Women’s Affiliation in the Jamaat-e-Islami: Empowerment, Political Power

By Laura Randall.

Published by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In the modern age, Islamist movements have repeatedly addressed the topic of women’s involvement and inclusion in their organizations. Scholars, politicians, and media sources alike often function under the assumption that women’s participation in the Islamist project is forced or oppressive. While male leadership of Islamist groups frequently dictates its members’ involvement, this article examines instances of and reasons for women’s self-identification with Islamist movements, focusing on the Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan and Bangladesh. This article attempts to answer two questions: First, how do Islamist women locate empowerment in the movement? Second, are empowerment and political power related so as to insert women within the structural hierarchy of the political movement? By examining the social and educational options available to Jamaat-e-Islami women, the commonalities and complexities of women’s affiliation with Islamism become apparent. Islamist women’s identity negotiates structures of the nation-state, the Jamaat-e-Islami, and the family while seeking empowerment and/or political power. Amongst these negotiated spaces, empowered women find their access to political power embedded within the systems of South Asian heteropatriarchy or devalued in the organizational hierarchy of the Jamaat. Examining social and educational empowerment alongside access to political power, this paper identifies the limits of women’s involvement and empowerment in Islamist movements, particularly the Jamaat-e-Islami. This paper is an interdisciplinary work of research salient to studies in political Islam, women and gender studies, South Asian studies, and religious studies.

Keywords: Women in Islam, Jamaat-e-Islami, Islamism in South Asia

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp.107-117. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 395.373KB).

Laura Randall

Graduate Student, Department of Comparative Religion, Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

Laura Randall is a graduate student at the University of Washington’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, department of Comparative Religion. She is also affiliated with the Graduate Certificate Program in the department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. She holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Elon University in Elon, North Carolina.