Cover image for Feminism and Islamic fundamentalism : the limits of postmodern analysis
Feminism and Islamic fundamentalism : the limits of postmodern analysis
Moghissi, Haideh, 1944-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Zed Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
ix, 166 pages ; 22 cm

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HQ1170 .M64 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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As a religion, Islam has been demonized for its gender practices like no other. This book analyzes that Orientalism with particular reference to representations of Muslim women. It describes the real sexual politics of Islam, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the West's response to it. The author argues that, regardless of the sophisticated argument of postmodernists and their suspicion of power, postmodernism as an intellectual and political movement has put itself in the service of power and the status quo. She demonstrates how this trend has given rise to a neo-conservative feminism. She also asks questions of those who in denouncing the racism of western feminism have taken up an uncritical embrace of the Islamic identity of Muslim women. The book should interest those concerned about human rights, as well as for students and academics of women's studies, political science, social theory and religious studies.

Author Notes

Haideh Moghissi is an associate professor of sociology and women's studies at Atkinson College, York University, Toronto. Before leaving Iran 1984, she was a senior archivist in the Iran National Archives. She was a founder of the National Union of Women and member of its first executive board and the editorial board of Barabari (Equality) and Zanan Dar Mobarezeh (Women in Struggle).

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Moghissi's much acclaimed Populism and Feminism in Iran (CH, Jul'95) detailed "women's struggle" in a male-defined revolutionary movement. Her new book examines the women's question in the Muslim world in the context of "Islamic fundamentalism" and the limits of postmodernism to explain this problem. The author, an activist in the women's movement in Iran until 1984, writes with a passion readers will find engaging. She explores critically such intellectual trends as anti-orientalism and postmodernism, which, using the argument of "different cultural standards," make concessions to the fundamentalists, thereby abandoning "women to their rule." Moghissi also exposes the weakness in the arguments of Islamic feminists who, struggling to improve their lot within the confines of their faith, speak of the "new Muslim woman" and claim that the veil is the instrument of empowerment. Premodern forms of domination, she continues, have been replaced by modern forms. Most women in the Islamic world have not benefited from the process of modernization; gender relations have not been transformed but simply modernized in what has been aptly described as "neopatriarchy." A major contribution to the debate on feminism. All levels. F. Ahmad; University of Massachusetts at Boston

Table of Contents

Prefacep. vii
Introductionp. 1
1 Oriental Sexuality: Imagined and Realp. 13
Muslim Women Imaginedp. 13
The Islamic Concept of Sexualityp. 20
2 From Orientalism to Islamic Feminismp. 32
A Breakthrough in Studies of Gender and Islamp. 35
The Construction of a New 'Muslim Woman'p. 38
The Veil as a Tool of Empowerment?p. 42
3 Postmodern Relativism and the Politics of Cultural Differencep. 49
The Postmodern Framep. 50
Rethinking Modernity in the Middle East?p. 53
4 Islamic Fundamentalism and its Nostalgic Accomplicep. 64
Islamic Fundamentalism Definedp. 65
The Marriage of Premodern and Postmodern Outlooksp. 73
5 Women, Modernity and Social Changep. 78
Mystification of 'Islamic Traditions'p. 85
Feminism Revisitedp. 93
6 Fundamentalists in Power: Conflict and Compromisep. 98
The Islamization Projectp. 100
Women's Legal Rights in the Familyp. 104
The Law of Retributionp. 109
Paid Work as a Terrain of Contestationp. 111
Resistance to the Islamization Projectp. 117
7 Islamic Feminism and its Discontentsp. 125
'Muslim' Feminism and Gender Activismp. 134
Silencing the Secular Voicesp. 139
Referencesp. 149
Indexp. 160