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Jesilyn Faust

As we see a decrease in the observance and respect for human rights, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, it is easy to blame religious fundamentalism for these contractions. However, is this assumption accurate? Is the blame being correctly placed at the door of fundamentalism or should we look elsewhere? To answer this question, I look at two cases of women’s rights activism surrounding customary family law in Morocco between 2000–2014. In one case, women were successful at achieving the passage of meaningful legislation to improve women’s rights. In the second case, in spite of a great deal of international support, campaigning, and funding, women’s rights contracted. By comparing and contrasting these two cases, it becomes clear that a big difference between the two was the engagement of the Islamic Feminist movement. In many parts of the Middle East and North Africa, it is precisely by engaging with grassroots Islamic Feminists and moderates that international organizations will be able to combat the tide of extremism and the subsequent contraction of human rights.