Women against Fundamentalism: Stories of Dissent and Solidarity

Women against Fundamentalism: Stories of Dissent and Solidarity

Women against Fundamentalism: Stories of Dissent and Solidarity

Women against Fundamentalism: Stories of Dissent and Solidarity


Women Against Fundamentalism (WAF) was formed in 1989, partly in response to the controversy surrounding Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, but also with the aim of challenging fundamentalism in all religions. It sees fundamentalism as a modern political movement that uses religion to consolidate authoritarian and repressive forms of power. WAF’s members are drawn from a wide range of ethnic and religious backgrounds, and from across the world.v

This book maps the development of the organisation over the past 25 years, through the life stories and political reflections of some of its members, focusing on the ways in which lived contradictions have been reflected in their politics. Their stories describe the pathways that led them to WAF, and the role WAF has played in their lives and in the forms of politicial activism in which they have engaged. Discussing feminist activism from different ethnic and religious back-grounds, contributors highlight the complex relationships of belonging that are at the heart of contemporary social life – including the problems of exclusionary political projects of belonging. They explore the ways in which anti-fundamentalism relates to broader feminist, anti-racist and other emancipatory political ideologies and movements.

The personal stories at the centre of this book are those of women whose lives enact the complexities of multiple (if shifting and contingent) mutually constitutive axes of power and difference. Many of their concerns therefore relate to crossing the boundaries of collectivity and practising a ‘dialogical transversal politics’ that has developed as an alternative to identity politics.


This book celebrates – while also acknowledging the huge challenges it faces – a particular kind of feminism, one that has been concerned with challenging both fundamentalism and racism. It consists of the autobiographical political narratives of feminist activists of different ethnic and religious backgrounds who have been members of Women Against Fundamentalism (WAF), a feminist anti-racist and antifundamentalist organisation that was established in London in 1989, at the heart of the Salman Rushdie aff air.

Political narratives have been described as ‘stories people tell about how the world works’, the ways in which they explain the engines of political change, and as reflections on the role people see themselves and their group playing in their ongoing struggles. and the contributors to this book off er just such narratives – they talk about the trajectories of their lives, and how they see themselves and the groups to which they belong in relation to the wider political struggles in which they have been involved. waf women have shared solidarity and trust, based on common political values, but, as can be seen from the chapters of this book, their perspectives – as well as their personal/ political histories – have also diff ered. This variety of voices is significant not only for these women as individuals but also for waf as a political organisation. in this introduction we highlight what we as editors perceive to be the most important issues for WAF’s activism throughout its history. However, the book has been constructed in such a way that reading all the chapters will itself provide a more pluralistic and contested flavour of WAF’s politics.

This introduction outlines the rationale for the book, introduces waf and its political context, explains the book’s theoretical and methodological framework, and explores some of the themes that have emerged from the activists’ stories.

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