Citizenship, Faith, and Feminism: Jewish and Muslim Women Reclaim Their Rights
Also alive and well: feminist activism among Orthodox Jews and Muslims in contemporary Israel, Kuwait and the United States. So argues Jan Feldman in “Citizenship, Faith and Feminism: Jewish and Muslim Women Reclaim Their Rights.” Feldman acknowledges her personal stake in this argument; her last book, “Lubavitchers as Citizens,” was an “attempt to square (her) feminism and nonpartisan humanism ... with (her) strong attachment to Lubavitch,” and more recently, she has explained how she became “the only professor on campus” — at the University of Vermont, where she teaches political science — “in a sheitel.”
Feldman’s Citizenship, Faith & Feminism is a unique text; of course, to Muslim and Jewish feminist scholars and activists the concerns highlighted within the text will not be new. However, the way in which Feldman draws commonalities between Islam and Judaism, and international comparisons between Israel, Kuwait, and the United States is distinct, particularly in light of the conflict between citizenship, religious identity, and multiculturalism. This is not to say that Feldman does not marginalise some complex and historical differences between the faiths, but this is perhaps a strength of Citizenship, Faith & Feminism. Indeed, Feldman does not pretend to have the answers and is right to claim that “Recapturing the promise of gender justice embedded in Judaism and Islam is an ongoing struggle” (71). Equally, Feldman is able to emphasise the fact that Jewish and Muslim feminists share similar concerns, aspirations, and even contexts. This includes the stark choices that Muslim and Jewish feminists make in deciding whether to endure injustice, suffer voluntary exile, or struggle within their communities using civil equality as a basis for reform. For Feldman, this is a common struggle “rooted in a desire [of Muslim and Jewish feminists] to see that G-d given justice prevails for our daughters” (204).
—Women in Judaism: A Multidisciplinary Journal
JAN FELDMAN is Professor of Political Science at the University of Vermont, specializing in political theory and political culture. She has published in the field of Soviet political theory, the post-Soviet transition to democracy, trade policy and population theory. She is the author of Lubavitchers as Citizens: A Paradox of Liberal Democracy.