Islamic Roots of Feminism in Egypt and Morocco

Journal of International Service, Vol. 20, No. 1 (Spring 2012)

13 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2012 Last revised: 22 Nov 2012

See all articles by Knut Fournier

Knut Fournier

Hong Kong Shue Yan University

Shreen Khan

American University

Date Written: December 24, 2011


This paper documents the evolution of feminist works and struggle in the dual spheres of Islam and the Middle East, focusing on Morocco and Egypt. Foundational support for women’s advancement in Islam can be traced to Islam’s inception in the 7th century AD. Conservatism, first rejected by Islam, also evolved to become an instrument of social change. In post colonial contexts, conservatism opposed the import of foreign and culturally dissonant notions of gender relations, the presence of which subverted domestic feminist constructions. This paper will explore ideological constructions of far ends of the Islamic interpretive spectrum, the puritanical Wahhabists on one end and progressive and mainstream Muslim social scientists and leaders on the other. Throughout Islam’s history, scholars and lay people have sought to deconstruct misogynous interpretations and divide cultural interpretation from the tenets of the faith. Today's debate on women’s roles and livelihood in the Middle East North Africa region take place in a globalized and decolonized context, in which the image of women results from a composite constructed narrative. These empirical definitions impact current women's rights in the region, specifically through laws on marriage and family. These laws offer both a danger and an opportunity for feminist advancement, in the context of the Arab Spring.

Suggested Citation

Fournier, Knut and Khan, Shreen, Islamic Roots of Feminism in Egypt and Morocco (December 24, 2011). Journal of International Service, Vol. 20, No. 1 (Spring 2012), Available at SSRN: or

Knut Fournier (Contact Author)

Hong Kong Shue Yan University ( email )

10 Wai Tsui Crescent
Braemar Hill Road
Hong Kong
Hong Kong

Shreen Khan

American University ( email )

4400 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

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