£20.99 | $37.95

11 October 2012
ISBN: 9781780322858
360 pages
216 x 138mm
Gender and Sexuality

Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Human Rights, Middle East, Minorities and Indigenous Peoples, Politics, Sociology and Social Policy

Sexuality in Muslim Contexts

Restrictions and Resistance

Edited by Homa Hoodfar and Anissa Helie

This groundbreaking book explores resistance against the harsh policing of sexuality in some Muslim societies. Many Muslim majority countries still use religious discourse to enforce stigmatization and repression of those, especially women, who do not conform to sexual norms promoted either by the state or by non-state actors. In this context, Islam is often stigmatized in Western discourse for being intrinsically restrictive with respect to women's rights and sexuality.

Sexuality in Muslim Contexts shows that conservative Muslim discourse does not necessarily match practices of believers or of citizens and that women's empowerment is facilitated where indigenous and culturally appropriate strategies are developed. Using case studies from Pakistan, Iran, Indonesia, China, Bangladesh, Israel and India, the volume persuasively argues that Muslim religious traditions do not necessarily lead to conservative agendas but can promote emancipatory standpoints.

An intervention to the construction of 'Muslim women' as uniformly subordinate, this collection spearheads an unprecedented wake of organizing around sexualities in Muslim communities.


'The authors are to be congratulated for this excellent volume on sexualities and "Muslimness" in all its diversities. The book captures the challenges of bodily rights, religion and culture for Muslim women's lives in a wide range of nuanced studies that illustrate exactly why sexuality is key to gender equality and human rights.'
Wendy Harcourt, author of Body Politics in Development, winner of the FWSA 2010 Book Prize

'This riveting book sheds new light on women's strategies for resisting sexual repression in a variety of majority Muslim societies in Asia and the Middle East. Complicating contemporary understandings of "Muslimness" , it demonstrates that women in these societies are highly diverse in their attitudes towards and experiences of sexuality. Clear, cogent and compelling, the book will be of interest to activists and academics alike and is certain to become a key text for years to come.'
Marc Lafrance, professor of sociology, Concordia University

'This is one of the most exciting collection of essays to emerge in a long time. Too many popular writings on Islam reinforce stereotypes about Muslim women, and few discuss sexuality at all, let alone with such diversity. This collection challenges the tired stream of books that equate Islam with terrorism and women with claustrophobic veils. A must read for any serious scholar of sexuality, Islam, and women's rights.'
Chitra Raghavan, professor of psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

'This exciting collection provides an important contribution to understandings of sexualities and gender, focusing our attention on processes of negotiation, subversion and resistance and challenging assumptions about "Muslimness". With its diversely located studies and rich ethnographic insights, this fascinating book deserves to be widely read.'
Andrea Cornwall, professor of anthropology and international development, University of Sussex

'The authors of this pathbreaking book provide a new and much-needed angle to the study of sexual identities, rights, and claims in Muslim-majority societies. Going beyond the vexed "western vs authentic" dichotomy, this excellent volume should be praised for its ability to widen our understanding of how hegemonic norms of sexuality and sexual behaviour are challenged and contested by diverse actors across religious, secular and sexual orientations. A crucial book for scholars of gender, Islam, rights and sexuality.'
Ruba Salih, chair of the Centre for Gender Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Table of Contents

Introduction: Policing gender, sexuality and 'Muslimness'
Anissa Hélie

PART I: Tools of policing: the politics of history, community, law
1. The politicization of women's bodies in Indonesia: sexual scripts as charters for action
Vivienne Wee
2. Iranian women and shifting sexual ideologies, 1850-2010
Claudia Yaghoob
3. Moral panic: the criminalization of sexuality in Pakistan
Hooria Hayat Khan
4. The promise and pitfalls of women challenging Muslim family laws in India and Israel
Yüksel Sezgin
5. Sexuality and inequality: the marriage contract and Muslim legal tradition
Ziba Mir-Hosseini

PART II: Sites of contestation: reclaiming public spaces
6. Purity, sexuality and faith: Chinese women ahong and women's mosques as shelter and strength
Maria Jaschok with Shui Jingjun
7. Veiled transcripts: the private debate on public veiling in Iran
Shadi Sadr
8. Kicking back: the sports arena and sexual politics in Iran
Homa Hoodfar
9. Morality policing and the public sphere: women reclaiming their bodies and their rights
Homa Hoodfar and Ana Ghoreishian
10. 'Living sexualities': non-hetero female sexuality in urban middle-class Bangladesh
Shuchi Karim
11. Risky rights? Gender equality and sexual diversity in Muslim contexts
Anissa Hélie

About the Authors:

Anissa Hélie is assistant professor in history at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York. She is involved with various women’s organizations and transnational networks, serving as director of the Women Living Under Muslim Laws International Coordination Office from 2000 to 2005. She has held research and teaching positions at Amherst and surrounding colleges, and is a board member of the Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights and Reproductive Health Matters journal. She is co-author (with Jan Bauer) of Documenting Women’s Rights Violations by Non-State Actors: Experiences of Activists from Muslim Communities (2006).

Homa Hoodfar is a professor of anthropology at Concordia University, Montreal. She has extensively studied survival and empowerment strategies amongst those marginalized by legal constraints, particularly in the area of family law and citizenship, economic penury, and women's movements. She has also researched women in local and national politics, with a particular focus on Egypt, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and amongst Canada's Muslim communities. Her publications include: 'Health as a Context for Social and Gender Activism: Female Volunteer Health Workers in Iran' (2010); 'Women, Religion and the 'Afghan Education Movement' in Iran' (2008); Between Marriage and the Market: Intimate Politics and Survival in Cairo (2005); and The Muslim Veil in North America: Issues and Debates (2003).