Study of Islamic Women’s Movement in Post-colonial Egypt

Sent On: 
Thu, 2014-06-19
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I first came to Egypt in February. Previously, I studied political science at University of Vienna in Austria and finished my studies with a thesis paper titled ‘From Kuchuk Hanem to Neo Islam: Constructing a Collective Narrative of Second/Third Muslim Women in Neo-Orientalist Discourse’. After my studies, I was looking for a chance to do my own field research project on a similar topic and found out about a research internship opportunity at Arab West Report in Cairo.

My research paper, ‘Writing a Her-story of Egypt: An Illustration of Islamic Women’s Movement in Post-colonial Egypt’, aims to investigate a unique identity of Muslim women in a post-colonial society, where distinctive indigenous cultural aspects are devalued and stripped off by both androcentric post-colonial politics and a Western-oriented conceptualization of Muslim femininity. This paper, furthermore, stresses a new epistemological approach to tackle the extremes of modernization and fundamentalist religiosity that largely fail to recognize a female-resistant identity, which distances itself from both Euro-/androcentric and patriarchal religious discourses.

The major purpose of this paper is to describe the reality of Muslim women as social actors, whose identity and interests have been neglected in subjugative circumstances that politics of postcoloniality re-/generates. Eurocentricism of modernity that bifurcate the boundaries between private and public worlds fails to take such political atmosphere of a post-colonial society into account, where women’s intersection between those two spaces distinctively differ from that of Western women. Therefore, this paper includes interviews with Muslim women with diverse backgrounds whose voices are to represent the reality that average women of Egyptian society experience. During the course of the research, a number of women were interviewed, including activists who are involved in both secularist and Muslim organizations, including the Muslim Brotherhood.  Writing a Her-story of a post-colonial Muslim society is a manifestation of a self-asserted identity, as one of the interviewees stated:

“A (Western-oriented) framework of understanding gender-relations (parallels) miniskirts with women’s emancipation. But how does such (conceptualization) represent the interests of women in contemporary Egyptian society? Our unique identity as Egyptian women and, furthermore, as Muslim women, has regressed to the age of ignorance. Islam…Whatever the external and internal forces are willing to label us, our main goal is to write our (own) story…to secure our position in (postcolonial)…Our belief is (our) rights. Our unity is (our) power…”

For the full text of my paper read more here.


Byeongsun Ahn,

Research intern at AWR


See also: The Best way to get to Know Egypt is through Meeting Egyptians