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The Islamic Frontier: Islam and Gender Equity in Southeast Asia

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The long-lived egalitarian cultural perspective, diversity of ethnic groups and the centrality of egalitarian kinship structures of Southeast Asia are identified as major factors allowing for the persistence of gender egalitarianism despite centuries of Islam. In order to establish a baseline, this paper first examines the development of Islam in ancient Arabia and Islam's impact on gender stratification. Then, it compares the gendered outcome of the adoption of Islam in kinship-based societies of North Africa to Indonesia. I propose that the level of congruence between the ideals of kinship and gender espoused in Islam and the actual kinship and gender lived by those who convert to Islam are important factors in determining gendered outcomes. These conclusions made about Southeast Asia are also confirmed in a South Asian setting.


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