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Articles, Feminism, Islam

The Muslim “Feminist” (who isn’t really a “Feminist”)

Islamic Feminism1“Feminism” has been stalking Muslim women. It has been quietly was-wasa-whispering that it deeply and fully understands the liberation that Muslim women seek – that it understands Muslim women better than Muslim women do (and definitely better than their Creator does!). “Feminism” has been vowing, nay threatening, that it alone is the answer to injustices against women, and that to reject feminism would be to reject social justice, to reject our own obligation to justice, so let. it. in.  Just ignore, it asks, that in public, it has been cursing our veils, criminalising our values and even dictating where we should sit – just accede to female tears and let. it. in.  A few Muslim women, faces wet from recounted stories of afflicted women, have unchained their doors and invited this impassioned adjective into their homes, into their lives, into their “identities”, as a way of “honouring” or demonstrating their advocacy of women’s rights. They are calling themselves Muslim “Feminists”.

One such Muslim woman tries to explain why she has taken on the “Feminist” suffix, as follows (originally posted here):

“Salafi: A Salafi (Arabic: سلفي‎) is a Muslim who emphasises the Salaf (“predecessors” or “ancestors”), the earliest Muslims, as model examples of Islamic practice. (Wikipedia)

Salafi (Media Definition): Muslim men who wear short thawbs and have big beards, Muslim women who wear hijab/ abayah/ niqaab; Muslims who despise the West, have dreams of world domination and The Khilaafah (TM), and are determined to practice Islam openly. *Shudder*

Salafi (North America): A bunch of guys with short thawbs, long beards, and way too much time on their hands, which they spend writing PDFs declaring everyone else to be Off The Manhaj (TM).

Feminist: An advocate for social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men. (Dictionary.com)

Feminist (Popular Opinion): Hairy, man-hating women determined to prove themselves superior to men and take over all male jobs.

Feminist (Muslim Popular Opinion): Hairy, man-hating women who are going to destroy the natural order of this world by claiming to be equal to men.

Muslim Feminist/ Feminism: A form of feminism concerned with the role of women in Islam. It aims for the full equality of all Muslims, regardless of gender, in public and private life. (Wikipedia)

Muslim Feminist (Muslim Popular Opinion): Man-hating, self-hating women who try to use Islam as an excuse to destroy the Muslim Ummah from within; those who attempt to destroy the natural order of this world by claiming to be equal to men, or at least slightly more equal than many Muslims prefer to believe. Alternatively, Muslim women who have been brainwashed by the West into thinking that the role of a wife and mother isn’t enough for her, and is now just a pitiable tool of the Decadent West (TM) who must be warned against, because there is absolutely no hope for her, especially when she starts trying to quote ayaat and ahadeeth to justify her clearly warped and corrupted views.

The Salafi Feminist: Someone who just likes to see everyone get their knickers in a knot when they see the words ‘Salafi’ and ‘feminist’ put together, and love to say things like, “in salafi-feminism you have combined two of the most disastrous movements in modern history!” (True story.)

Okay, so maybe I’m deliberately being a tease. It’s hard to resist, though, seeing as how everyone wants to shove me and my views into an annoyingly narrow box, because unless you fit into a pre-constructed box, you don’t count! Anyway. I am a niqaabi who hates those “Da’wah pictures” which say women are either pretty covered-up lollipops or trashed unwrapped candies being bombarded with flies. I am a happy wife and mother, and I loathe those people who try to tell me that I should only be happy in my role as a wife and mother. I believe in pursuing knowledge, Islamic and otherwise (and in fields other than gynecology or teaching kindergarten), and would really like to flip the bird at those twits still debating “women’s education in Islam.” I frown upon mingling between the sexes and pre-marital relationships, but I will never belittle another woman’s value and worth as a human being based upon her sexual history or rumours about her reputation. I rage against the injustices of Western governments, but I refuse to turn a blind eye to the tragedies that Muslims inflict upon each other. Drone strikes, illegal wars, and the occupation of Palestine are right up there with domestic violence, sexual abuse, and racism within Muslim communities. I believe that men and women both have control over their actions and desires, and that a woman looking at a male speaker is not going to send her into a frenzy of lust, or that any man is incapable of keeping it in his pants when he sees a woman whose body is not covered from head to toe in black. I respect the scholars of Islam and will defend them to anyone who tries badmouthing them, but that doesn’t mean I’ll stay silent when some of their words are harmful to the Muslim women of this Ummah. I believe that homosexuality is a great and terrible sin, but I also believe that shirk is worse. No one should allow their sins to stop them from reaching out to Allah, the Merciful, the Forgiving, the One True God. I uphold that modesty and chastity is for both men and women; that women should wear hijab, men should lower their gaze, and that both parties assist each other in making their societies purer in every way. I believe that “The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong, and establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. Those – Allah will have mercy upon them. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.” (Qur’an 9: 71)”

This piece was a choice example of a Muslim “Feminist” not really being a Feminist at all. Seeing as she hasn’t provided a sincere definition of a ‘salafi feminist’ (or maybe her definition was sincere, and it really does just mean the desire to be outrageous), I’m going to go with her vanilla definition:

Feminist: An advocate for social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you advocate equal rights for women to men, then you also must advocate equal responsibilities, too:

[1] if you advocate that men and women should receive an equal inheritance, then you must also advocate that women do half the bread winning, too.

[2] if you advocate that men and women should physically protect each other equally, then you cannot object to a female ruler, and you’re also saying that men have an equal right to physical protection as women do, and so women must stand guard, go to war, etc in equal measure.

[3] if you “believe that men and women both have control over their actions and desires”, then you must also advocate that modesty by way of hijab and lowering gaze is not necessary for either party at all.

If you do not advocate these things, then you are not advocating ‘equal rights’ (or duties) for men and women. You’re just a Muslim advocating God-given Islamic rights for men and women. In which case, I don’t see why such women feel the need to invest in the term feminism – unless it really is just about the attention it garners.

Muslims calling themselves “Feminist” to advocate women’s rights makes as much sense as Muslims going to an alcoholic bar to drink water.

What the views of this Muslim “Feminist” remind us is that very often young Muslim women mistakenly imagine that Feminism holds some monopoly over women’s rights and so, in order to demonstrate a commitment to women’s rights, they have to identify themselves as “Feminists”. Because this particular category of Muslim “Feminists” do not subscribe to the values of Feminists at all, but actually the values of Islam, would it not be more rational, and a more decisive call to justice, to just call themselves “Muslim”? 

Discussion

8 thoughts on “The Muslim “Feminist” (who isn’t really a “Feminist”)

  1. “As-salaamu ‘alaikum,

    As I am the author of the piece you quoted, I think it’s rather snide of you to post this on your blog without contacting me first (which you could easily do through FB or my blog).

    To begin with, I do understand your point – and yet I continue to disagree with you because you have, as many do, completely Missed The Point.

    The point is that many people who are “just” a’ Muslim advocating God-given Islamic rights for men and women’ feel a need or desire to take on the label of feminism to EMPHASIZE the fact that many of us are focused on and dedicated to addressing the issue of women’s rights (and gender-based injustice in general) in the Muslim community.

    The same way that some people are anti-poverty activists etc who choose a particular cause to focus on, so too do I and many others whom I know, choose to use the term ‘feminist’ as a way of describing what our focus is on.

    Secondly, your insistence on using the ‘vanilla’ definition of feminism shows just how out of touch you are with the *reality* of feminists and feminism. The spectrum of feminists today runs the gamut from extremely secular and outright atheists who believe in the strict concept of “equality” between men and women, and those from various religious backgrounds who use their faiths and religious laws to try and improve the world for women (and, yes, for men – because helping one gender is to help the other, not to oppress them further).

    As someone who does, in fact, interact with feminists of all stripes and backgrounds, your insistence on “the values of feminists” and “what feminists really are” is laughable. Your intention is commendable, I’m sure, but utterly misses the mark and thus, will continue to focus on all the wrong things (like telling me how I’m not really a feminist), as opposed to addressing the serious challenges that extreme liberals and secularists have been creating in our communities (like how to address progressive tafaaseer which go completely against classical teachings).

    In fact, it’s downright offensive and insulting for you to imply that I, and others, don’t know any better or are “fooled” or what have you. You’re basically telling me (and others) that we aren’t educated enough, we aren’t smart enough, to know what we’re calling ourselves and why we are calling ourselves by that label. Thank you, but I do not need you to come and ‘educate’ me as to why I’m so ‘mistaken’ about my identity choices.

    It would do you and this Ummah much more good if you opened your eyes and realized that the world – and feminism – is not black and white, but much more complex and nuanced than you realize. It was only when *I* realized that, that I was able to focus on things like matter and that will affect the Muslimah Ummah positively inshaAllah, as opposed to keeping us in the same old rut of misunderstanding and obtuseness that has nothing to do with our current reality (tho I’ll tell you that if this were the 90s, you’d probably be spot on).”

    Posted by Zainab Bint Younus | June 15, 2014, 6:20 pm
    • So shall I presume you’re re-mortgaging your house in jannah?

      The exchange from Facebook:

      Zara Huda Faris:
      Complaining that you’re “offended” or “peeved” is really not an intellectual argument. If you thought discussing labels was a waste of time or too upsetting for you to explain or defend, you shouldn’t have publicly taken one on. In any case, if I see someone eating food laced with poison, I’m not going to be shy about warning them just in case they feel “offended”, or “uneducated”; I’m going to say something.

      Your claim, that calling yourself a “feminist” as a way to describe to other people your “focus” on women’s rights, is firstly contradictory; given the various sects of feminism that exist and their starkly differing views on what “women’s rights” entails (and that you’ve given at least 5 definitions of feminism in your own article – most of them satirical, and none of which you seem to actually subscribe to), what “focus” are you advertising exactly? I’ll be honest, I am struggling to see the “focus” there. All you’re doing by using that term is sending a dangerously confused message to other people about the vision of justice you advocate.

      Not only is your statement contradictory, but it affirms my initial point – that you think feminism has some monopoly on women’s rights that you need to subscribe to to demonstrate your commitment to a particular cause. Surely, as a Muslim that believes that the system of Islam is capable of delivering social justice on all levels, you’d want activists from other faiths (and none) to want to aspire to, associate with, and commit to Islam as the symbol of guidance and holistic justice; not the other way round.

      The real irony of your position, however, is that you claim you want to tackle the “root” of the problems of oppression by challenging “extreme liberals and secularists”… and yet, at the same time, you’re zealously defending feminism – one of liberalism’s best assets!

      A Muslim “feminist” in your position may argue that “Islamic Feminists” in Muslim countries were originally trying to do just that – prevent liberalism and secularism from spreading in Muslim countries. If we presume that is accurate, then given the state of the Muslim world today, with both secularism and oppression on the rise, that strategy hasn’t really been working, has it.

      I’d rather advocate Islamic governance that isn’t just a collection of plagiarised slogans from one of Liberalism’s handbooks, but rather has a proven track record of delivering social justice to women as much as men, and Muslims as much as non-Muslims.

      Zainab Bint Younus:
      Once again, you have missed the point – being offended and peeved wasn’t an “intellectual argument” but rather, pointing out that you’re doing exactly what secular feminists do (by talking down to Muslim women as though we aren’t capable of making our own informed decisions).

      Secondly – if you re-read my comments on this thread, the focus on women’s rights and related social issues in our Ummah is precisely the “focus” you seem to be unable to find.

      Thirdly, implying that I believe that feminism has a monopoly on women’s rights is – once again – deliberately ignoring what I have been saying all along (that it is a label to emphasize my focus on women’s rights as outlined in the Shari’ah vs your own narrow definition of feminism).

      Finally, I’m not defending feminism itself – I’m defending my own usage of the term, for my own reasons (which are very clear in my original piece) – because it is extremely condescending of you to tell me what I am or am not.

      AlHamdulillah, my efforts in grassroots da’wah are directly related to addressing gender-based injustice and oppression in the Muslim Ummah. I am quite confident in my approach and alHamdulillah have seen some real, practical changes as a result. And note – these efforts are a result of focusing on the *actual* problems we have in our community, not sitting around judging others according to what labels they call themselves.

      If you’re against the usage of the word ‘feminist’ then fine, go ahead – but do not assume that you have the right to tell me what I am or am not, what I can or cannot call myself. It is in doing so that you and the very secular feminists whom you are so opposed to, are behaving in the exact same manner.

      Zara Huda Faris:
      Again, if you find criticism of your views ‘condescending’ or ‘patronising’, don’t publicise them.

      And again, feminism is not the only cause for women’s rights; rejecting feminism is not tantamount to rejecting justice for women.

      Insisting on calling yourself a feminist to advocate women’s rights, is like advertising a liquor store as a place to get water – yes, people may quench their thirst – but you’re going to be responsible for the consequences.

      Zainab Bint Younus:
      {:I guarantee a house in the lower portion of Jannah for whoever gives up arguing even if he is right…} Here’s praying that I get that house in Jannah, inshaAllah

      Zainab also (falsely) tried to claim that I had selectively quoted her article for my own purposes – in reality, I copy-pasted her piece in entirety (screenshot of her piece below). She then also claimed that another verson of her article provided the “whole” picture – in reality, both versons are practically identical (screen shot of the so-called alternative piece below)!

      The accusation:

      The piece I copy-pasted:

      The so-called alternative verson (which is basically the exact same):

      For the full thread, visit: https://www.facebook.com/zara.huda.faris/posts/788756967825432

      Posted by zarafaris | June 17, 2014, 9:14 pm
  2. “Muslims calling themselves “Feminist” to advocate women’s rights makes as much sense as Muslims going to an alcoholic bar to drink water.”

    Certainly.

    Another analogy that highlights incompatibility of feminism and Islam – no Muslim in their right might would go around claiming to be a “Muslim Hindu” with a disclaimer that “I take the good from Hinduism and leave out all the polytheism and stuff.”

    Feminism is a Deen (way of life) that is followed other than Islam and by these Muslim “feminists”, along with Islam.

    In the process, some of them toe the line and, as such, are “deviants” from the perspectives of both Islam and Feminism, while others fall into outright disbelief.

    If anyone chooses a Deen other than Islam, Allah will never accept it from them and they will realize the full extent of their stupidity in the end (Qur’an, Aali ‘Imran, 3:85), no matter whether they did it out of ignorance, deviance or an attention ‘seeking’ (a much less polite word comes to mind initially) need to be contrarian, a rebel without a cause or see people get their ‘knickers in a knot.’

    Posted by Abu Milk Sheikh (@AbuMilkSheikh) | June 16, 2014, 10:00 am
  3. Stong point of views all around…My mind is twisting in all directions now. Allahu alim.

    Posted by Papatia | December 4, 2014, 5:40 pm
  4. Reblogged this on Emboldened Hearts.

    Posted by Zahra | April 27, 2015, 9:09 am
  5. After Communism there is no greater evil than Feminism.

    Posted by Abu Hamza | April 17, 2017, 6:38 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Si “Feminis” Muslim (yang sebenarnya bukan benar-benar seorang “Feminis”) - This is Gender - September 3, 2016

  2. Pingback: Si “Feminis” Muslim (yang sebenarnya bukan benar-benar seorang “Feminis”) [Indonesian Translation] | Zara Faris - August 30, 2017

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