Karima Bennoune

Karima BennouneKeynote Address:
The Struggle against Fundamentalism after the Revolutions of 2011: Your Fatwa Still Does Not Apply Here

Current news from many countries affected by the revolutions of 2011 is alarming, but not surprising because of what women’s human rights defenders were saying immediately afterwards. For many of them, it was clear from the beginning that one of the most important human rights struggles in the region would be the one waged against Muslim fundamentalism in the wake of the “Arab Spring.” International engagement with North Africa, especially in the fields of democratization and law reform, should have recognized this from the very beginning, but failed to do so. Back in 2000, feminist international lawyers Hilary Charlesworth and Christine Chinkin wrote in their book “The Boundaries of International Law: a feminist analysis,” that “religious extremism” was one of the two biggest threats to women’s human rights worldwide. This is not just a problem in the Middle East and North Africa – or only for Muslims – though it is a particularly severe problem in these regions now, especially in the wake of difficult transitions brought on by the revolutions of 2011. This paper will explore the so-called “Green Wave,” or rise of Islamism, after 2011, in North Africa in particular, and the strategies used by women’s human rights defenders to confront it. It will draw on field research carried out in the region for Professor Bennoune’s recent book, “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism.”