Geographies of Muslim Women: Gender, Religion, and Space

Geographies of Muslim Women: Gender, Religion, and Space

Geographies of Muslim Women: Gender, Religion, and Space

Geographies of Muslim Women: Gender, Religion, and Space

Synopsis

This groundbreaking volume explores how Islamic discourse and practice intersect with gender relations and broader political and economic processes to shape women's geographies in a variety of regional contexts. Contributors represent a wide range of disciplinary subfields and perspectives--cultural geography, political geography, development studies, migration studies, and historical geography--yet they share a common focus on bringing issues of space and place to the forefront of analyses of Muslim women's experiences. Themes addressed include the intersections of gender, development and religion; mobility and migration; and discourse, representation, and the contestation of space. In the process, the book challenges many stereotypes and assumptions about the category of "Muslim woman," so often invoked in public debate in both traditional societies and the West.

Excerpt

In January 2004 thousands of Muslim women took to the streets in Cairo, Tehran, Gaza, Amman, and Beirut to protest efforts by French authorities to ban the hijab, or Islamic headscarf, in state schools and other public institutions. A photograph published in the Economist shows a group of young veiled protestors in Beirut holding a French tricolor (which flew over that city for three decades after World War I) emblazoned with the words “Le Voile: Droit et Liberté” (The Veil: Right and Freedom). In France itself Muslim women protestors similarly waved the tricolor and sang the “Marseillaise” while carrying banners with slogans such as “The veil: my choice” and “Beloved France, where is my liberty?” (“Veil of Tears,” 2004, p. 34).

The French government has maintained for several years now that its policies to restrict the wearing of religious attire in schools is not antiIslamic, but rather that it reflects France's historical commitment to secularism in the public sphere. Indeed, the ban covers not just the hijab, but also Jewish skullcaps (or yarmulkes) and “large” Christian crosses. But many Muslims in France and beyond remain unconvinced by the French government's position, and French authorities have been compelled to defend the official line both to French Muslims and to Muslim leaders abroad.

The French authorities' sense of embattlement has been heightened by criticism of the French headscarf policy from politicians on the other side of the Atlantic. Seizing the opportunity to challenge French moral authority in the wake of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which France vehemently opposed, U.S. officials have criticized France for not adhering to its own revolutionary principle of individual liberty. The Bush administration, having used . . .

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