Domestic Democracy: The Road to National and International Democracy

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In this paper, I draw an analogy between participatory democracy in the Quranic gender revolution and the national-international democratic relationship. Quranic relations create an active process of individual political consciousness and social action, while the present national-international relations hardly create national awareness or global justice. I argue that antithetical to the active process of the Qur`anic gender revolution stands the analysis of Muslim women's role in the political discourse and the governance of Muslim societies merely within gender "add-on" strategies, particularly as discussed in contemporary Western academic and Muslim traditionalist discourses.

As a Muslim woman scholar-activist, I view the use of gender and other constructs as deactivating factors in the conscious process of participatory democracy within Islam. This deactivation of consciousness could explain why some Muslim women scholar-activists resist feminism that emphasizes universal group solidarity, without paying attention to individual worldviews. It could also explain why these women resist the predominantly Muslim male elite conception and practice of the consultative process (shura): participation is limited to the selected few, and women's participation is an "add-on" or only to address domestic issues.

By defining Islam as an action-oriented worldview that encompasses social, cultural, and political elements, including religious and secular "Ijtihad", I emphasize this worldview's reliance on human capacity to reason, and its goal being the construction of fair decision-making process that brings equilibrium (Taqwa). I bring to the surface underlying assumptions about how tension in the domestic relationship is reflected in tensions between national and international relationships. I specifically address the tension between feminists-generated conceptions of democracy vis-a-vis Muslim women's participatory democracy. These tensions are manifested on four levels: ontological or value claims, epistemological or knowledge claims, cultural or historical claims, and praxis or socialization claims. My focus will be on the relation between the power of knowledge and social and political constructs.

My goal is to develop a self-learning process to improve my own capacities and those of other Muslim women (and men) to control our destinies more effectively: to change life situations in the home, in the learning/work environment, and in the larger social context to support self-realization and self-determination. It means the ability to bridge individual political consciousness and social action to effect a cognitive and attitudinal change on the individual, social and political levels, mitigating potential resistance by both modernists and traditionalists.

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Copyright 2003, Nimat Hafez Barazangi. See also:;


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Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy


Quranic gender revolution; Participatory democracy; Individual active consciousness process; Western academe vs. Muslim traditionalists; Domestic tension vis-a-vis national-international tension


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Proceeding of the 4th Annual Conference: "Why Democracy and Why Now?" In Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (May 16-17, 2003).

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