Taking the observation that the widespread return of religion in 'secular' modernity gives evidence to its growing role in society and politics, this study examines ways in which Islamic values are created, reformulated and fed into new perceptions. Aided by the proliferation of mass media in the modern world, and situated outside the control of state authorities, the new satellite television, contributes in creating a 'new Muslim public sphere' that is expanding in numbers as well as diversity of opinions. Many studies have been engaged in examining this 'new Muslim public sphere' in Egypt, and its connotations, however, the gender dimension was given minor recognition. Accordingly I aim at, particularly, providing a gendered perspective in relation to relevant theories of the public sphere as well as their feminist critiques. I focus on young Egyptian women audience in relation to this 'new Egyptian Muslim public sphere' through their use of media in their everyday life, and how does the accessibility to these new forms of media facilitate the formation of counter-public spheres in which those women voice their concerns and articulate their experiences.
The Secular Muslim Feminist: An Alternative Voice in the War of Ideas
Around the world, secular Muslim feminists are involved in challenging religious fundamentalism and contesting gender inequalities within their societies. These thinkers and activists often find themselves caught between discourses and narratives that constantly limit their choices. They experience abuse, harassment and sometimes death threats by Islamists who see them as a danger to the societies they would like to create. While the Far Right and neo-Orientalists continue to place them as the ‘other’, sections of the left see them as Islamophobes. And feminists accuse them of portraying all Muslim women as victims. Drawing on my 15 years of feminist activism, observations and conversations with founders and leaders of various organisations in the Europe and the Middle East, the book provides a comprehensive analysis of the works, writings and public speeches of Secular Muslim feminists. Based on this data, the book argues that the binary conceptions of Muslim women as either ‘victimised and powerless’, or as ‘empowered, militant and dignified’, are both inadequate and outdated. Secular Muslim feminists share a common vision that asserts women’s rights in the face of religion, culture, traditions and norms. They do not oppose religion per se, but rather emphasise the crucial role of secular spaces in ensuring equality for people of all religions and of none. Understanding the intricacy of such voices does not only hold an alternative to binary narratives, but also allows the circulation of progressive visions and opens new possibilities within the current war of ideas and toward the improvement of Muslim women’s rights, perhaps a new path for the Islam of tomorrow.