Dossier 19: Contemporary Islamisms and Feminisms in Egypt

Publication Author: 
Azza M. Karam
February 1998
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Islamisms, or diverse representations of political Islam, have become very difficult to ignore and even more difficult to categorize and explain satisfactorily. This is particularly the case when addressing a western audience, which is unfamiliar not only with the multifaceted aspects of Islam, but also with the crucial role Islamic faith plays, in the everyday lives of Muslim people.

Willy Claes, the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), gave Western misperceptions and misrepresentations of Islam and Islamisms a new twist. He did this by proclaiming, on March 1995, that Islamic fundamentalism is the greatest threat facing the Western world after the collapse of communism. In a time when war is literally at Europe's door, when the rising tide of neo-Nazism and racism are being increasingly felt throughout, and with drug and crime mafia being voted into government, Willy Claes’ statement seems oddly out of tune with global events. Not only that however, but such proclamations fall right into the hands of extremist Islamist tendencies whose main raison d'etre revolves around "fighting Western determination to destroy Islam and Islamic culture"—a favourite slogan. In effect however, Islamisms differ little from other kinds of religious fundamentalisms —particularly when it comes to their gender perspectives. Islamism is perceived by some women as restrictive, and by others as empowering.

In Egypt, which witnessed the creation of the first Islamist movement in the 20th century, political Islam has become a major contender for power on the political arena. As such, it raises interesting questions as to the reactions political Islam has evoked from feminists, who themselves boast a legacy of 20th century activism. This article attempts to illustrate that in facing the hegemony of Islamist discourses, feminists have had to develop diverse strategies of both incorporation and exclusion. However, feminists have become so embroiled in the formulation of individual defensive means, that they have lost touch with any collective ends, or goals. Effectively therefore, polarization, individualization, in fighting, and duplication of effort, characterize most secular and Muslim feminist activities. The inevitable outcome is a political and social impasse for these feminists which costs them much support and credibility. Men and women Islamists will use this impasse to vindicate the long-standing argument about the inefficiency of 'western styled' feminism in the Egyptian (also Arab and Muslim) contexts.


The term Islamism is used here in preference to that of 'fundamentalism' for a variety of purposes. First of all because the Islamist activists I interviewed in Egypt all defined themselves as such. Secondly, Islamism refers more adequately to a political agenda to Islamize society and state. And finally, but following from the previous point, fundamentalism as a term misleads, because not all those who wish to live their life according to the fundaments of their religion have a political agenda.

So what is Islamism all about actually? Islamism is a political ideology, based on some alleged "interpretations of Islam", aimed at Islamization of state and society, and capture of state power[1] Islam is characterized— as with any other religion—by a variety of interpretations, so exactly what is meant by "Islamic" may well differ from region to region, country to country, as well as from one school of thought to another, and so on. Islamism is by no means a homogeneous phenomenon, but in fact encapsulates a diversity of opinions, theories, strategies and tactics. Thus the need to speak and think in terms of Islamisms. Moreover, Islamisms are not 'a' static political tool. On the contrary, they are dynamic, creative and in many cases, a function of the differing political circumstances in which they are situated in. In other words, Islamisms which operated in the 1950s and 1960s in Egypt, are not the same as those of the 1980s, and again not like those of the 1990s, the latter being the period dealt with in this article.

Perhaps one of the best examples to highlight the increasing popularity of Islamism in Egypt is the heavy representation within professional syndicates (e.g. lawyers, doctors and pharmacists) that Islamists have achieved. What is significant is not the fact that they have reached positions of power within these syndicates—which have traditionally been the bastions of democracy in Egyptian politics—but that they have been elected into these important positions by syndicate members.

Why is political Islam becoming increasingly popular and gaining more adherents not only in Egypt, but in many parts of the Muslim world? Though a complex question, suffice it to say that Islamisms are presented as viable social, economic and political alternatives, at a time when other ideologies (such as nationalism) have failed. Liberalism and Marxism, though still valiantly advocated by a minority in the Muslim world, have, in a sense, been tried and found unremunerative. Added to the latter is a fear of, and sense of frustration with, the dominance of "foreign" western cultural values and norms. Thus the call for an indigenous and authentic system of thought, which can reaffirm battered identities and lend legitimacy and credibility, to social structures as well as governance. The advocates of Islamisms use populist language, that average to highly educated people, are used to hearing and conditioned to accept. There is little, which is tainted with westernism and/ or imperialism, in the terms used or kinds of struggles promoted.

Notable in this regard is the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) which was created by Hassan Al-Banna in 1928, and as such is the first Islamist movement of this century. The ideals and activism of the movement were espoused by many other Islamic groups all over the Arab and Muslim world. Its impact in Egypt today is deep, diverse and wide-ranging. Before the 1987 parliamentary elections, the MB entered into a political alliance with the Labour party (henceforth called the Alliance) and thus succeeded in gaining many seats in parliament. Due to its widespread popularity, and the very real danger it poses to the legitimacy and efficacy of the Mubarak government, the latter has recently started systematic persecution of its members (particularly since the U.S. State Department had secret talks with the Brotherhood in 1993).

Using the slogan of "Islam is the solution", the MB organized efficiently in order to successfully provide alternatives (to government run) social services to the poor. These services are comprehensive, affordable and diverse. They include such areas as health care, education, finance, and emergency relief (e.g. during the recent earthquake and floods). One of the logical outcomes of this is a growing popularity and social base among the ranks of the Brotherhood. By efficiently providing alternative and timely services to the poorest of the poor, these 'liberal' Islamists are actually highlighting their ability and viability as an alternative Islamic force to the existing state. As such their activism lends credibility to their discourse which in turn, becomes more popular. The end result is that their Islamist discourse becomes attractive enough to be emulated by other groups in society, which are also competing for popularity. Effectively, other competing political ideologies (including those of the state) Islamize their own discourses in order to gain legitimacy for their own ideas and programmes. In such a manner, Islamism becomes the trend setter, and dominant ideological backdrop for much political activism—both for and against it. A fact which shapes the development and impact of feminisms in Egypt.

Islamisms and Gender

The recognition of diversity becomes particularly important when analyzing the "woman question" in relation to Islamisms. There is no 'one' position on issues pertaining to women's status and rights within a given Islamic society. What one is likely to find is a frequently voiced idiom that 'Islam has given women many rights'. What is interesting to point out however, is that as far as most Islamist discourse is concerned, the comparison with western women is an integral part of their definitions of what women's roles in a "proper" Muslim society should be. In other words, the positions and status of Muslim women are juxtaposed as being better than that of their Western counterparts. This is usually described in terms of the 'religiously observant' Muslim woman as opposed to the 'loose', and 'sexually promiscuous' western woman. Arguing against traditionalists who call for women's return to the home and non-involvement in public life, Safinaz Qazem, a prominent Islamist woman in Egypt says: Unfortunately we live in a society which has been tainted by westernism so that meanings have become mixed and unclear. So that when it is said "women going out of the homes" or "mixing of the sexes" the first thing that comes to mind about these meanings is what happens in western societies where going out and mixing leads to sin or to the beginnings of it at best.[2]

It is important to stress the diversity of opinions that exist among Islamists as to what is expected of women. This can be illustrated by presenting a number of quotes from different Islamist activists on the issue of women's work. Adel Hussein is a leading male member of the Muslim Brotherhood and is editor of the Alliance's (between the MB and the Labour Party) weekly newspaper Al-Sha`b. His is an interesting and novel opinion about women's work. In his opinion, women's work outside the home has led to many negative social consequences in society. He writes that calling for equality and women leaving the home in search of outside employment, is not a viable means towards enabling women to shake off years of oppression. As he clarifies: woman has long suffered from oppression, she has lost out culturally and been bound in the home, so that effectively all that Islam has given her in terms of rights and principles has been withdrawn from her.[3]

Hussein argues that: The value of a woman's work inside the home is absolutely equal to (if not more than) the value of the work performed by an ordinary [male or female] worker outside the home in economic and social terms. And in a society based on cash economies I do not see what prevents the local community or the state from providing a regular exchange in cash to this woman in return for the roles she performs for her family and society, it being the case that hers is a situation like that of any other worker in other spheres. (Ibid. my emphasis).

Hussein's is a position which does not encourage women's non-domestic work, but at the same time, stops short of criticizing it or deeming it unnecessary. Moreover, his explicit acknowledgement of women's oppression and his advocation for reimbursement of her domestic work, is an important element in accounting for the way he is perceived as being 'progressive' and therefore attractive to many young women Islamist members.

Islamist women active within Islamist groups would generally corroborate their male counterparts on the sanctity and importance of women's primary duties as wives and mothers. However, for many of them, their own experiences as active public persona would seem to indicate a contradiction. Not so. Islamist women contend that once women's primary obligations are fulfilled (i.e. the children are old enough to take care of themselves, and housewifely duties are manageable), women have a religious duty to become publicly active in promoting and spreading their faith, in many ways. …None of the Islamists, men or women, deny that women should retrieve the rights afforded them by Islam—such as the right to education, choice of husband, inheritance, work, consultation, and the active participation in building an upcoming Islamic society (Qazem, 1994:117).

Many of them, when directly queried, are reluctant to distinguish between women's oppression and social oppression as a whole. They uphold that what is happening to women, is part of a societal process wherein "proper" Islamic principles are absent. They see their mission as a "structural jihad [holy practical and/ or spiritual struggle], that is aimed at change towards more Islamization, which in turn, occurs through active participation in all spheres of life".[4]

This then, is not merely a call for women to stay at home. Rather, it is a "call to arms", which aims at enhancing and crediting traditional women's roles within the family (as mothers and wives). The enhancement gives women a sense of value and political purpose in these gendered roles, as well as a sense of confidence: their roles are not less than men, but equally important in different ways. For some Islamist women therefore, the perception is that of equality in compatibility.

Feminists in Response

Egyptian feminists, be they Muslim, Islamist or secular are kept busy reacting to Islamist influences, among other things, on laws and public debates. For example, disputes regarding Egyptian Family Laws arouse a great deal of controversy, between Islamist-oriented lawyers and secular feminists. The impression one gets from the different feminists, is that of either trying to protect the rights already gained by the women's movement, or trying to consolidate certain Islamist viewpoints regarding women's roles. Peaks of Islamist activism are followed by frantic counter organization on the part of secular feminists.

To describe Egyptian feminisms as reactive is very important in understanding not only their current dynamics, but also their historical evolvement. This is because the first buds of Egyptian feminism, like many other long standing feminist movements in the 'third world', developed in tandem with nationalist and/ or revolutionary aspirations. As such it was initially expressed through them—instead of being independent of these objectives. But first let me outline how I arrive at my somewhat controversial definitions of feminist activism in Egypt.[5]

I take as my point of departure the fact that there are different forms of feminism and different expressions for the activism it advocates, which corresponds to the type of oppression women perceive in different parts of the world. Thus, there are different feminisms, which have different starting points, and understandings (i. e. of the reasons behind women's oppression). One therefore, tends to agree with a post-modern conceptualization of feminism, which advocates a theoretical outlook that "is attuned to the cultural specificity of different societies and periods and to that of different groups within societies and periods" [emphasis added].[6] Other important features of such post-modern feminist theorising are—its heterogeneity, non-essentialism, non-universalism, pragmatism, and even, its fallibility. But most importantly, in its forswearing of a single feminist epistemology, it creates space for contemporary feminist political practice, which would have been regarded previously as unorthodox.

Feminism here, is understood and defined as—an individual or collective awareness, that women have been and continue to be oppressed, because of their gender, and attempts towards liberation from this oppression and developing a more equitable society with improved relations between women and men.[7] Given such a broad definition, I realized that some Islamist women activists—though by no means all—are in fact 'feminists' of a sort, in this case, Islamist feminists. These Islamist feminists are indeed aware of a particular oppression of women and they actively seek to rectify this oppression by recourse to Islamic principles.

As far as Islamist feminists are concerned, women are oppressed by two factors. The first can be represented in the words of one of them, as by: retarded elements who call in the name of religion but are in fact advocating ignorant traditions forbidden by Islam, these same traditions which are still unable to rid themselves of the mentality of burning females alive. (Qazem, 1994: 118).

This was reiterated by A.B. (who did not wish to be identified as she is underground), when she said: Though God has given each sex its strengths—women that of childbearing and men that of financial responsibilities—some people misunderstand. They think that women are weaker and urge that they be treated as property instead of, as Islam calls, equal human beings. They treat women with little respect, so many women are suffering because of this foolishness.

The second factor causing women's oppression, Islamist feminists uphold, is precisely because they try to be 'equal' to men and are therefore, being put in unnatural settings which denigrate them and take away their integrity and dignity as women. For example, women are "forced" to go out and compete in the labour market—a task—which means that women may come into contact with sexually repressed men (as in public transport) in a humiliating and "unsuitable" way.

For Islamist feminists, the demands of a "western" and “culturally inauthentic" ideology, that is made at the expense of Islamic teachings, plays a major part in the oppression of women. As far as many of them are concerned, "western feminism", with its emphasis on total equality of the sexes, only results in women striving to be "superhuman" and in the process, losing much of their effort while carrying more burdens. In relation to family obligations for example, Heba Ra'uf said "It is unrealistic for women to expect fathers to be mothers to their children", she continues: women have a natural inclination for motherhood. That does not mean that mothers should be expected to fill the role of fathers either. Children need what both parents can provide, precisely because both father and mother are crucial in the upbringing. Both men and women have obligations in this regard. Women's oppression will be overcome once women cease to compete with men, since the 'natural order' of things lies in compatibility and not in competition.[8] Nevertheless, Islamist women themselves will shy away from the term feminists, if not vehemently criticize it outright, as an "irrelevant western term".

Here, it is important to distinguish between Islamist feminists and another stream, who identify themselves as Muslim feminists. The latter also use Islamic sources, like the Qur'an and the Sunna and Hadith (the Prophet Mohammed's actions and sayings)—only their aim is to show, that the discourse of equality between men and women is valid, in accordance with the teachings of Islam. Muslim feminists, are trying to steer a middle course, between interpretations of socio-political and cultural realities according to Islam, and Human Rights discourse. Many of them will be proud to be seen as feminists, or at least have no problems with the term, in so far as it describes their main aims.

As far as Muslim feminists are concerned, a feminism that does not justify itself within Islam, is bound to be rejected by the rest of society, and is therefore, self-defeating. Moreover, Muslim feminists feel that to attempt to separate Islamic discourses from other secular discourses (whether they are accused of being 'western' or not), can only lead to serious fragmentation within the society, and is thus, unrealistic as an option. Such a separation, many argue, succeeds in preventing a process of mutual enlightenment, between the two discourses, and in fact, risks making the Islamic one more alienating and patriarchal, and the sole domain of the Islamists. Prominent writers who advocate this stance include Fatima Mernissi (from Morocco), Riffat Hassan (from Pakistan), and Azizah Al-Hibri (Arab-American).

Muslim feminists look upon the issue of the veil for example, as one that should be based on a woman's choice and conviction. Islamist feminists on the other hand, take the veil as an indisputable religious obligation, and, even more importantly, a symbol of the depth of religious conviction and solidarity with other Muslim, if not Islamist, women. For the Islamist women, the veil is a must and without it, in their eyes, women have not made that essential commitment to a particular ideal of authenticity of identity. In short, there are no unveiled Islamist women. Both Islamist and Muslim feminists argue for a form of ijtihad. Ijtihad refers to independent inquiry into the sources of religion, with the aim of coming up with interpretations of religious texts that are suitable to the conditions and exigencies of modern-day life. Many Islamist feminists agree with Muslim feminists, that women are indeed capable of taking on tasks involving the interpretation of Islamic jurisprudence and providing social and political leadership (previously thought to be the exclusive domains of men).

In that sense, both these sets of feminists, are arguing against the existing power of patriarchal religious formations/ hierarchies, the implications of their interpretations on gender, and both use very similar 'tools' of analysis and argumentation. That is, both sets of feminists, are extensively studying, analysing and referring to traditional Islamic texts, in order to validate and justify their arguments. However, both do not arrive at the same conclusion. Whereas Muslim feminists emphasize the importance of reinterpretation of shari'a (Islamic law) for example, Islamist feminists are more concerned with the correct application of it.

Further, though both sets of discourse 'take on' established forms of thinking, there is yet another important difference in their political position. Namely, Islamist feminists are part of a political movement that is, on the whole, interested and actively attempting to raise support for itself in its ultimate quest for the capture of legislative and executive state power. In their bid to combine the support of their organized and unorganized groupings, moderate Islamists cannot afford to lose the political, social, and economic backing of these women, who actively participate in these Islamist movements. In many respects, the Islamist movements resemble nationalist and revolutionary movements of the 1930s to 1960s, in so far as their attempts to mobilize women for their cause are concerned. But for the time being, attempts to curtail the public roles of these women by male Islamists are not in evidence.[9]

Muslim feminists on the other hand, are more likely to be marginalized. This is also the case with secular women's groups, who are a feature of the mid 1980s to today. These groups include that of Nawal El-Saadawi which proved too politically active for the government's tastes, and was consequently banned in June 1992. The role of the Egyptian state in debates between secular and Muslim feminists and Islamists is ambiguous. On the one hand, much state-controlled media space is devoted to traditional Muslim clerics who advocate women's proper place as the home. In fact, the government has on occasion gone so far as to placate Islamists over women's rights. For example, during the International Conference on Population and Development (September, 1994), the issue of female circumcision came up.

Most secular and Muslim feminist groups called for the government to legally ban the practice. Islamist tendencies however, strongly argued against any government interference, and instead started a campaign to better "explain" the "misunderstandings" surrounding the practice. The standpoints of even the 'moderate' Islamists revolved around the fact that the whole furore against female circumcision was instigated by the 'West'/ enemies of Islam, in order to tarnish its image. The government eventually caved into Islamist pressure, despite promises made to the contrary. Female Circumcision was to remain, albeit with legal specifications that it should be performed by a medical doctor, instead of by traditional local practitioners. At the same time, the official ruling party line labels all Islamists as "terrorists", and carries out a vigorous anti-terrorist campaign.

Both Muslim and secular feminists, receive little or no support whatsoever from the state. On the contrary, the state's often-ambiguous role and its lack of a definite standpoint, only complicates matters more for Islamic and secular women activists. As one secular feminist, Aida Seif Al-Dawla, said to me: The state has allowed and made available about 30,000 mosques, which Islamists can use as pulpits and gathering places. But when we [feminists] ask for one place where we can hold our meetings, it is denied us![10]

Given that many of the Muslim feminists are attempting to reconcile the discourses of Islam with Human Rights, they are facing the same accusations of "cultural inauthenticity" faced by other promoters of secular discourses. This can become a political handicap, when faced with increasingly dominant Islamist discourses, which advocate the concept of asala (authenticity) "at the expense of an appreciation of conjunctural and historical realities".[11]

Secular feminists though, in theory, claim the necessity of maintaining at least a dialogue with Islamist women, but in practice disagree totally with their points of view and their teachings. Theirs is a quest to actively work to keep any religion out of the struggle for women's rights. The attack on feminist rights can be countered only by feminist discourse and not by an Islamic one. We believe that women's rights are part and parcel of human rights and that the fight for them should be only within a secular discourse.[12]

Not surprisingly, secular feminists would not identify their Islamist counterparts as being anything, even remotely, feminist. In turn, as promoters of a secular discourse, they are not held in high esteem either by the Islamists. And any tactical, let alone strategic or ideological, arrangement/ agreement of any sorts (e.g. to agree to disagree), between them, is total anathema to all concerned. They are, to put it bluntly, political 'enemies'.


Because of the hegemony of Islamist discourses, secular and Muslim feminist discourses have become reactive instead of being creative. Even when not responding to the Islamists' arguments directly, secular and Islamic feminists have to deal with the rising conservatism in the society as a whole, as a result of the resonant Islamist pressure. In sum, feminist strategies have ranged from those that incorporate and work from within Islamist agendas, to those that run totally counter to it. The intense political drive of the whole Islamist 'movement' has succeeded in imbuing Islamist feminists with a sense of purpose, and empowerment. On the other hand, precisely the same drive has galvanized many secularist feminists into a chaotic rush to 'protect women's rights'.

Neither feminist tendencies however, have succeeded in gaining many adherents. The reasons for this are similar to a certain extent. Ironically, both secularist and Islamist feminists 'suffer' the same weakness, namely that of exclusion. For secular feminists, the emphasis is on the exclusion of those who wish to argue from within any religious framework. Such a tactic, in a primarily religious society such as Egypt, is bound to attract limited participation. The Islamists also seek to exclude those who disagree with their positing of their political Islam only as the where all and be all of aims and strategies. They therefore simultaneously appeal to some religious people but discourage many others.

As for Islamists, I see a great deal of similarity between Islamist groups of today and nationalist/ revolutionary movements of the past. Many of these movements were busy recruiting women, in the name of equality and with promises of giving them their rights after the common struggles were over. Early feminist movements in Egypt and Algeria are notable examples. These movements were also fighting against a common enemy (colonialism) with an ultimate goal of liberation in mind. Yet history is witness to the repetitive fact that once in power, these male nationalist leaders, at best ignored the pledges they had made to feminists, and at worst actively urged women back into the homes.[13] I am left wondering whether, once in power, these same Islamists who are today encouraging women to spread the Da`wa (Islamic call), would not imitate their earlier nationalist brothers and urge women back to sacred motherhood—and nothing else?

In view of this possibility and the polarization characterizing feminist groups in Egypt, it is imperative that some form of a dialogue between the different women's groups takes place. This dialogue should be based on a recognition of differences and not so much on attempting to homogenize. At the very least there needs to be an attempt made to agree to disagree on certain issues, while simultaneously searching for common interests. It is imperative that there be a realization that the means need not be the same as long as certain ends can be agreed upon.

I believe that all Egyptian feminists have the benefit and welfare of Egyptian women in mind. But petty individualistic claims to fame among feminist leaders add to the dogmatic ideological hegemony, to form massive set-backs.

It is the opinion of this author that Muslim feminists have a greater potential to appeal and move forward. This is a conviction based not only on years of researching, but also based on living and working as a Muslim feminist in a relatively conservative environment in Egypt. Because the language of Muslim feminists is a tempered but firmly religious one, they can be understood across class and political boundaries and need not be limited to the pitifully few intellectual elites. Moreover, as a strategy, it encourages an empowerment for women based on mastery of innovative Islamic discourses. The attempts to harmonize such global discourses as Islam and human rights is, in my opinion a right step in a futuristic direction.

Further, all strategies must be gradual, dynamic and accommodating of different changes. I therefore argue that Muslim feminists must work on mastering the intricacies of the different Islamic discourses, then move on to affirming their reinterpretations. All the while stressing the alternative aspects of their discourse, as opposed to any reactive ones. This is important in their quest to underline their credibility and social base, as well as their liberalizing potential, and become politically and socially significant.

Creative, agenda-setting strategies based on these precepts, and strengthened precisely by their diversity, should be the outcome of necessary feminist dialogues. Such dialogues can make the difference between remaining a lightweight minority crying in the dark, and effective campaigning.

One must keep in mind that part of the success behind Islamisms lies in their ability to band together, despite their diversity, and seem united on issues such as legitimacy of state authority, and the importance of applying shari`a. By steadfastly holding onto these aims, the Islamists succeeded in pushing for an Islamizing of major political discourses—those of the state and of the opposition. One cannot help but wonder what would happen if this impression of firm, principled, and united feminisms could be achieved and projected by feminists? If a unity of purpose and diversity of methods can be agreed upon, then the potential for effectiveness consequently increases. Perhaps what the secular and Muslim feminists should do is learn something from Islamist strategies, instead of concentrating on reacting to their ideas.

Source: This essay first appeared in Literatuuroverszicht over feminisme, cultuur, en Westenschap, September 1995, Volume 22, No. 3. pp. 10-16 and is reproduced with permission of the author.

Literatuuroverszicht over feminisme, cultuur, en Westenschap
Published by IIAV, Obiplein 4, 1094 RB Amsterdam, The Netherlands


[1] Not necessarily in that order though. The Muslim Brotherhood, for example, believe in educating the public in proper Islamic values first, and then this same public will later demand and receive power. On the other hand, another group like the Jihad, employs different tactics which necessitate gaining power through any means (i.e. armed struggle if necessary), and then imposing Islam on the masses.

[2] Safinaz Qazem, "Muslim Woman and the Challenges" in Zahrat Al-Khaleej, 4 December 1993, p. 131. All Qazem's quotes are taken from the same magazine, but different issues.

[3] Adel Hussein (1993) [In Arabic] "The Arab Woman: A Futuristic Outlook". In Manbar Al-Sharq, (No. 5, January) p. 27.

[4] 4. Interview with Islamist activist, May 1993 and November 1994.

[5] Here, I am using Margot Badran's definition as outlined in "Competing Agenda: Feminism, Islam and the State in 20th Century Egypt", in Deniz Kandiyoti (ed.) Women, Islam and the State (London: Macmillan), pp. 201-236.

[6] Fraser, Nancy and Linda Nicholson, (1990) "Social Criticism without Philosophy: An Encounter Between Feminism and Postmodernism". In Linda Nicholson (ed.) Feminism/ Postmodernism. New York and London: Routledge, (p. 34).

[7] 7. Personal interview with A. B. June 1993.

[8] Personal interview with Heba Ra'uf, June 1993. Original emphasis.

[9] And in any case, why should these roles be curtailed when many of them have to do with traditional charitable activities (e.g. organizing Islamic literacy classes, and instruction in sewing, health care and so on)?

[10] Interview with A. Seif Al-Dawla, Cairo, June 1993.

[11] Aziz Al-Azmeh, (1993) Islams and Modernities. London: Verso, p. 72.

[12] Interview with A. Seif-Al-Dawla in Cairo, June 1993. The same message was repeated again in November 1994.

[13] See Kumari Jayawardena, Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World, London: Zed Press, 1986.