Editorial introduction: Islam, culture and women
The opening up of religious discourses and a new public presence of religion has forced cultural analyses and studies to take a fresh look at the ways in which religion enters social and cultural life. Especially after 9/11, there has been a political resurgence of religion and the presence of religion in the public space is strongly felt. While most discussions of Islam have concentrated on the political sphere, especially with the two wars that have plagued parts of the Asian continent during the last decade, the papers in this issue concentrate on the way that Islam impacts on the everyday aspects of lives of people who reside in what can be designated as Muslim societies, or in communities where Islam plays a big part.
The issue has sprung out of a special panel in the IACS 2009 Tokyo Conference. The panel, entitled 'Women Negotiating Islam' had looked at how women in different locations cope with the ways that religion, either as politics, or as culture, enters their lives. In some cases, Islam is lived as policy, such as in the case of law and legal measures, at others it becomes a part of the state, as when an Islamic party forms the government, at still others, it is part of a political discourse, as Islam-based parties seek to recruit women. While these negotiations take on a more public face, there are other arenas where the religion makes itself felt in more indirect ways. This is the arena which we have identified as the cultural, and women have had to negotiate, for example, with the strict codes that a more ‘fundamentalist’ approach to Islam makes on women’s cultural activities. However the cultural presence of Islam has made inroads more insidiously through popular culture such as music, television and art. These are some of the issues that this issue takes on board and hopes that the readers will open the forum for a more diverse ways of looking at the way that global politics influences and transforms everyday events, shapes our thinking, and the way that we perhaps negotiate and transform our own spaces.
Firdous Azim is a Professor of English and Chairperson of the Department of English and Humanities at BRAC University in Bangladesh. She is a member of Naripokkho, a woman’s activist organization based in Bangladesh. She is a member of the editorial collective of IACS.