Throughout the world, and especially in South Asia, myriad constituencies are grappling with rethinking and renegotiating the contours of society, particularly women’s place in the larger social order. This is raising profound questions regarding women’s social roles and rights eliciting disparate, conflicting images concerning what constitutes women’s rights, who is to define these rights, where responsibility lies for ensuring rights, and the role states should play in articulating and clarifying what is acceptable and unacceptable within local contexts.
This book analyzes various efforts in Pakistan to conduct ijtihad—interpretation—as different groups reinterpret women’s rights, seeking to reconcile the exigencies of modernity, local and global pressures to ensure women’s rights with prevailing Islamic and cultural views, and feminist analyses of power and control of women and their rights. It begins with an overview of the Government of Pakistan’s construction of an understanding of what constitutes women’s rights, elaborates on traditional views and contrasts these with contemporary popular opinion. It then focuses on three very different groups’ perceptions of women’s rights: progressive women’s organizations as represented by the Aurat Foundation and Shirkat Gah; orthodox Islamist views as represented by the Jama’at-i-Islami, the MMA government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (2002-2008), and al-Huda; and the Swat Taliban.
Author Anita Weiss argues that the resultant “culture wars” are visibly ripping the country apart as groups talk past one another, each confident that it is the proprietor of culture and interpreter of religion, while others are misinterpreting both.
This book will be an essential resource to scholars interested in the discourse on Islam and women’s rights, gender studies and development studies as well as to how different groups come to understand women's rights while grappling with the forces of modernity.
1. Introduction: Women’s Rights and Islamic
Concerns with Ijtihad over those Rights
2. Legal Reforms and State Policies Affecting
3. Mainstream and Popular Perceptions of Women’s
Rights in Pakistan
4. Progressive Women’s NGOs’ Interpretations
of Women’s Rights
5. Orthodox Islamist Interpretations of Women’s Rights
6. The Tehrik-e-Taliban in Swat
7. Moving Onwards
Anita M. Weiss is Professor and Head of the Department of International Studies at the University of Oregon, USA.