The gender agenda: Reformed or reframed?
The previous chapter discussed women’s agency manifest within the Brotherhood and in wider society. It also discussed the way the Brotherhood shaped and responded to changing power relations in society, politics and government from the 1930s up to the period following the demise of Mubarak. This chapter traces the development of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political thought on gender issues, with a focus on matters that have been raised in the movement’s scholarship and official stances. These include gender identities and roles, marital relations, education and work, political leadership and sexual politics. In discussing the Muslim Brotherhood’s political thought, the work of three key actors bear much influence: the Supreme Guide Hassan El Banna, Youssef El Qaradawy and Mustapha el Seba‘i whose book Woman between Jurisprudence and Law became a main textbook taught in the Brotherhood’s curricula and a key reference in many of the brothers’ writings on the subject. El Bahi el Kholy who taught the Muslim Sisters in the 1940s wrote Islam and Women’s Contemporary Issues, which became a critical milestone in affirming the Brotherhood’s thinking on gender roles and missions, but also allowing some space for rethinking the parameters of women’s activism outside the home. The work of Sheikh Mohammed el Ghazaly has also been highly influential on Muslim Brotherhood political thought on gender matters. Abd el Halim Abou Shouka, who spent more than twenty years studying the subject and produced the phenomenally sized encyclopedia on ‘the liberation of women in the age of the message [resala]’ is one of the key thinkers, although his work has had more resonance in the study of scholarship than in the political thought influencing policy. Many other Muslim Brotherhood members such as Farid Abd el Khalek (who also gave the Muslim Sisters lectures in the 1940s) Salem el-Bahnasawy, Sheikh Mohammed el Khattib (the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mufti) and Tawfik el Wa‘i have all had their imprints on relating fiqh on women’s issues to the political vision of state and governance of the movement. The chapter concludes by reflecting on the extent to which the official stances have deviated from the political thought of its key scholars, and the extent to which the gender agenda has been reformed.