Can feminism be Islamic?

For many, the term ″Islamic feminist″ may seem like an oxymoron, but when it was coined in the 1990s by Iranian activist Ziba Mir-Hosseini, it was the battle call for women to be allowed to work at universities.

At the time Ziba Mir-Hosseini was also seeking a divorce from her husband, who refused to comply. Having completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge where she studied Islamic law, she used her research in Islamic history to find legal grounds for divorcing her husband – a notoriously difficult task in most countries governed by Islamic law.

She spent months frequenting courts until she finally succeeded in divorcing herself from her husband. She then returned to the UK, where she resumed her studies in Islamic family law. Ever since she has made it her life′s mission to combat legal systems that are fraught with conflict between religious regulations and the realities of modern life.

Fast forward to 2009 and Islamic feminism made a leap during a conference in Malaysia, attended by representatives from 50 countries. The conference was organised by the Musawah (Equality) movement, which describes itself as a ″global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family″.

The movement is active in numerous Arab countries and in Iran. It has participated with UN Women in researching religious frameworks to end discriminatory practices against women that are committed in the name of religion, such as female genital mutilation (FGM).

Feminists from all schools of thought

In Egypt, the idea of Islamic feminism is not particularly widespread, with only a select number of researchers and activists working through this approach, within a limited framework.

Umaima Abu Bakr, a professor of English literature and one of the founders of Islamic Feminism in Egypt, says, ″the idea of Islamic feminism in Egypt can be introduced as an ideological and epistemological project undertaken by Muslim researchers and specialists in Islamic studies, with the…

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