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IPP Workshop Series | Farouk El Maarouf: Muslima Theology: a Critical Analysis of Feminism in the Arab World


Dec 06, 2022 from 02:00 to 04:00 (Europe/Berlin / UTC100)



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Women around the world struggled, and still do in varying degrees, against various forms of oppression and discrimination. Thanks to feminist efforts, Western women have been challenging pervasive cultural norms and are enjoying increasing equity and equality. However, feminism, in its Western fashion, faced multiple disputes and objections since the 1950s in Morocco, whereby grassroots opposed all things Western (especially if they were French). As such, Arab and Muslim scholars revisited what is to be a feminist in societies where the religion “Islam”, post-colonialism, and patriarchy loom large.


As many Arab countries faced the challenges of colonialism and its aftermath, it had been difficult to draw attention to feminism, which first appeared in its Marxist-Leninist guise, while Morocco and other Arab countries rejected all Western-born political movements and ideologies, and adopted the politics of Arabization in tandem with a return to the historical and cultural roots. After years of trial and error, the work and activism of Arab feminists and thinkers such as Amina Wadud, Asma Barlas, and Fatima Mernissi, among others, introduced a novel intellectual and sub-feminist branch they named “Muslima Theology”, which pushed women’s emancipation and liberation to new heights and received unprecedented attention.


In this workshop, I would like to bring to attention the main feminist branches of “Secular, Islamist, and Muslim feminisms” that have existed in Morocco since the 1950s. I will focus on how they shaped feminist ideology, its development, and its impacts on society, women’s rights, and gender dynamics. The workshop is an attempt to come to grips with the epistemological and historical development of feminist thought in Morocco. Moreover, it takes a cue from the “third-way” of Muslima Theology which challenges the Maqasid Sharia (mainstream male exegesis and hermeneutic traditions) and brings together postcolonial history, a reinterpretation of the Hadith, women’s rights, and Arab cultures.


The workshop will start with a general introduction of the state of affairs, politics, and geopolitical tensions in the Arab world during the 1950s till the early 2000s using Morocco (the Maghreb) as an example while drawing attention to other Arab countries, too. Next, I will discuss some approaches that feminists took to advocate for equality and demand their rights and in what way their efforts were productive or faced challenges: in their failure to reach people, they understood what battlefront they are engaging with and what they must use to draw attention to their cause. With that, Muslima theology comes into being, both as an intellectual and activist method, and paves the way to a rather stable foreground that made people, for the first time, listen and understand what they had to say. Both secular feminism and Muslim feminism played an important role in shaping the face of gender dynamics and women’s rights in the Arab world today. Though the road is still long and fraught with difficulties, the misfire between feminist ideologies allowed for a discussion to exist, persist, and develop. The last half hour will be reserved for questions and discussion.


The IPP Workshop Series

It offers IPP members the opportunity to lead a workshop on current concepts and methods in the Study of culture. The aim of the series is to create an interactive discussion group for doctoral candidates and students. The topics can range from general introductions to various "schools" of literary and cultural theory to concepts, methods and topics of literary and cultural theory.