An Islam of Her Own: Reconsidering Religion and Secularism in Women's Islamic Movements

An Islam of Her Own: Reconsidering Religion and Secularism in Women's Islamic Movements

by Sherine Hafez


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As the world grapples with issues of religious fanaticism, extremist politics, and rampant violence that seek justification in either “religious” or “secular” discourses, women who claim Islam as a vehicle for individual and social change are often either regarded as pious subjects who subscribe to an ideology that denies them many modern freedoms, or as feminist subjects who seek empowerment only through rejecting religion and adopting secularist discourses. Such assumptions emerge from a common trend in the literature to categorize the ‘secular’ and the ‘religious’ as polarizing categories, which in turn mitigates the identities, experiences and actions of women in Islamic societies. Yet in actuality Muslim women whose activism is grounded in Islam draw equally on principles associated with secularism.
In An Islam of Her Own, Sherine Hafez focuses on women’s Islamic activism in Egypt to challenge these binary representations of religious versus secular subjectivities. Drawing on six non-consecutive years of ethnographic fieldwork within a women's Islamic movement in Cairo, Hafez analyzes the ways in which women who participate in Islamic activism narrate their selfhood, articulate their desires, and embody discourses in which the boundaries are blurred between the religious and the secular.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814773048
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 04/11/2011
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Sherine Hafez is Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies at the University of California, Riverside, and the author of The Terms of Empowerment: Islamic Women’s Activism in Cairo.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

1 Introducing Desiring Subjects 1

2 Writing Religion: Islam and Subjectivity 27

3 Women's Islamic Movements in the Making 51

4 An Islam of Her Own: Narratives of Activism 77

5 Desires for Ideal Womanhood 101

6 Development and Social Change: Mehmeit 127

7 Reconsidering Women's Desires in Islamic Movements 151

Glossary 163

Notes 165

Bibliography 175

Index 183

About the Author 191

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“This unique study of the personal narratives of women active in Islamic charity organizations in Cairo allows us to glimpse the surprisingly complicated and contemporary meanings for them of ‘Islam as a way of living.’”-Lila Abu-Lughod,author of Writing Women's Worlds: Bedouin Stories

“A lucid account of the personal, community, and national forces that shape Egyptian Muslim women who engage in social activism as part of their commitment to religious ideals. This book seeks to go beyond the usual dichotomies that pit the secular and modern against the religious and traditional.”

-Marnia Lazreg,author of Questioning the Veil: Open Letters to Muslim Women

“Emphasizing narratives that explore modern selfhood and identity politics among Islamic activist women, Hafez examines the many contexts that transcend an opposition between religion and secularism. This timely, excellent book formulates new methodological and theoretical approaches relevant to anthropology, religious studies, gender studies, and Middle East studies.”

-Susan Slyomovics,co-editor of Women and Power in the Middle East

“Exquisitely captures the multi-faceted desires that draw Egyptian women into Islamic beliefs and practices. Compelling insights, challenging to key standing theories. Powerfully and convincingly argued.”

-Suad Joseph,editor of Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures

"An informative, critical engagement of the interplay of feminism and religion in a postcolonial society."-A. Madhi,Choice

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