DOI link for Islamic feminisms
Islamic feminisms book
Feminism has been a constant thread throughout this work with Muslim women. Together with pragmatism it has informed the methodology I have used and the arguments that I go on to make. Previously, in Chapter 1, I discussed my initial suspicions of feminism, and my gradual anti-intuitive engagement, ﬁrst with feminist methodologies and then with feminist philosophy. I soon sought to tap into the heritage and potential of feminist discourse to work ‘through and across cultural diﬀerences’ (Brah and Phoenix 2004: 79). However, my ﬁrst hesitations about working with feminism remain signiﬁcant in that they are indicative of the attitudes that many – male and female, Muslim and of other/no faith, historically2 and in contemporary society3 – hold and have held towards feminism. I often encounter disagreements between feminism and individuals’ ideologies. In the context of Islam and feminism, such disagreements may become more profound and one young woman I approached chose not to work with me because she felt my use of feminist methods was irreconcilable with her Islamic faith. The women I spoke to unanimously indicated a need to garner rights for
Muslim women, who were sometimes deprived by patriarchal culture of what they believed were their divinely ordained rights. They regularly mentioned personal and social struggles to garner these rights, which may be described as feminist arguments and struggles, but paradoxically they consciously avoided feminist language, often rejecting it completely:
We have to ourselves start clarifying things. We are not of a bunch of people who do not have the freedom of speech – all these freedoms aren’t given to you, you have to demand and take them. [ … ] if you have your freedoms and still don’t make an eﬀort to clarify your stance then you are leading a complacent life. I feel that Islam gives women rights [ … ] The problem is that we do not recognise our rights and when you do not know your rights and demand them, they will not be given to you. We don’t need to appropriate Islamic feminism from any other culture. Islam is so complete that if you properly live your life by its rules and regulations a Muslim woman will be able to lead a fulﬁlled life as compared to
any other woman. Why? Because she has got all rights – to education, to run a business, rights …
Fauzia,4 Loughborough, July 2008
In most cases Muslim women spoke about feminism only when asked, and then recounted their disagreements with feminist discourse which they characterised as anti-religion, anti-hijab, anti-men and anti-family (!). In this chapter I will engage with participants’ opinions of feminism, including their disagreements. There are no ‘pat answers’ for these tensions but synergies may be possible (Al Faru-qi 1991: 23). In the spirit of feminist acknowledgement of diversity within the sisterhood, I will attempt to initiate a new understanding of feminism that contextualises Islamic beliefs, values and life experiences and facilitates inter-community dialogue.