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Explaining Support for Muslim Feminism in the Arab Middle East and North Africa

Journal article
Authors S. Glas
Amy C Alexander
Published in Gender & Society
Volume 34
Issue 3
ISSN 0891-2432
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Political Science
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1177/0891243220915494
Subject categories Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Abstract

Public debates depict Arabs as opposed to gender equality because of Islam. However, there may be substantial numbers of Arab Muslims who do support feminist issues and who do so while being highly attached to Islam. This study explains why certain Arabs support feminism while remaining strongly religious ("Muslim feminists"). We propose that some Arab citizens are more likely to subvert patriarchal norms, especially in societies that construct Islam and feminism as more compatible. Empirically, we apply three-level multinomial analyses to 51 Arab Barometer and World Values Surveys, which include 57,000 Arab Muslims. Our results show that one in four Arab Muslims supports Muslim feminism-far more than those who support a more secularist version of feminism. Employed women, single people, people who distrust institutions, and more highly educated people support Muslim feminism more than do others-especially in societies that construct feminism and Islam as less contradictory, such as those with strong feminist movements. The presumption that Islam and feminism are necessarily opposed may hinder feminism. A more effective way to boost gender equality in the Arab region may be to embolden emancipatory religious interpretations.

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