Islamophobia and Arab and Muslim Women's Activism

Tara Povey


The aim of this article is to compare women’s activism in Diaspora communities in Muslim majority countries, such as Iran, with some of the experiences of women activists in Western counties such as Australia. This is by no means a definitive account of Arab and Muslim women’s activism in either country but an attempt to raise some questions and provide a framework in order to understand some of the issues facing Arab and Muslim activists today. I believe that it is important to look at these issues in a way that is contextualized in terms of the material circumstances in which women living in Diaspora communities find themselves. In doing so, I hope to reveal the complexity and dynamism of women’s activism and to take on critically, Orientalist, essentialist and racist arguments regarding the nature of Arab and Muslim women’s role in opposing war and neo-liberalism and in the struggle for gender equality. As Edward Said argues, exile forces us to “see things not simply as they are, but as they have come to be that way. Look at situations as contingent, not as inevitable, look at them as a series of historical choices made by men and women, facts of society made by human beings not as natural or God-given, therefore unchangeable, permanent, irreversible.”

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