Open Access

Gender Roles and Empowerment in Women’s Islamic Activism

In Transitioning to Gender Equality, , Eds.


The success and longevity of women’s Islamic social activist work across Muslim majority countries has gained much attention from feminist scholars who focus their work on gender empowerment and women’s status in Muslim majority societies. While some studies applauded the positive impact Islamic activism has had on women in these societies, others remained skeptical about the extent of empowerment women might enjoy in Arab Muslim countries. Essentialized as misogynist and patriarchal in the extreme, Muslim majority countries are often depicted as hostile to women’s empowerment, which leads some to represent Islamic women activists as women who “buy into the very discourses which subjugate them.” Further noting that women who join Islamic movements and organizations parrot their male leaders, others maintain that Muslim activist women have access to leadership only under male supervision and command. The following chapter questions the theoretical assumptions on which these conflicting views rest, to consider forms of empowerment other than those informed by mainstream liberal principles. Drawing on feminist literature on power, the discussion is based on what empowerment entails for Islamic women activists thus offering an Islamic alternative.
Transitioning to Gender Equality
Published in:

Transitioning to Gender Equality

Christa Binswanger and
Andrea Zimmermann
, Eds.
Published: September 2021
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