The Threat of Religious Extremism to Women’s Participation in the Muslim World

June 25, 2015
03:00 pm - 04:30 pm

1025 F Street, N.W., Suite 800, Washington, D.C. 20004 


Farahnaz Ispahani
Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow

with comments by

Nina Shea
The Hudson Institute

moderated by

Sally Blair
International Forum for Democratic Studies

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About the Event

Since 2014, ISIS and affiliated extremist groups such as Boko Haram have gained significant ground in Muslim-majority countries with the goal of establishing an Islamic State governed by Shari’a. These groups have rejected all democratic principles and ideals, including equal rights for women. Women are already poorly represented in both civic and political life, often subject to medieval interpretations of the Quran and Hadith. ISIS and other extremist groups such as the Taliban and al-Qaeda aim to widen this gender gap, and they are effectively subverting recent gains and turning the Muslim women’s rights agenda on its head. Yet these movements continue to attract support from an increasing number of Muslim women, including those based in the West. In her presentation, Farahnaz Ispahani will analyze how ISIS has managed to gain influence among Muslim women, assess the implications for women’s participation in all aspects of life, and offer recommendations for creating a counter-narrative to combat the appeal of religious extremism. Her presentation will be followed by comments from Nina Shea.

About the Speakers

Ms. Farahnaz Ispahani has been a leading voice for women and religious minorities in Pakistan for the past twenty five years, first as a journalist, then as a member of Pakistan’s National Assembly, and most recently as a scholar based in the United States. An advocate of Pakistan’s return to democracy during the military regime of Pervez Musharraf, she served as a spokesperson and international media coordinator for the Pakistan People’s Party, working alongside the late Benazir Bhutto. During her tenure in parliament (2008–2012), she was a member of the Human Rights Committee and the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus. In 2012, she was listed among Foreign Policy magazine’s Top 100 Global Thinkers, as well as Newsweek Pakistan’s Top 100 Women Who Matter. During her fellowship, Ms. Ispahani is exploring women’s political participation in the Muslim world—both their progress toward gender equality under democratic systems and the troubling rise of women as agents of extremist propaganda within the world of the Islamic State. Ms. Nina Shea is the director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.

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