For many feminists the hijab is a glaring symbol of male oppression and the patriarchal power of religion. But now there is a small but growing number of Muslim women looking to take their places in Britain’s rapidly expanding women’s movement.
A new project to connect Islam to feminism has been launched to tackle long-standing concerns that religious Muslim women are excluded from the women’s rights debate.
In what is a deeply controversial area for many in Islamic communities and for many mainstream feminists, the linkup between a Muslim charity and the project is seen as a pioneering step to bring women from different cultural backgrounds together in the battle for sexual equality.
The social enterprise Maslaha, established by the Young Foundation to work on improving social conditions in Muslim and minority communities, said the programme had attracted a huge response in the past few days.
“An awful lot of Muslim women have felt excluded from the debate about women’s rights and this project really focuses on bringing ordinary women into a debate about Islamic feminism that has so far only really been heard in academic circles,” said Latifa Akay of Maslaha.
She said the online resource islamandfeminism.org was bringing out some extraordinary responses from British Muslims who reported feeling previously isolated.
“This is really taking off. Islamic feminism is not a new thing, which will probably surprise most people, but Muslim women have the same core concerns as white, secular, British women: the workplace, discrimination, childcare.