York prof’s 1999 book continues to be relevant

Haideh MoghissiIn 1999, York political science Professor Haideh Moghissi published Feminism and Islamic Fundamentalism: The Limits of Postmodern Analysis, a book that was the source of much public and scholarly debate.

Right: Haideh Moghissi

Though more than a decade has passed, Moghissi’s book continues to be both timely and relevant. It recently caught the eye of Pronesis Publishing in Seoul, South Korea, and was translated and re-published. 

“Scholarly and popular writings have long been fraught with stereotypes and a Euro-centric sense of moral superiority towards Islam and Muslim women,” says Moghissi, who is also associate dean external relations in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. “This book is critical of these inherited colonial perceptions. But it is equally critical of those who, in challenging these stereotypes, resort to justifying the aspects of Islamist gender practices that punish women and praise the Islamic path to women’s emancipation as a culturally appropriate alternative to feminism.”

The book has made waves since it was originally published by Zed Books Ltd. and later Oxford University Press. It won a Choice Outstanding Academic Book award in 2000. To date, it is the sole book on this subject; only a few journal articles have appeared since.

The issues discussed in Moghissi’s book remain contemporary in terms of integration policies, respecting cultural differences and protecting individuals’ rights – which are often at odds with community rights, as defined by self-appointed religious and community leaders. It is perhaps for this reason that while parts of its arguments have been translated and published – in 2006 in the French weekly Courrier International and more recently in the Spanish journal Culturas – it is one of 37 books banned in Malaysia for containing facts that censors claim could potentially undermine the faith of ordinary Muslims.

Moghissi’s latest edited volume, Muslim Diaspora in the West: Negotiating Gender, Home and Belonging is due out in December by Ashgate Publishers in London.

Her research interests also include the policies of governments in the West towards their Muslim populations and how these policies silence secular voices among communities of Muslim cultural backgrounds. In 2009 she published a monograph on this topic, Diaspora by Design: Muslim Immigrants in Canada and Beyond (University of Toronto Press), which was co-authored by York political science Professors Saeed Rahnema and Mark Goodman (see YFileFeb 17, 2009).