Muslim Feminism

From Women's Empowerment collection, lesson plan 8 of 8

(90-120 minutes + assignments)

Grade Level: 9-12, College

Subject Areas: Social Studies, Geography, Global Studies, Women’s Studies, Sociology, Political Science


Students will:

  • Think about stereotypes and how they affect Muslims, women and Muslim women
  • Learn about Muslim feminism and explore the ways that Muslim women are fighting for gender equality
  • Listen to the specific voices and experiences of Muslim women in different arenas such as sports, politics, education and business
  • Write and present an opinion piece responding to the voices they have heard


Stating and supporting opinions in class discussions and in writing; analytical reading and viewing; note taking; interpreting information and drawing conclusions; critical thinking; identifying cause and effect; identifying relationships and patterns; creating various forms of media.


  • “Shadya and Morad” Film Module (can be streamed or ordered on DVD)
  • Computers with Internet access and/or with DVD capability
  • LCD projector or DVD player
  • Whiteboard/markers, or chalkboard/chalk
  • Shadya Discussion Guide
  • Teacher Handout A: Vocabulary
  • Teacher Handout B: Muslim Women’s Voices
  • Teacher Handout C: “Two Young Women” by Deidre Barry – A Dialogue Poem
  • Student Handout B: Shadya Quotes
  • Student Handout D: “Shadya and Morad” Film Module Note Taking Guide
  • Student Handout E: Dialogue Poem Rubric


Direct students to view the completed media and assess their classmates using Student Handout E: Dialogue Poem Rubric. You can also use the same rubric to do a teacher evaluation of the dialogue poem.

National Teaching Standards Addressed:

Grades 9-12

National standards from the following organizations were used in developing this lesson plan. See Recommended National Standards for full descriptions of standards employed.

Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McRel)

Center for Civic Education

National Council for the Social Studies

National Center for History in the Schools

National Geographic

National Council for Teachers of English/International Reading Association

North American Association for Environmental Education

Writer: David Maduli

David Maduli is an independent educational consultant who has contributed many curriculum guides and conducted various workshops for PBS programs. He has a master’s in teaching and curriculum from Harvard Graduate School of Education and continues to work as a veteran Bay Area public school language arts and social studies teacher.

Previewing Activity

  1. Defining Feminism: Have students copy and complete this sentence:

    Feminism is a belief that…

    As students share their responses, use the whiteboard, overhead projector or screen to record their ideas via a web or brainstorm list. Have students clarify the meanings of their ideas and explain where they came from. Post the following definition and read with the class:

    Feminism is social theory or political movement supporting the equality of both sexes in all aspects of public and private life; specifically, a theory or movement that argues that legal and social restrictions on females must be removed in order to bring about such equality.

    Discuss and clarify the meaning of this definition and explain that this will be the working definition for the class whenever anyone refers to feminism as a concept. Then record a second brainstorming session as students come up with examples using this definition (e.g. women should be allowed to work in traditionally male occupations, women should have the right to vote, and so on).

  2. Stereotypes of Women/Muslim Women: Produce a chart on the overhead projector or screen with three columns including the following headings:

    Stereotypes of Women

    Stereotypes of Muslims

    Stereotypes of Muslim Women

    Have students brainstorm ideas and record them on the chart as they come up with them. Discuss using the following questions as a guide:

    • Where/who do you see and hear these stereotypes from?
    • How do these stereotypes affect women?
    • How do general stereotypes of Muslims affect Muslim women?
    • How are stereotypes of Muslim women both similar to and different from general stereotypes of women? Do you think Muslim women face greater challenges?
    • What are some ways in which women cope with and address gender oppression, both individually and collectively?
  3. Introduction to Muslim Feminism: Pre-teach the vocabulary for the [“Muslim Feminism” page] ( of the Shayda Independent Lens website regarding “Muslim Women’s Movements,” “Islamic Feminism” and “A Global Movement,” using the first list on Teacher Handout A: Vocabulary. Next, guide students in reading the article or have them break into pairs to read it. Discuss the following questions with the class:

    • What is the difference between Muslim women’s movements and Islamic feminism?
    • How have Muslim women adapted feminism within Islam?
    • How have issues specific to Muslim women—such as wearing hijab (veiling) —manifested in their feminist struggles?
    • Why is it important for Muslim women to define how they adapt feminism themselves, rather than allowing outsiders or Western feminists to define it for them?
  4. Muslim Women Speak: Read to the class “My Body Is My Own Business” by Naheed Mustafa.

    Discuss the following questions with the class:

    • What are Mustafa’s views on the inequality of Muslims as a religious and cultural group?
    • How does her perspective on the hijab contradict Western feminist notions of dress?
    • How does Mustafa claim wearing the hijab as a feminist act?
    • To what extent do you agree or disagree with her views on Western ideas of beauty?

    Pre-teach vocabulary again from the second list on Teacher Handout A: Vocabulary. Distribute cards from Teacher Handout B: Muslim Women’s Voices, as referenced from the article "Fighting for Muslim Women’s Rights” from the AWID website.

    Have each student silently read one woman’s perspective, then join with a group of five to share out and compare the diverse voices represented. As each classmate reads, group members should record a list of struggles that Muslim women face in different countries (two to three struggles for each speaker). They should also note the ways the speaker suggests to overcome these struggles. Finally, groups should hold a discussion using the following guide questions:

    • How are the struggles of Muslim women in various countries similar? How are they different?
    • What are the strategies they suggest to overcome these struggles (post and refer to Teacher Handout B: Muslim Women’s Voices). What other strategies would you suggest?
    • What is the role of religion in the struggles of women in this country?
  5. Provide Background Information on Israel and Shadya: Briefly introduce the film Shadya. Note how the film module will cover Shadya, an Israeli Arab Muslim teenage girl who challenges traditional expectations of Muslim women as a karate world champion. Have students read Shadya Discussion Guide pages 2-3, particularly the questions about “Islam and Traditional Family Values.”

    Viewing the Film

  6. Viewing the Film Module: Instruct students to take notes on Student Handout A: “Shadya and Morad” Note Taking Guide as they view the “Shadya and Morad” Film Module, observing Shadya’s views as well as the views of her parents, brothers and sister, fiancé, and coach.

    Reflecting on the Film

  7. Review and Discuss: Debrief the module and notes by discussing them together as a class. Have students review the Student Handout B: Quotes before the discussion. Use the following guide questions:

    • Which person do you agree with most? Who do you disagree with the most? Explain.
    • How does Shadya challenge traditional male patriarchy in Islam?
    • How does Shadya reinforce traditional patriarchy in Islam?
    • How is it possible for her to do both?
    • How do Shadya and her sister differ in the way they create a place for themselves in their family?
    • How does their brother reinforce traditional male patriarchy? What is Morad’s (Shadya’s husband) view of Shadya’s challenges to patriarchy?
    • Was Shadya’s spirit broken after she was forced to quit karate and focus on the household duties of a wife?
  8. Another Perspective: Have students view clips from Chahinaz, a documentary film that follows a young Algerian female college student as she explores what life is like for Muslim women around the world. Break students into pairs to view the clips. Include notes capturing voices from these clips on Student Handout D: “Shadya and Morad” Note Taking Guide as well.

  9. Assignment: Dialogue Poem: Post and read with the class “Two Young Women” by Deidre Barry. This is a model for a poem that compares and contrasts two points of view in a dialogue. Explain that this poem is a format that allows students to explore varieties of inequality – how people who are connected to the same events, processes, or products experience those connections very differently. Instruct students to choose figures from Shadya, the Muslim Women’s Voices cards, or Chahinaz to write a dialogue poem (e.g. between Shadya’s brother and her dad, between Shadya and her sister). They could also choose a different voice to speak with one of these figures (e.g. between an American teenager and a Muslim woman in another country, between a Muslim feminist and a secular one). The poem should highlight differences in views on karate, women’s place in society, family etc. Students can publish their poems on a blog or other Web 2.0 tool, or to Youth Noise, [Youth Media Exchange] ( or another website to engage with other students around the world and get feedback.


    Direct students to view the completed media and assess their classmates using Student Handout E: Dialogue Poem Rubric. You can also use the same rubric to do a teacher evaluation of the dialogue poem.

Students can:

  1. Analyze Shadya as a character who goes through changes, faces conflicts and makes decisions. Write a character analysis essay describing these explorations.

  2. Research other Muslim women in the sports arena. Investigate how they and their families deal with traditional male patriarchy in Islam and in society.

  3. Explore organizations that combat the oppression of women in Muslim societies. Create media (posters, flyers, brochures etc.) to support their campaigns.

  4. Compare and contrast the rights women have and the laws enforcing gender equality in the U. S. with those in Muslim countries like Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Iraq. The World Savvy Monitor, Global Status of Women issue examines the root causes, the symptoms, and the nuances behind the statistics relating to women’s representation in the world today (click on “archived editions”).

  5. Interview a diverse group of people, especially older and younger women, about women’s rights. Combine the research into a multimedia collage representing the varied views and voices.

  • Film module:
    Shadya: Shadya and Morad
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