Abstract

This article explores how women active in Islamic organizations in Norway have represented the position of women in Islam between 1991 and 2010. It particularly focuses on the distinction many women make between patriarchal practices in Muslim cultures and a “real” Islam that empowers women. Why is this distinction so widespread? In his much acclaimed work Holy Ignorance (2010), Olivier Roy considers separating religion from culture to be typical for fundamentalism. Based on archival material and qualitative interviews, this article shows that there is no one-to-one correspondence between religious fundamentalism and perceptions of religion as separate from culture. Instead, it demonstrates that Norwegian Muslim women’s essentialist representations of Islam are provoked by representations of Islam in public debate as inherently violent and oppressive towards women. This article introduces the term “diffused Islamic feminism” to grasp Muslim women’s efforts against forced marriages and other misogynistic practices.