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Agents of Change: How Islamist Women Activists in Israel Are Challenging the Status Quo

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From the public profile and media reporting on the Islamic Movement in Israel (al-Ḥaraka al-islāmiyya fī Isrā’īl), the impression given is that this movement is run by men, and that women are, if visible, in the background. However, when looking behind the façade it becomes clear that women are not only active, but are at the forefront of Islamist activism, spearheading change in their community. In their organizations for women, and through informal channels, they educate women, and indirectly men, about the role and position of women in Islam. Their activism also contributes to creating awareness about their Palestinian Arab Muslim history and predicament, thus also empowering women vis-à-vis Israeli domination. The women interviewed for this article all studied or study at Israeli universities, and as educated women they are reshaping the ideal of the traditional Muslim mother into that of a Muslim professional working mother. Based on the logic behind and content of their Islamist activism, the present article argues that these women are agents of change who contest the traditional ideal and practical role of Muslim Palestinian women in Israel. They are challenging patriarchal traditions and domination in their community through their Islamist activism; however, this frame simultaneously produces limitations to their opposition.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo and Zayed University, United Arab Emirates


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