarchal order” (438).
It’s important to recognize that gender discrimination is not particular to the Islamic world, nor does it reflect essential “Islamic” values or practices. Rather, gender inequality in the Muslim world is often the result of historical, political, cultural, and economic factors, and many discriminatory laws, traditions, and practices that maintain the second-class status of women in Muslim societies are not necessarily related to the core messages of Islamic sacred texts. Therefore, there is no essential reason that “Islam” and women’s rights can’t exist side by side.
- Are discriminatory practices towards women in my community justified as symbols of Islamic identity or explained as key parts of ‘our culture,’ in contrast to Western culture and values? Are women in my community considered guardians of specific Islamic values?
-Who makes the argument that gender inequality is essential to Islam? Why do they feel that making this argument is important, and what are the best ways to approach them?
-What alternatives are there within the Islamic tradition, across all sects, to these interpretations, and how can they be promoted?
-How can I be heard and respected as I participate the debate over ‘what Islam means’ within my community?
I was so proud of the F.I. team, Sara Bergamaschi, Sarah Jones and Deya Bhattacharya, in their recent representation at the London School of Economics for a panel presentation.
For some contemporary jurists, concepts like ijtihad create space for innovative interpretations of shari’ah, and allow a jurisprudence that protects gender equality. Conservatives resist this as an assault on Islam’s theological purity and historical identity. Through interviews conducted with activists and analyses of the theological structures in Islam that frame this debate over reform, we intend to critique the current state of gender equality in Libya and gauge the potential effects of this intellectual conflict on the political inclusion of Libyan women.