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3Reviewing BeginningsArab writers are disentangling language, blood, ethnicity,religion, and gender, and they are demonstrating that theapparently natural connections between them are in factconstructed and contingent. There is no fixed, essentialcenter that would mark the core of a single, foundationalidentity. Throughout the twentieth century there hasbeen much talk of identity: losing identity to imposedcultures and their values; uncovering lost identity;regainingauthenticidentity;asserting identityasmember of a disadvantaged group; identity politics. Ineach case, identity is tied to birth, to place, to language,to community, to religion, and to gender. Identityconfers rights. Identity takes rights away. But what is thissingular, unified identity? If identity is the recognition ofsameness with some and difference from others, then wehave many identities. To retain a sense of wholeness, weusually assert only one of many possible identities, theone that gives authority at the moment of its assertion.This speaking position is not an identity, but rather anascribed or chosen identification.Most recently, religious identification has taken onpolitical significance in postcolonial Arab countries.Social, economic, military, and political failures havegalvanized reactionary, religious responses to Westerndomination, globalization, and the corrupt values theyare thought to be spreading. Islamist groups fromMorocco to Bahrain are calling for an Islamic state,
within which they will reestablish what they consider tobe Islamically sanctioned gender relations. What they arecalling 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 theconditions pertaining to war. In other words, to be in astate of jihad is to be in a war-like state of emergency thatdemands a suspension of norms and the improvisationof new rules of conduct. As in times of war, theseemergency conditions open up the possibility forchanging expectations connected with women’s roles andrights.As we shall see in the next chapter, Zaynab al-Ghazalideclared her right to participate in jihad. The Saudipreacher Fatima Naseef goes further to claim this righton behalf of all Muslim women. She dedicates a sectionin her chapter on women’s political rights to the “Rightto Participate in Jihad.” Quoting from the Qur’an, 2:216,she writes: “Fighting is decreed for you, much as youdislike it.” Naseef ranks jihad as next in importance tothe five pillars of Islam (Naseef 1999:152). She quotes atradition taken from the Prophet’s wife Aisha stating thatalthough jihad for women may be “without fighting,” itremains jihad. Indeed, in a case where infidels invade aMuslim country, “all the inhabitants of this countryshould go out and fight the enemy. In this situation, it isunlawful for anyone to refrain from fighting” (153).Further, during these exceptional times women can actwithout their husbands’ permission, as may “the child

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Term
Three
Professor
NoProfessor
Tags
Islam, A Border Passage, The Satanic Verses, pigeon holed Mernissi, Ishmael Djebar

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