Faith-inspired Action on Gender Justice in the Muslim World: A Programmatic Approach to Empowering Communities in Conflict Environments

Kasim Randeree

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Literature on sexual violence in armed conflict indicates that rape and violence against women (VAW) prior to, during, and after conflict is extensive in scope and magnitude. Violence is often systematically used as a ‘weapon of war’ and may be physical, sexual, psychological, economic, or socio-cultural in nature and be perpetrated in private or public settings. Gender-based violence (GBV) is associated with increasing instances of sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, unintended pregnancies, gynaecological problems, induced abortions, and adverse pregnancy outcomes, including miscarriage, low birth weight, and foetal death. Women are often disempowered by exploitation, rape, the threat of rape, domestic violence, HIV infection, trauma, and disabilities resulting from GBV. Girls too are disempowered because of the threat of violence when they cannot attend school, are abducted for trafficking, or when their families disintegrate or must flee. In some conflicts, men are also affected by sexual violence and boys can be exploited or forced to become child soldiers. Islamic Relief (IR)1 responds to humanitarian needs in many man-made disaster contexts, such as wars and internal strife and aims to safeguard its rights-holders2 from threats emanating from such violence. As the world’s largest Muslim faith-based non-governmental organisation (NGO), IR has the potential to play an important and influential role in promoting gender justice across the Muslim world. It is particularly well-positioned to challenge misconceptions about the position of women in Islam, as well as the misuse of religion as a justification for the suppression of women, by setting a positive example through policies, programmes, and advocacy campaigns. Through its activities, it is able to highlight the principles of justice, harmony, and equality of human worth that are enshrined in Islamic teachings (Randeree, 2014a). This paper reports on a programme, consisting of three phased projects conducted by IR in Iraq, aimed at providing sustainable support for vulnerable women affected by violence in post-conflict surroundings and to raise awareness about increasing VAW in the changing backdrop of post-war Iraq. Through the lens of this programme, this paper is able to explore the broader social and economic impact of conflict from a gender perspective, the changing landscape of Iraqi society, and how conflict has very markedly affected gender justice in a detrimental manner. The article also provides insight into Islamic perspectives on VAW and GBV and case studies on programme participants (rights-holders), their personal challenges as a consequence of violence within post-conflict Iraqi communities, and their aspirations and hope for a brighter future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-65
Number of pages13
JournalThe International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014


  • Islam
  • Gender
  • Violence
  • Conflict
  • Iraq
  • Development


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