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Empire, Subalternity, and Ijtihād: Two Muslim Women's Leadership Models in the Post-9/11 US



Binary stereotypes silence Muslim women in post 9/11 America, but little has been written about how Muslim women's leadership can enable voice. This article presents two leadership models based on the philosophy of ijtihād (independent reasoning), which facilitate self-worth and solidarity, key elements of voice. The less visible spiritual colleague model, which has a followership of practising Muslim women, facilitates self-worth through ijtihād, allowing women to seek self-definition through their own interpretation of the Qur'ān. As strategy, the leader converts her home into a space which is simultaneously sacred and political where such informal discussions take place around religious rituals. The public bridge-builder model creates solidarity between and among its following of practising and nonpractising Muslims and non-Muslim men and women. The strategy focuses on effective dialogue between different groups. Ijtihād as discourse in pursuit of knowledge (‘ilm) creates equality and respect, the basis of sustainable alliances.