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Women in the Middle East


Women in the Middle East are forced to negotiate a path between a variety of influences – some of them contradictory. They are expected, for example, to be the bearers of authentic national identity but also the objects of modernity. In the words of the scholar Nadje al-Ali ...

'Caught between the pursuit of modernisation, attempts at liberalisation, a pervasive nationalist rhetoric of authenticity and ongoing imperialist encroachments, women are often the focus of conflicting and ambiguous interests.' [1]

In exploring the lives of women, scholars investigate not only what shapes women's lives but also how women negotiate those forces to shape their own lives. 

Here, Philip Rushworth explores the work of contemporary scholars and their understanding of the lives of women in the Middle East. 




There is no better time to reflect on the scholarship of contemporary Middle East women's studies. The revolutions in the Arab world have brought renewed attention to women. In April 2012, Foreign Policy ran the controversial front-page heading, 'Why do they hate us?' with Mona Elthaway's call to arms on the 'war on women in the Middle East'. [2] In the article she riled angrily on a litany of abuses, from forced female genital mutilation, virginity tests and constitutional discrimination. The article aimed to expose the 'pulsating heart of misogyny in the Middle East' but, in the view of Nesrine Malik, it 'just reinforced a monolithic view... that all Arab men hate Arab women'. [3] Through the work of gender studies scholars we can escape the blinkered focus on what Elthaway calls 'hymens and headscarves' and delve into the nuance and complexity of women's histories and lives in the Middle East. 

Scholarship in the field today derives in part from the motivation to correct centuries-old orientalist discourses which portrayed women in the Middle East as passive and submissive. Today, academics problematise women's lives to challenge these assumptions and take into full consideration the extent of women's agency. At the same time, it remains an important imperative to challenge perceived wrongs and abuses that women face. As Juliette Minces wrote eloquently in her otherwise problematic work, 'in this world where women remain unequal, it is as a woman that I present this account'. [4] 

This article considers the field through the most important contemporary themes in Middle East women's studies and how they have changed. In brief: returning to women historical agency through their roles in social, political and economic contexts; what factors influence the circumstances of women in the Middle East; debate over the two problematic ideas of 'tradition' and 'modernity' and, finally, charting the demands, reception and success of feminism in the region. The field will be contextualised in the broader intellectual currents from which these themes derive and contribute, including the paradigm-shifting Orientalism critique, postmodernism and feminist theory. 

Women's studies is not easy to categorise. It is contributed to by a range of scholars from several departments, including history, sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, economics and law. The Middle East too is not easy to define, with studies from Morocco to Iran and Turkey to Yemen covering a plethora of peoples, religions, languages and politics. Such diversity within the discipline and the region are important to note, for while scholars share some similar thematic concerns, which form the chapters to follow, the field is characterised by its variety. This article will illustrate just some of the range of case studies and approaches in the field. 

Celebrating women: the cult of the biography 

Women's studies have their origins in a generation of academics who sought to challenge the absence of women as a legitimate subject across academic disciplines. According to Bezirgan and Fernea, even in the 20th century works have 'been written as though the female half of the Middle East did not exist or, if so, lived in a kind of semi world of passivity or seclusion'. [5] 

The neglect of women's history was a result of too much focus on the sphere of upper class men, with the overriding assumption, according to Judith Tucker, that what is important to culture are 'the norms and formal prescriptions, the rights and obligations which prevail among men who hold authority'. [6] It is not in these spheres that women's historical presence was most keenly felt. Meanwhile, the sources most used by scholars continued to be written archival sources, again the traditional reserve of literate, powerful men. In Middle Eastern Studies the problem was particularly exaggerated because of scholars' late entry into new subject areas. The importance of 'informal networks, popular culture, production and reproduction' which require alternative sources and approaches, such as folklore studies, ethnographies and oral history are often the route to women's studies and were for a long time absent in the field. [7] 

The impulse of scholars was to insert successful, competent women into the historical picture to show not only the diversity of women's historical experience but to challenge extant notions of women's subordination. This led to studies that concentrated on the 'great women' of early Islam, with the establishment of a whole genre of biography. One of the earliest scholars to write celebratory biographies was the Egyptian A'isha Abdel Rahman who in the 1930s wrote a series on women in the Prophetic household. Rahman's scholarship was born from faith and her courageous efforts to challenge any attempts to circumscribe women's role in society. [8] Her knowledge of women in the formative years of Islam was a strong riposte to arguments in Egypt that attempted to exclude them. She was followed in the 1960s and 1970s with works such as Fernea and Bezirgan's Middle East Muslim Women Speak and McKenna's Great Women of the Ancient Middle East. Both seek to challenge stereotypes and provide role models by presenting the military, social and economic leadership of powerful women. 

However, these studies largely replicated the same assumptions that had led the absence of women in the first place - the focus on political and cultural elites. Scholars who inherited these efforts in the early 1980s recognised that they missed fundamental analysis on what exactly shapes the circumstances of women both historically and today. In the 1980s and 1990s when a highly publicised debate emerged over women in the Middle East between the so-called 'Islamists' and 'secularists', many scholars felt impelled to contextualise and deconstruct the debate, generating a new interest in what shapes the lives of women. One scholar is Leila Ahmed, who in 1982 had planned to present 'a synopsis of recent findings on the material conditions of women', when she realised that what was really needed was investigation into the 'constructs, institutions and modes of thought' that have shaped women's lives. [9] It is towards this investigation that we now turn.

The problem of Islam as an interpretative category 

One of the central concerns for contemporary scholars in Middle East women's studies is to understand what shapes the lives of women. Scholarship for a long time found recourse to one single factor, Islam. In one of the earliest explorations of its importance, Wiebke's Women in Islam, she set the tone, stating that 'unlike any other religion in history... Islam has penetrated and shaped the politics and cultures of the countries dominated by it'. [10] There are of course countless examples of how Islam shapes the lives of women, from the strict implementation of Shari'a law in some countries that thoroughly prescribes women's dress, relations with men and work opportunities, to the more subtle influences found across the Middle East and beyond. 

The interest in Islam resulted in a somewhat erroneous debate over the extent to which at its inception it improved the lives of women. Several academics are resolute that it represents and has always represented a negative doctrine for women. Ghada Karmi argues that there is much evidence in pre-Islamic Arabia to argue that women had more freedoms before the new faith, citing female goddesses, prostitution and more casual remarriages and, clearly from the lives of the earliest Muslim women who rose to the highest echelons of society, there were opportunities for women to occupy important social and economic positions. 'Women are infantilised by the Quran', she argues, 'they are to be protected legally and economically by men'. [11] 

On the other hand, scholars have argued that by exploring early Islam in its historical context it clearly marked progress for women, such as the legal opportunity for divorce in early Islam which gave women enormous advantages. [12] Theoretically too, Islam permits women to sue and be sued, a position that wasn't normal in Europe until the mid 19th century, and, despite the controversy that surrounds the Quran's stance on polygamy, the restriction to four wives and the stipulation that all must be treated equally can be seen as an improvement on pre-Islamic law in Arabia. Leila Ahmed does agree that Islam was fundamentally positive but distinguishes its ethical and spiritual beginnings with the patriarchal 'establishment Islam' that was informed by the different influences in Abbasid Baghdad. [13] 

Scholars are also split over the extent that Islam is a positive or negative force for contemporary women. Deniz Kandiyoti identifies three central arguments. [14] The first argues for 'Islam as divinely revealed gender equality', for example, Raga El-Nimr argues that the Quran stresses 'sex specificity' with some roles done better by the other sex although, she states, 'men are superior in life generally'. [15] Second are those who call for a more progressive reading of received wisdom on Islam's stance on women. Take, for example, the writings of Fatima Mernissi who has questioned the validity of some of the most patriarchal hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad. [16] Finally, Kandiyoti identifies academics who argue that gender in Islam is a mark of 'cultural stagnation', such as Juliette Minces and Wiebke Walther. 

The significance of Islam as an interpretative category has fallen into serious disfavour among scholars more recently, who consider the debate reductionist, ahistorical and suspiciously orientalist. Since Edward Said's 1978 critique Orientalism there has been a new understanding and analysis of the role of Western scholars in generating skewed perceptions of the Middle East under the cloak of scholarly neutrality. Said argued that 'Orientalists' created the Middle East as unchanging and despotic while presenting Islam as a staid, timeless and omnipresent influence. [17] Since this powerful critique, academics have been much less willing to present explanations with a simple recourse to Islam. 

Understanding what shapes women's lives 

The nation-state building process happened at the same time as the 'woman question' was articulated and is considered an enormous influence on shaping perceptions towards women. Reformers seeking to construct a 'modern' state, such as Qasim Amin in early 20th century Egypt, emphasised education and employment of women. At the same time, political Islamic movements used women's morality as a way of sewing together the nation. In both cases, the nation building process fashioned new ideas and policies about women and brought forward competing Islamic interpretations to justify them.

The modern nation state has had radically different impacts for women. On the one hand, Mustapha Kemal's early 20th century reformism in Turkey established women's equal rights as one of its fundamental tenets, with the 1923 civil code granting women equality in divorce and inheritance. [18] The Turkish state undertook aggressive attempts to discourage the head-scarf, with bans on women wearing it while working in the public sector. The character of the Turkish state was to be secular and faith private. In contrast, leaders elsewhere made concessions to conservative sectors of society in order to gain their popular support. Suad Joseph has shown how the Ba'ath party in Iraq helped to bring women into employment and instituted enormous social reform, while at the same time maintained conservative personal laws. [19] 

Women's relationship to the state has also been shaped by the importance of kinship and class. Joseph states that in Lebanon the 'civic "myth" of the extended kin... has contributed majorly to the control/care of women and minors'. [20] The weakness of the state led it to mobilise kin, which strengthens patrilineality, for political interests, while the continued delegation of personal and family law to the religious authorities is also, at least in part, a result of kinship. The case of Tunisia reflects its importance because relatively weak kinship ties have contributed to the most liberal personal law in the region. [21] At the same time, several gender scholars emphasise the importance of class in shaping women's lives. Judith Tucker states that upper class Turco-Circassian women in 19th century Egypt lived in harems with a severely circumscribed range of activities, but, in contrast, lower class Egyptian women 'participated fully in a range of economic and social activities'. The classes produced very different conceptions of what was 'proper and moral behaviour'. [22] 

The state's role in shaping the rights and circumstances of women is closely associated with the colonial context from which they emerged. With the growth of postcolonial studies, scholars have explored the influence of the colonial powers Britain and France on their subject populations, and the complicated way in which people negotiated, appropriated or rejected their ideas. With respect to women this influence was particularly important because of their importance in constituting the bounds of 'cultural authenticity and integrity' and, Lila Abu Lughod argues, because their appropriate conduct 'served as boundary markers'. [23] In forging women as a point of conflict, colonialism is essential to understanding the attitudes towards women's rights in the independent states that succeeded it. 

The colonial authorities blamed Islam for women's perceived 'submissiveness'. Veiling and segregation, in particular, were 'seen as reflecting Islam's depraved attitudes towards sexuality'. [24] Up to the mid-20th century the veil was slowly 'vanishing' but re-emerged in the late 20th century as a wide-spread and powerful Islamic symbol for women. [25] Exploring the 'veil's resurgence' in A Quiet Revolution, Leila Ahmed states that it was the imperial era in which the veil emerged as 'a quintessential sign of irresolvable tension and confrontation between Islam and the West'. Post-independence it is a powerful symbol of cultural authenticity. [26] 

On the other hand, colonial policies could be accepted and appropriated in the Middle East. Omina Shakry has explored the colonial 'hygiene discourse', a policy directed primarily at women through the vehicle of European schools. It was supported by Islamists who appropriated it into the Islamic tradition of prescribed 'moral-religious capabilities'. [27] However, they distinguished between it as a policy of westernisation and modernisation, supporting women's education but only within local schools because of fear over the cultural influence of European schools. At the same time, reformers supported the policy because it chimed with ideas to 'strengthen the nation'. In many cases, reformers' public support was accompanied by their assertion of an intrinsic difference to the West in the so-called 'internal sphere' of domestic life while Islamists' anti-modernisation discourse was often contradicted, on the other hand, by a willingness to accept some changes and reject others. [28] In other words, in both cases the influence of Western ideas on informing the rights of women in the Middle East was not linear but a complicated and fractured process. 

The various influences which shaped women's lives resulted from a complex intersection of economic, political and religious factors and clearly Islam, as an all-powerful and unchanging influence on the behaviour and rights of women, is an inadequate frame of analysis. [29] It has been argued, however, that much of this pioneering scholarship has failed to interrogate 'modernity'. Scholars have been accused of assuming that Western modernity is inherently progressive for women in the Middle East and using it as the benchmark by which to judge women's 'progress' (the very distinction of 'reformers' and 'Islamists' embodies this assumption). Building on the work of post-structuralists such as Michel Foucault, scholars have turned their attention towards the implicit dichotomisation of tradition and modernity, and its use as an interpretative category. 

Problematising 'modernity' and 'tradition' 

Poststructuralist scholars in Middle East women's studies have become increasingly sensitive of what the South Asian scholar Gyan Prakash calls 'the colonial genealogy of modernity'; the notion that the Western experience represents the sole model of modernity. Critics believe, rather, that there are local modernities and challenge the orientalist distinction between Western 'progress' and Islamic 'tradition' that emerges from this supposition. Rather, these scholars reveal a much more nuanced situation, with large degrees of contestation, overlap and negotiation between the two.

Modernity, as understood in the Western tradition, should not be considered intrinsically 'progressive' for women. For many scholars the influence of Foucault and his The History of Sexuality Vol I is fundamental for exploring this theme. In it, Foucault argued that the modern state engineers new forms of discipline and control, garbed in the language of rights. [30] Scholars have built on these developments, giving particular attention to women in the development of the modern state. In 'Women, Medicine and Power', Khaled Fahmy explores the founding in 1832 of the 'School of Midwives' in Cairo by Muhammad Ali. Commonly considered as a progressive institution representing Ali's enlightened politics, on the surface it was, as a college providing training and guaranteed employment to women from slave markets and hospices. [31]

However, Fahmy illustrates that the institution was much more complicated. Far from a result of Ali's beneficence his primary concern was military, specifically the damaging spread of smallpox among his rampaging troops. The graduates of the college were used to check the virginity of women 'wandering the streets' who would then be taken to court, a process indicative of how the state commandeered new coercive norms and ideas of women's decency. Meanwhile, the lives of the midwives were thoroughly controlled. Not only were they forced into the college but then had to marry Egyptian doctors in order for the state to reduce the amount spent on allocated property. 

The 'modernity as progress' thesis rests on the idea of a linear improvement in women's rights. However, this picture is being unsettled. Afat Marsot has illustrated how in certain respects women's situations deteriorated from the 18th to the 19th century in Egypt. It was not uncommon in the 18th century for women to sue and divorce through the courts and to own a bank account, but as a result of increasing centralisation in the 19th century they lost much of this independence. [32] Along the same lines, Afanseh Najmabardi has explored the 'veiling' of women's voices during Iran's mid 20th century 'modernity'. [33] With 'the coming of the book', women's 'pre-modern' oral voice, often spoken to all-female groups in the form of plays and poetry, became de-sexualised and disciplined - 'publicly sanitised'. 

Scholars have also problematised 'tradition' in much the same way as 'modernity'. In the Middle East, the 'traditional' in relation to women is most commonly associated with the policies of the Islamists, considered a return to, or continuation of, the Islamic past. However, for many of the most pioneering scholars in women's studies it is in fact a very modern re-articulation of tradition. For these scholars, to see this phenomenon as 'traditional' is an orientalist misconception, indicative of the perception in the West of the Middle East and Islam as unchanging and backward. Irrelevant of whether they regard the Islamist position as positive or negative, they all recognise its modern nature. 

Iran's 1979 revolution was regarded at the time and today as a return to the past and exemplifying the 'anti-modern impulse of the Arab and Muslim world'. [34] However, in 'Between Warrior Brother and Veiled Sister' Minoo Moallem argues that the revolution was a 'by-product of modernity' and rather than representing an 'Islamic resurgence' it was, rather, a 'reinvention of Islam'. She argues that Khomeini's success in developing modern concepts of 'Islamic nationalism and transnationalism', both of which were embodied in the Iranian revolution, 'are products of modernity and postmodernity' as oppose to 'religious or cultural traditions',

One of the most symbolic representations of 'tradition' is the veil, and yet its popular return among women in the late 20th century is considered a very modern phenomenon. One of the most important accounts of this process is The Forbidden Modern by Nilufer Gole. She explored the reason behind well-educated university students wearing and advocating the veil in Turkey. Exploring the question of whether 'veiling and seeking higher education' represents 'a pathology of backwardness, a sign of cultural essentialism, or an example of post-modern relativism', she argues that the importance of veiling is a result 'of critical dependence on modernity rather than... loyalty to Islamic religion'. [35] The students are not passively accepting Islamic dogma but 're-appropriating the veil' to convey a political message, gain a secular education and empower themselves 'through their claim to Islamic knowledge'. 

The innovative work on 'tradition' and 'modernity' heralds wider and more controversial ideas. Implicit is the legitimacy of alternative gender practices at odds with Western ideals of modernity. In the postmodern position, scholars deny the existence of a global norm of women's rights and progress and refrain from explicit criticism of practices that deviate from Western experience. For some scholars this stance is in conflict with feminist ideals. Haideh Moghissi has questioned the postmodern position, stating that 'to criticise Muslim gendered practice does not put you on the same side as the US state department'. Categorical that the premodern is not better for women than the modern, she insists that postmodernist arguments 'create a very conservative position', mimicking rather than interrogating the narrative of the Islamists. [36] These debates continue among scholars engaged with feminism in the region and particularly in the context of the late 20th century emergence of 'Islamic Feminism'.

Secular and Islamic: competing feminisms in the Middle East 

Women's campaigns in the Middle East have generated a lot of attention recently. Millions of women have played an essential role in the recent Arab revolutions, including the Noble Prize winning 'Mother of the Revolution' Tawakul Karman from Yemen. In Saudi Arabia, women have campaigned against legislation banning them from driving since April 2011. Their protests have been joined by the influential voice of Princess Basma Bint Saud Bin Abdul-Aziz, the author of a highly publicised blog criticising Saudi legislation concerning women. Such a diversity of campaigns challenges orientalist critiques of women as submissive and passive. They also demand close attention to the decades of scholarship focussed on feminism in the region. 

Feminist activism in the Middle East is prey to two shared ideological discourses. On the one hand, scholars in the West have in the past denied the possibility of an indigenous feminism in the Middle East. At the same time, conservatives and others in the Middle East argue that feminism is anathema to the region, considering it an importation of Western and colonial ideas. These two discourses feed one another, denying women in the Middle East their agency while simultaneously asserting that feminism belongs solely to the West. Naturally, scholars have sought to dismantle these discourses and show the complex interrelationship of Western feminist thought with local agency in the Middle East. 

'Secular feminism' in the Middle East in the late 19th and early 20th centuries includes a number of intellectual currents which make it distinct from contemporary Western feminism. Among the most important is the role of Islam. In contrast to the largely a-religious secularism of Western feminists at the time, these movements incorporated Islamic modernist arguments, especially in demands for equal access to the public sphere of education and politics. The best known secular feminist group, the 'Egyptian Feminist Union' set up in 1923 by long-term advocate Huda Sha'rawi, campaigned to reform Muslim Personal Law using Islamic precepts. The secular feminist movement was also unique in that it emerged from the early 20th century struggle against colonialism. 'The story of Egyptian feminism', Margot Badran has written, 'is the story of feminism in a nationalist century'. [37] In Egypt, women were fully involved in the 1919 protests against British colonial rule, taking advantage of nationalist rhetoric which saw the strength of the nation tied to women's advancement.

The particular emphasis on the organic feminism of the Middle East, while an important antidote to the idea of feminism as a 'western import', has met some criticism from scholars who have deconstructed the dichotomy between the local and Western origins of feminism. Sherine Hafez has critiqued Badran's thesis that women's activists were independent of the West as 'unconvincing' because she ignores that it was 'really appropriations and restructurings of complex historical trajectories'. [38] Take, for example, the importance of Western schools and universities in Lebanon. Samir Kassir argues that 'the most decisive impetus' towards understanding and advocacy of women's rights 'may have been the opening of universities to young women'. [39] The new universities exposed women to the radical changes associated with modernity while, at the same time, illustrated that they did not have the same rights as men to access it. 

Secular feminism in the Middle East is increasingly seen as an innovative product of the meeting between Western and local settings and this is nowhere more clearly than in the Eastern Women's Congresses held in Damascus in 1930 and in Tehran in 1932. Women discussed ending polygamy, raising the age of marriage and establishing equal wages, all components of the broader feminist movement. At the same time however, the leader of the conference, Nour Hamada, spoke to the delegation about taking from the West all that is 'good and laudable' but rejecting 'all that is founded on passions'. For Charlotte Weber, the influence of the West on the conference was important for 'fashioning a modernity' but the women made their demands 'in their own terms'. [40] 

Islamic feminism is considered by many as a significant change from the earlier secular feminism. Framing demands for women through re-interpretations of Islamic texts in order to show their essential gender equality, their approach is seen as distinct from secular feminist efforts. On top of this, Islamic feminists tend to negotiate an improvement in women's rights from a relatively conservative perspective of gender norms in society. Yasai al-Faisal argues in The Guardian that 'there is a new reality in the region', positing a strict distinction between the character of Islamic feminism and older movements through the contrast between the writer Nawal el- Saadawi in the 1950s, who campaigned against the veil, with contemporary Islamic feminists for whom 'gender empowerment is more a factor of being a good Muslim'. [41] 

However, such a distinction isn't shared by all scholars. Continuing the theme of resisting essentialised dichotomies, scholars place greater emphasis on the continuities of Islamic feminism with secular feminism. Abu Lughod goes so far to argue that Islamic feminists are 'informed by the efforts of early 20th century feminists' in the Middle East. [42] Furthermore, the roots of some of their demands are, at least in part, informed by Western ideas, for example, the influence of Western companionate marriages on Islamic feminist campaigns to outlaw polygamy. Indeed, the assertion of intractable difference between secular and Islamic feminism is perhaps exaggerated by Islamic feminists in order to avoid association with the West. Such a spirit can be detected from Salma Yacoob, the Birmingham councillor and vice-chair of Stop the War Movement, who identifies herself as a 'feminist' but warns that it is 'a loaded word in the community'. [43] 

'Islamic feminism' is controversial among observers. Its detractors consider the two terms an oxymoron: feminism informed by texts antithetical to women's equality. Hammed Shahidian has taken issue with the 'feminism' of Iranian sociologist Nahid Motiee who argues against Western feminists' search 'for complete similarity between women and men' and advocates instead for 'a change in the way we value traditional roles'. For Shahidian, 'if feminism is meant to ease patriarchal pressures on women ... (it is) a trend in the global quest for sexual equality'. However, if sexual equality is about abolishing patriarchy, defying fixed identities and contributing to society without limitation 'Islamic feminism proves considerably inadequate'. [44] He is joined by other scholars who dispute the efficacy of Islamic feminism. It is 'very difficult to win theological arguments', argues Valentine Moghadam, 'the power of the social forces' behind the interpretation most often decides. [45] 

However, Islamic feminists are essential to campaigns for women's equality in the countries they operate, not least because across the Middle East avowedly 'secular' feminists would not have the legitimacy to raise public awareness. Looking at Iran, the work of Islamic feminists involved in journals such as ZanZan, Moghadam argues, play a key role 'in broadening the discursive universe of the Islamic Republic'. [46] Indeed, the effort to reinterpret Islamic texts provides a compelling way to challenge misogynist legislation in Iran, such as calling for female judges and demanding fairer inheritance laws. She also finds similarities between Iran's 'Islamic feminists' and the 'secular feminists' working in the US because despite the very different political and legal context, they both work more or less within the system, seeking modifications rather than wholesale change. 

© Philip Rushworth 2012


1. Nadje Al-Ali, Secularism, Gender and the State in the Middle East, (Cambridge, 2000), p. 1 

2. Mona Eltahawy, 'Why do they hate us?', Foreign Policy, May/June 2012. 

3. Nesrine Malik, 'Do Arab Men hate women? It's not that simple', The Guardian Online, 25th April 2012. 

4. Juliette Minces, The House of Obedience, (Palgrave, 1982), p. viii

5. Elizabeth Fernea & Basima Bezirgan, Middle East Muslim Women Speak, (Texas, 1977), p. 2 

6. Judith Tucker, 'Problems in the Historiography of Women in the Middle East', International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 15 No. 3, (Aug, 1983) p. 322 

7. Judith Tucker, 'Problems in the Historiography of Women in the Middle East', p. 323 

8. Mervat Hatem, 'A'isha Abdel Rahman: An Unlikely Heroine', Journal of Middle East Women's Studies, Vol. 7 No. 2 (Spring, 2011), p. 23 

9. Leila Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam, (Yale, 1993), p. 1 

10. Wiebke Walther, Women in Islam, (Markus Weiner, 1993), p. 2 

11. Ghada Karmi, 'Women, Islam and Patriarchalism' in ed. Mai Yamani, Feminism & Islam: Literary and Legal Perspectives, (NYU Press, 1996) 

12. Guity Nashat, 'Introduction' in Wiebke Walther, Women in Islam, (Markus Weiner, 1993), p. 8

13. Leila Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam, (Yale, 1993) 

14. Deniz Kandiyoti, 'Women, Islam and the State: A comparative Approach in Comparing Muslim Societies' in ed. Juan Cole, Comparing Muslim Societies, (Michigan, 1992), p. 237 - 60 

15. Raga El Nimr, 'Women in Islam' in ed. Mai Yamani, Feminism & Islam: Literary and Legal Perspectives, (NYU Press, 1996)

16. See: Fatima Mernissi, Islam and Democracy: Fear of the Modern World, (Basic Books, 2006)

17. See Philip Rushworth, 'Orientalism Revisited' on al-bab.com for a better idea of Said's argument 

18. Patrick Kinross, Ataturk: The Rebirth of a Nation, (Phoenix, 2001), p. 343

19. Referenced by Deniz Kandiyoti in 'Women, Islam and the State'. Take, for example, the 1990 legislation which permitted men to murder their wives for adultery. 

20. Suad Joseph, 'Civic Myths, Citizenship and Gender in Lebanon' in Ed. Suad Joseph, Gender and Citizenship in the Middle East, (Syracuse, 2000), p. 108 

21. Deniz Kandiyoti, 'Women, Islam and the State', p. 240

22. Judith Tucker, Problems in the Historiography of Women in the Middle East: The Case of Nineteenth-Century Egypt, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 15, No. 3 (Aug., 1983), p. 330

23. Lila Abu Lughod, 'Introduction: Feminist Longings and Postcolonial Conditions' in ed. Lughod, Remaking Women, (Princeton, 1998), p. 3 

24. Leila Ahmed, A Quiet Revolution: The Veil's Re-emergence from the Middle East to America, (Yale, 2011), p. 24. Please see the following review.

25. Referenced by Leila Ahmed, 'Veil of Ignorance' in Foreign Policy, May/June 2011.   

26. Leila Ahmed, A Quiet Revolution, p. 11

27. Omina Shakry, 'schooled mothers and structured play' in ed. Abu Lughod, Remaking Women, (Princeton, 1998), p. 126 - 170 

28. Nadje Al-Ali, Secularism, Gender and the State in the Middle East, (Cambridge, 2000)

29. Leila Ahmed, 'Debating the War on Women: Roundtable', Foreign Policy, 24th April 2012. She identified a host of explanations for women's 'oppression', such as 'patriarchy, religion, racism, imperialism, or class oppression'

30. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality Vol I, (Vintage, 1990) 

31. Khaled Fahmy, 'Women, Medicine and Power' in ed. Abu Lughod, Remaking Women, (Princeton, 1998) XX

32. Afat Marsot, 'Entrepreneurial women' in ed. Mai Yamani, Feminism & Islam: Literary and Legal Perspectives, (NYU Press, 1996) 

33. Afanseh Najmabardi, 'Veiled Discourse - Unveiled Bodies', Feminist Studies, Vol. 19, No. 3, (Autumn, 1993), pp. 487-518

34. Minoo Moallem, Between Warrior Brother and Veiled Sister, (California Press, 2005), p. 6 

35. Nilufer Gole, The Forbidden Modern, (University of Michigan Press, 1997), p. 4 

36. Haideh Moghissi, Feminism and Islamic Fundamentalism, (Zed Books, 1999) , p. 138

37. Margot Badran, 'Feminism in a Nationalist Century', Al-Ahram weekly, 12/2009. 

38. Sherine Hafez, Review of Margot Badran's Feminism in Islam, Journal of Middle East Women's Studies, Vol. 7, No. 2, (Spring 2011), p. 114 - 117 

39. Samir Kassir, Beirut, (California, 2010), p. 319

40. Charlotte Weber, 'Between Nationalism and Feminism: The Eastern Women's Congresses of 1930 and 1932', Journal of Middle East Women's Studies, Vol. 4, No. 1, (Winter 2008), p. 83 - 106

41. Yasai al- Faisal, 'Translating feminism into Islam', The Guardian, 28, 08, 2008 

42. Lila Abu Lughod, 'The Marriage of Feminism and Islamism in Egypt in ed. Lila Abu Lughod, Remaking Women, (Princeton, 1998), p. 243 - 270

43. Victoria Brittain, 'Islamic Feminists on the Move', The Guardian, 29, 01, 2012 

44. Hammed Shahidian, 'Islamic Feminism encounters Western Feminism: Towards an Indigenous Alternative', paper presented at Illinois State University, 12/02/1998  

45. Valentine Moghadam, 'Islamic Feminism and its Discontents: Towards a Resolution of the Debate' in Signs, Vol. 27, No.4, p. 1160 

46. Valentine Moghadam, 'Islamic Feminism and its Discontents', p. 1155


In the women's section


In the articles section


Further reading

Remaking Women: Feminism and Modernity in the Middle East
Lila Abu-Lughod (ed), 1998. Available from amazon.com

Secularism, Gender and the State in the Middle East
Nadje Al-Ali, 2000. Available from amazon.com

Feminism & Islam: Literary and Legal Perspectives
Mai Yamani (ed), 1996. Available from amazon.com

A Quiet Revolution: The Veil's Re-emergence from the Middle East to America
Leila Ahmed, 2011. Available from amazon.com

Women and Gender in Islam
Leila Ahmed, 1993. Available from amazon.com

Women in Islam
Wiebke Walther, 1993. Available from amazon.com

Feminism and Islamic Fundamentalism
Haideh Moghissi, 1999. Available from amazon.com





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Last revised on 05 August, 2015