Women's Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation

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Progressive Muslim Feminists in Indonesia from Pioneering to the Next Agendas

A Masters thesis presented to the faculty of the Center for International Studies of Ohio University, Farid Murraqin, June 2008.

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In this paper, I explore some progressive Islamic feminist organizations and their contributions to popularizing Islamic reform movements in Indonesia through their popular pioneering agendas. Some pioneers of progressive Muslim feminists, such as P3M, FK3, PUAN Amal Hayati and Rahima have killed two birds with one stone. They made an important impact on reducing stigma against Islamic reform ideas and feminism. Many Indonesian Muslims often consider Islamic reform movements and feminism a Western conspiracy to destroy Islam. Progressive Muslim feminist groups’ approaches to local Muslim scholars of pesantren (traditional Islamic boarding school) are vital in shifting these local leaders to be focal points of Islamic reform. With more popular issues of Islamic reform, such as reproductive rights and domestic violence, they create an efficient step to introduce Islamic reform movements to Muslims at the grassroot level.

The feminist organizations make a crucial follow-up activity by applying feminist perspectives in reinterpreting classical Islamic thoughts. They have produced a specific method of Quranic interpretation (tafsir) and consequently have created a particular Islamic thinking from the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad’s traditions (hadith). Indonesian Muslim feminists have developed their methods of tafsir through direct engagement with women’s experiences of violence. This effort is vital in spreading both Islamic reform movements and feminism within Indonesian Muslims. The growing number of progressive Muslim feminists and their crucial contributions to popularizing Islamic reform movements in Indonesia lead conservative Muslim groups’ responses to attack the groups. Among other challenges for the progressive Muslim feminists are the growing Islamic shari’ah movements and the rise of conservative Islamic expression and the rise of polygamy practice within reformist and progressive Muslims. I make suggestions for how the progressive Islamic feminist movement can be strengthened in its struggle against conservative Muslims, including creating an accessible method of tafsir for more Muslim women’s groups, introducing a multicultural approach to traditional women’s groups like majlis ta’lim, and broadening networks by making cooperation with homosexual movement activists.

Farid Muttaqin
Published Date: 
Political and Public Participation
Culturally Justified Violence Against Women