The term Islamic feminism was associated with the 1990s and the rise of the Iranian men and women that was obvious in their different interpretation of Islamic feminist discourse and new gender-sensitive attitude to Quran. Islamic feminism intends to affirm social justice and gender equality in the Muslim society. The historical value of Islamic feminism was in the womens struggle for rights to politics, work, democracy, and education. However, one should say that Islamic feminism differs from Western, as its driving force was the discourse as a way of arguing female rights, social justice, and gender equality. Consequently, Islam women are seeking justice and rights in the Quran as it states that the equality of all human beings should be realized in the civil and state institutions and everyday life. As a result, Islamic feminism is based on Islamic theology through the canonic traditions and Quran discourse and presupposes the gender equality, social justice, and womens rights to education, work, and politics.
Islamic Feminism as a Particular Kind of Feminism
The world feminism is always associated with French Revolution that promoted the ideals of gender equality and social justice. The Western feminists protested and rebelled to access the equal rights to work, education, and politics . They did not want to admit mens domination and privileged position in the society. The organization of movements and rebels was the main way of Western feminists to express their disagreement and desire to destroy the stereotypical thinking about them . However, even currently world feminism is still growing as women are still in the minority when it comes to politics and leadership positions. It means that women continue to struggle for changing their gender roles and be on equal terms with men.
Islamic feminism has become a new feminist paradigm that presupposes re-reading of the Quran and other religious texts to find the information about gender equality. It means that Muslim women looked for the theological confirmation of their roles. Islamic feminist discourse cannot accept the Islamic feminist label that restricts womens rights in the society. One should mention that gender-sensitive interpretation of the Quran has become the driving force of Islamic feminism growth even in the community where many men are hostile to womens emancipation. Islamic feminist discourse affirms gender equality and social justice, reveals common concerns and goals and closes gaps between males and females . It is evident that Islamic feminism has always space for religion supporting secular nationalism and Islamic reforms. It means that Islamic feminism is less radical comparing with feminism in other countries.
Islamic feminism argues that the Quran guarantees the principles of equality of all human beings and practices the equality between men and women. Thus, the priority of Islamic feminism is to rely on Islams fundamental text. Some feminists center their attention on the interpretation of Quran, others look for the truth in laws and the Hadith. It means that Islamic feminists also have no the common thought on the gender roles and social justice. Islamic feminists have taken three approaches:(1) correcting the false stories related to mens superiority in the Quran;(2) citing verses encouraging the equality between men and women;(3) deconstructing verses attentive to male and female differences . The most prominent Islamic feminists are the following: Azzam Taleghani and Shahla Sherkat of Iran, Ziba Mir-Hosseini of the UK and Iran, Asma Barlas, Riffat Hassan, Azizah al-Hibri in the USA.
It is evident that Islamic feminism is a particular kind of feminism that serves people in their life bringing more peace and democracy. Moreover, it simplifies the state of affairs of second-generation Muslim women in the West. Islamic feminism helps them to occupy their place in the foreign society remaining faithful to their culture, religion, and traditions.
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The Reality and Future of Islamic Feminism
Currently, some Muslim circles regard Islamic feminism as the image of the angry, family-hating, and dominating woman. It means that Islamic women who strive for the equal rights are labeled as those who rebel against the social and historical context that imposes them the role of mother, wife, and homemaker. Islamic feminism expresses the idea of gender equality according to the Qurans definition of equality for men and women. Islamic feminism engages Islamic theology through the canonic traditions and text. It means that it has the certain restrictions comparing with Western feminism that builds its own ideology. It is evident that Islamic feminism insists on the application of theology to everyday life. As to feminism of other countries, it is free from religion and theological studies.
Islamic feminism is developing. For example, they conduct the conferences representing the future of Islamic feminism and revealing the problem of female authority and womens participation in the production of Islamic knowledge. Another goal of Islamic feminism is to speak about inclusivity and the right to personal moral authority that is necessary for affirmation of womens position in the community. The reality of Islamic feminism refers to the contexts where women encounter the traditions based on their resources, priorities, needs, and cultures and create their path to knowledge. Moreover, Muslim women address such fundamental rights as freedom from violence, peace, social justice through the diverse means of worship and praying. Islamic feminism has an impact not only on women but also on society. It is culturally competent as Islam is a diverse tradition that has its history, ethics and depends on contextual realities. The peculiarity of the modern Islamic feminists is that they insist on returning to the Quran and employing rational and contextual analysis.
The main task of the Islamic feminism is to separate culture and religion as its unity can lead to misinterpretation and misunderstanding of the notion of feminism in the Muslim community. Moreover, the unity of religion and culture creates the hostility and anger to feminism. Islamic feminism is not in pursuit of a hierarchy and occupation of women the top position. Islamic feminism presupposes achieving an egalitarian social structure in work and family life.
The Challenges of Islamic Feminism
Islamic feminism is a religious movement that benefits Muslim womens emancipation and makes women in social and political life. Islamic feminism is secularism, social movement, policy, and ideology. One can distinguish many factors contributing to feminism in Arabic countries. However, all of them deal with many challenges. First, the formation of urban centers of middle-class women has become the driving force of Islamic feminism. However, Islam and its studies are the challenges to womens emancipation even in the modern community. It means that these women are considered rebels against religion and its canonic traditions. Second, the access of women to the parliament proves that the changes are evident. However, being in the parliament, women continue to deal with the stereotypes, contradictions of gender roles, and underestimation of their knowledge and skills .
Third, the increasing participation of women in politics and the capitalist economy has become another driving force of Islamic feminism. However, increasing women in that area has contributed to further awareness of the inequalities between men and women. The challenge of Islamic feminism is that men do not want to admit the importance of females at work supposing that they can bring more benefits at home. Fourth, knowledge about feminism and struggles has driven the growth of Islamic feminism. However, the challenge of this kind of feminism is that it depends on religion and states that womens emancipation is impossible without believing in religion. In many Islamic countries, feminist organizations are active and interdependent from the state. Consequently, Islamic feminism can become the challenge itself for Muslim leaders and ideologists. The problem of Islamic feminism is that it is not the milestone for patriarchy, and remains far from democracy, secularism, and independence. Consequently, Islamic feminism is sooner the compromise with patriarchy rather than the movement for the emancipation of women.
The challenge of Islamic feminism is that it has the only theological approach to religion with atheists feminism. It means that it provokes many issues to Islamic feminism putting equality and women solidarity under the threat .
The Alternatives to Islamic Feminism
Despite the challenges of Islamic feminism, there are many alternatives to its future perspectives and development. The first alternative is related to changing and destroying the stereotypes about Muslim women in the world community. Islam and feminism are not contradictory terms if people do not think stereotypically. The media universally portrays Muslim women as the victims of oppression. However, indeed, the victims of oppression and abuse can be women from the diverse countries. The main solution to this problem is to depict and popularize Muslim women who are successful in politics and social life, who manage to combine family and career lives. It is a way to make the world community avoid labeling and stereotyping of Islam women. Another alternative to Islamic feminism is to find it not only in Muslims faith and Quran, but in other aspects of their lives (family, career, politics, and democracy) .
Islamic feminists demonstrate their unique approach to feminism redefining it and showing their cultural preferences. They use more intellectual way of the struggle for their rights than Western feminists do. Consequently, forward-thinking discourse is the alternative to Islamic feminism that is free from classical Western discourse. Another alternative to womens emancipation in the Muslim society is making the role of women more prominent and influential . As a result, Islamic feminists include academics, writers, publishers, politicians, and lawyers who promote the gender equality using the press and other media. It means that Islamic feminism is an intellectual movement that looks for the religious and scientific approaches to the roles of both genders in the society. Islamic feminism has become the alternative for understanding womens potential, societal opportunity, and gender equality. Moreover, feminist Islamic discourse is the way to destroy the stereotypical perception of Muslim women in the world. It is evident that Islamic feminism is the way of decrease the violence rate against women.
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In conclusion, one should say that Islamic feminism expresses Islamic theology through the canonic traditions and Quran discourse and presupposes the gender equality, social justice, and womens access to education, work, and politics. Islamic feminism is a particular kind of feminism that differs from Western as it interprets Quran discourse changing the place of Muslim women in the society. The current state of affairs of Islamic feminism remains debatable as the opinions vary from person to person. However, it has all perspectives for further development and becoming the driving force of changing Muslim womens image in the world. The challenges of Islamic feminism refer to the stereotypical perception of Islamic women, contradictions of gender roles, and underestimation of womens abilities in social and political context. The alternatives to Islamic feminism include the following: (1) changing of womans image in media; (2) expressing feminism in other aspects of life; (3) involvement of the intellectualists in the feminist movement.