Multiple Strategies to Challenge Gender Inequality within Muslim Societies

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 09:44
Location: Hörsaal 33 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Masoumeh VELAYATI, Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education, United Kingdom, College of Higher Education, Dundee, United Kingdom
Religious beliefs about complementary gendered roles that contribute to unequal gender relations in Muslim tradition have been articulated within Islamic framework. Men’s lack of comprehension of religious moral principles and women’s exclusion from the Islamic knowledge have paved the way to justify male authority and domination in all aspects of life. Orthodox male-interpretations of religious texts have considerably contributed to injustice, violence, and distress to Muslim women’s lives throughout the centuries. On the other hand, the exported western and Euro-centric feminist theories are often incompatible with the historical experiences of local women to deal with gender issues.

One of the notable achievements of progressive Islamic discourse in the recent decades has been changes in the main theoretical/methodological approaches. Muslim female scholars have embarked on using Islam and religious texts as a framework to promote women’s rights and gender equality in Muslim contexts. Through constructive and critical use of western feminist thought and concepts, they re-examine religious texts with gender conscious. At the same time, by using Islamic concepts such as justice and equality as basis of their theory and progressive Qur’anic interpretations, they contest the conservative gender discriminations and unequal treatment of women wrongly associated with Islam.

In this paper, I will look at the work of some of female Muslim scholars, who engage with the liberation theology; and some women’s organisations. These scholars and organisations actively use Islamic ethical framework, as new discursive patterns in their response to misinterpretations and literal reading of the religious text with regard to gender issues, and the demystification of allegedly endorsed patriarchal modes of gender relations in the name of Islam.

They embrace religious identity and feminist consciousness and challenge culturally imposed gender relations and meanings through advocating alternative religious discourses that are compatible with gender equality and advocate values and rights.