chapter  3
John Esposito and the Muslim Women
Pages 20

In 2010, the general membership of the largest North American organization devoted to the academic study of religion, the American Academy of Religion (AAR), elected John Esposito as its Vice-President, ensuring that in 2013 he will become President. In what follows, I wish to provide a critical assessment of his work in Islamic Religious Studies. I have already devoted parts of several studies to highlighting his largely apologetical program (e.g., Hughes 2007 and 2011c), so in the space afforded to me in this chapter I would like to refract this larger program through a particular focus: his treatment of Muslim women. In particular, I wish to argue that his assessment is so distortive and apologetic that it borders on the ridiculous. His distinction between Islam (= timeless and preaching a message of gender equality) and culture (= responsible for putting a temporal patriarchal veneer on the religion) is problematic, as is his selective use of quotations from Muslim “feminists,” who reify his distinction with claims that, for example, “both sexes are equal when it comes to performing their religious duties and in terms of rewards and punishments” (2007: 115).