Islamic Feminism: Roots, Development and Policies

Islamic Feminism: Roots, Development and Policies

The current and future impact of Islamic feminism within the political framework of the Arab world is profound. In order to understand the current relevance of Islamic feminism, this article first examines the roots of feminism in the Arab world, analyzing the fundamental differences and commonalities that Islamic feminism has with western feminism. The diverse categories of Islamic feminism are then discussed, focusing on universalism within the framework of hermeneutic Islamic discourse. Islamic feminism is then reconstructed around its methodologies. This article asserts that the hermeneutic strain of Islamic feminism is the overarching paradigm to be employed, as it presents women's rights within the context of the Qur'an and women's right to perform ijtihad (personal interpretation based on logical reasoning), rejecting patriarchal influences. Islamic feminism and its place within the rise of modern Islam theorizing is then shown as a viable explanatory factor in the recent shaping of political and cultural discussions on the role of religion in the political sphere, especially in the context of the Arab Spring.

Policy Implications

  • Education is one of the major areas to which policy makers must devote their attention. There needs to be renewed emphasis on and encouragement of the democratic transition in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. This re-emphasis must include a strengthening of Islamic hermeneutic feminism in the politics of the region. This can be achieved through an education curriculum that reinforces the concepts of dialogue, equality and tolerance, thereby liberating the thinking of conservative political parties
  • Young people and social media played a significant role in the events and momentum of the Arab Spring. As such, policy makers must encourage and invest in these two critical factors to ensure their continued success. By promoting a humanistic hermeneutic discourse, the innovative efforts and energies of young people and social media can be developed and strengthened further
  • Higher education in particular must also be a policy focus for the promotion and further development of Islamic feminism. Western universities as well as universities in the MENA region have the capability to advance and further develop the theoretical and conceptual role of hermeneutic interpretations of Islam.
  • Given the context of the Arab Spring, the role that women play as a catalyst for sustainable democratic development must be recognized, promoted and developed further. Policy makers have the opportunity to redefine and re-emphasize the critical role of women in the decision-making processes of the region.
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