Islam, Women, and Reform
PAR 6756 2.00
Islam and women has been a topic of fascination in the west for quite some time. Still, much of the research and media portrayal lacks historical depth, textual coherence, and cultural accuracy. This course will introduce the foundational sources of Islamic thought, its sacred texts, methods of interpretation, and politics of implementation as the background to looking at Muslim women’s movements. What is gender in Islam? It will examine multiple aspects of identity development for Muslim women globally, including spiritual identities, cultural identities, sexuality and citizenship. Finally, it will look at the strands of transformation used by Muslim women themselves to achieve the goal of voice and empowerment within their own communities and the world. There are three major strands of conversation. The secular feminist movement seeks to remove religion from the discourse and mostly relies upon international human rights standards. The Islamist neoconservative perspective seeks to maintain Islam as the center of the debate based upon a patriarchal model or interpretation that lacks critical examination. Between these two a third, radical, paradigmatic alternative has emerged at the end of the 20th century, known as Islamic feminism. While often attacked by both the other two strands for being “like” the opposition, it seeks to create and sustain an understanding religion as dynamic and open to new, more gender-friendly interpretation and their resulting practices.