Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

2 - The Rise of Progressive Female Ulama amidst the Islamist Surge in Indonesia

Thursday, March 22
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Location: Wilson B, Mezzanine Level

This paper focuses on the Indonesian progressive female ulama (Muslim scholars) and their agenda amidst the surge of Islamist movements in Indonesia. From a Eurocentric standpoint, dynamics of gender and Islam are often seen as the major fault line between Western and Islamic civilisations. This approach has been challenged based on the presence of women in the public sphere of various Muslim countries and the vibrancy of Muslim women’s movements advocating gender equality. An adequate contextualization of these efforts requires an understanding of how they were impacted by the rise of political Islam with its particular understanding of gender in Islam. One such example is the struggle of progressive female ulama in Indonesia whose voices are often neglected within discussion of Islamic feminism in the Muslim world. This paper analyses the way these progressive female ulama strive to legitimise their understanding of gender equality in Islam. This paper argues that Indonesian progressive female ulama and their women’s movements have faced weighty challenges brought by the rise of Islamist movements which aim to reinvigoratee patriarchal understandings of Islam. Considering that this challenge cannot be overcome without the use of similar religious rhetoric, the reinterpretation of Islamic texts has been the main agenda of progressive female ulama. In addition, these progressive female ulama believe that the agenda of Islamists cannot be faced individually. Therefore, building a strong network of like-minded scholars, activists and stake holders, both locally and internationally, has been their main strategy for promoting their understanding of egalitarian Islam.

Eva Nisa

Victoria University of Wellington, Not Applicable, New Zealand


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2 - The Rise of Progressive Female Ulama amidst the Islamist Surge in Indonesia

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