Tension Between Women's Rights and Religions

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This study considers the extent to which localizing the integration of rights, cultures and religion: 1) challenges the universality and secularization of the rights discourse and practice globally; 2) bridges the disparity between the rhetoric and implementation of women’s-human rights in global and local contexts; and 3) embodies an Asian-Malaysian feminist standpoint epistemology that has the potential to reconcile the impasse of universal versus cultural relativism of rights. The narratives of 25 women and two men interviewed as faith-rights-based activists encapsulate ways of knowing and doing women’s-human rights in epitomizing what it means to radicalize rights and religion in spiritualizing politics and practicing spirituality. This study shows how critical relativism as a moral and political imperative more effectively advances and not impedes women’s rights as human rights within local and global contexts. In doing so, this study offers a solution to the impasse of universalism versus relativism of rights in the rhetoric and practice of women’s human rights. This multi-disciplinary study will be insightful to scholars in Women’s Studies, Religious Studies and Development Studies. It would also appeal to women’s human rights activists in serving as an advocacy tool in weaving rights and religions within local and global contexts.


“ ... This volume gives us a rare insight into the dedication of women and men who understand their roles to be ones that work towards reversing that situation, not by imposing alien ideals, but rather by beginning where their constituency is positioned, and facilitating organic development that is authentic to the individuals concerned, to their communities, cultures and religious traditions.” – (From the Foreword) Dr. Deborah F. Sawyer, University of Lancaster

“ ... A highly original work of excellent quality, the study provides a rare opportunity to gain an informed and nuanced insight into the ethnic, social, and religious complexities of contemporary Malaysia … Written at a high level of theorization, it is meticulously annotated, referenced, and cross-referenced, and is backed up by an impressive bibliography. It can be highly recommended, especially within the context of international discussions about universal human rights and women’s human rights, about women in Islam, and about the relations between the state, law, and religion.” – Dr. Ursula King, University of Bristol

“ This book has the potential to make a very useful contribution to a variety of fields: Religious Studies, Gender Studies, and Southeast Asian Studies, on a range of topics: the universal and the relative in human rights discourse, the salience of religion in non-Western human rights contexts, the acute significance of a gendered understanding of human rights, the specific challenges facing Malaysian (and Southeast Asian) society, and the ethics of research on politically sensitive topics. The author is to be congratulated on a work that is brave in both intellectual and political terms.” – Dr. Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad, Lancaster University

Table of Contents

Foreword by Deborah Sawyer
1. From Global Vision to Local Practices
2. Going Beyond Universal Versus Relativist Rights Discourse and Practice
3. Outsiders-Insiders of Faith-Rights-Based Activism
4. Towards an Asian-Malaysian Feminist Standpoint Epistemology
5. From Local Visions to Global Practices

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