Seminar on women rights: Talking feminism and religion

Speakers discuss secular-religious dichotomy among Muslim women.

Express July 26, 2011


Muslim women have more opportunities to work due to the space created as a result of the struggle for women rights by women and human rights organisations.

This was stated by Prof. Amina Jamal of Department of Sociology, Ryerson University, Canada, while speaking at a seminar on “Islam: South Asian Muslim women’s  struggle and trans-national feminist practices.”

She said, that feminist groups and individual activists in societies, as far apart as Pakistan and Canada, are faced with the increasing activism of women, who identify themselves as Muslims rather then feminists.

She added that the feminist movement in Pakistan is split between those, who seek to invoke Islamic scriptures in support of women rights, and those who advocate the traditional ‘secular’ position insisting on the separation of religion from politics.

Highlighting another trend among Islamist groups, she said that they have developed a dislike towards modern terminologies, like women rights and feminism etc. “One logical reason for this is that these terminologies have been used by the world powers to continue their legacies of colonialism and imperialism”.

Prof Jamal briefed the participants about the paradigm of women and development that was created after it was realised that women have always been neglected in the development process, and said that it provides a space for Islamist women to explore new opportunities.

She urged the social science practitioners to recognise the different forms of feminist movements in Pakistan and adopt reflexivity towards secular-religious dichotomy. She concluded that it will be wrong to see struggle for cultural values in Pakistan, as a struggle between religious tradition and secular modernity. Some participants of the seminar were of the opinion that, Islam is a modern religion and protects the rights of women. The event was organised by the female campus of the International Islamic University, in collaboration with Iqbal International Institute for Research
and Dialogue.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2011.


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