Dossier 3

Publication Author: 
June/July 1988
number of pages: 
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It is often presumed that there exists one homogenous Muslim world. Interaction and discussions between women from different Muslim societies have shown us that while similarities exist, the notion of a uniform Muslim world is a misconception imposed upon us. We have erroneously been led to believe that the only way of "being" is the one we currently live in each of our contexts. Depriving us of even dreaming of a different reality is one of the most debilitating forms of oppression we suffer. Our different realities range from being strictly closeted, isolated and voiceless within four walls, subjected to public floggings and condemned to death for presumed adultery (which is considered a crime against the state) and forcibly given in marriage as a child, to situations where women have a far greater degree of freedom of movement and interaction, the right to work, to participate in public affairs and also exercise a far greater control over their own lives.

To this we would add that, as feminists, we recognise that the division between the public and private spheres of life plays a critical role in controlling women. In the specific case of women living under Muslim laws, this emphasis on the private and the personal becomes critical since, unlike the differences that may separate us, similarities often relate to the private and the personal domain. Women living under Muslim laws invariably lack information regarding their official, legal rights, both in terms of Muslim personal laws and/or civil codes. They remain ignorant about the differences that may exist between customary laws applied to them and Muslim laws. They also have no access to information that might enable them to challenge the validity of either type of law. Furthermore this situation is reinforced by a deliberate policy of misinformation. Given the existing monopoly and control over matters relating to Islam, interacting with other women living under Muslim laws is in itself already a means for raising consciousness.

We have also discovered that in both analysis and practice, questions relating to feminism, nationalism, internationalism and religion remain isolated one from the other and that these can constitute important stumbling blocks. The feelings, commitments and positions taken by women on these three different issues are frequently at variance and need to be explored and synthesised together. Today with heavily backed nationalist, communal and religious movements in the Muslim world accompanying a religio-community reassertion/consciousness of which women often end up the victims, we need to examine / explore these issues from a feminist perspective. Under these circumstances, we have considered a priority to collect, compile and disseminate information about our situations and our lives, but also our struggles and our strategies, as well as the varied analysis which can be made by the concerned women, or by feminists in general.

Dossiers compile varied material ranging from articles, personal accounts, press-clippings, general information, appeals, information on books and meetings - which can all help us realize that women in Muslim countries and communities, far from being spiritually destroyed, are alert, and active in many different ways, and that their analysis and actions can be an inspiration for each other.

The Dossiers are meant to present the broadest possible strands of opinion, which emerge from or exist within varied movements and initiatives, and which are engaged in efforts to defend and work for greater autonomy of women living in Muslim contexts. The Dossiers seek to inform and help share different experiences, strategies and interpretations. Therefore the information contained in the Dossiers does not necessarily represent the views, positions or a particular stance of the compilers, or of the network "Women Living under Muslim Laws, unless stated".

Under the rubric Past Conferences we have included events of interest. We would welcome reports from women's conferences and meetings anywhere. We would welcome your support in the form of documents, campaign materials, bibliographical information, letters and ideas.