Whither Arab Women? The Arab Feminist Legacy and The Role of Women in The Arab Spring

  • Maheep Maheep Faculty of Political Science in School of Social Sciences, Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi India
  • Yahya Jahanghiri Islamic Studies, Managing Director, Journal of Islamic interdisciplinary Studies, Iran
Keywords: Writer Arab, Feminist, Women, Arab Spring


The problem with the western line of thinking is that it makes a hasty assumption that religion naturally impedes social change. This assumption betrays the lack of a sense of cultural relativism and fails to comprehend the complex relationship between religion and society in West Asia and North Africa. In fact, Arab feminists recognized this truth a long time ago. As we illustrated above, Arab feminism began as a secular movement that viewed religion as a tool of oppression. It gradually revised its philosophy and reconciled its ideas with Islamic tenets.  Scholars like Deniz Kandiyoti, Fatima Mernissi, and many Arab scholars vitally contributed to bringing this about. The Quran and the Hadiths are replete with the message of gender equality, so also the history of Islam which presents a very positive picture of gender relations. Scholars like Nikkie Keddie and Elizabeth Fernea have studied several different Arabic-speaking tribes and communities distributed from the Maghreb to the Arab Gulf.  Their effort has revealed that from the historical past women in the Arab world have played significant roles in politics, legal institutions, administration, and even warfare. Therefore, we would like to express our reservations on apprehensions and anxieties which are so vociferously articulated by western academia and media during the developments following the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and other Arab states. 


Download data is not yet available.


Abu-Lughod, Lila. “Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others.” American Anthropologist 104, no. 3 (2002): 783–790.

Ali Eddin, Hilal. The Evolution of the Egyptian Political System, 1805–2005. Cairo: Center for Political Studies and Research, 2006.

Badran, Margot. “Between Secular and Islamic Feminism/s: Reflections on the Middle East and Beyond.” Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies 1, no. 1 (March 1, 2005): 6–28.

Bass, Thomas A. “How Tunisia Is Turning Into a Salafist Battleground.” The Atlantic. Last modified June 20, 2013. Accessed January 31, 2022. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/06/how-tunisia-is-turning-into-a-salafist-battleground/277058/.

Bayat, Asef. Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East. 1st edition. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 2009.

Beardsley, Eleanor. “In Tunisia, Women Play Equal Role In Revolution.” NPR, January 27, 2011, sec. Africa. Accessed January 31, 2022. https://www.npr.org/2011/01/27/133248219/in-tunisia-women-play-equal-role-in-revolution.

Bodman, Herbert L., and Nayyirah Tawḥīdī. Women in Muslim Societies: Diversity Within Unity. Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1998.

Byrne, Eileen. “The Women MPs Tipped to Play Leading Roles in Tunisia’s New Assembly.” The Guardian, October 28, 2011, sec. World news. Accessed January 31, 2022. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/oct/29/women-mps-tunisia-government.

Charrad, Written Mounira M, and Amina Zarrugh. “The Arab Spring and Women’s Rights in Tunisia.” International Relations (n.d.): 6.

Doumato, Eleanor Abdella, and Marsha Pripstein Posusney. Women and Globalization in the Arab Middle East: Gender, Economy, and Society. Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2003.

Dürkop, Colin, Viola Raheb, Suna Güzin Aydemir, Ulrike Bechmann, and Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, eds. Women’s Empowerment in the Arab Spring: Selected Articles. Ankara, 2012.

El-Saadawi, Nawal. Women and Sex. Cairo: Dar El Hilal Publishers, 1969.

Gharaibeh, Fakir Al. “Women’s Empowerment in Bahrain” 12 (2011): 19.

Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck. Islam, Gender, & Social Change. Oxford University Press, c1998.

Hafez, Sabry. “Intentions and Realisation in the Narratives of Nawal El-Saadawi.” Edited by Nawal El-Saadawi, Catherine Cobham, Sherif Hetata, Georges Tarabishi, Basil Hatim, and Elisabeth Orsini. Third World Quarterly 11, no. 3 (1989): 188–198.

Harlow, Barbara. “Women in Middle Eastern History: Shifting Boundaries in Sex and Gender. Nikki R. Keddie , Beth Baron Accommodating Protest: Working Women, the New Veiling, and Change in Cairo. Arlene Elowe Macleod Both Right and Left Handed: Arab Women Talk about Their Lives. Bouthaina Shaaban Woman’s Body, Woman’s Word: Gender and Discourse in Arabo-Islamic Writing. Fedwa Malti-Douglas Women and Gender in Islam. Leila Ahmed.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 20, no. 1 (October 1, 1994): 223–228.

Jamali, Reza. Online Arab Spring: Social Media and Fundamental Change. Chandos Publishing, 2014.

Karolak, Magdalena. “Bahraini Women in the 21st Century: Disputed Legacy of the Unfinished Revolution.” Journal of International Women’s Studies 13, no. 5 (December 20, 2012): 5–16.

———. “Between Women’s Empowerment and Emancipation.” Arabian Humanities. Revue internationale d’archéologie et de sciences sociales sur la péninsule Arabique/International Journal of Archaeology and Social Sciences in the Arabian Peninsula, no. 1 (March 6, 2013). Accessed January 31, 2022. https://journals.openedition.org/cy/2108.

Keddie, Nikki R. “Women in the Limelight: Some Recent Books on Middle Eastern Women’s History.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 34, no. 3 (2002): 553–573.

Keddie, Nikki R., and Beth Baron, eds. Women in Middle Eastern History: Shifting Boundaries in Sex and Gender. Reissue edition. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993.

Kulsum, Ummu. “Nawal El-Saadawi: Membongkar Budaya Patriarkhi Melalui Sastra.” Lentera 3, no. 1 (2017): 14.

Malhotra, Anju, Sidney Ruth Schuler, and Carol Boender. “Measuring Women’s Empowerment” (n.d.): 59.

McLarney, Ellen. “Women’s Rights in the Egyptian Constitution: (Neo)Liberalism’s Family Values.” Jadaliyya - جدلية. Accessed January 31, 2022. https://www.jadaliyya.com/Details/28666.

Mernissi, Fatima ; Lakeland. The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women’s Rights in Islam. New York: Persues Book, c1991.

Radsch, Courtney C. “Unveiling the Revolutionaries: Cyberactivism and the Role of Women in the Arab Uprisings” (2012). Accessed January 31, 2022. https://scholarship.rice.edu/handle/1911/91851.

Rassam, Amal. “Elizabeth W. Fernea, Ed., Women and the Family in the Middle East: New Voices of Change (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985). Pp. 368.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 19, no. 4 (November 1987): 507–508.

Revkin, Mara, and Yussef Auf. “Beyond the Ballot Box: Egypt’s Constitutional Challenge.” Washington: Atlantic Council (2012): 11.

Setyawan, Mohammad Yusuf, and Owusu-Ansah David. “Veil (Niqâb) Problematics in Islamic Law Perspective; Religion or Culture? (Islamic Legal Approach).” Al-Mada: Jurnal Agama, Sosial, dan Budaya 4, no. 2 (August 1, 2021): 235–239.

Sharabi, Hisham. Neopatriarchy: A Theory of Distorted Change in Arab Society. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Tiffany D, Reed. Middle Eastern Women and Their Rising Impact on Society” Modern Middle Eastern Women. Monticello: University of Arkansas, 2012.

The Status of Women in the Middle East and North Africa (SWMENA) Project 12 (2010).

How to Cite
Maheep, M., & Jahanghiri, Y. (2022). Whither Arab Women? The Arab Feminist Legacy and The Role of Women in The Arab Spring. Al-Mada: Jurnal Agama, Sosial, Dan Budaya, 5(1), 63-80. https://doi.org/10.31538/almada.v5i1.1355