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Representations of Muslim women and the veil: questions of image and voice
Unformatted Document Text:  instrument of deception’ (1976, p. 633), since it allows women the fantasy of equality in the eyes of the divine power and masks the patriarchal basis of religious laws. Yet, little consideration has been given to differences between Christianity and Islam in constructions of female sexuality. While Christianity has been repressive of female sexuality (other than for the purpose of procreation), the Islamic constructions of female sexuality have, according to some Muslim feminists, been more ambivalent about the legitimacy of women’s sexual feelings. Fatima Mernissi (1985), for example, argues that the restrictive and often coercive edicts of Islamic law in relation to women’s sexual conduct, especially in public, stem from acknowledgement of women’s active sexual desires, and the threat these pose to the order of family life, rather than from suppression of female sexuality. In this respect, Islam can be seen as more open to female sexuality than the Judaeo-Christian religions. While the effect of the male-constructed shari’a may be equally or even more restrictive, in debarring women from sexual self-expression and the same entitlements to sexual freedom as men, its response is to a fear of an acknowledged sexuality. It can, in this respect, be set against religious scripts that deny any legitimacy to female sexual desires or practices. Even although Islam constructs a rigid patriarchal division between public and private binaries in debarring any expression of female sexuality outside the home, while nevertheless acknowledging women’s entitlement to sexual pleasure and sexual satisfaction within marriage, this latter recognition still marks a surprising egalitarianism in thinking about sexual desire. In the development of patriarchal Islamic law, therefore,

Authors: Macdonald, Myra.
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instrument of deception’ (1976, p. 633), since it allows women the fantasy of equality in
the eyes of the divine power and masks the patriarchal basis of religious laws.
Yet, little consideration has been given to differences between Christianity and Islam in
constructions of female sexuality. While Christianity has been repressive of female
sexuality (other than for the purpose of procreation), the Islamic constructions of female
sexuality have, according to some Muslim feminists, been more ambivalent about the
legitimacy of women’s sexual feelings. Fatima Mernissi (1985), for example, argues that
the restrictive and often coercive edicts of Islamic law in relation to women’s sexual
conduct, especially in public, stem from acknowledgement of women’s active sexual
desires, and the threat these pose to the order of family life, rather than from suppression
of female sexuality. In this respect, Islam can be seen as more open to female sexuality
than the Judaeo-Christian religions.
While the effect of the male-constructed shari’a may be equally or even more restrictive,
in debarring women from sexual self-expression and the same entitlements to sexual
freedom as men, its response is to a fear of an acknowledged sexuality. It can, in this
respect, be set against religious scripts that deny any legitimacy to female sexual desires
or practices. Even although Islam constructs a rigid patriarchal division between public
and private binaries in debarring any expression of female sexuality outside the home,
while nevertheless acknowledging women’s entitlement to sexual pleasure and sexual
satisfaction within marriage, this latter recognition still marks a surprising egalitarianism
in thinking about sexual desire. In the development of patriarchal Islamic law, therefore,


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