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Excursus Gender

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Chapter Summary

The image of Muslim women and of India has been shaped by colonial reforms and modern identity-formations. In early Islam, women enjoyed some mobility, given the Quranic injunctions elevating their position in traditional Arab society of Mecca and Medina. In the Indian context, both Muslim and Hindu elite women remained invisible behind veils, yet many enjoyed influential positions in scholarship or at court. In a gendered context, Muslim patriarchs used shariʿa as an effective tool to curtail women's rights, as well as to socialise and create Muslim identity as interplay between the religious community and the state. Hindu-nationalist parties were enabled to assail the Muslim minorities, by attacking cultural pluralism and secularism as something undermining the integrity of the Indian state. Young Muslim women increasingly use the veil to symbolise Muslim identity, and transform feminist critique into an Islamic one, creating a gender-segregated public sphere.

Keywords: Hindu; India; Islam; Muslim identity; Muslim women



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