Fundamentalisms and Women's Rights
|Panel-discussion: "Feminists versus Fundamentalisms " |
Friday, 09.09.2005, 11.15 am-1 pm
Offices of the Heinrich-Böll-Foundation in India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Thailand, Turkey
Facilitator: Durre Sameen Ahmed, National College of Arts Lahore, Pakistan
In many countries all over the globe, we can observe an increasing influence of fundamentalist forces in the societies and also on the international level.
Fundamentalisms are to be understood as political projects by certain groups in the different societies aimed at gaining or keeping political and/or economic power. They project a vision of community and more often of a nation, based on a certain identity-related understanding suggesting that only one societal concept is in accordance with the vision of community/nation. Behind these fundamentalist projects we can find special political forces that use religion - be it Christian, Muslim, Jewish or other religions - to impose a certain “holy” concept of society as the only true one. They deny the right to choose between different societal concepts, and present their vision as the only legitimate. They do not leave room for opposition, for alternative ways and for individual rights. They try to silence opposition, put pressure on it and form a homogenised society.
On the one side it is therefore necessary to clearly demonstrate the forces promoting fundamentalist ideologies and concepts. What is their interest in promoting these concepts? Hereby we have to be extremely cautious, as we can observe on the international agenda that certain groups blame and combat others for being fundamentalists while using fundamenatlist concepts in their own countries to combat oppositional trends.
It is therefore of extreme importance for us feminists to understand the power struggle on the national and international agenda. Those who blame others for being fundamentalists might be fundamentalists on their own. The combat against fundamentalism is in recent times very much connected with Muslim religion. In international politics this term is used as a tool of power relations, with double standards. And, while in certain circumstances the rights of women are put as an argument to combat fundamentalist (US politics in Afghanistan), the same forces try to reduce women’s rights, sexual and individual rights in their own countries.
On the other side, we have to analyze the interests of the forces promoting fundamentalist concepts. They are very often used to legitimize exiting power structures or to demand power for certain groups while excluding others from the power sharing.
Further, fundamentalist concepts are to be understood in the context of globalization. Globalization has different impact on each society, but very often leads to the exclusion of social forces from the economic welfare of a country.
Finally, while fundamentalist trends in each country claim to be the only true societal concept, on the international agenda, these forces are able to work together and follow common aims: deny of personal rights especially of women, deny of sexual rights and control over women in their private and public sphere.
Therefore, we need to come to an understanding of the different aspects of fundamentalisms in order to develop a strategy that enables women to challenge these forces on the national, regional and international level.
In our plenary discussion, we want to question fundamentalist trends, the forces behind these trends. We do not want to compare different fundamentalisms, but to understand the underlying forces and understanding of fundamentalisms in order to develop strategies to challenge them. We agree on the understanding of the existence of different fundamenalisms – Christian, Muslim, Jewish and so on. They are different on the one hand because the religions they refer to demand different approaches. They are different also according to the societal backgrounds: Muslim fundamentalists in Europe might differ from Muslim fundamentalists in Arab countries or in Asian countries. But they have in common to define social concepts of communities, based on identities, that deny a plurality and complexity of societies.
Ulrike Dufner, Heinrich Boell Foundation, Istanbul, Turkey
E-Mail email@example.com, Homepage http://www.boell-tr.org/
Aktualisiert: 01.09.2005, hbr