McLarney, “Soft Force: Women in Egypt’s Islamic Awakening”

This month, Princeton University Press releases “Soft Force: Women in Egypt’s Islamic Awakening” by Ellen Anne McLarney (Duke University). This publisher’s description follows:

In the decades leading up to the Arab Spring in 2011, when Hosni Mubarak’s authoritarian regime was swept from power in Egypt, Muslim women took a leading role in developing a robust Islamist presence in the country’s public sphere. Soft Force examines the writings and activism of these women—including scholars, preachers, journalists, critics, actors, and public intellectuals—who envisioned an Islamic awakening in which women’s rights and the family, equality, and emancipation were at the center.

Challenging Western conceptions of Muslim women as being oppressed by Islam, Ellen McLarney shows how women used “soft force”—a women’s jihad characterized by nonviolent protest—to oppose secular dictatorship and articulate a public sphere that was both Islamic and democratic. McLarney draws on memoirs, political essays, sermons, newspaper articles, and other writings to explore how these women imagined the home and the family as sites of the free practice of religion in a climate where Islamists were under siege by the secular state. While they seem to reinforce women’s traditional roles in a male-dominated society, these Islamist writers also reoriented Islamist politics in domains coded as feminine, putting women at the very forefront in imagining an Islamic polity.

Olsson, “Preaching Islamic Revival”

In June, I.B.Tauris will release “Preaching Islamic Revival: Amr Khaled, Mass Media and Social Change in Egypt” by Susanne Olsson (Stockholm University, Sweden). The publisher’s description follows:

Amr Khaled is an Egyptian Muslim activist and television preacher based in Egypt who encourages both social commitment and individual self-fulfilment. Chosen by Time Magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people, his prominence in the Arabic-speaking world is unparalleled. During the Mubarak era, his message seemed for the most part apolitical, but after the events of January 2011, he started using more explicitly political language. Susanne Olsson examines the differences between Amr Khaled’s pre-revolutionary and post-revolutionary messages and looking in-depth at how he deals with the concepts of Islam and modernity. By examining issues such as Amr Khaled’s use of mass media, his views on gender role and the nature of political and religious rule, Susanne Olsson offers a book which will appeal to those interested in the changes that Egypt has experienced over the last century.

Ali, “Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now”

In March, Harper Collins Publishers will release “Heretic: Why Islam Needs a
Reformation Now” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Harvard University). The publisher’s description follows:

Continuing her very personal journey Hereticfrom a deeply religious Islamic upbringing to a post at Harvard, the brilliant, charismatic and controversial New York Times and Globe and Mail #1 bestselling author of Infideland Nomad makes a powerful plea for an Islamic Reformation as the only way to end the horrors of terrorism and sectarian warfare and the repression of women and minorities.

Today, the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims can be divided into a minority of fundamentalists, a majority of observant “daily” Muslims and a few dissidents who risk their lives by questioning their own religion. But there is only one Islam and, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali argues, there is no denying that some of its key teachings—like the subordination of women and the duty to wage holy war—are incompatible with the values of a free society.

For centuries it has seemed as if Islam is immune to change. But Hirsi Ali has come to believe that a “Reformation”—a revision of Islamic doctrine aimed at reconciling the religion with modernity—is now at hand, and may even have begun. The Arab Spring may now seem like a political failure. But its challenge to traditional authority revealed a new readiness—not least by Muslim women—to think freely and to speak out.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali argues that ordinary Muslims throughout the world want change. Courageously challenging the fundamentalists, she identifies five key amendments to Islamic doctrine that must be made in order to set Muslims free from their 7th-century chains. Interweaving her own experiences, historical analogies and powerful examples from contemporary Islamic societies and cultures, Heretic is not a call to arms, but a passionate plea for peaceful change and a new era of toleration.

Boe, “Family Law in Contemporary Iran: Women’s Rights Activism and Shari’a”

Last month, I.B.Tauris released “Family Law in Contemporary Iran: Women’s Rights Activism and Shari’a” by Marianne Boe (University of Bergen). The publisher’s description follows:

Passed into law over a decade before the Revolution, the Family Protection Law quickly drew the ire of the conservative clergy and the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. In fact, it was one of the first laws to be rescinded following the revolution. The law was hardly a surprising target, however, since women’s status in Iran was then – and continues now to be – a central concern of Iranian political leaders, media commentators, and international observers alike. Taking up the issue of women’s status in a modern context, Marianne Boe offers a nuanced view of how women’s rights activists assert their rights within an Islamic context by weaving together religious and historical texts and narratives. Through her substantial fieldwork and novel analysis, Boe undermines both the traditional view of ‘Islamic Feminism’ as monolithic and clears a path to a new understanding of the role of women’s rights activists in shaping and synthesizing debates on the shari’a, women’s rights and family law. As such, this book is essential for anyone studying family law and the role of women in contemporary Iran.

Afrianty, “Women and Sharia Law in Northern Indonesia”

This March, Routledge Press will release “Women and Sharia Law in Northern Indonesia: Local Women’s NGOs and the Reform of Islamic Law in Aceh” by Dina Afrianty (Australian Catholic University).  The publisher’s description follows:

This book examines the life of women in the Indonesian province of Aceh, where Islamic law was introduced in 1999. It outlines how women have had to face the formalisation of conservative understandings of sharia law in regulations and new state institutions over the last decade or so, how they have responded to this, forming non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that have shaped local discourse on women’s rights, equality and status in Islam, and how these NGOs have strategised, demanded reform, and enabled Acehnese women to take active roles in influencing the processes of democratisation and Islamisation that are shaping the province. The book shows that although the formal introduction of Islamic law in Aceh has placed restrictions on women’s freedom, paradoxically it has not prevented them from engaging in public life. It argues that the democratisation of Indonesia, which allowed Islamisation to occur, continues to act as an important factor shaping Islamisation’s current trajectory; that the introduction of Islamic law has motivated women’s NGOs and other elements of civil society to become more involved in wider discussions about the future of sharia in Aceh; and that Indonesia’s recent decentralisation policy and growing local Islamism have enabled the emergence of different religious and local adat practices, which do not necessarily correspond to overall national trends.

Sadeghi, “The Logic of Law Making in Islam”

This September, Cambridge University Press will publish The Logic of Law Making in Islam: Women and Prayer in the Legal Tradition by Behnam Sadeghi (Stanford University). The publisher’s description follows.

This pioneering study examines the process of reasoning in Islamic law. Some of the key questions addressed here include whether sacred law operates differently from secular law, why laws change or stay the same, and how different cultural and historical settings impact the development of legal rulings. In order to explore these questions, the author examines the decisions of thirty jurists from the largest legal tradition in Islam: the Hanafi school of law. He traces their rulings on the question of women and communal prayer across a very broad period of time – from the eighth to the eighteenth century – to demonstrate how jurists interpreted the law and reconciled their decisions with the scripture and the sayings of the Prophet. The result is a fascinating overview of how Islamic law has evolved and the thinking behind individual rulings.

%d bloggers like this: