, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 249-265

Piety as a concept underpinning Muslim women’s online discussions of marriage and professional career

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Abstract

In this article, I address piety as a concept shaping Muslim women’s online discussions about gender roles, marriage and professional careers. I also investigate cross-cultural religious encounters in these women-only groups as I am interested in the potential of such online environments to facilitate women’s religious reflection and intellectual engagement. Finally, I explore motivations and religious interpretations of three categories of participants in these discussions: egalitarians, for whom gender equality is a necessary component of piety (Barlas 2006); traditionalists, identified by other authors as Islamists (Karam 1998) or social conservatives (Gül and Gül 48:1–26, 2000; Mahmood 2005) and finally, holists, a group that cannot be mapped out on the political landscape by using the progressive–conservative binary (Badran, Agenda 50:41–57, 2001) and which exists and acts outside of it, neither subverting nor enacting norms of any dominant system, be it secular–liberal or patriarchal. Following Mahmood’s argument that formulating an analysis based exclusively on such a binary is simplistic (Mahmood 2005), I argue that actions of holists can be only addressed by formulating a set of questions different to those used to analyse self-defined egalitarians or traditionalists.