Teaching Notes II: “Muslim woman”

The infamous Foreign Policy "Sex Issue" cover.
The infamous Foreign Policy “Sex Issue” cover. (Source: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/node/1226781)

When our class arrived to the cluster of assigned readings on Gender and Contemporary Islamic Civilization, as a similar exercise to another that I have described on the blog, I asked my section to write down the first thing they imagine when I say, “Identify a stereotype regarding Muslim women.” This time, I decided to ask directly to identify stereotypes rather than what first comes to mind when I say “Muslim woman.”

Again, I wanted them to be honest so I asked the students to submit their answers anonymously. As I expected, it was a much easier and faster exercise for them than the one about fictional Muslim characters. However erroneous the narratives about Muslim women may be, they are ample and accessible.*

I collected the slips of paper and read them out loud so the class could hear what their colleagues wrote. This is what they wrote, exactly how they wrote it:

First stereotype of Muslim women that comes to mind

  1. Muslim women are oppressed. (6 students)
  2. Submissive (3 students)
  3. Hijab-wearing (2 students)
  4. They are meek. (2 students)
  5. They wear headscarves. (2 students)
  6. Muslim women are made to wear hijab.
  7. Headscarf stigma Continue reading Teaching Notes II: “Muslim woman”

Politics of Labeling and Marginalization: Deconstructing Islamic Feminist Discourse


According to Foucault, the production of discourse in every society is simultaneously controlled, organized, selected and redistributed according to particular procedures. These procedures are meant to “avert its [the discourse’s] power and its dangers, to cope with change events, and to evade its ponderous and awesome materiality.”I Islamic feminist discourse is no different. Just like any other discourse, it contains internal and external systems for the control and delimitation of its discourse. But does this process actually serve to safeguard the proliferation and utility of Islamic feminist scholarship, or does it fulfill a larger purpose?

Many studies of Islamic feminist discourse have failed to address the historical moment in which the discourse emerged. Specifically, they neglect the influences of global feminist paradigms. Female scholars, who theorize sexual and gender equality as part of a larger Islamist paradigm, have been constant outliers within the production of Islamic feminist discourse since its induction into academic discussion. Their work is repeatedly contrasted to the ‘canon’ of Islamic feminist scholarship. Due to its discursive link with global feminism, Islamic feminist scholarship is unwittingly embedded within a theorization of sexual equality that hinges on secular liberal modernity. This article strives to understand the implications of power located within the process of marginalization of Islamist women scholars. It will also examine the larger political ramifications of the disputed label, “Islamic feminism.” Continue reading Politics of Labeling and Marginalization: Deconstructing Islamic Feminist Discourse