Between Patriarchy and Western Secularism: Islamic Feminism a new approach in Sport Management

By Umer Hussain

Umer Hussain recently defended his Ph.D. dissertation at Texas A&M University. Hussain research focuses upon understanding the intersection of race, religion, and gender in the sporting context. 

One of my Ph.D. colleagues, while arguing how religion is the cause of suppressing women’s rights in sport, underscored, “In the Western popular press, when the word ‘Muslim’ is used, one picture comes into my mind: oppressed women.” These remarks are pervasive to hear for any Muslim residing in Western society. However, as a practicing Muslim from my childhood, I have been told stories of how religion Islam liberated Arab women and gave them equal rights compared to Arab men. During my Ph.D. in sport management, I have also gone through a plethora of literature about Muslim culture. I found some fascinating studies focusing upon decolonizing the current scholarship; however, I have come across numerous studies trying to depict the two billion Muslim population as violent, retrograde, and bizarre. I found that in numerous studies, Western scholars make a wrong implied assumption that two billion Muslims are irrational; that is why they do not question various Islamic traditions. Indeed, Muslim men and women both have challenged various thoughts and transformed religious teachings per modern needs. However, the scholarship detailing Muslim world issues is highly tilted towards a Western ideology or, in other words, in imperialist and colonial views.

Likewise, the realm of sport management has primarily been established in North America. Thereby, scholars of Western origin have broadly researched the Muslim world and Muslim women. Hussain and Cunningham (2020) have underscored that Western sport management scholars investigate Muslim women living within and outside the Muslim world via a Western ocular. Scholars of Western origin homogenize Muslim women as weak and dominated subjects. Hussain and Cunningham (2020) also argued that the Western researchers’ primary thesis to understand Muslim women’s issues is grounded in White feminism. The White feminists advocate for global sisterhood; thus, they try to homogenize women as one singular entity. Hussain and Cunningham (2020) claimed that using White feminism as a theoretical approach delimits understanding of Muslim culture and further perpetuates systematic marginalization. For example, while researching Pakistani Muslim women, Hussain and Cunningham (2020) found that Pakistani Muslim women athletes had a strong anathema against the Western sporting paradigm and Western women participating in sport. Thus, the White feminism basic thesis is flawed and does not resonate with women’s heterogeneous experiences worldwide. Therefore, a new theoretical approach is warranted, especially to understand Muslim women’s issues in sport.

Some sociologists have advocated using Islamic feminism as a theoretical approach to understanding Muslim women’s issues (Badran, 2009, 2017; Bahlul, 2000). For example, Badran (2009, 2017) argued that Islamic feminism originated from feminist discourse within the Quran (Holy Book of Muslims) can offer a new means to explore Muslim culture. Islamic feminism calls for gender equality for women and men in the totality of their existence in the light of the Quran (Badran 2009, 2017). Islamic feminists defy both the patriarchal system inside the Muslim world and Western secularism (Bahlul, 2000). Islamic feminists reject the notion of being either religious or secular but argue for women empowerment per Quranic teachings (Badran, 2009, 2017)

In sport management scholarship, researchers have employed various theoretical frameworks to understand Muslim women’s issues. However, there remains a paucity of research using Islamic feminism as a theoretical perspective to empower Muslim women. Following the Islamic feminism approach, researchers can explore how gender segregation can enhance Muslim women’s sport participation and empower them. Islamic feminism can help scholars move beyond focusing on Muslim women’s clothing issues and explore other means through which Muslim women’s sport inclusion can be enhanced. For instance, the Islamic feminism approach can help researchers explore how Muslim women’s sport consumption and fandom could increase. Hence, Islamic feminism can be a new theoretical approach to enhance Muslim women’s sport inclusion. 

References

Badran, M. (2009). Feminism in Islam: Secular and Religious Convergences (Original ed.). Oneworld Publications.

Badran, M. (2017, August 8). Islam’s other half. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2008/nov/09/islam-women

Bahlul, R. (2009). On the Idea of Islamic Feminism. Journal for Islamic Studies20(1), 33–62. https://doi.org/10.4314/jis.v20i1.48391

Hussain, U. & Cunningham, G. B. (2020). “These are ‘Our’ sports”: Kabaddi and Kho-Kho women athletes from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. International Review for the Sociology of Sport (IRSS). Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1177/1012690220968111

Announcing a Proposed New Governance Structure for NASSM

by Damon Andrew, NASSM President and Bri Newland, NASSM President-Elect

As many of you know, the NASSM leadership has been exploring a governance restructure for nearly a decade. In 2013, then NASSM President Larena Hoeber appointed a task force of professional members – Bob Baker, Carol Barr, George Cunningham (Chair), Katie Misener, and Jim Weese – to explore options for structural and operational changes to the Society. The recommendations from that task force were advanced as Presidents George Cunningham, Laurence Chalip, and Lisa Kihl led the strategic planning efforts of the society over the next few years. In 2018, then NASSM President, Lisa Kihl, progressed the governance restructure effort as Chair of the NASSM Governance Task Force with professional members, Damon Andrew, Laura Burton, Milena Parent, Scott Tainsky, Nef Walker, and Mike Odio. Then one of this blog’s authors, Bri Newland, current President-Elect, took over as Chair from Lisa Kihl and have continued to lead the work of the task force – Mike Odio, Milena Parent, Damon Andrew, and Laura Burton, with Scott Tainsky as ex officio.

Current Situation & Issues

The current NASSM Executive Council functions as an operational board and has remained largely unchanged since its inception, though additional member-at-large positions have been added over time as operational needs grew along with the organization. As an operational board, the EC is composed of elected or appointed volunteers who learn and perform a variety of operational tasks throughout their terms of service. As NASSM grew, more positions were added to the Executive Council as a short-term strategy to meet the operational needs of the organization. Over time, this has resulted in a larger number of volunteers performing operational tasks on behalf of NASSM. However, the coordination of these operational tasks has increased, resulting in less time for proactive strategic governance by the Executive Council as the learning and performance of operational tasks has absorbed the efforts of its volunteer members. Moreover, long-term strategic planning for NASSM is challenging with the current structure of the Executive Council due to the limited terms of the leadership (i.e., president, president-elect, and past-president). Welcoming a new President each year, who must learn and perform a new set of operational duties in addition to leading the Executive Council, makes strategic leadership difficult. Past Presidents of NASSM have lamented that the wide variance of expected duties during the three years of total service is challenging. The President-Elect and Past-President years are primarily management-focused while the Presidency year is leadership-focused. Therefore, the current governance structure of NASSM with its operationally-focused Executive Council and short terms of service for officers actively works against the need for NASSM to be more proactive and strategic in its operation.

New Proposed Structure

Based upon the Executive Council and task force work referenced previously over the past decade as well as NASSM’s strategic plan, a strategic governing board paired with an executive director and personnel that perform operational duties would best serve NASSM as an organization, both now and for the foreseeable future. Thus, the current NASSM Governance Task Force has worked to develop a new governance model for the NASSM membership for consideration and vote. The following organizational chart illustrates the new structure (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Proposed NASSM Governing Board Structure

As noted in Figure 1, operational duties of the organization are proposed to be led by an Executive Director with the necessary experience to ensure the day-to-day operation of the organization is accomplished effectively. NASSM personnel, journal editors, and supporting standing committees with an operational focus would report through the Executive Director, who would report to the Governing Board. The Governing Board would include a President, Vice-President, and six officers who would serve longer staggered terms to support a strategic focus and the retention of organizational history, and the student representative would also serve on the governing board with a one-year term and optional renewals based on election outcomes. Moreover, certain standing committees with more of a strategic focus would report directly to the Governing Board, with the board enhancing communication through ex-officio service on those committees.

Next Steps & Call to Action

At the upcoming Annual General Meeting (AGM) held during the 2021 NASSM Conference, the membership will have the opportunity to vote on the adoption of this new structure. To support the possibility that the new governance structure may be adopted, the current NASSM Governance Task Force has prepared accompanying drafts of the NASSM Constitution and Operating Codes to allow the organization to immediately shift into this new model if the motion passes. Moreover, the task force has also prepared a transition plan that respects the service terms of those elected to the Executive Council while ultimately transitioning the organization to the longer and staggered service terms of the proposed Governing Board over a few transitional years. In order to prepare for this vote, the membership will have the opportunity to review the proposed constitution and operating code. These documents are available on the NASSM website (for access, log in with your NASSM membership in the upper right corner). In anticipation of potential questions about the governance structure and the accompanying transition details, NASSM President, Damon Andrew, and President-Elect, Bri Newland, will be hosting three Zoom Q&A seminars to discuss the new structure and answer any questions from members prior to the AGM. The meetings will be held on the following days:

Thursday, May 13 from 3-4pm EST

Monday, May 17 from 1-2pm EST

Thursday, May 20 from 2-3pm EST

Your feedback is incredibly important to us. Therefore, we urge all members to review the materials and join us for discussion prior to the AGM so that you will be fully prepared to vote during the limited time available at the AGM.

Best,

Drs. Damon Andrew and Bri Newland

President and President-Elect, NASSM