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Minerva: Quarterly Report on Women and the Military

Quarterly Report on Women and the Military: A habit of violence grown ordinary : constraints on Muslim women’s participation in war

A habit of violence grown ordinary : constraints on Muslim women’s participation in war – 1

Maria Holt

On 2 August 1990, Iraq invaded its neighbor Kuwait. For the next seven months, until Kuwait was liberated by an American-led coalition in February 1991, the Kuwaiti population was subjected to a brutal and terrifying occupation. Many Kuwaitis were killed or imprisoned; homes, schools and hospitals were expropriated, damaged or destroyed; goods were looted; and Iraqi soldiers raped an untold number of women. One witness described the rape and murder of a young girl: “There were four of them (soldiers). They each took their turn while the others looked on, waiting impatiently. I could see her bleeding. When they all finished, I saw them inserting a hot iron rod into her. Then she started bleeding profusely. I heard her screaming insufferably, and I watched her dying”. (2)

Despite the threat of death or sexual violation and the fact that many men fled the country, a significant proportion of Kuwaiti women chose to remain during the Iraqi occupation. According to one woman, she realized that merely “staying in the country is a nationalist action for anyone who feels any sense of responsibility”. (3) In the same way that Algerian, Palestinian and Lebanese women have remained in their countries during periods of conflict and occupation, the Kuwaiti women “constructed a `humanist nationalism’ that interprets staying during a war as a form of combat.” (4) Their response may be regarded either as a continuation of the tradition of involvement by Muslim women in conflict or as an inappropriate model of female behaviour.

As the 20th century drew to a close, women all over the world looked back at what they had achieved. One significant advance has been the increasing unacceptability of violence against women, whether in private or during situations of conflict. The issue is being addressed both in international human rights conventions and in national policies. Having said that, however, one is forced to acknowledge that there is still a very long way to go. Women everywhere continue to be physically abused by their partners; they are victims of sexual and other violence in war, and of violent crime in their own streets.

The threat and reality of violence is likely to create a permanent feeling of fear in women. (5) The insecurity in their lives caused by the ever-present danger of violence–from strangers and intimates–is bound to place constraints on their ability to participate in wars and national liberation struggles. Insecurity of this sort, one could argue, will be even more intense if women find themselves the victims of violence that appears to be condoned by religion. According to the Qur’an, Islam permits moderate physical punishment by men of their wives in certain circumstances. This “permission”, although its precise meaning is open to interpretation, has been used by some Muslim men to justify cruel treatment of women. Against this scenario, however, one must set the example of the “heroic” Kuwaiti women who chose to resist the brutality of occupation in spite of the threat of shame and exclusion.

In this article, I will explore Muslim women’s experiences of war, in terms of Islamic traditions and history which have provided models of appropriate female behaviour during times of conflict, and to enquire whether violence–physical, psychological or institutional–might inhibit women’s participation in the conflicts in which their societies are sometimes involved. In order to address this question, I will begin with a general discussion of violence. I will then look more closely at violence against women in Islamic societies, and explore the possibility that such violence might impair their ability to participate in national liberation and other struggles. I will conclude with a consideration of some of the ways in which religion works as empowerment or constraint, with particular reference to modern Islamist movements and the development of universal human rights codes. By looking at how Muslim women have participated in two contemporary conflict situations, in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, I hope to show, firstly, that women are not simply victims; and, secondly, some of the ways in which they are using their agency to tackle the issue of male violence. The situation is, of course, by no means unique to Islam. Violence circumscribes the lives of women in every culture and part of the world.

Men, women and violence

In general, one can argue that male violence against women “is an expression of male power and is used by men to reproduce and maintain their relative status and authority over women”, (6) and this is likely to be the case even when a society is involved in conflict. The first step is to define “violence” in the context of this article. According to the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, violence against women is “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life”. (7) Such violence, then, is “a gendered phenomenon within the context of patriarchal social relations”. (8) It has also been described as “sexual terrorism”, whereby “the perpetuation of fear of violence forms the basis of patriarchal power”. Violence against women, as Pettman notes, “appears to be a universal characteristic of patriarchy”, and this is no less true in the Islamic world.

There is a crucial linkage, suggests Steans, “between the construction of masculinity, femininity and the making of war”. (11) In war, even though they are part of national armies in some parts of the world and are certainly disproportionately victimized by warfare, women are seen as needing to be protected by being kept away from the battlefront. But they are also viewed as the legitimate “spoils of war” and “are frequently targets of sexual violence”. (12) Confusion arises between the idealization of the female and the reality of women’s subjugation. This is further compounded by men’s own complex responses to conflict; while expected to be the ones in control, they too suffer victimization and humiliation. As a result, as Steans remarks, “rape and sexual violence against women in wartime is not only a crime perpetuated by `the enemy’ … The likelihood of women being subjected to rapes and beatings from their own men increases at times of heightened aggression”. (13) Women who have been raped by enemy soldiers, observes McWilliams, “can be victimized again by the male members of the family who make it known that their sense of personal honor and dignity have been attacked”. (14) The distinction between the “protectors” and the “protected” is a significant one. It has “been challenged by feminists because it obscures the connection between war and other forms of violence”. (15)

Islam and violence against women

“Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then, if they obey you, seek not a way against them” (Qur’an IV:34).

The contention of this article is that Arab-Muslim women are constrained in their ability to participate wholeheartedly in the straggles in which their societies are involved because of their position relative to men, a position that is reinforced by religion and sometimes by the resort to violence. Muslim women are exposed to a wide array of “wars”, in which violence plays a direct or indirect role. They suffer oppression based on gender, class, religion and location. They are argued over by religious scholars seeking to disseminate the “definitive” version of Islam; by possessive husbands who want to maintain exclusive control over their lives; by governments seemingly committed to excluding women from political power; and by Islamist movements that regard “women’s liberation” as an affront to their religious beliefs. The weapons used include ideology, legislation, and the pressure of Islamic traditions. Muslim women’s predicament becomes even more urgent when the society in which they live is caught up in conflict. I am arguing here that firstly, there is systematic violence by men against women and that this is no less true in Muslim societies; and, secondly, the institutionalised climate of violence prevents women from playing a full role in the building of their societies. In short, the prevailing environment, in which women’s status has been devalued, is likely to have a negative effect on their treatment during times of war or conflict.

According to the Qur’an, men and women are equal in terms of religious obligations. Their relationship is meant to be “one of equality, mutuality, and cordiality”, (16) and in society, they have been allotted different but equally important roles. Problems arise in translating the Qur’an’s broad ideals into practice. Although women and the family are said to be “the foundation of the Islamic community, the heart of Muslim society”, the word of God has been “interpreted and applied in sociohistorical contexts by human beings. Using reason and influenced by geographic locations and customs, early jurists developed a body of laws which, while somewhat uniform in its essentials, reflected the differences of juristic reasoning and social customs of a patriarchal society”. (17)

While the Qur’an provides what appears to be an admirable blueprint for a more egalitarian society, it has encountered difficulties in changing entrenched attitudes and patterns of behaviour. It is important, therefore, when discussing women and Islam, to distinguish between three separate strands: the words of the Qur’an, the conventions and codified laws which emerged in the first few centuries of Islam, and the recent phenomenon, usually referred to as Islamic “resurgence” or “fundamentalism”. In Ahmed’s view, the crucial factor has been the interpretation of the religious texts. In the Middle East of the early Islamic empires, “with already well articulated misogynist attitudes and practices, by licensing polygamy, concubinage, and easy divorce for men, originally allowed under different circumstances in a different society, Islam lent itself to being interpreted as endorsing and giving religious sanction to a deeply negative and debased conception of women”. (18)

It is possible to identify two competing forces at work in the early seventh century CE when the Qur’an was revealed in Arabia to the Prophet Muhammad: on one side, the prevalent climate of misogyny and the determination of men to maintain their dominant position at the expense of women and, on the other, the explosive growth of Islam as a socially-enlightened force. Historical evidence, suggests Mernissi, “portrays women in the Prophet’s Medina raising their heads from slavery and violence to claim their right to join, as equal participants in the making of their Arab history”. (19) The reality is that, despite the success of the Islamic message in many areas of life, men continued to exercise control and to manipulate it in their own interests. Even today, “if women’s rights are a problem for some modern Muslim men, it is neither because of the Koran nor the Prophet nor the Islamic tradition, but simply because those fights conflict with the interests of a male elite”. (20)

Qur’anic verse IV:34 has been interpreted by some as giving a husband the right to use physical violence against his wife, if he feels she is disrespecting his authority. Obedience, it is argued, is a wife’s “primary and most important responsibility. [It] is so much part of the fabric of Islam that it is said that she will be punished on the day of judgment for the failure of such obedience. (21) However, the precise meanings of “disobedience” and “rebellion” are not made clear in the Qur’an and, therefore, interpretations of them by men, including male scholars, are likely to be subjective.

According to the medieval scholar Tabari (d. 923 CE), for example, the verse “legislates men’s authority over their women, which entails the male’s right to discipline his women in order to ensure female obedience, both toward God and also himself”. Female obedience, he says, “consists of marital fidelity, friendly behaviour toward the husband and his family, and good household management, while male authority includes the right of bodily chastisement as long as such is deserved”.

Men are advised that the way to deal with a rebellious wife is, first, to “admonish her gently but with frequent repetition. If she does not recant, her husband can initiate the second stage, which is abandonment of the bed. This is the way to break her and her haughtiness. The last stage is that of beating, gently so as to avoid the face. If the wife obeys then the husband is to be gentle”. (22) The reason for this sequence of actions is that the man must make clear at all times that he is the powerful one, he is in control. The danger is that men will stray from these relatively precise instructions in order to harm or even terrorize their wives. Another risk is that men will use their divinely ordained power to keep exclusive control over the instruments of violence, thereby marginalizing women’s ability to participate in the building of the nation.

The treatment of women at the hands of men and their diminished status in society has sometimes been enforced by violence. Violence against women in the Islamic world takes many forms, both overt and more subtle, both physical and psychological. Although, as we have seen, the Qur’an allows the physical ill treatment of wives under certain conditions, some Muslims–either as governments, organized groups or individuals–have taken upon themselves the right to employ violence as a means of controlling women. This may take place in the immediate family–for example, the beating of wives or killing of daughters or sisters who have brought “dishonor” on the family–but also manifests itself in the treatment of female strangers, and in the creation of an environment in which violence, almost exclusively in the hands of men, is seen as the sole means of conflict resolution.

For example, in the wake of the Islamic revolution in Iran, all women were forced to adopt Islamic dress; those who did not comply with this ruling or were deemed to be insufficiently covered, were punished by gangs of Revolutionary Guards on the lookout for the smallest glimpse of female “immodesty”. In the Gaza Strip, too, at the beginning of the Palestinian intifada in the late 1980s, a campaign of intimidation was waged against women by Islamist groups in order to ensure that no woman appeared in public without the Islamic hijab; unveiled women were subjected to taunts and even had stones thrown at them by religiously-motivated young men. (23) During the 1990s in Algeria, women who have refused to conform to Islamic dress codes have been murdered by zealous males–in the name of Islam. The same Islam is invoked in Afghanistan today to prevent women from working, receiving an education or even moving about in the public space. All such prohibitions and restrictions, which many argue are not Islamic, may be defined as greater or lesser forms of violence against women.

Although the constraints may be partially explained by the determination of the Islamist political project to change the existing corrupt society as quickly as possible, they also raise the question of choice. One starts to gain the impression that women have only one choice: to conform to Islamist interpretations. It could be argued, however, that playing a constructive role in one’s society depends upon participation in the public sphere and on the battlefield. If women are kept out of these two crucial arenas, there are several alternatives open to them: they can internalise the Islamist model of womanhood, they can agitate for an enhanced role for women according to international human rights agreements, or they can seek to reinterpret their religion for themselves.

Muslim women and war

By referring to Islamic history, one can get some idea of “the limitations gradually placed on Arab women’s active participation in their society, the progressive curtailment of their rights, and the simultaneous development of practices detrimental to women and attitudes indicating a decline in their status”. (24) We are told that, in the time of the Prophet Muhammad, women took an active part in the life of the community, including its battles. War “was one activity in which women of pre-Islamic and early Islamic Arabia participated fully. They were present on the battlefield principally to tend the wounded and to encourage the men, often with songs and poetry. A number of women became famous for their poems inciting warriors to fight fiercely, lamenting death or defeat, or celebrating victory. Some women also fought”. (25)

There are accounts of women’s participation in some of the battles that took place during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad. In the Battle of Uhud (623 CE), for example, “women took an active role”. (26) A witness described seeing two of the Prophet’s wives, “their garments tucked up and their anklets showing, carrying water to men on the battlefield. Other women on the Muslim side are mentioned as caring for the injured and removing the dead and wounded from the field”. (27) During the same battle, in which the Muslims fared badly and it was even feared that Muhammad himself had been killed, a woman called Nusayba “fought with sword and bow to protect the Prophet”. (28)

After the death of the Prophet in 632 CE, A’isha, his favourite wife, whom he had married when she was a child and was only 18 when he died, became a figure of some influence; she was an intelligent and thoughtful young women and, as she had enjoyed close proximity to Muhammad, was able to attest to the accuracy of some of his sayings (hadith). Succession to the Prophet took the form of a caliphate (29) but, even during the rule of the first four “rightly-guided” caliphs, dissension began to occur. This reached crisis point during the reign of the fourth caliph, Ali Ibn Abi Talib, son-in-law of the Prophet. In 656 CE, when she was 42 years old, A’isha “took to the battlefield at the head of an army that challenged the legitimacy of … Ali”. (30) This incident, which is known as the Battle of the Camel (“named after the camel on which A’isha sat while exhorting the soldiers to fight and directing the battle” (31)) was the first Islamic civil war. It resulted in the defeat of A’isha and her army, which vindicated the position of some opponents who claimed “that A’isha’s going into battle violated the seclusion imposed by Muhammad, who had ordered his wives to stay at home, women’s proper place in this new order”. (32)

A’isha’s participation in warfare, suggests Spellberg, “resulted in the creation of a problematic female public example”. (33) The question, as she says, is “[d]id A’isha break pre-Islamic or Islamic precedent by participating directly in battle?” (34) and on this topic, there seems to be no clear consensus. After her defeat at the Battle of the Camel, A’isha retired from public life and her retreat has been interpreted “as representative of the future limited role of all women in the Islamic community”. (35)

As Islam spread and became established and its survival was no longer at risk, women were increasingly restricted in their movements; they were excluded from warfare and even some of their Islamic rights and freedoms were curtailed. This treatment of women inevitably affected their ability to contribute towards the national liberation struggles of the 20th century. At the same time, the contradictory reasons given for the enforced control of women must have had the effect of creating confusion about their roles. On the one hand, there existed a belief that, if not strictly regulated, women’s sexual power would destroy the society. Muslims, suggests Haddad, “have always believed that female sexuality is potent with a predilection to create havoc and chaos in the male. Thus it is necessary to control the woman in order to preserve order and well-being in society”. (36) Once established, patterns of violence and the victimization of women are hard to break. In the words of Mernissi: “A Muslim sovereign in a crisis, facing hunger riots or a popular revolt, immediately had recourse to the traditional measures of destroying the stores of wine and placing a ban on women leaving their homes”. (37) On the other hand, there is a conviction on the part of men of women’s innate weakness and need for firm guidance.

In the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire–the last of the great Islamic empires–began to crumble and much of the Islamic world fell under the control of the colonial European powers, thus exposing women to a number of unfamiliar influences. Gradually, their opportunities for involvement increased. Women have been active in national liberation straggles and even joined in the fight for independence. For example, “accounts of the Egyptian revolution of 1919 mention the participation of women”. (38) During the Algerian war for national liberation in the 1950s and 60s, women were involved “in a variety of ways”; they worked as nurses and fighters; they planted bombs and also carried messages, money and weapons. The “Battle of Algiers could not have taken place without these women”. (39)

Muslim women have been affected, both positively and negatively, by Western feminist ideas and by resurgent Islam. In a number of Muslim countries, women have appeared in public to demand an end to what they regard as oppressive practices. In 1991, for instance, when a Western-led coalition attacked Iraq, women and men poured on to the streets in states as far apart as Morocco and Pakistan, to protest against this new form of colonial aggression against the Muslim world. More recently, in November 2000, a large demonstration of women took place in the Republic of Yemen in support of Palestinians under siege in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Women have been used to represent the symbolic dignity of the nation, as personified by the mother of the martyr and the loyal wife, but also the determination of all members of society to resist foreign interference.

However, there is a wide gulf between constructive protest against injustice and the generally destructive practices of war. Indeed, if we define war as an almost exclusively male preserve, where do women fit in? Although they have been expected to represent the ideals of the community, it would also be fair to say that, as one looks back over Muslim women’s historical involvement in warfare, one particular female role stands out: woman as victim. From the days before Islam, when women were regarded as booty in battle, to be won and used, to later conflicts when enemy women were taken as slaves or became the concubines of the men in power, there is a single underlying theme of female passivity.

Little has changed. In 1982, when the Lebanese Phalangist soldiers entered the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut, apart from the business of slaughtering the inhabitants, they also engaged in mass rape. During the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, as we have seen, accounts of rape were widespread. The conflict between Bosnian Serbs and Muslims also revealed shocking tales of the rape of small girls and the forced impregnation of Muslim women.

What we are seeing is a double-pronged female role in war: what women represent and what they actually do. Their symbolic positions are rooted in the twin notions of honor and shame. As an embodiment of the honor of the nation, women are the symbol for which men are prepared to lay down their lives. In 1948 Palestine, for instance, it has been suggested that the indigenous Arab-Muslim population preferred to flee rather than risking the honor of their women at the hands of the advancing Zionists. (40) But women also represent shame, in the sense of the sexual prize to be claimed by the victorious warrior male or the rape victim shunned by her own community. In reality, however, women do whatever they can, whether it be in the area of providing support services to male soldiers, guarding the home front, or firing the guns themselves. But the violence inherent in their symbolic roles is likely to place constraints on their actions.

Women, Islamism and empowerment

Today, a significant group of Muslim women activists and intellectuals are seeking to interpret their religion for themselves, in the process removing from it biases which privilege men at the expense of women. Some of these women scholars “contest the validity of the notion of equality of the sexes in terms of the lived experiences of women. They argue that over a hundred years of struggle for equality have only rendered Western women more helpless since equality is articulated in male terms and demands that women behave like men”. (41) Islamic feminism, as it is sometimes called, starts from the premises that, firstly, “the source of any difficulties experienced today is not Islam and its traditions, but certain alien ideological intrusions”; secondly, “any feminism which is to succeed in an Islamic environment must be one which does not work chauvinistically for women’s interest alone”; and, thirdly, it must be recognized that “Islam is an ideology: which influences much more than the ritual life of people”. (42)

It is clear that the Islamist philosophy appeals to certain women, for example to students in some university faculties and to women of the traditional classes. (43) In part, it is seen as protection against the violence of society, which can come from male strangers. It bestows respectability, in terms of dress and appropriate behaviour. But it is by no means welcomed by all women since efforts by Islamist groups to promote a “return” to a more “authentic” version of Islam often tend to involve pressures on women to practice greater modesty and to withdraw from the public sphere. Such apparent coercion raises the question of how such a view can be compatible with an Islam which originally emerged as a revolutionary movement promising greater equality and purporting to enhance the rights of women. The answers would be, variously, that one’s understanding of the Islamic message is inadequate; that attempts to equate progress for women with Western notions of women’s liberation are misguided, or ethnocentric; or that the rights and responsibilities of women “are equal to those of a man, but they are not necessarily identical with them”. (44) Nonetheless, while holding out the tantalizing prospect of empowerment to the oppressed Muslim masses, the Islamist movement exhibits a parallel and disturbing need to control the weaker members of the community, particularly women and children. This observation raises two important questions. First, why is political Islam so often associated with coercion? Second, if Islamism harms women, why do so many of them appear to support it? Are they, in the vocabulary of Western feminism, “colluding in their own oppression”?

There is another way of engaging with the effects on women of fundamentalism in Islamic societies. It is, suggests Moghissi, “a question of balance”. She believes that men have been obsessed with women’s sexuality and moral behaviour for centuries, and that this preoccupation has inevitably placed constraints on women’s ability to participate in the public sphere. The growing strength of the political Islamist movement in modern Middle Eastern states has “accentuated this preoccupation” and formalized it into law. (45)

In a number of Muslim countries, Islamic groups have taken extreme and even violent measures against women in order to “bring them into line”: acid has been thrown at them, they have been stoned, arrested, beaten up, jeered at, sexually harassed and, on occasion, killed. They have also seen their civil rights severely curtailed. “From Afghanistan to Algeria to Sudan, Pakistan and Iran … women are systematically brutalized and caught in a deadly crossfire between the secular and fundamentalist forces”. (46) The catalogue of violence against women in the name of religion leads the casual observer to wonder if men who engage in such acts are harbouring a hidden agenda. But it should also cause us to enquire how such notions are constructed.

The Islamist movement, although allegedly harking back to the early days of Islam, has in reality modern political objectives. “The view among contemporary Muslim fundamentalists”, as Zakaria points out, “suggests a duality of overt praise and flattery on the one hand and covert humiliation and degradation on the other”. This duality, he suggests, exists “in order to perpetuate the `degraded and marginalized state of women’ at the same time that they are made to look free and honorable”. (47) The contradictory impulse to which he refers is in line with the dual nature of women’s role in conflict and it illuminates the apparent paradox at the heart of the Islamist philosophy.

At least part of the argument which connects political Islam with violence against women is based on the Western demonization of Islam. By uncritically linking Islam with violence and terrorism, the genuine and very varied concerns of Muslim populations are delegitimized. To appreciate these concerns, we must separate, first of all, the generalized myth of violence from the reality of various violent acts in the name of Islam; second, practices which are Islamic from those based on tradition and misogyny; and third, Islam as a basis for law and society in the majority of Middle Eastern countries from Islamism as a political movement.

In order to make themselves heard, Islamist movements have on occasion used violence as a political weapon. Palestinian Islamists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, for example, have adopted the tactics of terror against the Israeli occupation, including attacks on civilians. This shock approach was felt necessary to signal Palestinian anger at the slow pace of the Oslo peace process. In Egypt, Islamist groups have mounted attacks against foreign tourists, with the intention of discouraging visitors to the country and thus causing a crisis for the Egyptian economy. During the 1980s, Islamists in Lebanon carried out suicide bombings against Western and Israeli targets and kidnapped foreigners, to draw attention to what they considered to be legitimate grievances.

To explain their actions, Islamist movements–and they are by no means monolithic–claim that they seek to create an alternative to the Western model, based on the guidelines set out in the Qur’an and on the original Muslim community founded by the Prophet Muhammad in seventh century Arabia. But Islamists are also interested in identity and in power. Islam makes sense, as Mernissi says, “because it speaks about power and self-empowerment”. (48) And it is in light of these concerns that we should understand their attitudes towards women. The invention of supposedly “universal” human rights codes has created in Muslim societies a sense of threat. There are easy and more difficult responses to the various intrusions. The easier way of dealing with them involves invoking male authority over women–in matters of dress, movement in the public space, and access to education and employment. A much harder question is how to organize society in a way that reflects Islamic values, enjoys legitimacy and political stability and reaps economic advantage for its population. However, such concerns tend to become secondary when violent conflict enters the picture.

Case studies

The two case studies chosen to illustrate my discussion are Palestinian women in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; and Shi’i women in Lebanon. Both groups of women have participated in significant ways in the long-running conflicts in which their societies have been caught up.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has its roots in the early part of last century, when Britain acquired the mandate for Palestine, (49) the Zionist movement in Europe began to agitate for a homeland for the Jewish people and the British government made certain, contradictory promises to both Arabs and Jews. (50) During the 1920s and 30s, Jewish immigration into Palestine accelerated and clashes occurred between Arabs, Jews and British. In 1947, the United Nations proposed dividing Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state, but this was rejected by the Palestinian Arabs who still, formed the majority of the population. The following year, the British withdrew–in considerable disarray–and the Zionists proclaimed the state of Israel, increasing the size of their state from the 54 per cent proposed by the UN Partition Plan to 72 per cent of all Palestine, despite the fact that the Arabs still had rights over 93 per cent of the land. As a result of the violence of 1948, over 700,000 Palestinians were forced to flee from their homeland; they became refugees in neighbouring countries and in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which was all that remained of historic Palestine. (51)

The West Bank, Gaza Strip and Arab East Jerusalem were occupied by an increasingly powerful Israel as a result of the six-day war in 1967. After almost 20 years of what is generally regarded as a harsh occupation, Palestinians in the occupied territories began a popular uprising, the intifada. One of the outcomes of this was the Oslo peace process and the signing by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) of a Declaration of Principles. This agreement gave the Palestinians partial autonomy in parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and limited control over their own affairs. But the pace of implementing the various elements of the agreement was painfully slow; deadlines were missed and it seemed to many Palestinians that Israel was not serious about its commitment to a just resolution of the conflict. Therefore, in September 2000, in response to an act of extreme provocation by then Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon (52), a second intifada erupted in the occupied territories.

Much has been written about the contribution of Palestinian women to their nation’s liberation struggle. From the early days of the British Mandate in Palestine in the 1920s to the revolutionary struggles of the 1960s and 70s and the intifada of the 1980s and 90s, women have played a very full and varied part. Their resistance activities have included mass demonstrations against British policies and, later, against the Israeli occupation, political organization, armed struggle and, during the intifada, the provision of alternative education and health facilities and home production to replace a reliance on the Israeli economy. There have been female martyrs, female prisoners and female leaders, particularly in the area of social welfare.

While Palestinian women are often cited as an outstanding example of female participation in an anti-colonial struggle, there is a danger that they will be “sacrificed to the cause of national liberation and, in the aftermath of independence, [will be] relegated to their former `domestic’ roles”. (53) This was certainly the experience of the Algerian women who battled against French colonialism in the 1950s and early 60s. In the case of Palestinian women too, their involvement has, on the whole, failed to translate into political power. There are several reasons for this gap between action and outcome.

To begin with, as Eyad Sarraj suggests, although women suffer from the impact of the occupation, “they also suffer as a result of tradition … In [Palestinian] patriarchal culture, women and children have always been in a weaker position than the patriarch, the male head of the family. When a husband can no longer contain his anger, his humiliation, his frustration due to the conditions of occupation, he is likely to find an outlet for his anger within the home. Women are often the victims of this anger.” (54) The notion of victimization is an important one. The majority of Palestinians, whatever their status, perceive themselves as victims of aggressive Israeli policies.

It is also the case that, although a high proportion of women in the Palestinian territories are well educated, articulate and organized, they still tend to be constrained by traditional values. Such pressures have caused a conflict in the minds of many women. On the one hand, most feel that it is their duty to engage in the national struggle. But, on the other hand, Palestinian society continues to regard woman’s primary function as domestic and nurturing. She is also the symbolic defender of the nation’s honor and, as such, should not be sullied by the day-to-day business of warfare. An additional setback for Palestinian women, suggests Islah Jad, has been “the growth of fundamentalist movements whose ideologies advocated traditionalism in family relations, reestablishing a more authoritarian attitude towards women … fundamentalism reinforced the traditional paternalistic setting where the father is fully authorized to control the conduct of his family members even by violent means”. (55)

At the same time, “there are fundamentalist women activists” in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, “who see Islam as a force that supports women, advances their position in society, and protects them, as well as the larger society, from the ills of modern life”. (56) One such woman activist suggested that “only through Islam can women fight against reactionary traditions that discriminate against women in education, health, and the workplace”. (57) But there is little consensus about the way forward and, while the conflict continues to rage, it is difficult for women to undertake effective organization.

Similar arguments can be made in the case of Shi’i women in Lebanon. Lebanon gained its independence from France in 1943. Its political system is based on an unwritten “National Pact”, which derives from the only census ever taken in the country, in 1932, and divides power on the basis of the demographic balance at that time; thus, the president is always a Maronite Christian, the prime minister is a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of the parliament a Shi’i Muslim. Since 1932, quite clearly, massive demographic changes have occurred and the largest sect is now thought to be the Shi’a; but their numerical superiority is not reflected in the balance of power. In response to their perceived powerlessness, the Shi’i community embarked upon an “awakening”. This, argues Halawi, “is best understood in the political space between movement and inertia, strength and weakness, privilege and deprivation, and that it is first and foremost a struggle for equality, and against wretchedness and oblivion”. (58) One of the leading figures in the Shi’i awakening was Imam Musa al-Sadr, “a reformer and an activist, exemplifying the modern trend in Shi’a Islam, of which the Iranian revolution has been the most powerful manifestation”. (59) He founded the Movement of the Disinherited in largely Shi’i southern Lebanon in the 1970s, and later the armed unit, Amal. The other Shi’i militia, formed in 1982 in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, was Hizbullah.

Like Palestinian women in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Lebanese Shi’i women were fully involved in the civil war (60) and the struggle against the 22-year old Israeli occupation of part of their land. (61) Their tactics, as with Palestinian women, have differed from those of men and have been mainly concentrated in the realm of support and welfare activities. On the whole, it has been the men who have fought against the enemy, while the women have tended the wounded, smuggled arms and messages to the fighters, and created networks to protect the community. But this separation of male and female roles has not meant that women have been silenced or made invisible. On the contrary, they too have been part of political organizations, have spoken out fiercely against the occupation and have, on occasion, been arrested and tortured for their resistance.

In the case of Lebanon, it has been argued that some women “felt the best way to confront the war was … by joining the fighting themselves and carrying guns … Joining the fighting helped many control their fear and anxiety and thus they were better able to cope with the ravages of war. It gave them a sense of control over their lives instead of remaining potential victims”. (62) It is in the area of victimization that the Lebanese example departs somewhat from the Palestinian one. As a nominally sovereign state, Lebanon has always had some expectation of regaining peace and independence. Lebanese men, therefore, saw themselves not simply as victims but as agents, and women, although they may have suffered victimization as a result of patriarchal structures or deliberate targeting by the enemy, have also been affected by this reality.

For the Shi’a community, particularly those who identify with the political groups Amal and Hizbullah, women tended to restrict their participation to non-military activities although, if the situation was desperate enough to demand it, they too were permitted to join in the battle. They take their inspiration from Zaynab, granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad, who “played a critical part in preserving Shiism by leading and speaking for the community,” (63) after her brother Hussein, the third Shi’i imam, was murdered at the battle of Karbala (680 CE). (64) According to Musa al-Sadr, “[t]he woman at Karbala complemented the man’s role and his straggle”. (65) Modern Shi’i women have profited from the example of Zaynab. They have taken part in what is usually regarded as a very masculine struggle, but have done so in ways that, although appropriate, have also been effective.

In her study of sexuality and war, Accad highlights “Lebanese macho society”. Rather than engaging in a glorious war of liberation, she suggest that men fight in order “to enlarge their domain and authority”. (66) This can be attributed to the “war system”, in which the “fundamental willingness to use violence against others on which warfare depends is conditioned by early training and continuous socialization in patriarchal society. All are taught to respect authority, that is, fear violence … boys and men are encouraged to become fiercer, more aggressive when they feel fear. Fear in men is channeled into aggression, in women into submission, for such behaviours are necessary to maintain patriarchal authoritarianism”. (67) While it seems to be the case that male control is maintained through the threat or use of force, there is also an argument to be made that, in situations of conflict, normal rules–at least to some extent–cease to apply. There are pressures on women, both from the enemy and from within their own community, to adopt less familiar roles.

What emerges from a consideration of the roles played by Palestinian women in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and Shi’i women in Lebanon in their respective national struggles is a series of contradictions, in line with observations already made about the general response of Muslim women to war and violence. To begin with, one can argue that a violent breakdown of society, with input from outside forces, provokes a determined response from civilian populations. Traditionally, adult males have been the instigators and perpetrators of resistance activity and self-defence. Women, by and large, have supported them in gender-appropriate ways, which in turn has enabled some of these women to develop non-traditional skills and has led to an increase in female assertiveness. This has had both positive and negative implications. On the positive side, women’s scope for manoeuvre has been enlarged. But there has also been a backlash. Both Lebanon and the Palestinian territories have witnessed a growth in Islamist groups and some of these have sought to put back in place restrictions on women’s movements. There is a tension, therefore, between calls for greater democratization and female participation and a fear among some men that their positions of authority are threatened, not simply by the enemy outside but also from women within their own families. An increase in violence against women is perhaps not a surprising response.

On the whole, one can conclude that female participation in armed conflict, as illustrated by the two case studies, has not been an altogether satisfactory experience. While many women have felt the need to contribute their efforts to the struggle, they have also been constrained, both physically and psychologically. The main obstacle to wholehearted female participation is the fact that the parameters of the struggle are male constructs. Furthermore, the use of violence as the predominant tool of conflict resolution is rarely challenged and, thus, women tend to be excluded.

International human rights legislation, feminism and changing attitudes

Although Arab-Muslim women may have been handicapped in their ability to participate in violent conflicts, they have also been influenced by human rights legislation, feminism, and changing attitudes in their own societies. The Beijing Platform for Action points out that violence against women is “an obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality, development and peace”. (68) In July 1997, for the first time, UNICEF “included in its annual Progress of Nations report a specific section on violence against women. Along with the usual economic and quality of life indicators, progress is now also defined according to the degree of protection women have against discrimination and violence”. (69)

This raises the question of whether there is a conflict between supposedly “universal” human rights and Islamic rights. Peters and Wolper argue that women’s rights as human rights “may finally serve as a litmus test for the question that human rights advocates and governments must face in the twenty first century: Does the right to preserve cultural and religious practices take precedence over human rights norms? If so, is the very concept of international (universal) rights inappropriate in a multicultural world in which values and practices differ from place to place? Were universal human rights standards merely a dream of the final phases of imperialism, the post-war West’s attempt to cling to an idea of the world remade in its own image?” (70)

It has been suggested, for example by intellectuals supporting the Iranian revolution, that proclamations such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are Western inventions, designed to address specific issues, which are priorities in the West but perhaps less so or differently in other parts of the world. They argue that Islam, if interpreted correctly, provides all the rights that human beings–male and female–need. Some feminists, on the other hand, claim that Islam, far from being interpreted “correctly”, is frequently manipulated by men to suit their own ends, which have more to do with power and superiority than any notions of equality.

There is a willingness, as one woman activist remarks, to overlook “the rights of women for the sake of cultural, religious, or ethnic traditions”. (71) But one could argue that cultural norms must eventually be superseded by rights which are upheld because they are applicable to people everywhere. It could be considered irresponsible to condone the debasing of women’s position in a particular society simply because that is how women are “traditionally” or “customarily” treated. To do so would be an acknowledgement, on the one hand, that women’s situation in Islamic countries can never be improved as long as Islam is associated with the law of the land; and, on the other, that the status of women under Islam is sacred, straightforward and untouchable.

But such considerations are valid only in the absence of war. A common consequence of war is widespread destruction of lives and lands, which may then lead to renewal or the construction of a new society. If old ways and attitudes are destroyed in the process, this might lead to a revolutionary reformation of women’s roles, which should be regarded as a positive development. In practice, though, wars and revolutions more often produce a consolidation of timeworn attitudes, although under a new leader or a revised set of rules. For women, therefore, violence is nearly always solely destructive since it is incapable of transforming their lives.

Another by-product of war is the removal of legal or other protection for women, leaving them open to abuse from traditional practices and from members of their own families. In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, for example, the absence of a functioning government during the Israeli occupation led to girls being married off in their early teens, and women being deprived of their rights in divorce and the custody of children.

Conclusions

While many Muslim women are making meaningful contributions to the cause of revolution and national liberation, they do so against a background that is structured by violence and, therefore, by and large excludes them. From all accounts, there is no doubt that both Palestinian and Lebanese women have played important roles in their respective liberation struggles; what is less clear is the effect of violence as a constraining factor on their behaviour. This situation is by no means confined to the Muslim world. My argument here is that, although Islam cannot be held responsible for violence against women during times of war, interpretations of the religion over the centuries have contributed towards the creation of a debased model of womanhood, which has in turn produced an environment tolerant of anti-woman practices. Other, equally important factors are, firstly, male frustration and feelings of powerlessness in the face of overwhelming enemy strength; secondly, a global tradition of male authority; and, thirdly, the contradiction between women’s symbolic roles of honor and shame. Violence towards women in the context of general upheaval can be seen as an inevitable extension of attitudes that deem women “inferior” to men.

Women, whatever their religion, are disproportionately affected by war and violence, and have been throughout history. They “are located in particular and dangerous ways, both in discourses about war and in war politics on the ground. Violence, including state violence, is often sexualised”. (72) In the course of conflict, women have been taken as booty, raped and enslaved. They have lost their loved ones, been forced into exile, struggled to bring up children with little or no support, have been urged to give birth to even more “children of the revolution”, and have been forcibly impregnated by enemy men. The language of conflict, which regards states and battleships as feminine, has allowed in a few female characters. They are named “heroic mothers”, hailed as “sisters”, standing shoulder to shoulder with men in the face of the enemy, are “daughters of the revolution” and the noble “widows of martyrs”. But these constructions of womanhood have little to do with the reality of conflict.

It has been argued that the words of the Qur’an have been manipulated by men to suit their own ends. Whether this is the veiling or seclusion of women or a reluctance to allow them their Islamic rights, in areas such as education, divorce and inheritance, it has also been identified as a violation of women’s rights. In the absence of choice, women have been compelled to accommodate themselves to male meanings; and this is a form of violence.

By referring to Islamic history, it becomes clear that a degradation of women’s status has taken place over time, which is in line neither with Qur’anic pronouncements nor the example of the Prophet Muhammad. In previous centuries, women have had little choice but to accept their lot and make the best of it but in the present period, many have had the opportunity to question what has been described as a “restricted” image of womanhood. Some have chosen to reject it altogether while others are seeking to interpret the Islamic texts for themselves. But, although it is important to recognize the potentially empowering impact on women of the Islamic resurgence movement and Islamically-inspired action against oppressive regimes and outside enemies, it would be a mistake to romanticize this tendency or to find in it a solution to all the problems that Muslim women are experiencing. Rather than seeking to reclaim the authentic message of Islam for women and men, the political Islamist movement appears to prefer a continuation of the status quo in which power is upheld by violent means. Whatever choices women are making, the right to live free of violence must be an option that is open to them.

The conflicts in which some Muslim societies are involved have had a two-pronged effect on women, as has been illustrated in the case studies of Palestinian and Lebanese women. On the one hand, many women have had the opportunity to participate in non-traditional ways and have been able to develop hitherto unfamiliar skills; but on the other hand, the gains they achieve tend not to be sustained once the conflict is over. In Kuwait, for example, although Kuwaiti women were “visible, active and defiant” (73) throughout the Iraqi occupation of 1990-91, they are still denied the right the vote or stand for parliament. One reason for the exclusion of women is that violence as a means of control and of conflict resolution is seldom questioned.

While many Muslim women may claim that they have been “empowered” by a reversion to Islamic principles, or by the evident willingness of men to allow a space for female participation in violent conflict, the fundamental question of a balanced relationship between the sexes, in terms of mutual respect, remains unexamined. Even though it has been recognized that women and men are differently involved in conflict, “men and male norms have been taken to represent the norm for all human beings”. (74) This is no less true in Muslim societies. My argument here is that Islam–as a religion, a cultural tradition and a political movement–has been used by some men to reinforce and legitimize the exclusion of women. This, combined with the instability of conflict, can only have negative implications for women’s long-term security.

Notes

(1.) “The Kuwaiti women’s recognition that the men sent to brutalize them have themselves already been brutalized does not exonerate the men of their crimes but rather puts them into a context that helps understanding. The Iraqis were not fearsome members of the `fourth largest army in the world, an army hardened in long years of combat against Iran,’ to quote Cheney. They were victims of their government and leader. The Allied attack was merely another layer of cruelty laid on top of a habit of violence grown ordinary” (italics added. Cooke, Miriam, Women Claim Islam: Creating Islamic Feminism through Literature, New York & London: Routledge, 2001, pp.21-2.).

(2.) Arab Times, Special Liberation Supplement, 26 February 1996, quoted in Al-Mughni, Haya, Women in Kuwait: The Politics of Gender, London: Saqi Books, 2001, p.155.

(3.) Dalal Faysal Su’ud Al-Zubn, quoted in Cooke, Women Claim Islam, p. 15.

(4.) Cooke, Women Claim Islam, p. 16.

(5.) See, for example, arguments advanced by Barry, Kathleen, in Female Sexual Slavery, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc, 1979; and Brownmiller, Susan, in Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, New York: Bantam Books, 1975.

(6.) Alder, Christine, “Violence, Gender, and Social Change”, in Manfred B Steger and Nancy S Lind, editors, Violence and its Alternatives: An Interdisiplinary Reader, Basingstoke & London: Macmillan Press, 1999, p. 114.

(7.) United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, September 1992.

(8.) Jacobson, Ruth, Jacobs, Susie, and Marchbank, Jen, “Introduction: States of Conflict”, in Jacobs, Susie, Jacobson, Ruth, and Marchbank, Jennifer, States of Conflict: Gender, Violence and Resistance, London: Zed Books, 2000, p.2.

(9.) Sheffield, Carole J, “Sexual Terrorism”, in Kourany, Janet A, Sterba, James P, and Tong, Rosemarie, editors, Feminist Philosophies, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1992, p.72.

(10.) Pettman, Jan Jindy, Worlding Women: A feminist international politics, London and New York: Routledge, 1996, p.209.

(11.) Steans, Jill, Gender and International Relations: An Introduction, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1998, p.99.

(12.) Steans, Gender and International Relations, p. 101.

(13.) Steans, Gender and International Relations, p. 101.

(14.) McWilliams, Monica , “Violence Against Women in Societies Under Stress”, in Dobash, R Emerson, & Dobash, Russell P, editors, Rethinking Violence Against Women, Thousand Oaks & London: Sage Publications, 1998, p. 115.

(15.) Steans, Gender and International Relations, p. 101.

(16.) Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck, “Islam and Gender: Dilemmas in the Changing Arab World”, in Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad and John L Esposito, editors, Islam, Gender, and Social Change, New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998, p. 12.

(17.) Esposito, John L, “Introduction: Women in Islam and Muslim Societies”, in Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck, and Esposito, John L, editors, Islam, Gender, and Social Change, New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998, p.xii.

(18.) Ahmed, Leila, Women and Gender in Islam, p.87.

(19.) Mernissi, Fatima, Women and Islam: An Historical and Theological Enquiry, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1991, p.ix.

(20.) Kabbani, Rana, “Reclaiming the true faith for women”, The Guardian, 23 May 1992.

(21.) Haddad, “Islam and Gender Dilemmas”, p. 16.

(22.) Abd al-Sami Sba’ban, Mahmud, Nizam al-Usra bayn al-Masihiyah wa al-Islam. Dirasah Muqarana, vols 1 & 2, Cairo: Dar al-Ulum, 1983, p.535, quoted in Haddad, “Islam and Gender”.

(23.) See Hammami, Rema, “Women, the Hijab and the Intifada”, Middle East Report, May-August 1990.

(24.) Ahmed, Leila, Women and Gender in Islam, p.69.

(25.) Ahmed, Leila, Women and Gender in Islam, pp.69-70.

(26.) Roded, Ruth, editor, Women in Islam and the Middle East: A Reader, London and New York: I B Tauris, 1999, p.33.

(27.) Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam, p.53.

(28.) Roded, Women in Islam and the Middle East, p.34.

(29.) The word “caliph” means leader of the Muslim community. The “caliph is the successor to the Prophet, the one who takes his place as governor of the faithful” (Memessi, Fatima (translated by Mary Jo Lakeland), Islam and Democracy: Fear of the Modern World, London: Virago Press, 1993, p.23).

(30.) Mernissi, Women and Islam, p.5.

(31.) Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam, p.61.

(32.) Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam, p.61.

(33.) Spellberg, Denise A, “Political Action and Public Example: A’isha and the Battle of the Camel”, in Keddie and Baron, editors, Women in Middle Eastern History, 1991, p.45.

(34.) Spellberg, “Political Action and Public Example”, p.49.

(35.) Spellberg, “Political Action and Public Example”, p.55.

(36.) Haddad, “Islam and Gender”, p. 17.

(37.) Mernissi, Islam and Democracy, p.154.

(38.) Philipp, Thomas, “Feminism and Nationalist Politics in Egypt”, in Beck, Lois, and Keddie, Nikki, editors, Women in the Muslim World, Cambridge Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1978, p.288.

(39.) Bouatta, Cherifa, “Feminine militancy: Moudjahidates during and after the Algerian war”, in Moghadam, Valentine M, editor, Gender and’ National Identity: Women and Politics in Muslim Society, published for the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research, London: Zed Books, 1994, p. 19.

(40.) There is a full account of this period in Warnock, Kitty, Land Before Honour: Palestinian Women in the Occupied Territories, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan, 1990.

(41.) Afshar, Haleh, Islam and Feminisms: An Iranian Case-Study, Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, 1998, p.8.

(42.) Al-Faruqi, “Islamic Traditions and the Feminist Movement”, p.40.

(43.) Keddie, “Introduction”, in Women in Middle Eastern History, p.18.

(44.) al-Faruqi, Lois Lamya, “Islamic Traditions and the Feminist Movement: Confrontation and Cooperation”, The Islamic Quarterly, Volume XXVII, No 3, 1983, p. 135.

(45.) Moghissi, Haideh, Feminism and Islamic Fundamentalism: The Limits of Postmodern Analysis, London: Zed Books, 1999, p.7.

(46.) Moghissi, Feminism and Islamic Fundamentalism, p.2.

(47.) Zakaria, Fouad, “The Standpoint of Contemporary Muslim Fundamentalists”, in Toubia, Nahid, editor, Women in the Arab World: The Coming Challenge, London: Zed Press, 1988, p.29, quoted in Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck, “Islam and Gender: Dilemmas in the Changing Arab World”, in Haddad and Esposito, editors, Islam, Gender, and Social Change, p. 10.

(48.) “Muslim Women and Fundamentalism”, Middle East Report, July-August 1988, p.9.

(49.) After the defeat of Germany in 1918 and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Britain and France divided the countries of the Middle East between them. Britain obtained control over Palestine, Transjordan and Iraq.

(50.) In the Balfour Declaration of 1917, Britain promised a national home for the Jews, but it also promised the Arabs their freedom in return for help in the war.

(51.) McDowall, David, The Palestinians, London: Franklin Watts, 1986.

(52.) On 28 September 2000, Ariel Sharon, leader of the opposition Likud Party, visited the Dome of the Rock, Islam’s third most holy site, accompanied by several hundred heavily armed Israeli soldiers. This was regarded by Palestinians as a provocative and insulting act.

(53.) Al-Ali, Nadje, Secularism, Gender and the State in the Middle East: The Egyptian Women’s Movement, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000, p.46.

(54.) Sabbagh, Suha, “An Interview with Dr Eyad el-Sarraj: Gender Relations during the Three Psychodevelopmental Phases under Occupation”, in Sabbagh, Suha, editor, Palestinian women of Gaza and the West Bank, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1998, p.175.

(55.) Jad, Islah, (translated by Magida Abu Hassabo), “Patterns of Relations within the Palestinian Family during the Intifada”, in Sabagh, editor, Palestinian Women of Gaza and the West Bank, pp.59-60.

(56.) Ameri, Anan, “Conflict in Peace: Challenges Confronting the Palestinian Women’s Movement”, in Afsaruddin, Asma, editor, Hermeneutics and Honor: Negotiating Female `Public’ Space in Islamic/ate Societies, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1999, p.43.

(57.) Interview with Iffat al-Jabari, Hebron, June 1995, quoted by Ameri, “Conflict in Peace”, p.43.

(58.) Halawi, Majed, A Lebanon Defied: Musa al-Sadr and the Shi’a Community, Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1992, p.3.

(59.) Halawi, A Lebanon Defied, p. 131.

(60.) The civil war began in 1975 and continued with varying degrees of intensity until 1990, in the process destroying great swathes of the country. Although it was, in part, a struggle between the different religious sects that comprise Lebanese society, it was also concerned with political and economic power; neither should the role of outside forces be overlooked.

(61.) The Lebanese civil war was formally ended by the Taif Agreement of 1989. Israel withdrew from the strip of southern Lebanon that it had occupied since 1978 in May 2000.

(62.) “Conclusion: A War of Survival”, in Women and War in Lebanon, editor Shehadeh, Lamia Rustum, Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1999, p.329.

(63.) Fischer, Michael M J, “On Changing the Concept and Position of Persian Women”, in Beck and Keddie, editors, Women in the Muslim World, p. 196.

(64.) According to Halawi, Karbala, in which the third Shi’i imam was vanquished in battle and slaughtered by Mu’awiya, founder of the Umayyad dynasty, remains to this day “the overriding motif” in Shi’i revolutionary consciousness and discourse (Halawi, A Lebanon Defied, p. 167).

(65.) Quoted by Halawi, A Lebanon Defied, p. 180.

(66.) Accad, Evelyne, Sexuality and War: Literary Masks of the Middle East, New York: New York University Press, 1990, p.32.

(67.) Reardon, Betty, Sexism and the War System, New York and London: Teachers College Press, 1985, pp.38-9.

(68.) Article 112, Platform for Action, Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, China, September 1995, published by United Nations, New York.

(69.) Coward, Ros, “Sign of the crimes”, Guardian, 24 July 1997.

(70.) Peters, Julie, and Wolper, Andrea, “Introduction”, in Peters and Wolper, editors, Women’s rights human rights: international feminist perspectives, New York and London: Routledge, 1995, p.5.

(71.) Niamh Reilly of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, quoted in “Women Claim Place on Agenda at UN Human Rights Meeting”, Christian Science Monitor, 11-17 June 1993.

(72.) Penman, Jan Jindy, Worlding Women, p.87.

(73.) Al-Mughni, Women in Kuwait, p. 152.

(74.) Skjelsbaek, Inger, and Smith, Dan, editors, “Foreword”, Gender, Peace and Conflict, International Peace Research Institute, Oslo, London, Thousand Oaks & New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2001, p.vii.

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