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Feminist Expectations and the Response of Muslim Women

lecture by
Hujjatul Islam
Dr.Saied Reza Ameli,

founder Institute of Islamic Studies,
former Director of Islamic Centre London-England,
researcher on Sociology of Culture and Mass Media at the Royal Holloway University of London.

This lecture formed part of the International Conference on "Woman in Islam" held in London on 9th September 2001. Wonderful lecture which while recognising the mistreatment of women and the need for them to be given their Islamic rights, warns Muslims against reinterpreting Islam inorder to fit alien secular ideologies like feminism. Instead understand Islam - understand why it says what it says rather than trying to change it. The 26 minute lecture is followed by 6 minutes of questions and answers.

Listen (real audio, 26min )
Download (shift-click) (3.16Mb)

Treatment of women:

" Through out history we have isolated the woman from society and we have insulted the woman in society in a way that gradually this became institutionalised behaviour among the women, they accepted that they dont have ability - even if they dont say it, but this imposement have created a lot of disadvantages for the woman. This is the responsibility of our scholars and woman herself to stand for their own rights. "


"Feminism is purely a secular ideology. Fundamentally it has no concept of divine principle but on the contrary in many cases religion is regarded as the main source of inequality between men and women, in other words like other principles of secular libralisation, main theories and principles values of feminism arise from mental creation of human desires and this is what can distinguish the man made theory from the divine theory."

Muslim Response to Feminism: Apologetic Approach

"Liberal and secular perspective of Muslim activists and Muslim scholars lead them towards apologetic reaction. this group either trys to adapt religion to feminist principle or accept feminism as an inevitable way of life for Muslim woman, whether religious principles could be established accordingly or not.

They are always sorry about what religion has said about woman, they try to make a good excuse as a Muslim towards feminism. This group of feminists re-reading the sharia texts to introduce womans rights according to the islamic values, it is important to find out whether their aim is reformation or reconstruction of womans position in the family, society and the whole social structure and public sphere.

From western feminist point of view Islam and in particular veiling, hijab, is the main barrier for muslim woman and in general for muslim society to become civilized - basically hijab is considered as uncivilized behavour in the western eyes only by giving up this pecular and intrinsic practice would Muslim society move forward .. on the path of western political culture , its the most visible marker of otherness and inferiority of islamic society. Every arab feminist incorporates feminist ideals into an islamic frame of reference There are many quotaions with regards to apologetic explainations about hijab, about divorce, about polegamy, about vidiat and hadud in Islam."

Muslim Response to Feminism: Holistic Approach

" Holistic approach does not isolate woman from absolute society , they see womans rights and position within the whole structure of the society and avoid the segragation of society in terms for feminism or masculinism or any sort of monocentric approach as opposed to feminism.

According to holistic approach, society as a whole including men and women are addressed to their individual and social responsibility without any monosex inclination. The feminist perspective is monosexim perspective, neglecting the valueable place of men and woman side-by-side as a unifying force in family and in society. Holitsic approach looks at one comprehensive position of woman and man in public, private, in society and in politics.

One of the distinguished scholars who offered the holistic approach was Shaheed Mutahhari. He explained the reason and the necesaty of different treatment of woman in Islam according to biological and pychological differences between man and woman. while the apologists try to reread the Holy text in line with change - changed codition of the current society."

International Conference on Woman in Islam, London 9 Sept 01

Listen (real audio, 6 min)
Download (shift-click) (723 Kb)


Other Resources
Text of full paper: Feminist expectation and Response of Muslim Women by Saied Reza Ameli
Shaheed Mutahhari's famous work : "The Rights of Women in Islam"