I’m not sure where this post is going or where it’s gone. I was inspired to write after reading a recent and thought-provoking comment — just before running off to my work Christmas party.
Which I am going to… NOW. So if I’ve made grand assumptions (probably) or let my thoughts run away (probably) it’s because I’m dying to get my shirley temple on.
But this topic warrants further thought and discussion.
The first time I had to defend what it meant to be a “Traditional” Muslim, it was because my second-cousin-by-marriage was on a television debate with other faith leaders — and consistently referred to himself as a “Traditional” Muslim.
I thought traditional Muslims had long beards, wore hijab, expected women in the home, spoke with an accent, followed that horrific shari’a law, and lived over there.
Certainly, my clean-cut cousin in his cool 3-piece suit, with a university degree and impressive law firm occupation, a second generation Canadian with religious ideals saying that women can work and contribute to society under Islamic law — didn’t necessarily fit some people’s idea of what it means to be a “Traditional” Muslim. But that’s how he identifies himself.
I explained that I also considered myself to be a “Traditional” Muslim but much preferred seeing myself as “just a Muslim.”
Oh, but you’re different. You’re the exception.
Uh. No, I’m not.
This blog, my amazing readers, the brilliant people I interact with on Twitter, people I meet at conferences, my close friends, my acquaintances, fantastic people who are also voicing their opinions online and in books the world over say something quite different.
We may have different economic circumstances, partner preferences, geographical locations, educations, access to opportunities, genders… but we’re all exceptional.
I mentioned sarcastically in a recent post that when I first converted I believed (imagined) that Muslims were a homogeneous, religious and pious entity. That couldn’t be further from the truth and despite popular categories, it’s probably impossible to pigeon-hole Muslims as anything other than human. Individuals.
Or the more radical: woman, man, journalist, American, Egyptian, scientist, therapist, garbage collector teacher, PERSON.
(unless you’re the sort to say that “Muslim” should always come first or uphold the belief that anything that submits to the will of God is small “m” muslim: trees, grass, babies, rocks, aliens, dust mites, etc)
I try hard not to use labels. I don’t call myself a Moderate, a Progressive, a Sufi, or Salafi — even if I share certain ideas with these “groups.” Maybe I’m able to be “just a Muslim” because I belong to a (largely) majority Muslim community. So maybe it’s privilege that allows me to be “just a Muslim.”
But I’m also a feminist.
And when I call myself a Muslim feminist, I’m limited because it brings certain stereotypes to mind that do not represent me at all, and overshadow who I really am and what I believe.
The last time I told someone I was a Muslim feminist, it came with a slew of assumptions:
There is no real proof that women led prayer. Women leading prayer in a mixed congregation takes away from the real problems affecting the ummah. Why do women want to work outside of the home? There are set, natural duties for both genders. God gave only a few men Prophesy, but He gave all women the ability to create life.
Feminism has so much baggage. You can’t mention it to someone without bra or hijab burning sneaking into the conversation. Why would me being a feminist mean that I’m ONLY concerned with women leading prayer or women working outside the home?
Because feminism is tainted and evil and Western. It teaches young muslimahs to revolt against the convenient patriarchy that’s worked for centuries. It’ll turn them into promiscuous harlots — because, you know, feminists are sexual, free beings, and we wouldn’t want that influencing our women from accepting the status quo. Too bad there are asexual feminsits. Male feminsits. *GASP* virgin feminists.
Or even, *ta-dah* Islamic Feminism!
Being a Muslim feminist means that I’m concerned with ensuring equal rights, community service, and social justice in religious practice (implementation, interpretation, and creating safe spaces). That goes for everyone: non-Muslims, people who don’t practice, children, women, men, the LGTBQI community, animals, married couples, unmarried couples, students, singletons, people with disabilities, the disenfranchised or people with different belief systems as long as those belief systems aren’t hurting themselves, others or make people feel oppressed.
Just because I’m a feminist, it doesn’t mean I’m ONLY concerned with women’s issues.
And just because I’m a Muslim doesn’t mean that I can’t be flexible in what that really means.