Islamic feminism – does such a thing really exist? At first glance, Islam and feminism appear to be two contradictory approaches. But despite this, a globally active feminist movement has developed within the Islamic faith.
From the US and Europe to Indonesia, annual international conferences are taking place, and NGOs are working for women's rights on the basis of Islamic law. An Islamic feminist movement has even taken root in countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Feminist activists and theologians are sought-after advisors at international level. One of the most high profile of these is Amina Wadud. She talks about a "gender jihad" – the battle for gender equality – and says that Islam actually aims to overcome the patriarchal system, not strengthen it. She claims that the Koran provides her with convincing arguments to support her views.
In harmony with modern values
Islamic feminism is an attempt to harmonise Islamic principles with modern values such as human rights and the equality of the sexes. Nothing else appears to function more effectively against fundamentalism and dogmatism. After all, it is a way of attacking the enemy with its own weapon.
At the same time, it takes the wind out of the clash-of-civilisations apologists' sails, by showing that the Koran affords rights to women – in an era predating that of Europe and the Modern Age! The Prophet treated women with respect and should be regarded as an exemplary figure in gender relations. This is an approach that gives Islamic feminism an appealing sheen. But some caution is advised – after all, are we not glossing over quite a few problematic areas here?
By Nimet Seker; Translated by Nina Coon
[Excerpt—See accompanying URL for full original text]