Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Orthodox Muslims and Feminism

After watching an old video clip of a BBC program panel discussion on faith and feminism (featuring a Muslim woman in niqab as well as women from other faith groups), my primary reaction was one of disappointment.

Not only did the Muslimah representative remain largely silent throughout the discussion, but when she did speak, it was to offer weak platitudes and analogies about 'equality' - frankly, it made me cringe.

The video, however, highlighted to me many trends that I see when it comes to discussions about feminism amongst or involving conservative/orthodox Muslims.

For one thing, those who don't identify as feminists usually have skewed perception of feminism; those who do identify as feminists always fall back on the topics of hijab/niqab, polygamy, and 'equal but different'. There is very little mention of the active and important role of women from the very beginning of Islamic history.

Furthermore, orthodox Muslims discussing feminism often seem oblivious to the very existence of intersectional feminism, let alone the larger discussions and trends taking place within it. In general, conservative Muslims focus heavily on secular feminism rather than intersectional feminism, which is much more relevant to both women of faith as well as colour. The former is largely recognized to be exclusionist and limiting, with its focus being primarily on White, middle-class women of privilege.

Sadly, many conservative Muslims use the excuse of 'evil feminism' to deliberately ignore serious issues within our communities, especially with regards to the abuse and (mis)treatment of women. Discussing male privilege within masaajid, the abuse of authority, and how women are blocked from accessing their Shar'i rights are all written off as 'deviant feminism,' regardless of whether or not the individual identifies as a feminist to begin with!

It becomes ironic when even the most ideal, model Muslimah is condemned as a feminist the moment she starts speaking up for women's rights - or speaking up about anything at all, for that matter.

In short, rather than freaking out about feminism (and arguing about how it's 'kufr'), orthodox Muslims need to fix the major problems in our communities that lead to people seeking out feminism as a solution to begin with.
If we are so concerned with people 'abandoning the Shari'ah' allegedly because of feminism, we should be more concerned with *why* people are doing so - and the answer is very obvious. It is because we, the Muslim Ummah as a whole, are hell bent on avoiding dealing with our dirty laundry; in fact, in many cases we seem to want to *preserve* the injustice and oppression we inflict upon each other.

Bottom line: Stop whining about feminism, and start focusing on the very real problems (including and especially misogyny) that have left our Ummah weak and diseased.

May Allah make us amongst those who strive to fight oppression and stand up for the justice found within His Shari'ah (regardless of whether one calls themselves feminist or not ), ameen.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with you so much! The knee-jerk antagonism to feminism sets us up to fail because it means we don't discuss women's concerns at all. It's especially sad since it arises from a misunderstanding and ignorance of feminism and, as you said, the very strong Muslim women that have preceded us and didn't believe in this "separate and equal" stuff and were very frank about asking the Prophet (sas) about their rights.

Anonymous said...

By the way, do you think it would be all right to repost this on r/islam?

AnonyMouse said...

Yes, feel free to share as long as you link back here.

Anonymous said...

Will do, thanks!