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Islamic Feminism: a reality on the rise

Islamic Feminism is exposing patriarchal cultural practices that are outside the fair message emanating from the Holy Scriptures

20/02/2012 - Author: M. Laure Rodríguez Quiroga, Translation: Daniel F. Rivera - Source: Webislam
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Muslim Women performing the salat in the Islamic Cultural Center of Valencia. PHOTO: M. Laure Rodriguez Quiroga
Muslim Women performing the salat in the Islamic Cultural Center of Valencia. (Photo: M. Laure Rodriguez Quiroga)

When we speak openly about Islamic Feminism a series of reactions and disparate positions unfolds, basically encompassing who are supporters and opponents of this movement.

For some people, especially among non-Muslim, Islamic feminism are two incompatible terms, assuming that Islam is responsible for the injustices committed against women.

From this perspective, if Islam is defined as the set of attitudes and behaviors of a large part of the self-proclaimed Muslims societies, then it is fair to say that Islam discriminates women, undermaninds their freedom and hinders the development of their most fundamental rights. But is Islam really the cause of these realities? Obviously, no.

In short, it has  been categorically proclaimed that Islam is a patriarchal religion, and therefore it should be fought and why not, abolished. In this light, it is unacceptable for a woman (or man) to be considered Muslim and a feminist at the same time.

For other people, Muslim, it cannot be accepted Islamic feminism as legitimate Islamic term, since the emergence of the term "feminism"was created in the West in a secular context of anti-religious character, where the divine belief is considered to be an abstacle for the liberation of women.

Thus, "feminism" becames linked to colonialism and Western imposition, having to defend Islam as a sign of identity of Muslim societies against every “external” current, as if justice for women was a cause unrelated to Islam.

It rejects "feminism", in short,  since the term has not being explicitly mentioned in the Qur’an, the Sunna or Hadith. It is worth mentioning that this reaction does not maintain the same degree of rejection that the translations of other terms such as the "Sharia" as Islamic law, or the "Fiqh" as Islamic jurisprudence, which simplistic interpretations emerged in the West that do not do justice to the real meaning of both terms .

There is no doubt that those who are more reluctant to accept the term, usually carry an extensive subjective burden of stereotypes and prejudices related to "feminism" and therefore feminists as well, making even sometimes insulting remarks to those who defend the same cause that Islam: justice for women.

This is why there are other people, mostly Muslims, who, though aware that the term "feminism" emerged in the West in a different context today, have adopted the term as a base for reinterpreting it in different cultural contexts and to name egalitarian practices existing in other thoughts centuries ago. That is, of course, the case of Islam.

There are not few verses in the Qu’ran that reflect and support equality between men and women. Likewise, numerous hadiths show the exemplary conduct of the Prophet Muhammad (PyB) regarding the treatment of women and where taught not to put the women in the background, but rather to elevate their social position in equal society.

From the Islamic worldview, whatever human attributes, all people are equal because it has been said that through the Qur'an is sought to be eliminated any notion of inferiority of women compared to men. For Islam, the only basis of distinction between human beings is their moral praxis.

Thus, Islamic feminism builds on the Qur'an, to challenge and question patriarchal interpretations, offering alternative readings that enable the achievement of the so desired equal rights.

Anyone who becomes Muslim and believe in the words of holy Scripture, should join the protest movement that defends the egalitarian spirit of Islam. Consequently, any Muslim male o female would call himself a feminist. Even, dare I say that being a feminist is just another individual characteristic of a Muslim who tries to take the right path, as it is, being respectful with the environment, living with people of other religions, older people ...

Northern societies make special emphasis on highlighting those cultural practices of oppression against women and how the Sharia has been currently implemented, which are merely translations of corporal punishment, justifications for domestic violence and misogynist and unequal family codes.

There is a tendecy to validate these discriminatory speeches as representative of Islam, silencing those Muslim males and females that oppose fundamentalist currents, dictatorial governments and misinterpretation of the equity granted by Allah to all mankind.

Using the discourse of Islamic feminism, means recognizing situations of discrimination and oppression that are made in the name of religion, so it is claimed the opportunity to avoid any inequality in the context of Islam.

Some of us believe that there has been a degradation of the Islamic tradition and a distortion of sacred texts in favor of males. Unfortunately, the exemple bahavoiur during the lifetime of Muhammed in Medina (PyB) was gradually losing weight a few years after the death of the Prophet, so this egalitarian vision lasted only a few decades. This is clear if we look into the current situation of many countries that do not lose the opportunity to proclaim Islam, when they have corrupted the sense of fairness emanating from the Qur'an.

The woman, beside the man, is a fundamental pillar of humanity, so depriving them of their rights (legally recognized by Allah) prevents that society evolves properly.

I will take as example the valuable words of the Moroccan monarch Mohammed VI in his second speech to the Nation on August 20, 1999:

How can you ensure progress and prosperity to a society when its women, who constitute half of it, see their rights trampled and suffer injustice, violence and marginalization, regardless of the right to dignity and equality that gives them our religion?

It is precisely from within Muslim societies, where you should start making a self-analysis and criticism of the present realities and destroy the recognition of a series of rights that in practice they have been abandoned. The tool is easy to rely on the true message of Medina (the first Islamic society) and cling to Islam as the true guarantor of women's liberation and for changing their current status.

That is why many Muslim women, struggling to recover the message of Islam under a more progressive and egalitarian view, they work to deconstruct the wrong interpretations of the Qur’an, to recover the ideological message that fifteen centuries ago assured social status, economic and full legal development of women and men.

M. Laure Rodriguez Quiroga is a social worker and President of the Union of Muslim Women in Spain. It also holds the position of Director of Tower of Babel.
Translated by Daniel F. Rivera

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