Women’s Struggles and Strategies in the Rise of Fundamentalism in the Muslim World: From Entryism to Internationalism

Part of the Women’s Studies at York Series book series (WSYS)


It is important to use the plural when speaking of fundamentalisms; significant differences characterise the emergence of these movements, the political conditions which encourage their growth, and the dialectical relations which link them to national powers and international finance, as well as their forms of expression. We are witnessing the spread and the generalisation of the fundamentalist phenomenon in the world.1 Here we are concerned specifically with fundamentalisms in Muslim countries and communities and the way in which women are affected and respond. We are not trying — as others have done2 — to define fundamentalisms as totalitarianism, fascism, revivalism, traditionalism or Islamism; neither are we analysing their links with specific political formations. Rather, we are concerned with what, in the various geographical and historical forms fundamentalisms have taken since the Second World War, these different types have in common: their attempt to elaborate a general discourse. Within it, we will confine ourselves to those concepts which specifically affect women, and consider the way in which they are internalised — or called into question — by women and women’s movements, and how their responses to situations which they must survive are shaped by this discourse.


Fundamentalist Group Muslim Woman Civil Code Muslim Community Muslim Country 
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  1. 7.
    See the numerous writings of Haleh Afshar, in particular the chapter ‘Women, Marriage and the State in Iran’, in her Women, State and Ideology (London: Macmillan, 1987).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 24.
    It is very hard to escape the notion that the control of women and the representation of this control at the level of state ideology is a more pressing and enduring concern in Muslim societies than elsewhere. What accords this sphere such prominence? Is this how the specificity of Islam manifests itself across a multiplicity of settings and situations? Part of the answer, I think, resides not in Islam per se but in the relationship in which Islamic societies have found themselves vis-à-vis the West.’ (Kandiyoti,) Amrita Chhachhi: ‘It is clear that fundamentalism is gender selective and that it constructs particular notions of femininity and masculinity as symbolic of the community.’ See also Fatima Mernissi, The Obsession of Fundamentalists with Women (Lahore, Pakistan: Simorgh Publications, 1986).Google Scholar
  3. 25.
    It is striking that many of the fundamentalists’ publications are obviously addressed to a Western audience: they aim ‘to explain Islam to the Western public as a system of values and laws, as civilisation... politics, economy, law, epistemology, the position of women, mysticism, art, music, Islamic or Muslim, the meaning of being Muslim’, etc. Cf. Yvonne Vazbeck Haddad, ‘The Critic of the Islamic Impact’, Byron, Haines and Ellison Findlay, (N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1984).Google Scholar
  4. 35.
    M.-A. Helle Lucas, ‘Women’s Struggle In Algeria During the War for Independence and After’, in the papers of the Symposium: ‘Images of Third World Women’ (Amsterdam: Transnational Institute, 1984)Google Scholar
  5. 42.
    See Bouthaina Shaaban, ‘Both Right and Left Handed’, (London: Women’s Press, 1988)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Haleh Afshar 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Social Sciences DepartmentUniversity of AlgiersAlgeria

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