Women and Islamic law

Decolonizing colonialist feminism

Authored by: Lena Salaymeh

The Routledge Handbook of Islam and Gender

Print publication date:  November  2020
Online publication date:  November  2020

Print ISBN: 9780815367772
eBook ISBN: 9781351256568
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter presents three arguments about defects in colonialist feminism. First, I show that colonialist feminists engage in decontextualized comparisons: they consistently compare Western women to the Muslimwoman, without comparing Muslim men and women or comparing non-Muslim men and women. These inconsistent comparisons are the source of significant misrepresentations of Muslim women. Second, I propose that colonialist feminists view Muslim women through the heteronormative male gaze. That is, when colonialist feminists assess Muslim women’s practices, they implement the normative assumptions of heterosexual males in the West. Third, I argue that colonialist feminists incorrectly presume that Western women enjoy full autonomy or fail to recognize that women everywhere do not enjoy full autonomy. I present medieval Islamic legal ideas about a wife’s sexual fulfilment as evidence that the liberal myth of autonomy is not translatable to orthodox Islamic jurisprudence.

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