Third Wave feminism and Islamic Feminism


Muslim Feminism in the Third Wave.

According to Pam Alldred and Sarah Dennison, the first wave of feminism was about the "struggle for equality and integration," the second wave was about criticizing "dominant values and sometimes inverted value-hierarchies to revalue qualities associated with the feminine," and the third wave is about "deconstructing the presumption of a gender binary or the conventional womb," and feminism in its third wave is about "deconstructing the presumption of a gender binary or the conventional.

Is there a place for Muslim feminism in third wave feminism?

The pluralities accepted by third wave feminism certainly provide a more inviting environment than prior feminisms. Patricia McFadden, citing African feminist awareness, refutes the premise that gender, feminism, and woman are inevitably Western, claiming that the problem with this theoretical paradigm is that it sees "women" as a construct [as] equally western. When gender and women are removed from the conceptual landscape, feminist resistance politics is evacuated as well, leaving us without a political response to patriarchal exclusion.'

As a result, an adversarial approach has emerged, pitting the West against the East, and one feminism against the other. 

Susan Muaddi Darraj uses the terms "Arab" and "feminist" to summarize the apparent difficulties for the West: 

Many Western women and feminists are surprised to hear that there is, and has been, a significant Arab feminist movement in the Middle East from at least the beginning of the twentieth century. 

When I use the phrase "Arab feminism," I usually get responses like 

"That seems like an oxymoron!" and "Can you be a feminist if you're still veiled?" from American feminists. 

“How can a Muslim woman be a feminist if she shares her husband with three other wives?” and 

“How can a Muslim woman be a feminist if she shares her husband with three other wives?”

While promoting a broader definition of the "third wave," this article will sidestep the binaries prevalent in many feminist literatures to identify the same difficulties that women confront across borders, faiths, and orientations. Muslim feminism is a feminist movement that arises from Islam, both as a religion and as a historically and culturally reinforced belief framework. This isn't to claim that all women who use Islam as a foundation for their advocacy are Muslim feminists.


Muslim feminism is also known as Islamic feminism.


However it should not be confused with Islamist feminism, which is the realm of women who are part of the organized conservative Islamist movement's rank and file. Muslim feminism, like Islamist feminism, originates from the same intersections between Islam and woman.

Is Muslim feminism capable of empowering and emancipating women? 

The emancipation gap between Western and non-Western feminists should not be interpreted because of arguments that one culture is superior to another or that one brand of feminism is superior than another.

What it should be regarded as is the expression of debates about feminism's "ownership" — something that third wave feminism opposes. Deniz Kandiyoti agrees with Mcfadden, claiming that “there is a culturalist bias in [such] a conversation that reduces it to questioning whether particular concepts of rights and citizenship, and for that matter feminism, may find any resonance in a Middle Eastern environment.”

This disparity is primarily due to power dynamics mediated by culture and the defining of gender roles. Contextual distinctions must be acknowledged as shaping feminist emancipatory techniques while defining the bounds of a Muslim feminist awareness.


Determining the meaning of Muslim feminism.

The link between religion and feminism is viewed differently by different people, ranging from proponents of a culturally defined feminist movement to a more critical group of researchers who see the interplay between Islam and feminism as crippling to the feminist mission. The case for Muslim feminism, on the other hand, should be made based on empowerment and a rights-based approach, refuting the claim that it is only a culturally relativist form.

This would amplify its influence as a movement reacting to most post-fundamentalist Muslim cultures' current political and socio-economic realities. This isn't to say that a pluralist feminist movement that represents and includes all "women" isn't important. Rather than being a non-feminist aim, Muslim feminism should be a tactical shift in the feminist movement. To do so, one must be able to determine who, among the many activists who use the phrases "woman" and "Islam," should be allowed to claim the feminist name.

The contrast between different forms of Challenges feminism when these concepts collide is critical because it allows for a differentiation between the emancipatory movement and, for example, activism with a conservative purpose. 

Azza Karam proposes three types of feminist activity in contemporary Muslim societies: 

  1. Secular feminism (a discourse grounded outside of religion and engaged with international human rights);
  2.  Islamist feminism (a discourse emerging from the socially and intellectually conservative Islamist movement, Al Harakah Al-Islamiyya); 
  3. Muslim feminism (a discourse engaging with Islamic sources writ large).

The first group, secular feminism, originated in the early twentieth century in the Middle East, when women like Hoda Sha'rawy, Ceza Nabarawi, and Bint El Sahti' began to challenge women's status. In Muslim nations, secular feminism is still a prominent movement that has achieved noteworthy results. Secular feminists, on the other hand, have increasingly encountered difficulties from the state, the public, and conservative religious groups as they attempt to separate religion and feminist discourses. Alternative feminist movements, such as Muslim feminism, have risen as a result.

The contrasts between Muslim feminists and Islamist feminists, as well as the classification of the former as a third wave feminist movement, will be the topic of this article. There seems to be little differences between Muslim and Islamist feminists on the surface. 

Within Islamist feminism, however, women are oppressed precisely because they aspire to be "equal" to men and are therefore placed in unnatural settings and unjust conditions that demean them and take away their integrity and dignity as women. [Islamism] instils in women a sense of worth, political purpose, and self-assurance.'

The Islamist argument reflects neo-patriarchal values, indicating a conservative rather than progressive approach to change.

Muslim feminism, on the other hand, allows for the presence of liberated women inside Islam. Sharazad Mojab echoes many contemporary critiques of post-feminism, claiming that while ‘focusing on identity, culture, language, discourse, desire, and body... has made enormous contributions to our understanding of patriarchy,' this new form of post-feminism lacks the political impetus of liberal feminism's legal equality achievements.

‘In this theory, women across the world are divided into faiths, ethnicities, tribes, cultures, nations, and traditions, all of which influence the agenda of feminist and women's organizations. The political implications of cultural relativism are obvious.' 

The risk of a postfeminist stance is that it implies that the goals of second wave feminism have been achieved. I believe it is more helpful to refer to feminism as a "third wave." This third wave should be viewed as having a globalized worldview that embraces commonality while transcending differences.

This new wave of feminism symbolizes a new generation of feminism/ists committed to finding constructive solutions to women's problems while respecting their differences. Instead of seeking to fit all women into the frameworks conceptualized by the second wave, this enables for a non-monolithic feminism that reacts to the increasing needs and genuine concerns confronting women today.

This is not to dismiss the second wave's ideas, but to recognize that today's global systems and interconnections necessitate a "new" feminism. In terms of the link between Islam and feminism, Mojab's claim that post-feminism is just a modern form of liberal feminism is supported by the grouping of all Islamized discourses into one basket. 

Recognizing the different character of feminism today, particularly Muslim feminism, is an important part of embracing diversity. 

Miriam Cooke emphasizes the significance of distinguishing Islam from Islamic fundamentalism (Islamism).

This is, in essence, the major point of critique that guides the argument in this article. Supporting and objectively analyzing Muslim feminism's rights-based discourses helps to define the boundaries of cultural relativism in favor of a culturally sensitive universalism of rights, chances, and activism. Islamist feminists should be viewed as female campaigners for the Islamist movement in this context.


Islamist "feminists'" worldview systems, in many respects, contradict feminism's emancipatory principles. Zeinab Al-Gazali and Safeenaz Kazem, for example, are proponents of established Islamist conservative views about women's conduct and space.

On the other side, Muslim feminism is a rights-based movement with Islamic implications. It does so by reinterpreting religious discourses to make them more compatible with global feminism (s). For the most part, Muslim feminism is a desire for equality, equity, and empowerment within an Islamic environment. Muslim feminists like Asma Barlas, Leila Ahmed, and Fatima Mernissi, to mention a few, are challenging the existing quo of male-dominated Islamic interpretation and acculturation, which perpetuates women's oppression.

As Amy E. Schwartz points out, this interpretation and acculturation must be understood independently of Islamic texts: ‘Islam rightly understood reflects a philosophy of enlightenment and egalitarianism... unsavory practices relegating women to second-class citizenship are not intrinsic to true Islamic values or to the Shari'a [Islamic Law] and never have been'. 

The goals and techniques of Muslim feminists and Islamist feminists are clearly different. 

When public intellectuals position themselves as Islamic [Muslim] feminists, according to Cooke, they engage prevailing religious discourses.

They derive their tactics for constructing a feminist viewpoint that rejects exclusion and locates power within the same cultural bounds from official Challenges history and hermeneutics. Cooke's acknowledgment of the distinction between Islamic/Muslim and Islamist discourses is a clear solution to an issue that plagues this field of research. That is, semantic ambiguity facilitates ideological ambiguity. Cooke asserts that "Islam and Islamism are not the same," however this article asserts that Muslim and Islamist are equally separate.

While initiating change within the context of Islam's universal terms of reference, a Muslim feminist movement is tolerated by Muslim society. Islamist feminists, on the other hand, take a more conservative stance on women's rights in Muslim nations. Islamism, sometimes known as Islamists, associates feminism with the "unthinkable."

As a result, it is critical to recognize the existence of ultraconservative movements that perpetuate the status quo while defining the substance and logic of Muslim feminist methods. Mojab verifies that Islamist feminism, in its different manifestations, does not have the capacity to pose a major alternative to patriarchy, using the legal reforms to increase maternal custodial rights in post-revolutionary Islamist society in Iran as an example. The Islamic Republic's experience has proved that Islamic theocracy strengthens the existing patriarchal society.

As a result, rather than being a complement to secular, radical, and socialist feminisms, [it] defends unequal gender relations. 

The goals and limits of this women's movement are defined by the context. 

Not because women were refused access to their children, but because children were denied access to their mothers, these changes were implemented.

The core of Muslim feminism as conveyed in various circumstances is in stark contrast to Mojab's example. After a determined struggle with the established 'ulama (religious academics) and orthodox Islamist groups in Egypt, the principle of Khul' (women's right to begin divorce by economically forfeiting themselves) was restored, as was the appointment of female judges. Under the latter situation, Muslim feminist ideologies were empowering, but activist practices in Iran's Islamist government were, in essence, non-feminist. Despite their progressive nature, they were conceptualized using Islamist concepts.

Islam and feminism, on the other hand, are incompatible, although Islamism and feminism are not.

Subversion as a cultural paradigm is being challenged. Understanding the structural and hierarchical processes that Muslim feminists are striving to remove is crucial to comprehend the problems they encounter.

 Is it Islam itself, or its relationship with the host culture(s), that allows for the dynamics of interpretation and practice, and hence defines the justification for male–female power dynamics in Muslim societies?

Special attention must be paid to the interpretation of the original Islamic Texts and the behaviors that influenced these readings while attempting to comprehend the nature of the connection between religion and culture. In this approach, a separation is created between religion as a holy Text, its interpretation, and the level of practice, which is heavily impacted by cultural and historical amalgamations. 

Religious acculturation is the result of the interplay of the Text, interpretation, and cultural practice.

Too frequently, acculturation consists of distinct and distinct practices and ideas that are closed to debate and difficult to change. When it comes to religious ideas, particularly fundamentalism, Shahin Gerami believes religion has a little but important impact in defining culturally established gender roles: ‘Men and women's political, economic, and geographic places within social structure are determined by culturally defined disparities. Gender identities that further review and reinterpret previously established sex roles' are promoted by religious beliefs that strengthen these functions.

This argument is helpful in forming assumptions regarding the influence of culture and religion in the identification of gender roles and sexual identities. The impact of culture on religious conceptualization – rather than the other way around – is critical in defining the paradigm of religious interpretation and practices that perpetuate patriarchal power patterns in Muslim communities by strengthening specific beliefs about gender and gender dynamics.

This is the foundation upon which Muslim feminists aspire to bring about change and women's empowerment. 

‘Muslim women may battle for equality within the context of the Qur'an's teachings,' 

Asma Barlas, like other Muslim feminists, believes the significance of interrogating the contextual/extratextual realities that molded the understanding of the original Qur'an Text and its interpretation, as well as the interplay between the three levels of religion - the Text, interpretation, and practice.

Scholars have stated that "inequality and discrimination [against women] stem from secondary religious books, not from the teachings of the Qur'an [the Text]." Despite the possibility of egalitarian and non-patriarchal readings, Islam, and notably the Qur'an, has become more conservative in regards to women's roles.

As a result, religious comments and exegesis contributed to a developing tendency throughout history in which male-dominated interpretation perpetuated women's imprisonment and inequality. One of Muslim feminism's top concerns is to reply to such interpretations. Part of this is due to male-dominated interpretation and jurisprudence.

This, on the other hand, was tied to the environment in which such Challenges occurred, as well as the cultural differences that shaped ideological and political frameworks throughout Islamic history.

The secondary theological writings that accepted and reinforced women's subordination mirrored the effect of these cultural realities. 

This religious acculturation is the result of an interplay between three overlapping levels of religion – the Text, (male-dominated) interpretation, and cultural practice – that results in a specific understanding of Islam.

As a result, traditions and belief frameworks emerge, policing power dynamics and gender roles. Muslim feminists are addressing the limitations and difficulties of religious acculturation to achieve freedom for women in Muslim countries. 

To have a better grasp of the grounds of reference from which Muslim feminism draws its ideas, Muslim feminist academics must engage with the dimensions and dynamics of Islamic acculturation. 

Religious acculturation's sources and dynamics 

When viewing the Qur'an against the backdrop of pre-Islamic civilization known as Jahiliyya, Barbara Stowasser claims that it is clear that "both the social standing and the legal rights of women were enhanced by Qur'anic legislation." 

Nonetheless, she observes that ‘the process of growing exclusion and growing limitations imposed on women [was plainly] discernible via comparison of the original Qur'anic laws with the succession of interpretations created by succeeding centuries. Fatima Mernissi also claims that the Qur'anic morality has harmed women's rights.

Mernissi displays a strong female power dynamic in this culture by referring to pre-Islamic history and using instances from the historical period that witnessed the emergence of Islam as a religion. This is supported by Leila Ahmed's research of male–female power relations in the same time and the change from a matrilineal to a patriarchal social order in Arabia following the birth of Islam in Gender and Islam.

As a result, Islam might be establishing a new social compact that restricted gender roles and women's space. According to Ahmed, the Qur'an established an ethical guideline for Muslim society's organization.

This ethical code should be separated from Islamic law's legal code, which has evolved over centuries and throughout several Islamic empires and caliphates. 

‘The particular substance of laws derived from the Qur'an is very dependent on the interpretation that legists choose to apply to it, as well as the components of its complex utterances to which they choose to give weight.' 

One cannot deny the historical realities that these legal codes ushered in a regulating social order that, in many cases, had the ethical protection of women at its core.

The Qur'an is founded on the 'man as provider' concept, in which women are dependents due to the division of labor. This, however, has no bearing on the equality of men and women before God. However, current politics and practice reveal a strong conservative tendency within modern Muslim communities, which denies women the rights guaranteed by the Quran and the Sunna.

The “textualization of misogyny” in Islam was made possible by secondary religious writings. 

These texts have surpassed the Qur'an's influence in most Muslim societies today, demonstrating not only the triumph of some texts over others in Muslim discourses, but also the triumph of history, politics, and culture over the sacred text, and thus of cross-cultural, transnational, and nondenominational ideologies on women and gender in vogue in the Middle East, over the Qur'an's teachings.

These conflicts give rise to Muslim feminism, which works within these "cross-cultural, transnational, and nondenominational ideals" while claiming freedom for women through Qur'anic interpretation. This allows them to "plant themselves in the soil of Islam in order to demand authority and speak out against those who seek to glorify them as symbols while excluding them as humans."

At the level of religious practice, which is formed by the junction of the previous two levels of religion, Text and interpretation, the more transitory components of acculturation occur. This indicates that, though most Muslim nations have a dominating Islamic practice in terms of gender roles, there are differences amongst them.

The usage of female isolation and segregation is example of Dominating Islamic Practice in Gender Roles. 

In contrast to more traditional nations such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt has virtually abolished this practice. Despite this diversity, the main concepts apply to most Muslim communities, where women nowadays face more segregation, isolation, and power limits. 

In contrast to what has happened in other celestial religions, Islamic historical memory has helped to strengthen the patriarchal underpinnings that had already been built in the Arab civilization where Islam originally originated. 

It has also included other external cultural characteristics and ideas that were adopted through the rise of the Islamic Empire, allowing for the resurgence of sexual inequity. Thus, through centuries of ‘Islamic historical memory,' the concept of the ‘submissive condition' has been preserved.

The interaction of many cultural practices has resulted in this historical memory. Some of the characteristics seen in today's Muslim communities can be traced back to a non-religious cultural activity. 

This is part of the existing quo that Muslim feminists are contesting by bringing their own interpretation of the Qur'an to the fore. 

As a result, they put their arguments within Islam's universal terms of reference, securing their standing as true proponents. 

Their purpose, Challenges analyzing cultural practice via the Text, is to promote structural change that leads to attainable objectives.

Third wave feminism/Muslim feminism.

The goal of this article was to outline the fundamental elements of Muslim feminism, which is a junction of Islamic and feminist discourses. Even though both Muslim feminism and Islamist women's movement are inspired by the Quran, the former is concerned with worldwide human rights, not merely rights granted by religious teachings. Religious acculturation and its influence in determining gender roles, power dynamics, and women's space in contemporary Muslim societies have been highlighted as crucial to understanding the condition of both women in Muslim societies and Muslim feminism in identifying the sources of challenges to Muslim feminism strategies. The historical and dialectical components of this acculturation process are both present.

The combination of the Text, interpretation, and practice results in a complex religious acculturation that characterizes distinct Islamic interactions in society. It has also had a significant impact on patriarchal systems and the perceived inflexibility of gender roles. Cultural norms and traditions in Muslim cultures promote a conservative and patriarchal structure.

In addition, while dealing with the Kadiyyat Al Mara'a, or woman question, one must consider several other factors, including the loci of traditionalism vs modernization, ‘Westernism' vs ‘authenticity,' and the local vs global. These definitional systems split rather than unify, and the separation is often expressed as a divide between the East, Islam, and the West. Within these disputes, feminism has become one of the binary concepts. Different types of feminism, such as Western and Muslim feminism, have competing overtones. We discover a way out of these binary oppositions in the third wave of feminism.

Third-wave feminists have based their arguments on US Third-World feminism, suggesting a commitment to feminist discourses that extends beyond the Anglo-American models advocated by the second wave.

Third-wave feminism allows for diversity, and by rejecting the strict paradigm of universal "feminism," the third wave allows for a pluralistic approach to the feminist mission. This encompasses both Western and non-Western feminisms, as well as emerging tendencies like Muslim feminism. Muslim feminism has a broader influence than secular feminism, which has faced opposition in Muslim communities due to its perception as a Western incursion and hence a danger to "authenticity."

While this may be arguable from an academic standpoint, the intersection of cognitive realities and worldviews in Muslim civilizations attests to the contrary.

As diverse sorts of feminist activity show empowerment and purposeful life choices, preconceptions and understandings of what feminism is altering. Difference does not imply the presence of the "other," but rather is a genuine and alternative manifestation. Third-wave feminist discourses provide a space for Muslim feminism to be both authentic and ‘other.' Secular feminism, on the other hand, borrows from second-wave feminism in its conception of a "universal" woman and does not allow for culturally specific authentication.

At the turn of the twenty-first century, third wave feminism provides a platform for emergent feminist strategies. Pluralism, as a result, should be aggressively promoted to eliminate the disparity between Western and Eastern feminist ethos, whether genuine or imagined. We could wish to redefine feminism as we strive to define third wave feminism. Rather than an ethno-specific ideal type, feminism should be characterized by emancipatory activity. This is where Muslim feminism excels, and it is for this reason that Muslim feminism is one of the many voices of third-wave feminism.

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