10 February 2010

On February 3, 2016, a conference titled ‘Islamic Feminism – International Convergences’ was held by the Action Committee of Muslim Women and the SPD-linked Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Berlin. According to its organisers, which included renowned academic Tuba Işık and journalist Kubra Gümüşay, the meeting aimed to discuss ways in which Muslim women could make themselves heard in public debates. Muslim women face an uphill struggle against double marginalisation in this regard: on the one hand, the non-Muslim mainstream often perceives hijab-wearing women as passive victims of male dominance. This has often prevented female Muslim activists from establishing effective links with their non-Muslim Western feminist counterparts. On the other hand, however, traditionalist currents within the Muslim community itself tend to perceive self-defining Islamic feminists as a group fouling their own cultural nest.

The conference drew on a range of international guests detailing their initiatives and concerns – including French activists pushing for more gender equality in mosques, or an American initiative seeking to expand educational opportunities for Muslim women, also in the field of Quranic schooling. Yet there also was considerable overlap with feminist issues and topics that are not of a distinctly religious or uniquely Muslim nature. These included demands for women’s financial independence and equal pay, as well as acrimonious debates on issues of class and race and of the ways in which the feminist movement (Islamic or non-Islamic) might become more inclusive towards all those it wishes to represent.

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