Understanding Islam, Islamism, and Islamic Feminism.

Bronwyn Winter's ambitious piece which covers wide ground reminds us of the challenges involved in debating and analyzing the complexities of gender, Islam, Islamism, fundamentalism, and feminism. I would like to take Winter's article as an invitation to enter into debate on issues, of evident concern to the author, that beg clarification and elaboration. First, there is a certain slippage between Islam and Islamism, appearing in her work as essentialized or frozen categories. The author, moreover, operates from the premise that all monotheistic religions, including Islam, are bad for women. For her, not only is political Islam or Islamism bad for women but so is the religion. Are we then meant to line up saying "yes" or "no"? Where do we go from there? This is not an optimal approach for getting beyond the "Fundamental Misunderstandings" of her title. I would like to come in from another direction.
First, although many scholars other than Winter confuse Islam and Islamism, and indeed there sometimes are blurred borders between the two, it is important to avoid a simple collapse between Islam the religion and political Islam or Islamism. As the widely influential Turkish "public theologian" Yasar Nuri Ozturk, who speaks the language of religion to large audiences and who is anathema to the Islamists, puts it: "The Quran wants us to be Muslims not Islamists."(1) Should we use the term "fundamentalism" or "Islamism" when referring to political Islam? Scholars have long debated the question, and Winter raises some of the problems in this unresolved issue. Many of us use the term "Islamism" to refer to political Islam, yet understand that a more generic term assists in debate about comparative political mobilizations of religion. My problem is with Winter's narrow definition of "Islamism." She defines "fundamentalism" and "by extension `Islamism'" as the "extreme right mobilization of religion to political ends."(2) As Winter points out, fundamentalism has been generalized from this original meaning relating to early-twentieth-century Christian movements in the United States "to describe any religion-based political movement that prescribes rigid adherence to restrictive interpretations of religious foundational texts."(3) She explains that she uses the term "Islamism" because her discussion "centers on the extreme right mobilization of Islam.