International Development, Community and Environment (IDCE)

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Chief Instructor

Denise Humphreys Bebbington, Ph.D.


Like many religious traditions, men use Islam to justify and sustain patriarchal control of women. Islam is stigmatized as inherently violent and oppressive to women. The dominant rhetoric among Muslim feminists attributes the aggression to the misinterpretation and misreading of sacred Islamic texts. However, an on-site observation and exploration of the 2014 gathering of Rihla in Konya, Turkey revealed that misinterpretation is but one of many causes and justifications of cultural Violence Against Muslim Women. The purpose of this research is to explore a new dimension of cultural violence against women in the name of Islam by examining the intersection of religion, culture, identity and gender in the context of developmental studies. Development interventions seeking to address such violence treat religion as a cultural obstacle to Muslim women’s empowerment, often ignoring the multiple-layers of women’s oppression that state and non-state actors cause, which may be exacerbating the issue. Thus, this study outlines key themes to illustrate the blurred lines between religion, culture and identity. I argue that Muslims recognize the severity of Violence Against Muslim Women, but they contest Western efforts, based on a model of modernization and secularism to empower women and demand gender equality, which are seen as threatening and undesirable. Research findings provide a broader understanding of how religion can be a double-edge sword: cultures of patriarchy use it to justify violence, yet Muslims believe that it is the way to women’s empowerment and gender equality.



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