Briefing: "On Gender, Justice, and Change: Muslim Women's Activism as Practice and Discourse"

Event summary

On Wednesday, Feb. 21, Professor of Islamic Studies at UNC Chapel Hill Juliane Hammer discussed her domestic and global research on Muslim women’s activism in the event entitled “On Gender, Justice, and Change: Muslim Women's Activism as Practice and Discourse.” 
 
Dr. Hammer opened her talk by cautioning the audience and researchers against approaching Muslim women as a fixed identity category. She emphasized the complexity of identity and said that her research examples should not be seen as representative of all Muslim women. Focusing her research on those who identify as Muslims and live/work in Muslim majority communities, Dr. Hammer hoped to identify individuals who work to raise awareness of violence in Muslim communities. She discussed the spectrum of violence and hardship that many women face in these communities.
 
“Muslim women activists live and operate in a world that is full of injustices that do not only affect their ability to live their lives with dignity and agency, but also often threaten their bodily integrity, and far too often, their very survival,” she said.

Dr. Hammer also discussed her research and partnerships with the Musawah organization, an organization that began in Malaysia in 2009 as a global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family. In her pursuit of understanding the lived experiences of Muslim women, Dr. Hammer described feeling surprised and awed by the confidence of the women leading Musawah. 

“The injustices that these Muslim women activists are trying to address literally kill people, and hurt people, and make it impossible to thrive. I often feel sort of small in comparison; I think there is scholarly activism, but they are the ones who are doing the most amazing work,” she said. 

Dr. Hammer said that the women leading these movements for equality and security are extremely adept at identifying the specific ways in which they can change their community dynamic for the better.

“They recognize the structure of the world around them and make strategic choices to improve the ability to affect change in the direction that they aim for.”