Women in Islam: How Australian Muslim Feminist women practise their faith in a gender-positive way
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2021 Kate Hammond
This thesis researches how Australian Muslim feminist women practise their faith in a gender-positive way. The practical aspect of Islamic feminism in the Australian context has been under-researched within the Islamic Studies discipline, despite the growing popularity of pro-faith feminism. This research seeks to understand how Muslim feminist women have challenged and reframed traditionally patriarchal practices and interpretations of their faith in order to support or form their belief in divinely sanctioned gender equality. The position of women in Islam is a topic fraught with disagreement and controversy. While many Muslims argue that God has proclaimed men and women to be equal, others declare that the Qur’an and Muhammad’s sunnah place men in a position of superiority over women. Some Muslim women argue that Islamic practices that favour male superiority are not due to the Qur’an placing men in a position of authority. Rather, they are due to the tradition of men interpreting the foundational texts and imbuing within them a patriarchal bias. Muslim women are challenging this convention through interpreting the texts themselves from a feminist perspective. The result of these changing interpretations is a version of Islam that empowers women and encourages gender equality. Yet there are some controversial aspects of Islam - for example, Qur’an verse 4:34, often known as “the beating verse” - that present more of a challenge than others in being reinterpreted as gender-positive. This thesis, therefore, addresses these aspects of the faith that have traditionally been utilised to support male superiority and patriarchal practices. Due to the paucity of existing research on this topic in the Australian context, this research relies heavily on independent fieldwork in the form of semi-structured interviews. This thesis utilises the theoretical framework of standpoint feminism, which places women’s lived experiences as central to understanding society and for challenging patriarchal knowledge paradigms. Through employing a feminist standpoint as a theoretical framework, this research presents a counter-narrative to the persistent characterisation of the Muslim woman as an oppressed, agentless being who needs to be ‘saved’ from her culture. In order to challenge patriarchal practices within Muslim communities, the voices of Muslim women presenting an alternative, yet equally legitimate interpretation of the faith must be amplified.
KeywordsIslam; feminism; feminist; Islamic feminism; gender; gender studies; Islamic studies; gender equality; gender equity; reinterpretation; hijab; verse 4:34; Qur'an; Quran; Islamophobia; Polygyny; patriarchy; patriarchal; egalitarian; standpoint feminism; gender-positive; Muslim; racism; intersectionality; double-bind
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