Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Steven Roach, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mohsen Milani, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kim Golombisky, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Peter Funke, Ph.D.


Gender, Mosque, Muslim, Norms, Shia, Women


With growing hostilities towards the Ummah (Muslim global community and Diaspora) in Western countries and the fear of Sharia laws, the socialization of international human rights norms within religious institutions, makes for a timely case study. Specifically, this dissertation project aims to capture the process of norm transformation at the grassroots level by investigating the religious, cultural, and social encounter between Islam and the West by interviewing Shia women at a local mosque in Florida. Critical constructivism, post-colonial feminism, and qualitative interpretive methods, are used to address the following: how practicing Shia women are navigating between competing liberal gender equality and traditional Islamic gender complementarity norms in regards to women’s rights and status in society? How are they self-identifying themselves and consciously picking and choosing what gender norms to follow and practice and teach the next generation? Finally, as “norm entrepreneurs,” how are these Shia women creating an alternative path which is neither purely liberal nor Islamic?

It is argued that Islam is not a homogeneous religion and that Shia women are actively researching, self-reflecting, questioning, and proposing a new approach to Islamic gender norms. This dissertation seeks to show that these empowered Shia women are willfully paving a new path for more progressive Islamic gender norms centered on gender justice rather than gender equality which is still closely in line with the spirit of CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms Discrimination against women. To improve the power dynamics of the global system which is bias in favor Western liberal norms, more focus should be put on why countries and people may oppose or challenge such norms. As such, progressive Muslims need to have their voices heard within international human rights discourses.