Islamist and feminist: A new generation stakes its claim

 Many Islamic women in the Middle East say the pillars of their faith demand gender equality. And increasingly, they are raising their voices to fight for it. 

Youssef Boudlal/Reuters

The concept of Islamic feminism, a push for gender equality rooted in Islam, has been around for more than a century. Yet with the rise of Islamist movements since the 2011 Arab Spring, a new generation of Islamist women are using their faith to combat social norms and archaic laws they say have deprived them of rights enshrined in the Quran itself. “Fighting against injustice and inequality, fighting for human rights and women’s rights – these are not just my political causes,” says Jordanian Alaa Khaled at a recent protest. “These are the pillars of my faith.” Still, there are questions about how far feminists can go in Islamist movements that can, at times, have a condescending approach to women within their ranks. “While we are for women’s rights, we are against ‘equality,’ ” says Ibrahim Hassan, a Muslim Brotherhood member from Amman. “We must respect women, listen to them, learn from them, but they cannot do all men’s work or be effective in certain leadership positions. We see any attempt to tell society both genders are equal as a scheme by seculars and the regime to crack down on religion.”