Empowerment of Muslim women: reality or wishful thinking?

Malika HAMIDI

European Policy Center(Brussels)

Conference with Amina Wadud, Malika Hamidi and Sara Silvestri

A growing movement of scholars are reinterpreting Islamic texts to argue for family law reforms to ensure equal treatment of Muslim men and women, speakers told a Policy Dialogue held in cooperation with the King Baudouin Foundation with support from the US Mission. A recent study of Muslim women in Europe shows most are proud to be European Muslims and appreciate Europes respect for freedom and diversity. They do not want draconian laws on wearing the veil, for example, preferring to make their own decisions.

Report on Mrs Malika HAMIDIs speech :

Malika Hamidi, Vice-President of the European Muslim Network, Brussels, congratulated Ms Silvestri on her report, saying it was uncommon to carry out studies based on interviews with Muslim women.

Muslim women are facing political instrumentalisation, as they are demonised in the West and have to struggle against discriminations in both their faith community and in civil society. They are beginning to gain a feminist consciousness within a human rights framework, but find it difficult to be a feminist Muslim, as feminism is linked to a period of Western colonialism.

Women are interpreting the religious Sources for themselves and struggling within their community of faith, both to revise cultural practices and to force people to distinguish between religious sources and cultural interpretation.

She described how many women face forced marriages and honour killings, and they are (incorrectly) told that these cultural practices are based on Islam. Muslim woman must denounce these elements, which are not Islamic practice, re-appropriating the religious debate and promoting the strong women who lived during the rise of Islam.

Currently, Muslim women are treated as second-class citizens, struggling for their rights and justice against sexual, racial and religious discrimination.

Ms Hamidi said the current discourse about Muslim and migrant women was neo-colonial, as is the relationship between white and migrant women. Too often, feminists, who are strongly influenced by a colonialist viewpoint, describe migrant and Muslim women as victims, whereas they want to be actors in transforming themselves.

Ms Hamidi said a transnational coalition of feminist actors and thinkers bringing together Muslim and non-Muslim women is needed to reshape the feminist colonial model. Muslim women are also questioning the Western model of emancipation, and this must be taken into account in building a feminist movement without borders.

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