- Between Feminism and Islam: Human Rights and Sharia Law in Morocco by Zakia Salime, and: South Asian Feminisms ed. by Ania Loomba and Ritty A. Lukose
Between Feminism and Islam and South Asian Feminisms invite us to carefully reconsider the timeworn strategies and theoretical paradigms that have dominated studies of feminisms across multiple sites. Indeed, both of these texts are particularly attentive to the reality that feminist movements do not exist in vacuums, but are embedded within global networks of capital, information, and rights.
Zakia Salime's Between Feminism and Islam: Human Rights and Sharia Law in Morocco makes a particularly valuable intervention in the study of social movements, especially "collective mobilization[s] against feminist activism" (xv). Salime suggests that such mobilizations have typically been studied through a predominantly oppositional framework, be it a movement versus a countermovement or feminist versus antifeminist action. She adds that this oppositional framework has been used in work on the Middle East where the categories of feminism and fundamentalism have become a careless shorthand with which to understand "women's mobilization at the encounter of feminism and political Islam in the Middle East" (ibid.). In this book, Salime positions the work of feminist groups in Morocco in relation to the activism of self-identified Islamist women there. Rather than engaging in a purely comparative study, the book makes visible the dynamic possibilities that emerge from examining how these political communities interact with and respond to one another, as well as influence Moroccan state policy. The book hinges upon what Salime identifies as three key "movement moments": the first is the One Million Signature Campaign led by feminist groups in 1992; the second is the Islamist rally that took place in 2000; and the final one being the Casablanca bombings of 2003. [End Page 211] The signature campaign aimed to collect a sufficient number of signatures to indicate the need for and support to reform the Islamic code that governed familial life in Morocco. The Islamist rally that would take place eight years after this signature campaign was a response to the governmental proposal to reform this very code. Finally, the Casablanca bombings become especially important in understanding how both feminist and Islamist groups would position themselves as useful allies to the Moroccan government in combating terrorism in the region. Organizing the book in terms of these movement moments enables her to situate the mobilization of these different women's groups within a broad set of crisscrossing historical and political forces. Furthermore, a movement moment proves to be sufficiently capacious and malleable, such that it allows Salime to finely parse the "tensions, contradictions, and negotiations" that occur among a complicated cast of political actors (xvii).
In the opening chapter, Salime introduces readers to the Moroccan political terrain, and to the chief agents in this landscape. These include the 'ulama, or religious scholars, the Moroccan monarchy, the state, and women's groups, as well as Islamists. She begins by drawing the reader's attention to the political and cultural energy surrounding the potential reform of the mudawwana. Salime defines mudawwana as the "code regulating men's and women's relationship within the family, giving men the upper hand in marriage, divorce, and child custody, among other matters, and justifying these inequalities through highly patriarchal interpretations of the Islamic sharia, or legal code" (xi). The author reminds us that the mudawwana is additionally fraught, since it is the very space where the foundations of national identity were laid post-independence (3). Here, the author uses this particular moment, and the conflicting discourses surrounding it, to expand the meaning of gender so that we can see it as both a site of struggle, as well as an indicator of shifting power dynamics (2). She suggests that the mudawwana sets into relief how power tessellates amid myriad political players in Morocco...