Gender, Sexuality and Islam in Muslim Women’s English Literature

Gender, sexuality and Islam are generally perceived as incompatible because discussion on gender and sexuality and the rights of women or LGBTQ+ people is viewed as not having any place in Islam. This general perception ignores the fact that Islam was once accused of being feminine and tolerant of non-heterosexual sensibilities. Islamophobic discourse and many Muslims also consider that the contemporary discourses on gender and sexuality do not have compatibility with Islam. Islamophobia perpetuates the notion that Islam is inherently patriarchal and heterosexual. This perspective blames the religion for its perceived lack of inclusivity towards women and LGBTQ+ individuals. On the other hand, some Muslims view discussions on gender and sexuality as western cultural imports aimed at promoting westernisation, vulgarity and anti-Islamism. These viewpoints contribute to a complex challenge faced by Muslim-majority societies when addressing the connection between gender, sexuality and Islam.

As a result of this complex challenge from both external and internal sources, discourse on gender, sexuality and Islam in Muslim-majority contexts has remained subdued. This silence has had detrimental effects on marginalised communities within Muslim societies who could otherwise have been granted equal rights. Muslim women and LGBTQ+ people of colour find themselves doubly marginalised within marginalities. It is, therefore, crucial to critically evaluate the prevailing perceptions surrounding gender, sexuality and Islam. Recognising the historical diversity within Islamic thought regarding these topics can help dispel misconceptions about their incompatibility. Additionally, fostering an open dialogue that respects diverse perspectives can contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the intersectionality between gender, sexualit, and Islam.

English literature, especially by Muslim women, has problematised the general perception of incompatibility and responded to the inside and the outside through such characters who negotiate between their gender, sexuality and Islam. While the terms 'gender' and 'sexuality' are modern constructs, Islam predates them and may not employ contemporary linguistic tools to address these concepts in a nuanced manner. However, literary works have explored the intricate interplay between them by presenting their female and non-heterosexual characters who confront patriarchal cultural/nationalist imaginaries within their own communities while also responding to western Islamophobic narratives. These characters engage in a constant struggle, fighting against societal norms and negotiating an intermediate space between western secularism and local religious traditions. This special issue aims to examine such inclusive and non-binary characters in English literature written by Muslim women. Its primary focus is to explore the compatibility of gender, sexuality and Islam within women's experiences as well as non-heteronormative subjectivities depicted in literature. Its primary focus is to explore the compatibility of gender, sexuality and Islam within women's experiences as well as non-heteronormative subjectivities depicted in literature. It invites original research articles on English literature written by Muslim women of any cultural and/or national background. Its scope includes but is not restricted to the following themes:

    In/compatibility of gender, sexuality, and Islam
    Muslim women’s and non-normative or LGBTQ+ people’s battles for their gender and sexual rights
    Suppression of discourse and struggle for gender and sexuality by Muslims
    Reduction of Islam as a gender- and sexuality-biased religion by Islamophobic frames
    Negotiated Muslim women and non-heterosexual subjectivities
    Embedding agency in religion
    Narratives of resistance and liberation
    Negotiating modernity and tradition
    Feminist and queer theoretical approaches in literature
    Voices of LGBTQ+ Muslim women
    The role of Muslim women writers in shaping discourse
    Challenging Islamophobia and misconceptions
    Intersectionality and Muslim women's experiences

Please, submit your abstract of 200 words along with your bio in 50 words to Muhammad Safdar by 15 Nov. 2023. The submitted abstracts will be reviewed and responses will be sent by 10 Dec. 2023. The full paper submission date is 30 Apr. 2024. The special issue will be published in the journal Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific. The journal is also known as Intersections (Australia). Its ISSN is 1440-9151. It is published by The Australian National University and has a long and rich history of publishing scholarship on gender and sexuality as an open-access journal without charging any APC.

Special Issue Guest Editors

Muhammad Safdar

Muhammad Safdar is an Assistant Professor of gender and literary studies at the Faculty of Languages and Literature, University of Central Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan. His PhD is in English literature, focusing on Muslim feminist and gender subjectivities at the intersection of gender, religion and mobility. His research has been published in peer-reviewed international journals and books published by SAGE, Routledge, Wiley and Palgrave Macmillan.

Moussa Pourya Asl

Moussa Pourya Asl is a Senior Lecturer of literary studies at Universiti Sains Malaysia and Affiliate at the Faculty of Humanities, University of Oulu, Finland. He obtained his PhD in literary studies from USM. His primary research area is in diasporic literature and gender and cultural studies. He has guest-edited two special issues on postcolonial and diasporic literature and theory for the journal The Wenshan Review. He has edited two books: Gender, Place, and Identity of South Asian Women (2022), and Urban Poetics and Politics in Contemporary South Asia and the Middle East (2023). He has published several articles in the above-mentioned areas.

Published with the support of Gender and Cultural Studies, School of Culture, History and Language, College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University.
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