chapter  10
Treading a Dangerous Path? The Use of Islam in Women’s
ByRights Advocacy
Pages 20

The promotion of women’s rights has long been viewed as a secular enterprise, especially by Western development agencies but also by women’s organizations and activists based in the Global South. This has been partially due to the perception that all religions are inherently patriarchal and opposed to women’s rights, with Islam viewed as the prime example. Also, feminisms in many parts of the world have developed in reaction to traditional structures and sources of authority, including those related to religion. Hence, although a variety of feminisms now abound across cultural contexts, in general there is a perceived antagonism between religion and feminism. However, a variety of actors, including donor agencies, transnational development organizations, and local women’s rights activists, are increasingly using religiously-framed approaches such as religious discourses (like texts, symbols and language), and/or working through religious actors (as in religious leaders and institutions) as a means of promoting women’s rights, particularly in Muslim contexts. This trend has grown out of a combination of factors including an increasing awareness of the importance of religion and culture in development, the emergence over the past two decades of various forms of Islamic feminism around the world, as well as a sense that any social change in Muslim communities can only take place within the framework of Islam.