In the post-9/11 environment, the figure of the Muslim woman is at the forefront of global politics. Her representation is often articulated within a rights discourse owing much to liberal-secular sensibilities—notions of freedom, equality, rational thinking, individualism, and modernization. Muslim Women’s Rights explores how these liberal-secular sensibilities inform, shape, and foreclose public discussion on questions of Islam and gender.
The book draws on postcolonial, antiracist, and transnational feminist studies in order to analyze public and legal debates surrounding proposed shari‘ah tribunals in Canada. It examines the cultural and epistemological suppositions underlying common assumptions about Islamic laws; explores how these assumptions are informed by the Western progress narrative and women’s rights debates; and asks what forms of politics these enable and foreclose. The book assesses the influence of secularism on the ontology, epistemology, and ethics afforded to Islam in the West, and begins to trace possibilities by which Islamic family law might be productively addressed on its own terms.
Muslim Women’s Rights is a significant contribution to the fields of both Islam and gender and the critical study of secularism.
Table of Contents
Preface, Acknowledgments, Glossary of Arabic Words, 1. Liberal-Secular Sensibilities and a Genealogy of the Ontario Shari‘ah Tribunals 2. From Orientalism to Neo-Orientalism: Discourses of Race and Imperial Hegemony in the Name of Gender Equality 3. Liberalism, the Court System, and Multiculturalism: Examining Epistemic Claims 4. Secularism and Its Discontents: Social Hierarchies that Matter 5. Aversion or Conversion: A Missed Opportunity? 6. Ideology, Ontology, and Epistemology: Shari‘ah Debates and the Tawhidi (Unitary) Weltanschauung 7. Conclusion: Signs are Enough for Those Who Think
Tabassum Fahim Ruby is an assistant professor at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, USA. Her research focuses on Islam and gender discourses, liberal-secular epistemology, and globalization. Her most recent publications have appeared in Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, Women’s Studies International Forum, and Feminist Formations.
"This excellent study of the Shar'iah debates in Ontario demonstrates how readily secular-liberal discourses extend orientalist constructs of Muslims and Islam. Rather then protect Muslim women's status or interests, liberal concepts of rights actually further these women's disempowerment argues the author. Taking to task the 'neo-orientalism' of Muslim and non-Muslim activists who worked to close off Muslim women's access to faith-based arbitration, this book exposes the hypocrisies of the secular feminist 'saviour' complex."
-- Sunera Thobanil, Associate Professor at the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice at the University of British Columbia