Fundamentalist Religion and Gender: The Case for an Inclusive Secular Education

  • Lynn Davies


This chapter examines the paradox of the role of women in fundamentalist religions. It looks first at the arguments that religion acts to control women, through concepts of purity and sacred domesticity which denies them rights. It then examines why religion appeals to women, outlining attractions of identity, psychological safety, material safety, addiction, cognitive closure in globalised times and a sense of political purpose. Concerns for education relate to questions of autonomy, the support for patriarchy and education’s role in peace and violence. A case is made for an inclusive state secularism in education, which can accommodate diverse religions but is not relativistic about morality. Secular, critical, rights-based education encourages alternative worldviews, provides a cross-cutting international value system and enables a range of political activism, as well as fostering critiques of fundamentalism itself. Religion can be harnessed for good and for the good of women, but education must be a bulwark against when religion is being harnessed for harm.


Muslim Woman Catholic School Psychological Safety Religious Movement Religious Expression 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Ahmed-Ghosh, H. (2003, May). A history of women in Afghanistan: Lessons learnt for the future. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 4(3), 1–14.Google Scholar
  2. Apple, M. (2001). Educating the ‘right’ way: Markets, standards, God and inequality. London: RoutledgeFalmer.Google Scholar
  3. Arnot, M., & Fennell, S. (2008). Gendered education and national development: Critical perspectives and new research. Compare, 38(5), 515–523.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arthur, J. (2008). Faith and secularisation in religious colleges and universities. Journal of Beliefs and Values, 29(2), 197–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ben-Porath, S. (2006). Citizenship under fire: Democratic education in times of conflict. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bergen, P., & Pandey, S. (2006). The Madrassa Scapegoat. Washington Quarterly, 29(2), 117–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brohi, N., & Ajaib, A. (2006). Violence against girls in the education system of Pakistan. In F. Leach & C. Mitchell (Eds.), Combating gender violence in and around schools. London: RoutledgeFalmerGoogle Scholar
  8. Cairns. E. (1996). Children and political violence. London: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  9. Chenoy, A., & Vanaik, A. (2001). Promoting peace, security and conflict resolution. In I. Skjelsbaek & D. Smith (Eds.), Gender, peace and conflict. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  10. Chesnut, A. (1997). Born again in Brazil: The Pentecostal boom and the pathogens of poverty. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Cockburn, C. (1998). The space between us: Negotiating gender and national identities in conflict. London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  12. Connolly, C. (1991). Washing our linen: One year of women against fundamentalism. Feminist Review, 37, 68–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Davies, L. (2008). Educating against extremism. Stoke on Trent: Trentham.Google Scholar
  14. Davies, L., & Kirkpatrick, G. (2000). The Euridem project: A review of pupil democracy in Europe. London: Children’s Rights Alliance.Google Scholar
  15. Davies, L., Harber, C., Schweisfurth, M., Williams, C., & Yamashita, H. (2008). Risk reduction for vulnerable groups in education for emergencies in South Asia. Report to UNICEF, Birmingham: Centre for International Education and Research.Google Scholar
  16. Dawkins, R. (2006). The God delusion. London: Bantam Press.Google Scholar
  17. Durrani, N. (2008). Schooling the ‘other’: The representation of gender and national identities in Pakistani curriculum texts. Compare, 38, 5.Google Scholar
  18. Forest, J (Ed.). (2006) Teaching Terror. Maryland: Rowntree and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  19. Furbey, R., Dinham, A., Farnell, R., Finneron, D., & Wilkinson, G. (2006). Faith as social capital. London: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.Google Scholar
  20. Gledhill, R. (2012, May 31). Church women in protest at women bishops. The Times. Google Scholar
  21. Goulding, K. (2011, June 13). Tunisia: Will democracy be good for women’s rights? 50.50 Inclusive Democracy. Accessed 12 July 2011.
  22. Greany, K. (2008). Rhetoric versus reality: Exploring the rights-based approach to girls’ education in rural Niger. Compare, 38, 5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hallum, A. (2003). Taking stock and building bridges: Feminism, women’s movements and pentecostalism in Latin America. Latin American Research Review, 38(1), 169–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hanman, N. (2006, May 9). Unequal opportunities. Education Guardian. p. 5.Google Scholar
  25. Iannaccone, L. (1994). Why strict churches are strong. The American Journal of Sociology, 99, 1180–1211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jacoby, S. (2008, October 31). Religion remains fundamental to US Politics. The Times. p. 34.Google Scholar
  27. Jeffrey, C., Jeffery, R., & Patricia, J. (2008). School and madrasah education: Gender and the strategies of Muslim men in rural North India. Compare, 38, 5.Google Scholar
  28. Kahn, M. M. (2006, October). Conservative Christian teachers: Possible consequences for lesbian, gay and bisexual youth. Intercultural Education, 17(4), 359–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kintz, L. (1997). Between Jesus and the market: The emotions that matter in right-wing America. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Macwan, J., & Ramanathan, S. (2007). Resolving dalit identity: Vankars, Chamars, Valmikis. In I. Ahmed & S. B. Upadhyay (Eds.), Dalit assertion in society, literature and history. Delhi: Deshkal Publications.Google Scholar
  31. Moran, C. (2011, April 23). Men invented burkas, men are banning burkas. The Times Magazine. p. 7.Google Scholar
  32. Mukta, P. (2000). Gender, community, nation: The myth of innocence. In S. Jacobs, R. Jacobsen, & J. Marchbank (Eds.), States of conflict: Gender, violence and resistance. London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  33. Nnameka, O. (1997). The politics of (M)othering: Womanhood, identity and resistance in African literature. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  34. Pittaway, E., Bartolemei, L., & Rees, S. (2007). Gendered dimensions of the 2004 tsunami and a potential social work response in post-disaster situations. International Social Work, 50(3), 307–319. quoting OXFAM.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ramakrishna, K. (2006). The making of the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist. In J. Forest (Ed.), Teaching terror. Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  36. Ruthven, M. (2004). Fundamentalism: The search for meaning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Smith, C. (2008, June). Future directions in the sociology of religion. Social Forces, 86(4), 1561–1589.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Stambach, A. (2010). Faith in schools: Religion, education and American evangelicals in East Africa. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Toynbee, P. (2001). Behind the Burka.The Guardian, Sep 28th Velaskar, P. (2007). At intersection of caste, class and patriarchy: Exploring Dalit women’s oppression. In I. Ahmed & S. B. Upadhyay (Eds.), Dalit assertion in society, literature and history. Delhi: Deshkal Publication.Google Scholar
  40. Walker, B. (1999). Christianity, development and women’s liberation. Gender and Development, 7(1), 15–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Centre for International Education and ResearchUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK

Personalised recommendations