Networking for power and change: Muslim women activism and the transformation of Muslim public sphere

Report / White Paper

September 4, 2013

Networking for power and change: Muslim women activism and the transformation of Muslim public sphere

At the dawn of the 21st century, a “critical mass” of educated, enlightened, and empowered Muslim women have emerged around the world. Their fundamental questions about Islam and women may help in transforming Islamic laws and bringing about modern, egalitarian Muslim societies. In this research, I argue that Muslim women scholar-activists are playing a key role in the reinterpretation of their religion and the modernization of their societies.This study probes and explores a complex, evolving, transnational Muslim dialogue about gender equality, in which the underlying concern is about empowering Muslim women to claim the public sphere as their medium of struggle for justice and inclusion.The study argues that this emerging public sphere projects attributes of civility,engagement, pluralism and voluntary participation. Muslim women activism redefinesthe public role of religion in motivating people to engage in what, in democratic theory,is referred to as the “politics of presence”, as distinct from the “politics of representation”.Their critical discourse demonstrates that Islam is not isolated from the more general endeavors searching for new mechanisms for democratic presence.To provide insights into the significance of the “new” form of Muslim dialogic engagement and activism, the study advocates the need to broaden our political imagination to incorporate religious perspectives as well as alternative (discursive) formsand spaces of politics that were previously overlooked because they did not fit a predetermined, Westphalian notion of the ‘political’.



This dissertation concludes that in order to counter the dialectical dynamics of hegemony and extremism that define and regulate the rhetoric of Muslim women’s liberation, Muslim women scholar-activists are engaged in new transnational discursive practices and spaces. Muslim women are engaged in redefining Islam as well as creating a post-statist, post-hegemonic, post-national, and transnational or “translocal” publicspace. Not only Muslim women are redefining the normative tenets of Islam, but they are redefining the normative content of a global civil society and a peaceful global ethos a swell.

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