“Isn’t she one of those feminists?” The word rolled off his tongue tentatively – as if saying it was like swearing or backbiting. As if it was a bad thing. In light of the situation, calling my sister-in-Islam a feminist was part of a smear campaign geared toward suppressing our opposition to the barrier, which had just been installed in our local university prayer room.

This was a young man – impressionable, uninformed and obviously using the word as he heard it used by others. He just wanted the inside scoop on our barrier protest. Being one of a handful of hijabis on campus, meant that some people just naturally assumed I was more religious, pro-barrier and rejected certain social movements.

I brushed him aside saying that the moment the Prophet championed women’s rights and emphasized equality – he became Islam’s most influential feminist.

My sister in question didn’t wear the hijab and was a vocal organizer against the barrier – so she took the brunt of the slander. Any authority and power she could have wielded was suspended because her dedication to the religion was made questionable. Now, no one called her a woman of loose morals. No one accused her of being an enemy of Islam. No one said that her western education threatened the very fabric of Islamic tradition. They just needed to call her a feminist, and innuendo took care of the rest.

I’ve noticed that when Muslim women and their allies try to challenge the status quo, there’s at least one perspective attempting to place the blame on “foreign” political or social ideologies. Despite the fact that feminism(s) exist in Muslim traditions and cultures, saying that word to the wrong person can bring to mind images of bra and burka burning westernized women – who either assume to know what’s best for the “oppressed” Muslim woman, or who have tainted their delicate and innocent minds with thoughts of revolution and forced equality.

Some fear that the agenda of the western feminist includes banning the hijab, encouraging women out of the kitchen and into the workplace, mocking motherhood, promoting promiscuity and lesbianism (*gasp*) and challenging traditional, divinely guided gender roles. Of course anything that threatens “our traditional way of life” is fair game. So sometimes feminism is let off the hook in place of democracy, television, the fashion industry, music, Pepsi or Thanksgiving. Really, anything that aids in creating “us” versus “them.”

This perspective tends to define the rights that Islam affords to women in opposition to perceived (and usually misunderstood) goals of the feminist movement. There’s no need to promote equality for all – Islam already grants equality between the sexes. There’s no need to settle for lower paying wages for an equal position to a man or choose between your career and your family – Islam defines your duties as a woman and as a mother. There’s no need to use your body and sell yourself to others – modesty in Islam guarantees that people engage with your mind instead of seeing you as a sex object. There is no need to struggle for your rights – Islam came at a time when women were horribly oppressed and grants women specific rights. And under a truly Islamic society, these rights will be guaranteed.

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The baby is in bed, the tea is steeping and there’s a stack of peanut butter cookies with your name on it (or Arrowroot… hold on, I think we may have some chocolate wafers at the bottom of the cupboard). So sit back, relax, and enjoy this happy-feely, pain, love, ‘n guts edition of the roundup.

Again, if you come across anything of interest regarding Islam, Muslim women or Muslims in general and would like me to review it, answer questions, or just comment on it here, flip it to me via: w00dturtl3 {at} gmail {dot} com.

  • Allah loves me this I know, for the Qur’an tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak but He is strong.  Christian teachers at an Islamic school are getting more than they bargained for in Des Moines.  At New Horizons Academy, they’re leaning all about Islam and finding new direction in their own understanding of Christianity — from their first grade students.
  • Not that this is representative of every father in the KSA, but the Associate Press is reporting that women in Saudi Arabia who are being forced to remain single by their male guardian are taking the matter to court.  The practice known as adhl, or rejecting the marriage proposal, is used to reject suitors on the basis of their class/tribe, if a family cannot afford a dowry, or in some cases, if a father wants to keep his daughter’s salary or the government allowance given to single women in poorer families.
  • In a recent report by the pan-Arab Al-Hayat newspaper, the National Society for Human Rights received 30 cases of adhl this year — almost certainly an undercount. A Facebook group called “enough adhl,” set up by a university professor and adhl victim, estimates the number at closer to 800,000 cases. The group, with 421 members, aims at rallying support for harsher penalties against men who misuse their guardianship.

  • Yusuf Islam has been voted as one of the most generous musicians!
  • At the height of his popularity in 1977, Cat Stevens converted to Islam and dedicated his life to educational and philanthropic causes. His religion has been the subject of much controversy and misinformation, yet Yusuf’s generosity is clear. He auctioned his Cat Stevens gear, donating money to charity. He also decided to use his publishing income to establish a series of Muslim schools in London and donate to other charities. Yusuf then founded the Small Kindness nonprofit which provides aid to victims of war. All of this while raising five kids.

  • And this report in honour of my amazing sister-in-law, who just started some serious boxing training in Ottawa. 15 year-old Muslim boxer, Ambreen Sadiq, is fighting her way to the 2016 Olympics:

    Her father, Shokit Ali Sadiq, who has encouraged her since childhood, said he had predicted since she was a baby that she would become a boxer. “Nobody would believe me.”

    Ambreen said: “I know you should not show your arms and legs off but I am not doing it so I can show my arms and legs off to the whole world. I am doing it so I can enjoy boxing. It is what I want.”

    The Muslim Council of Britain said: “We would not take a position against this.” He said some Muslim scholars did, however, regard boxing in general as “inhumane”.

    Ayesha Abdeen, vice-chair of the Muslim Women’s Sports Foundation, said: “We believe that women should have an opportunity to take part in sport and keep fit and healthy. A Muslim woman boxer I would say is quite rare.”

    This article on her career is a little old, but you can keep up to date on her upcoming matches by joining her Facebook page.

    MOMBASA, you’re up next — get in the ring girl!

women symbol with the crescent logoThis October the Fourth International Congress on Islamic Feminism was held in Madrid, Spain.

The conference hosted over 1,500 globally represented attendees and lecturers who discussed topics on Islamic Feminism, including: problematics in defining Islamic Feminism, Qur’anic hermeneutics and feminist readings of the Qur’an, gender equality in the Middle East and Feminist Activism, and gender rights justice in the construction of male superiority over women in Islam.

One of the goals of these continued conferences is to validate Islamic Feminism as a growing phenomenon by providing a forum for intellectual discourse.  Aiming to celebrate and support women’s rights groups and organizations around the world as they work toward reinterpreting scripture, giving women an educated voice and challenging patriarchal systems that use religion to subjugate women.

Two weeks after the conference closed, Saudi Arabia was voted onto the executive board of UN Women.

Saudi Arabia. Where women cannot drive it is illegal for women to drive, vote, or leave the house without a niqaab and where there is strong, enforceable social pressures to cover. Saudi Arabia. Where some women cannot visit a doctor, travel, go to university, work or leave their homes without the expressed consent of their male guardian. Saudi Arabia.  Ranking 130th out of 134 countries for gender parity.  Saudi Arabia. Where Saudi UN officials defend polygamy by saying it’s required to help satisfy the sexual urges of men. Saudi Arabia. Where there are no laws protecting against child marriage and where rape victims are routinely punished for being alone with a man and charged as adulterers. Saudi Arabia. Home to Islam’s most holiest sites, the birthplace of the Prophet, and the main source of petrol-funded, political Islam.

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