Exactly. But the first Islamic feminist reformers did not go beyond the concept of “fairness,” which recognized different rights for men and women based on their different natures. Only at the beginning of the ‘70s would another Islamic feminist movement take shape, this time of a secular mold and linked to the parties of the Left, which would begin to introduce the concept of “equality” in the name of Islam. For this purpose, it was necessary to go beyond the literal meaning of the Koran and look for a new interpretation. It was recognized, then as now, that the emancipation of women could never start from Islam itself, which is still the religion of the state and society and the basis of the legitimacy of the legal order in the Arab world. However, by the late nineties, with the birth of what we might call “Islamist feminism,” there was a return to the concept of “fairness” and to a literal approach to the Koran and Sunnah. For Islamist feminists, “fairness” does not mean “equality.”
But is it not a stretch to want to reinterpret the Koran in a feminist key?
Our society has changed since the seventh century, although at the time of its birth Islam gave much more freedom to women compared to the West. Today, we have to recover the original spirit of Islam if we are to build a more just society. In this sense, the Koran and its feminist reinterpretation is a tactical tool to make this change more acceptable to the masses, or, better put, to make it more acceptable from an Islamic point of view.
Yet, the younger generation seems to want to want to recover a literal interpretation of the sacred texts.
Currently, Islamist feminism is the predominant current. Young Muslims feel humiliated and marginalized by the West, and because of this, they are looking for a strong identity to identify with. And from that point of view, a return to a literal interpretation of the Koran appears to be a good solution—an interpretation that is also the simplest to understand. This is why an intellectual turn is needed. But it will not be an easy change. Most Arab governments are not democratic, and religion has proved to be an excellent tool for the maintenance of power. Because of this, they are not interested in any process of secularization.