Islam Doesn’t Oppress Women, (Some) Muslims Do…

It’s been a little while since our last post here at Life Of A Muslim Feminist, so I thought I’d better get myself into gear, pronto!

I was having a little think earlier on today, and it occurred to me that there were three key themes to the responses that came out of the hashtag back in January. This isn’t news at all, but I’ll still list them anyway:

  1. Muslims & Non-Muslims (mostly female) buying in to the idea of Muslim Feminists and sharing their experiences.
  2. Muslims, quite correctly, stating that Islam and the Qur’an already gives women plenty of rights, and then going on to question why we’d even need a Muslim Feminist movement.
  3. Non-Muslims expressing shock that Muslims could be feminists, because if they really were feminists, why would they continue in such a ‘barbaric’, ‘backwards’, ‘anti-women’ religion such as Islam.

Obviously those within group 1 are all good and we’d like to see more people buying in regardless of religion, race, gender or any other attribute society is obsessed with dividing people up by. Groups two and three really has got me thinking of late, why would any Muslim be opposed to feminism, and why would any non-Muslim think that the whole thing just doesn’t make any sense at all?

The answer to both lies within social media. The hashtag created by Noorulann created a lot of buzz and chatter on Social Media and not all of it was positive, and perhaps since the actual event this project hasn’t really discussed at great length the negatives that sprung up. But here we have an opportunity, to educate those within the latter two groups. That’s not to say that these people are uneducated, but more to say that they have been misled.

Starting out with Muslims that say the Qur’an has already given women a whole bunch of freedoms, so why on earth would Muslim women need to become a feminist? I think it’s very important to say at this point that Islam and more specifically the Qur’an does give a lot of freedoms to women, I won’t list them all here as I could be here for days, but if you are interested, please read this page (http://www.islamswomen.com/articles/do_muslim_women_have_rights.php).

So, given all of these rights and freedoms that women have in Islam, why then the need for Muslim Feminists? The problem that women in Islam have, is that so few Muslims of any gender actually fully understand the rights that were given to women in the Qur’an. Somehow over time a crucial part of the message has gotten lost in translation and, just as the Western world is male-dominated, so is the Islamic one. Things have gotten so bad for Muslim women, that people on the outside looking in, actually think that women are treated as second-class citizens within Islam. And this is true to a point, women are often treated as second-class in Muslim communities, but this is not Islam.

What needs to be understood here, from the Muslim point of view, is that Muslim Feminists are not challenging the very foundations of Islam whatsoever. We are not saying that Allah is wrong, that the Qur’an is wrong, that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) was wrong. No, what we are saying is that Muslims are wrong. Muslims are wrong if they think that women are here to cook, clean, make babies and serve man’s every need. Muslims are wrong if they think that forced marriages are acceptable, that honour-killings are acceptable, that a life of parental oppression is acceptable.

Perhaps the Muslims that challenge the idea of Muslim Feminists believe we are in turn challenging Islam itself, if that is the case then those fears must be allayed now, for that could not be further from the truth. The more likely, and much more alarming, possibility is that those Muslims who challenge the idea of Muslim Feminists are afraid because they know that we are challenging the status quo they have so carefully built up and maintained over such a long period of time. If that is the case, it further proves the point that Muslim Feminism has a god-given right to exist.

And on to the third group of people, who believe that Muslim Feminism is an oxymoron. I hope that the last few paragraphs have helped to show you that the issue Muslim Feminists face is not an Islamic issue, but a Cultural one. I would certainly urge you to read the link I provided a little further up, you might be shocked to know for example that even as late as the 19th Century, women in Europe were not allowed to own property. In Islam, women have been able to own property since the 7th Century.

Without intending to sound patronising, the Media in this country have an awful lot to answer for across all walks of life, but on Islam & Muslims in particular they are hopelessly, determinedly clueless. The media message on Islam is almost always negative and even more likely to be false. Whilst some, not all, Muslims may well fit the stereotypes portrayed in the national press, 99% certainly do not. I would encourage any person, Muslim or otherwise, to question absolutely everything you hear, read or see whether that information comes from the media or otherwise. You could say that in the case of Islam and Women it’s quite similar to that of Guns and People:

Islam doesn’t oppress Women, (some) Muslims do.

And that is why the Muslim feminist movement is growing, because more and more are awakening to this fact and realising that it just isn’t right.

Halima

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One comment

  1. Thank you very much for posting! As a feminist I become more and more interested in how intersectional factors such as sexuality, race and religion effect people’s experiences both as women and as feminists. I, personally, am white, atheist and female and I’ve become disgusted with the way that “white feminism” (as it is called to my embarrassment) either completely ignores intersectionality or speaks down to muslim women, claiming to know what is best for them in terms of moving toward gender equality. This brings rifts between different feminist groups at a time when feminists need to support each other and realise we are all in this for a common goal -equal opportunity and respect.

    Feminism should not be about telling a woman how to be a woman. It should be about telling a woman that no matter who she is or chooses to be, she can expect equal opportunity and respect that is afforded to men. Thanks again! Great post!

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