Religion and Women: Islamic Modernism versus Islamic Fundamentalism

Publication Abstract

Moaddel M. 1998. "Religion and Women: Islamic Modernism versus Islamic Fundamentalism." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 37(1): 108-30.

This paper explains two diverse religious discourses on women. In Islamic fundamentalism, women are instructed to cover their bodies from head to toe with the exception of the face and hands, barred from Islamic modernism, in contrast, a group of theologians advanced a modernist exegesis of the Quran, arriving ant an Islamic feminist conception of gender relations. These scholars championed women's rights to education and involvement in social affairs, questioned the existing restrictions on women, criticized men's attitudes and behavior toward women, and rejected polygamy. This paper explains this contrast by analyzing Islamic modernism in Egypt and India and fundamentalism in Iran in terms of the varying discursive context in which debates over women were waged. It argues that Islamic modernism emerged out of a pluralistic environment, and where the ruling elite refrained from directly interfering in ideological debates and religious disputations. Islamic fundamentalism, on the other hand, emerged out of a monolithic cultural context where the means of culture production where monopolized by a bureaucratic authoritarian state. This paper then discusses the implications of this study for understanding the relationship between religion and women

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