|University of the Witwatersrand
|islam feminism south africa
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This dissertation is an investigation of the rise of Islamic Feminisms in South Africa. I argue that: 1. with its roots in developments within the Muslim community in the 1980s, Islamic Feminisms in South Africa flourished from 1990 to 1998. 2. the emergence of Islamic feminisms in South Africa was based on particular readings of Islamic scripture. The process of rereading these scriptures was assisted by a developing international trend towards the reinterpretation of Islamic scriptures from a contextual perspective and specifically the reinterpretation of the Qur’ān and Sunnāh from a feminist perspective. 3. the development of political Islam in South Africa in the 1980s and its interaction with the national liberation struggle was an important factor in the rise of Islamic feminisms. I will narrate and analyse this history in terms of the development of several key organisations and moments: the Muslim Youth Movement of South Africa and its Gender Desk, the Call of Islam, women’s attempts to claim space in the mosques, Muslim Personal Law, Muslim media, the matter of Radio Islam and the funeral of feminist Shamima Shaikh. It is within this history and its broader context of struggle in South Africa that I propose two types of Islamic feminist thought having emerged: activist feminist thought and academic feminist thought. I will analyse these two tendencies and show how the comparative rise of the latter affected the manifestations of Islamic feminisms in the late 1990s. The high point of Islamic feminisms in South Africa, I show, was in 1997-1998. I argue that the lull in feminist activity from 1998 to 2000 was caused by several reasons, one of which was the increased academicisation of Islamic feminisms in South Africa. Finally, I lay out and discuss some of the challenges facing Islamic feminists in South Africa for the future. These challenges, if met and addressed, I argue, could result in the re-emergence of Islamic feminisms in South Africa. I thus propose ways in which the Islamic feminist agenda in South Africa can be revived and strengthened.