Much of the literature tracing the women’s movement of the 1980s and 1990s inPakistan tends to be statist and in opposition to military dictatorship andreligion (Mumtaz and Shaheed, 1991; Jalal, 1991; Iqbal, 1992; Bhasin
.,1994). Colloquially, the slogans that Pakistani feminists have used in theirpolitical resistance include ‘men, money, mullahs
and the military’. Thisapproach has given the movement its structural moorings and clarity with regardto its confrontational and dynamic relationship with the state, the military andcapitalist development. However, during this time, the biggest challenge hascome from within the movement: that of the personal and, necessarily, that ofreligious identity. Personal ambivalence on the part of Pakistani feminists andglobal political attention over the war on terror has made this an unresolvedissue. Consequently, today the issue of religious identity confronts activistswithin the women’s movement in Pakistan, which has serious implications for itsfeminist future.The 1977 military take over and the subsequent decade of General Zia-ul-Haq’srule made women direct targets of a misogynist state under his purportedIslamization project (Jahangir and Jillani, 1990; Zia, 1994). One of the mostimportant legacies of this troubled decade has been that, seemingly, the onlytool for analysing women in Pakistan is faith-based politics and a woman’sacceptance or resistance to expressions of this politics. This article traces thetrends within the women’s movement that led to this point. The article contendsthat geo-political influences such as modernity and globalization have been justone aspect with which women have had to consciously contend, negotiate orengage. Moreover, it has been the simultaneous resistance and co-option ofliberal (modern) ideals by women in right and Islamic fundamentalist movementsthat have enabled a newly constructed identity of feminism and women’srelationship with the state. In the process, the agenda as well as themethodologies of the progressive Pakistani women’s movement have beenchallenged, redefining feminism in our context.This historical perspective is important in understanding that the emergence ofthese identities can not be exclusively attributed to an external, westerninfluence, nor can it be seen as an outcome of imperialism or globalization alone.Feminist politics in Pakistan has been trying to grapple with the issue offragmented, polarizing identities in relation to religious identities for many years.The central case in this article is that, in fact, the empowering strategies ofIslamic feminists
working within the framework of religion have not only beensuccessful but have also subsumed all other forms of feminist expression alongthe way. It is the contention of this paper that, unwittingly, the apologist,insider, inclusive approach of the women’s movement on the issue of religion hasenabled and assisted the
expressions of Islamic feminism as we see it
Self-appointedmale preachers,outside thescholarshipassociated withIslamic learning.Historically, suchscholars have nolegitimacy within thelarger religiousdiscourse but exertan importantcultural influencewithin communities.During GenZia-ul-Haq’s rule(1977–1988),maulvis/mullahspractically gainedstate sanction tooperate as vigilantesparticularly inenforcing the stateprescription ofchador andchardevari (the veiland the household)for women.
I use the termhere to refer tothose feminists whoare concerned withlooking forempowerment oftheir gender within a
reinvention of feminism in Pakistan