Islam Is Feminism

Some Muslim women today are using the word Islam and feminism as two separate concepts and ideas when for many Muslim women, including myself, Islam is feminism. Islam has a long historical tradition of respecting and recognizing the talent and sacrifices of its women. For years, I have been teaching my students in the US military and at universities that men and women are equal in Islam–a concept that is often misunderstood, no thanks to ultra-conservatives and ignorant Muslims who do not value the rightful role of its women.

In a Huffington Post article, writer Gabby Aossey says:

In French, there is an enigmatic saying sous les paves, la plage which really means that when you rise up against the powers that be, you invite change and a kind of paradise. (The literal translation is ‘Beneath the cobblestones lies the beach.’) Across the Muslim world, women’s rights activists are embarking on change–their revolt is either silent and symbolic or they speak out loud, never surrendering to the voices of patriarchy. 

In Morocco, for example, Muslim women can train to be female guides and scholars. While this is not a novel idea, as the Prophet’s youngest wife was a scholar, the Muslim world has few places for women seeking scholarly training as shaykas, the Arabic word for shaykh. In an interview, one Moroccan woman says, “Perhaps in our history, women have faced some injustice because of a misunderstanding of Islam. But all women should be aware of their important status. They are entitled to buy, sell, mortgage, own everything. The number of women going daily to the mosque is higher then the men. Women and kids are more faithful. We mourchidate (or spiritual guides) are trying to take advantage of this presence.”

In Pakistan, my birth country, a female Parliament member, who wished to be unnamed, has been fighting for women’s rights in her own silent way for the past ten years. Other activists like her, despite threats against their gender, continue to question tribal, tyrannical laws that stifle women’s voices and expressions, including the right to work, move freely outside the home, and meet anyone without seeking prior approval or permission from men. 

These tectonic transformations are only beginning.

Women’s voices are needed to liberate themselves from the deeply ingrained cultural and religious biases in select Muslim families and countries. In time, I trust that more women will support a strong culture of change. As more Muslim women speak up, the extremists’ logic and radical interpretations of Islam will no longer matter. 

In an era of cultural sensitivity, I applaud the women strong enough to counter religious conservatives and extremists, both of whom encourage a limited role for Muslim women. Collectively, I believe that women of all faith traditions need to say that certain cultural and religious baggage will not be admitted. 

To read more, goto Invisible Martyrs.

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