According to foundational Islamic texts, motherhood is a key aspect of women’s diverse social roles; however some Muslim religious commentaries position motherhood as the only aspect of women’s contributions to society. The everyday mothering experiences of Muslim women remain absent from these discussions. This anthropological article will examine Muslim women’s narratives of motherhood and mothering in contemporary Britain. In my research, Muslim women in Britain chose motherhood, firstly, as one of the many fronts on which to challenge patriarchy that is evident in some Muslim texts and to thus ‘reclaim their faith’ as articulated in foundational Islamic texts. Secondly, in their mothering experiences, Muslim women found a space of commonality that they shared with other women – motherhood was something these Muslim women believed they shared with their ‘sisters’ who were from backgrounds different to their own. Within their diverse and multifaceted struggles, Muslim women thus identified a space which they share with other women.
This article examines existing literature and data from qualitative fieldwork with Muslim women in Britain to analyse their narratives of human rights and freedom, as they live within plural European contexts. In scared, securitised and polarised Europe, Muslim women have become visible markers of otherness. Each Muslim woman becomes a fulcrum upon which Western values and morality are measured against the “other”, its values, its beliefs and its choices. In exploring the implications of societal othering on Muslim women’s experiences of their human rights, this article concludes that in social contexts that are polemical, becoming the other dehumanises Muslim women who thus become ineligible for “human” rights. In such contexts, a human rights-based approach alone is insufficient to achieve “dignity and fairness” in society. In addition to human rights, societies need robust and rigorous dialogue so that societal differences become part of a new mediated plural reality.
This Editors’ Introduction to the special issue on ‘Motherhood, Religions and Spirituality’ serves to explain the rationale, research questions and context for this interdisciplinary collection. As such, it engages with Kawash’s call for more scholarly work on the intersections between mothering and religious beliefs, practices and experiences. It goes on to situate the contributions into feminist work and methodologies and to show how they focus on the voices and agency of mothers (and non-mothers), before introducing and contextualising the individual contributions. The Introduction concludes by discussing further studies that could build on the work of this collection.
The 30th volume of
Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion consists of two special sections, as well as two separate empirical studies on attachment and daily spiritual practices. The first special section deals with the social scientific study of religion in Indonesia. Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country whose history and contemporary involvement in the study of religion is explored from both sociological and psychological perspectives. The second special section is on the Pope Francis effect: the challenges of modernization in the Catholic church and the global impact of Pope Francis. While its focus is mainly on the Catholic religion, the internal dynamics and geopolitics explored apply more broadly.