This paper asks whether–and if so, how–Islamic groups such as Hamas that clearly define themselves outside a feminist framework can be studied in terms of women’s empowerment. The material discussed is based on fieldwork conducted with Hamas-affiliated female Islamists, as well as women’s rights activists in general, in the occupied Palestinian territories in 2007. Centrally, this work debates whether it is possible to think of women's empowerment in non-feminist terms. The significance of this study lies in two critical contributions to questions of women’s empowerment in Muslim societies: Firstly, the case of Islamism exposes the hegemony of feminism–religious and secular–as a theoretical framework when we study conservative religious groups. The discourse of the Palestinian women’s movement functions as the ‘invisible’ framework that we often use to evaluate non-feminist groups. Secondly, this paper shows the importance of giving more attention to Islamist practice. While Muslim feminists’ reinterpretations of Islamic texts have made important contributions in terms of women’s empowerment, an exclusive focus on discursive analysis can result in overlooking significant developments in Muslim women’s activism. Conversely, a discourse-centric analysis can lead to romanticizing organizations and movements which, despite espousing, even foregrounding, gender-egalitarianism in their discourse, are quite hierarchal and patriarchal in their practice.
The Palestinian Women's Movement versus Hamas: Attempting to Understand Women's Empowerment outside a Feminist Framework.
Journal of International Women's Studies, 15(1), 35-53.
Available at: http://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol15/iss1/3