The women’s movement has always been inherently global, but by the end of the 20th century there was a new burst of transnational women’s organizing as women used new technologies to network at home and abroad. Women’s movements are studied in the context of globalization, and Southeast Asian women’s “positioning” within this global context. The Southeast Asian women’s diaspora (for example, the significant number of Filipino domestic workers overseas) and the effect of globalization on women, has inspired the contemporary women’s movement to work in a transnational rather than a local context. At the same time, Islamic revivalism has made Southeast Asian Muslim women more conscious of their transnational Muslim identity. Sisters in Islam, based in Malaysia, reinterprets the Koran from a feminist perspective, focusing on issues faced by the “modern” Muslim woman in Malaysia and in the global Muslim community.
Sisters in Islam (SIS) was founded in 1988 to promote the rights of Muslim women. A group of feminist, professional women organized SIS because men, as ulama (Islamic scholars), were the only ones permitted to interpret the text of the Koran (Qur’an). SIS presented a more egalitarian interpretation of the Koran, especially regarding women. In the 1970s, as women began to enter the labor force, Malaysia experienced a rise of Islamic revivalism (dakwa movement). Dakwa encouraged a more pious practice of Islam and veiling became popular (veiling is a relatively modern phenomenon associated with elite, university educated, middle-class women). SIS argued that one could be both a feminist and a Muslim. An examination of the titles of SIS publications (listed on the homepage) and seminars topics reveals a distinct interest in women’s rights, particularly in Shari’a Law or Muslim Law (Hudud) based on the Qu’ran and the Hadith (the traditions of the Prophet written down by his followers).
Source: Sisters In Islam (SIS), http://www.sistersinislam.org.my/