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Abstract of Professor Haleh Afshar’s Lecture on ‘Islams & Feminisms’

1st November 2007

This talk argues that Islam provides a framework that enables its adherents to open pathways towards feminism. If we define feminism in terms of offering women choices and giving their choices respect, then we would be able to see that in their long struggle for liberation Iranian women have remained true to both their faith and the ideals of feminists. The most important pathway to this success has been greater access to education and the right that women have exercised of learning about their faith and what it offers them.


Women who chose to fight for their rights in the context of Islam and its teaching are breaking new paths that had been barred to them for over a millennium. The process has been slow and hard and different in different countries. Throughout, the most effective strategy has been to insist that Islam does not recognise intermediaries between God and the believers, and each Muslim has the right to discover her/his faith and engage with it through the very words of God as recorded in the Qur’aninfo-icon. This immediacy enables women to construct a dialogue and initiate a process of interpretation and development, which places Islam in the framework of what could be called a feminist discourse.


The talk explores some of the methods used to begin this process, and considers its development in Iran – while asking whether it is possible to think of this as part of a myriad of Islams.