10.4324_9780203011706-7_chapterpdf.pdf - 3 Reviewing Beginnings Arab writers are disentangling language blood ethnicity religion and gender and they are

10.4324_9780203011706-7_chapterpdf.pdf - 3 Reviewing...

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3 Reviewing Beginnings Arab writers are disentangling language, blood, ethnicity, religion, and gender, and they are demonstrating that the apparently natural connections between them are in fact constructed and contingent. There is no fixed, essential center that would mark the core of a single, foundational identity. Throughout the twentieth century there has been much talk of identity: losing identity to imposed cultures and their values; uncovering lost identity; regaining authentic identity; asserting identity as member of a disadvantaged group; identity politics. In each case, identity is tied to birth, to place, to language, to community, to religion, and to gender. Identity confers rights. Identity takes rights away. But what is this singular, unified identity? If identity is the recognition of sameness with some and difference from others, then we have many identities. To retain a sense of wholeness, we usually assert only one of many possible identities, the one that gives authority at the moment of its assertion. This speaking position is not an identity, but rather an ascribed or chosen identification. Most recently, religious identification has taken on political significance in postcolonial Arab countries. Social, economic, military, and political failures have galvanized reactionary, religious responses to Western domination, globalization, and the corrupt values they are thought to be spreading. Islamist groups from Morocco to Bahrain are calling for an Islamic state,
within which they will reestablish what they consider to be Islamically sanctioned gender relations. What they are calling for is a jihad, understood as the individual- collective struggle within the Muslim society, which, even if it does not connote military war, does suggest the conditions pertaining to war. In other words, to be in a state of jihad is to be in a war-like state of emergency that demands a suspension of norms and the improvisation of new rules of conduct. As in times of war, these emergency conditions open up the possibility for changing expectations connected with women’s roles and rights. As we shall see in the next chapter, Zaynab al-Ghazali declared her right to participate in jihad. The Saudi preacher Fatima Naseef goes further to claim this right on behalf of all Muslim women. She dedicates a section in her chapter on women’s political rights to the “Right to Participate in Jihad.” Quoting from the Qur’an, 2:216, she writes: “Fighting is decreed for you, much as you dislike it.” Naseef ranks jihad as next in importance to the five pillars of Islam (Naseef 1999:152). She quotes a tradition taken from the Prophet’s wife Aisha stating that although jihad for women may be “without fighting,” it remains jihad. Indeed, in a case where infidels invade a Muslim country, “all the inhabitants of this country should go out and fight the enemy. In this situation, it is unlawful for anyone to refrain from fighting” (153). Further, during these exceptional times women can act without their husbands’ permission, as may “the child

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