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UK: Women Against Fundamentalism: Stories of Dissent and Solidarity

Book Release

Tuesday 19 August 2014, by siawi3


About WAF

Women Against Fundamentalism (WAF) was formed in 1989 to challenge the rise of fundamentalism in all religions. Our members include women from many backgrounds and from across the world.

In Britain in recent years fundamentalism has increased its influence in all religions. This has been encouraged by government moves to define complex and diverse communities solely according to ‘faith’, with public funds increasingly being handed out to religious bodies to provide services to ‘their’ communities on behalf of local and central government. WAF believes that this increases the power of religious leaders to discriminate against women and other groups and to exclude or silence dissidents within their own communities.

We believe that public funds should be administered by accountable, democratically elected representatives and not by religious leaders. Only secular institutions with no religious agenda can begin to bring about equality for people of all religions or none.


Read more about the first statements and analyses by WAF
A collection of their newsletter is now available online



Women Against Fundamentalism: Stories of Dissent and Solidarity

Edited by Sukhwant Dhaliwal and Nira Yuval-Davis

Price: £17.99

Women Against Fundamentalism (WAF) was formed in 1989, partly in response to the controversy surrounding Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, but also with the aim of challenging fundamentalism in all religions. It sees fundamentalism as a modern political movement that uses religion to consolidate authoritarian and repressive forms of power. WAF’s members are drawn from a wide range of ethnic and religious backgrounds, and from across the world.

This book maps the development of the organisation over the past 25 years, through the life stories and political reflections of some of its members, focusing on the ways in which lived contradictions have been reflected in their politics. Their stories describe the pathways that led them to WAF, and the role WAF has played in their lives and in the forms of politicial activism in which they have engaged. Discussing feminist activism from different ethnic and religious back-grounds, contributors highlight the complex relationships of belonging that are at the heart of contemporary social life – including the problems of exclusionary political projects of belonging. They explore the ways in which anti-fundamentalism relates to broader feminist, anti-racist and other emancipatory political ideologies and movements.

The personal stories at the centre of this book are those of women whose lives enact the complexities of multiple (if shifting and contingent) mutually constitutive axes of power and difference. Many of their concerns therefore relate to crossing the boundaries of collectivity and practising a ‘dialogical transversal politics’ that has developed as an alternative to identity politics.

“This timely book should inspire younger generations of activists to pick up the torch, to lead simultaneously anti-racist and anti-fundamentalist feminist politics. With the xenophobic far right rising and communalism turning beliefs and cultures into identity politics’ weapons, women’s rights, citizenship and secular traditions are at stake. The spirit of WAF, its rare political clarity, its true internationalism, are more than ever needed.”
Marieme Helie Lucas, founder of Women Living Under Muslim Laws

“The powerful analyses and reflections of diverse women in the UK fighting authoritarian religious movements are documented here in all their brilliance and honesty. This is a resource in the best sense: of the refusal to submit, the courage to challenge, the strength to reflect critically. In a turbulent and complex period global – religious atrocities, military invasions, and a brutal war against the dignity and personhood of women – this book shows us that we can and must face many ways at once if progressive global politics is to have a future.”
Professor Chetan Bhatt, London School of Economics and Political Science

“There is much to learn from, and much to celebrate, in these pages: a feminist, anti-racist politics which supports religious freedom and expression but which challenges fundamentalism in all its forms, combined with compelling testaments to the intermingling of the personal and the political in private and public life. As individual accounts and as the documentation of an important social movement, these inspiring political narratives provide insight into one of the most complex and persistent challenges of our time.”
Molly Andrews, Professor of Political Psychology and Co-Director, Centre for Narrative Research, University of East London

Sukhwant Dhaliwal joined WAF in 1995. She has worked with Asian women’s organisations challenging domestic violence in both Newham and Manchester and has worked with Southall Black Sisters. For the last ten years, she has completed research projects encompassing a number of equality strands including: racism and racist violence; disability; age; religion and belief; and gender.

Nira Yuval-Davis is a founding member of WAF. She is the Director of the Centre on Migration, Refugees and Belonging (CMRB) at the University of East London and has been the President of an ISA Research Committee on Racism, Nationalism and Ethnic Relations. Her written and edited books include: Racialized Boundaries; Gender and Nation; and The Politics of Belonging. She is currently leading a research team on Everyday Situated Bordering as part of an EU research programme.

Keywords: fundamentalism, feminism, anti-racism, emancipation, life stories, activism, protest


Sukhwant Dhaliwal & Nira Yuval-Davis Introduction
Pragna Patel Flying by the nets of racism, patriarchy and religion
Clara Connolly Confessions of an Anti-Clerical Feminist
Gita Sahgal Knowing My Place – The Secular Tradition and Universal Values
Ruth Pearson Linking the local with the global: the legacy of migrant grandparents
Shakila Taranum Maan Gods and Daughters
Nira Yuval-Davis Intersectional Contestations
Hannana Siddiqui My Life as an Activist
Julia Bard Learning to Question
Georgie Wemyss Activist Listening
Nadje Al-Ali From Germany to Iraq via WAF: A Political Journey
Sukhwant Dhaliwal Made in ‘Little India’
Cassandra Balchin Making myself through difference
Rashmi Varma Telling Lives
Sue O’Sullivan Change, Chance, and Contradictions
Eva Turner One of My CVs
Jane Lane No clear pathway, just a lifelong zigzag
Ritu Mahendru Sexual and Gender Based Violence Against Women
Natalie Bennett Anti-fundamentalist feminism and green politics
Judy Greenway The Spirit of Resistance: Helen Lowe 1944-2011

Price: £17.99

Publication date: July 2014 320pp
ISBN 9781909831025 £17.99

Book Launch Party

Friday 19th of September 2014

Rich Mix, 35 – 47 Bethnal Green Rd London E1 6LA

This event is fully booked now, sorry.

Photographs of the event available soon.