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Gender, State & Society

Debates over equality, sexuality, and the changing roles of men and women often represent the flashpoint where religious and secular communities work out their complicated relationship to modernity. The modern state plays a preeminent role in framing and adjudicating such issues, but is also confronted by political pressures demanding that it should either reinforce traditional family models or facilitate the acceptance of new norms and models of family life. A focus on gender as a point of commonality and difference enables the exploration of crucial issues such as childbearing and maternity; religious and secular education; domestic and wartime violence against women; economic mobility; the nature, structure, and exercise of religious authority; reproductive health; and marriage and inheritance law.



The temporary inclusion of LGBTQ subjects in the national body involved the exclusion of Muslims through the discourse of the war on terror. Read the full article »


Paola Bernardini rightly points out that one must be wary of the term “Western feminism.” Likewise, "Islamic feminism" is often taken by observers to mean any gender thinking and practice advocated by Muslim women — who are blithely labeled “Islamic feminists.” But such so-called “Islamic feminism” typically represents a patriarchal version of Islam, albeit mainly a “soft patriarchy” in which complementarity overrides equality. Read the full article »


In response to the stirring invitation issued by Paola Bernardini to offer a theological account of the complementarity of women and men "without jeopardizing their equality," I would like to take a close look at both the complementary relationship and equality of the sexes from a biblical perspective. To do so, I would like to begin at the beginning, as it were, with the Genesis account of the creation of man and woman.


As noted in a previous post on the Contending Modernities blog by Michael Driessen, post-authoritarian Tunisia has become the site of fascinating debate between contending modernities — one being self-consciously Islamist and democratic and the other being assertively secular and liberal. One battlefield where the conflict is currently fiercest is the status of women.

The hijab hurdle in sports


The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) is joining other athletic governing bodies in derailing the aspirations of some Muslim women to excel in sports. This month a referee in Bahrain barred the Iranian national women’s team from competing against the Jordanian women’s team in a bid for a spot at the 2012 Olympics. Also this month USA Weightlifting barred Kulsoom Abdullah of Atlanta, Georgia from the Senior Nationals competition this July in Iowa. In both cases the reason cited was the hijab included in their uniforms.


Last month, on April 11, 2011, France became the second country in Europe, following Belgium, to ban the wearing of the full Islamic veil or burqa. Under the new law, women who wear face-covering Muslim veils in "public places" in France face a fine of about $200, compulsory "special classes" on citizenship, or both. This direct clash between the religious practice of some Muslims and a law that many French leaders and citizens believe is a logical extension of France's secularism could not be of more direct interest to Contending Modernities. We therefore asked two of our regular commentators—M. Christian Green and Mahan Mirza—to offer their reflections on France's burqa ban.