Bosnian Muslim feminist causing change in opinion on gender equality


A Bosnian Muslim feminist and prominent gender studies professor Zilka Spahic Siljak sparked numerous reactions on social media after publishing a text in the 16 Days of Activism campaign, fiercely criticizing inappropriate and discriminatory interpretations of the Qur’an, the holy book for Muslims. She argued that such interpretations promote a degrading role for women.

Professor Spahic Siljak wrote that God does not differentiate among people on any basis; rather, people do so in the name of God for their own goals and positions.

She warned of the danger of Wahhabi interpretations of the Qur’an in Bosnia and Herzegovina, singling out popular figure Elvedin Pezic, who, in his performances, advocates for the subordination of women to men.

“Although people fear change and critical examination of their own tradition and faith, it is important to work on deconstructing gender stereotypes, accumulated patriarchal interpretations, and norms that impose women's obedience to men. God does not differentiate among people on any basis, but people do so in the name of God for their own goals and positions,” Spahic Siljak wrote in an essay that sparked numerous reactions.

Among the reactions is a comment from a Bosnian imam Senaid Zajimovic, who, unlike his previous controversial interpretations of marital relations, now openly advocates for models of equality and writes that “man and woman are two equal sides.”

In an article published Thursday, Professor Spahic Siljak positively assesses the change in interpretations by Zajimovic, calling on other imams in Bosnia and Herzegovina to promote gender equality.

“Some people, like Hafiz Zajimovic, realized this in time and corrected their views, while unfortunately, some do not want to critically question anything, as it requires effort, work, and readiness to accept change,” Zilka Spahic Siljak stated in her new essay.

The Bosnian Muslim feminist is a scholar and public intellectual dealing with contemporary issues involving human rights, religion, politics, education, and gender. She has over ten years of experience in academic teaching and working with non-governmental organizations. She holds a Ph.D. in gender studies and a master's degree in human rights. She has been a visiting scholar and lecturer at several universities, including Arizona, Pittsburgh, Harvard, Stanford, Oslo, Copenhagen, Vienna, Belgrade, and Novi Sad.

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