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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Gender Distribution amongst Progressive Muslim Activists

MA Gender Studies (Research)
Research Proposal
Gender Distribution amongst Progressive Muslim Activists

Yunus Yakoub Islam
April 2004


Research Question and Focus
"Critically analyse the gender distribution of progressive Muslims in the UK
and USA (and Canada)."

"[T]here can be no progressive interpretation of Islam without gender
justice" (Safi, 2004, p.10). This affirmation introduces a collection of
essays by a group of Muslim academics and activists from the USA, Canada,
South Africa and Malaysia who define themselves as 'progressive Muslims'.
This research will attempt to quantify gender distributions amongst selected
groups of progressive Muslim activists in the UK, USA and possibly Canada,
with the analysis comparing gender to other pertinent social factors,
including sexuality, ethnicity, religious identity and family history.

The hypothesis is that there is a relationship between gender distribution
of progressive Muslims and distributions of ethnicity and progressive Muslim
identity in the USA, Canada and the UK; and that these relationships can be
understood in terms of the unique migrant histories of the different Muslim
women populations.

Background
I am a British-born suburban male graduate professional. Since 1990, I have
also been a Muslim. In the ensuing years, much of my life has been defined
by attempts to come to terms with these two facets of my identity. The
issues of gender identity and gender justice have been crucial to the
ensuing processes of reflection, renegotiation and reconciliation. I have
explored these issues through engaging with Muslim texts and communities and
through personal reflection.

Some Muslim texts have offended my own deeply felt beliefs about gender
Justice. However, the issue of gender justice is fundamental to the
progressive Muslim outlook (Safi, 2004), and it is through engaging with
progressive Muslim discourse that I have been able to best reconcile my dual
identities. However, I have not been able to realise my reconciling identity
at the community level, due to problems locating a coherent network of
progressive Muslims within the British Muslim community.

The muted nature of the progressive Muslim voice in the UK became evident to
me during preliminary investigations into a recent progressive Muslim
publication by Safi (2004), the product of an extended dialogue between
progressive Muslim academics and activists in the USA, Canada, South Africa
and Malaysia. As part of these investigations, I approached the authors of
the 16 essays included within the aforementioned publication, to inquire
whether they were in dialogue with progressive Muslims in the UK. At the
time of writing, all responses confess to ignorance of any comparable voices
within the UK.

In the USA, progressive Muslims are now building networks outside of the
mosque, the traditional meeting places of Muslim communities. Anecdotal
evidence suggests women outnumber men in most meetings. Britain's
'progressive' Muslims meet informally and within 'Bazms', and many are
associated with Tolu-e-Islam, an international organisation founded by the
late South Asian Muslim reformer Ghulam Parwez.

This research aims to collect data on the gender of Muslims attending
'meet-ups' in North America, and from within the progressive Muslim networks
in the UK. However, this data is only the starting point of a much more
involved fieldwork approach, which will include attending the US conference,
Bazms in the UK, and also participating in online progressive Muslim
discussion groups.

My hope is to tell the story of these movements from the perspective of a
progressive Muslim gender studies practitioner.

Research Methods
1. A multidisciplinary approach, drawing on methods from religious/gender
studies. Methods will be informed by post-structuralist theories of
knowledge, which emphasize investigating the production of knowledge in
history and within a shared cultural context (Smith, 1998).
2. The use of a website running high-quality forum software, with the aim of
facilitating a discursive network of progressive Muslims within the UK.

Timetable
Year 1
(a) Exploring progressive Islamic gender discourse;
(b) Survey and participant observation with progressive Muslims in
USA/Canada;
(c) Coding of fieldwork data.
Year 2
(a) Survey and participant observation with progressive Muslims in the UK;
(b) Coding of fieldwork data;
(c) Complete dissertation.


Short Bibliography
Ahmed, L. (1992) 'Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern
Debate' (New Haven: Yale University Press)
Badawi, J. A. (1995) 'Gender Equity in Islam: Basic Principles' (Indiana:
American Trust Publications)
Barbara C. Aswad, B. C. and Bilge, B. (Eds) (1996) F'amily and Gender among
American Muslims: Issues Facing Middle Eastern Immigrants and Their
Descendants' (Philadelphia: Temple University Press)
Benn, T. and Jawad, H. (2003) 'Muslim Women in the United Kingdom and
Beyond: Experiences and Images' (Bath: Brill)
Bunt, G (2000) 'Virtually Islamic: computer-mediated communication and
cyber-Islamic environments' (Cardiff: University of Wales Press)
Castle, S. and Miller, M. (2003) 'The Age of Migration: International
Population Movements in the Modern World' (London: Palgrave Macmillan)
Connell, R. W (1987) 'Gender and Power: Society, the Person and Sexual
Politics' (Cambridge: Polity)
El Fadl, K. A. (2001) 'Speaking in God's Name: Islamic Law, Authority and
Women' (Oxford: One World)
Esack. F. (1997) 'Qur'an, Liberation and Pluralism: An Islamic Perspective
of Interreligious Solidarity against Oppression' (Oxford; One World)
Geaves, R. (1996) 'Sectarian Influences within Islam in Britain: With
Reference to the Concepts of 'Ummah' and 'Community' '(Leeds: University of
Leeds)
Geaves, R (2001) 'Continuum Glossary of Religious Terms' (London: Continuum
International)
Geaves, R. and Gabriel, T. (2004) 'Islam and the West: Post September 11th'
(London: Ashgate)
Haddad, Y. Y. and Esposito, J.L. (Eds) (1997) 'Islam, Gender and Social
Change' (Oxford, Oxford University Press)
Leonard, K. I. (2003) 'Muslims in the U.S: The State of Research' (New York:
Russell Sage Foundation)
Manger, L [Ed] (1999) 'Muslim Diversity: Local Islam in Global Contexts'
(NIAS Studies in Asian Topics) (London: Routledge)
Moghissi, H. (1999) 'Feminism and Islamic Fundamentalism: The Limits of
Postmodern Analysis' (London: Zed Books)
Nimer, M (2002) 'The North American Muslim Resource Guide: Muslim Community
Life in the United States and Canada' (New York: Routledge)
Parwez, G (1998) 'Quranic Permanent Values' (Glasgow: Signature
Publications)
Roald, A. (2001) 'Women in Islam: The Western Experience' (London:
Routledge)
Safi, O. (2004) 'Progressive Muslims; On Justice, Gender and Pluralism'
(Oxford: One World)
Smith, J. A. (2000) 'Islam in America' (New York: Columbia University Press)
Wadud, A. (1999) 'Qur'an and Women: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Women's
Position', 2nd Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

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