This IDS Bulletin questions what the intersection of global, local and national politics means for policy and practice in the realm of religion and gender. It brings together scholars, scholar-activists and development practitioners to share their analyses of the critical challenges and opportunities that are transforming their realities today. A workshop at IDS in September 2010 took the debates further, leading to a series of interventions, shared in this issue.
One of the clear messages that emerged from both the workshop and these articles is that the current scholarly approach to the study of gender and religion is wanting - because it is locked in a binary framework of secularism vs religion, modernity vs tradition and moderates vs extremists. We need new lenses to engage with the complexities of the politics of gender, which means the deconstruction of the old, and greater conceptual clarity over what is meant by the religious and the secular.
This issue responds to the themes of religion, politics and women's equality in relation to the so-called ‘Muslim world'. Post-9/11 the international community has adopted a dual approach of fighting terrorism while also promoting a ‘religious' approach in its dealings with ‘the Muslim community'. Religion has also become an entry point in development policy and practice in the light of the entrenchment of neoliberal policies and the rise of identity politics as faith-based actors have been brought to centre stage. Some Western donors have also espoused an agenda of engaging with Muslim leaders while adopting a religious framework for advancing human rights in ‘Muslim communities'.