Tuesday, March 22, 2011

4 views of gender relations in Islam.

Something interesting I dug out from my reading archives. A Norwegian researcher studied how first-generation immigrant women from Pakistan and Morocco use Islam to explain their labour market participation, family life, amongst other things. The author starts by giving a framework of 4 types of views on gender relations amongst these women:

1. Sameness-oriented modernists
Sameness-oriented modernists are oriented toward participation in both home and society. They believe that Islam gives individual women and men equal rights and equal value and that gender roles are fully interchangeable. Women and men have the same duty to work and to take care of the household and the family. Women can work in all possible roles outside the home, and there is no visible gender segregation.

Education is equally important for both genders. Sameness-oriented women frequent the mosque. They believe that Islam does not require the use of hijab. Islam is generally viewed as a flexible religion that can be adapted to contemporary society.

Critique: Dichotomy of traditional/modern. What comes later in a linear chronology is not necessarily better.

2. Society-oriented Islamists
Society-oriented Islamists are also oriented toward participation in home and society. They believe that Islam assigns women special rights and that individual women and men have equal value. They see gender roles as somewhat interchangeable, and their support for gender segregation is weak to medium. A man's duty is to generate family income. A woman's duty is first to take care of family and children and second to participate in generating family income. Women work in designated sectors, such as education and medicine.

Education is equally important for women and men, but women are encouraged to specialize in certain fields. The women participate in mosque activities and wear hijab because they think Islam requires them to do so.
They believe that contemporary society should adapt to Islamic values.

Critique: The concept of 'Islamism' is often used interchangeably with 'political Islam', 'fundamentalism', and 'Islamic activism'.

3. Family-oriented Islamists
Family-oriented Islamists are oriented toward home and family. In agreement with society-oriented Islamists, they believe that Islam assigns women special rights and that individual women and men have equal value.
An important difference, however, is that family-oriented Islamists see gender roles as fundamentally non-interchangeable. Gender segregation is strong. A woman's duty is to take care of home and family, while a man's duty is to work outside the home.

Secular education is most important for men, while women are encouraged to receive religious instruction. The women do not attend the mosque. They wear hijab because they think Islam requires them to do so.
Family-oriented Islamists believe that contemporary society should adapt to Islamic values and uphold societal ideals from the time of the Prophet Muhammad.

Critique: No significant role for women in public sphere, limited to family.

4. Culture-oriented traditionalists
Culture-oriented traditionalists are also oriented toward home and family. They believe that Islam gives women some rights and that women have less value than men. The emphasis is not on women's individual rights but on women's role as part of the larger family group. Gender roles are non-interchangeable and gender segregation is strong. A woman's duty is to take care of home and family, while a man must secure the family's income.

Neither secular nor religious education for women is encouraged. Women use hijab when they leave the home, and they do this because it is culturally endorsed more than as a result of Islam. The emphasis is on Islam as culture and tradition more than as normative religious ideals.

Critique: 'Traditional' should be understood as ideology and not a historical past. Privileges ethnic/national/cultural identity v. identities based on education and work.

Which one do you believe in?

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