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Power unveiled: Muslim women participation in European civic and political life

Final Report Summary - POWER UNVEILED (Power unveiled: Muslim women participation in European civic and political life)

The Power Unveiled project evidences the high degree of political and civic participation of Muslim women in Britain, France and Spain, much beyond all expectations. It thus successfully challenges the prevalent prejudices which attributes to those women characteristics of passivity, subordination and focus on the home to the exclusion of the public space. It makes available a wealth of data to decision-makers so that policies are designed that take into account Muslim women’s interests and needs as well as their capacity of participation and contribution to civic and political activities all of which often remain either unidentified or ignored. This undoubtedly can contribute valuable knowledge towards the integration of Muslim populations in Europe. Muslim women’s capacity of action has so far been left untapped and can provide a powerful lever of innovation and conflict resolution.

Almost all the work as scheduled towards the realisation of the project was carried out as planned. The relevant academic literature was reviewed. Archival searches produced considerable secondary and primary material on two major areas, in the first instance on the structural and cultural framework of the three countries concerned and secondly on the associations and organisations where Muslim women were involved. The empirical research fully deployed the methods envisaged to gather data in the three sites: in depth semi-structured interviews with Muslim women in a leadership position, with women who were users and/or participants; participant observation in community associations’ activities and events. Finally, the sociological intervention approach yielded a wealth of data on the women’s capacity of action and participation in civic and political engagement. The merit of this methodology is double-sided: firstly, it genuinely gives a voice to the subjects themselves and involves them in the analysis of their situation and action. Secondly, it signifies that the researchers restitute their analysis and test their hypothesis with the subjects of the research.

The analysis of the empirical research evidences the active civic and political participation of Muslim women in the three countries: France, the United Kingdom and Spain within the scope of differentiated structural and cultural frameworks. The research expounds the central issues of concern to the women and their interaction with majority society, the ethnic group and Islam which respectively present them with obstacles and facilitating factors in the pursuit of their objectives. The research establishes a typology of Muslim women’s participation, their modes of action and the arenas within which they deploy it. It offers an original analysis of what constitute the parameters of action, it demonstrates Muslim women’s awareness of contradictions and tensions in place, it documents the bases of their motivation and the repertoire of strategies they pursue to achieve their goal towards the realisation of their life and/or social projects.

In addition, the fellowship has made it possible to expand the field of knowledge in an area which is still under researched and push back the limits of European excellence through the research work carried out and the collaborative networks established and/or consolidated. The project has progressed theoretical developments on issues of gender and politics and on the parameters of action. It also added to methodological originality with the application of sociological intervention for the first time employed in this domain of research and implemented in Spain. Moreover, the fellowship has opened up further contacts in the Americas and in Muslim countries/regions, namely North Africa, Turkey and the Middle-East where the CADIS has developed solid collaborative research links. The fellow has taken part in initiatives, conferences and workshops in North Africa, Lebanon and Kurdistan (Iraq). The fellow transferred her expertise as an evaluator; for the benefit of high level research and visiting programmes at Aix en Provence University, the IEA, the MSH, the Fonds de Recherche du Quebec; and her experience of higher degrees evaluation through being a member of two juries of Habilitations à diriger des recherches. She advised on CADIS research applications and aggregated her own collaborative networks to those of the CADIS-EHESS. She contributed in particular to enhanced links with UK Universities (Warwick, Nottingham, Sussex and Bath), with Spanish Universities and Research centres (Complutense, Institut Ortega y Gasset, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona), with Mexican universities (COLEF, University of Tijuana), with Canadian Universities (York and Toronto Universitites), with Moroccan and Lebanese researchers, also contributing to the creation of a research network on social policy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Collaboration between EHESS and the University of Warwick and the Complutense University were further consolidated by the project.

The fellowship offered opportunities to continue the fellow’s contribution to the European research area through participation in a research application on young people and politics under Horizon 2020. Moreover, the fellow took advantage of the Marie Curie award to explore and set in train a new research project in a critical domain unchartered so far, that of Kurdish women and democracy in Iraqi Kurdistan. Current events in Iraq cannot highlight enough the pertinence of such a project.