Sunday, 27 October 2013

Feminism and Islam

God is bad for women?
"Yes. It is unfortunately true that none of the major world religions has been good for women", a statement  by "John Phillips" I still can remember from an article I have read concerning my cultural studies at the university two years ago, and the one of the things which magnetized  me to feminism studies.

Feminism is not only an ideological, political and socio-economic movement, it is also a literary and cultural movement that promotes rights and opportunities for women equal to men. Right from the beginning, feminism movement, which is also called women's liberation movement has sought to examine the situation of women in society through raising dominant issues, such as gender, discrimination, social, economic and political injustice and religion. Like any particular feminist movement, Muslim feminists promote certain principles as lots of them believe that justice and equality concerning gender in Islam are values and cardinal principles Islam  does not deny.

In Islam, it is believed that justice, equality are intrinsic values and cardinal principles, and the fact that women in Muslim countries have been oppressed and denied their rights is mainly due to patriarchy and some odd and wrong interpretations of Islam and not Islam itself.
One of the key concepts ,the Moroccan Feminist, “Fatima Mernissi” discusses is the notion of “Potentiality”. She argues that Islam, indeed granted women equal rights to men and that women are not denied justice, but the issue in our Muslim context is that there is a difference between theory and practice. So, women’s rights in this way are held hostage to our patriarchal society, which still believes in traditions that keep a huge gap when it comes to gender segregation. For “Fatima Mernissi”, there is a potential that women have equal rights, and this condition is not tied to religion more than it is tied to society with all its traditional and ritual backgrounds.

The Islamic society is oppressive to women in the way it is hierarchically constructed. Women can not have a fully admitted access to certain public and social spaces which are up till now still exclusively open just for men, especially in the middle east. In the Moroccan context and in the Arab in general,the control of women and her suppression is mainly due to “fear” as “Fatima Mernissi” puts it. The fear of the destruction of Islamic values and the “Ummah”. Hence, feminism has been always looked at with suspicions and still considered as an alien ideology that can not fit in our society. Being a traditional conservative society ensuring an equal right for women sounds to be hard, even if it is legally admitted.

Women are being oppressed also because of the wrong understanding of religion. As a Moroccan, I believe that our society is more traditional than religious. Had we gave up believing in some lame traditions, women could have achieved  a better equality to men. The problem with religion is that when we think about feminism, we try to link it with Western values. For a lot of people, especially religious scholars (Ulamma), they believe that the emancipation of women is a Western agenda to ward off the path of “Allah”. Liberating women is playing against the teaching of Islam. Such kind of interpretations or rather  a mere ideology are among the hurdles to hold back women’s liberation.

Muslim feminism as a pressing political, social and ideological movement have been struggling to achieve equal rights through demonstrating Islam’s tolerance toward women as the case of “Laila Abouzaid”, who through her postcolonial novella “ The Year of the Elephant”  she characters the figure of the “Sheikh” as an example of Islam’s authentic view toward women. She believes that justice, equality are sacred human values that Islam have granted women with long time ago, even before they were granted to Western women. However, the patriarchal structure of Islamic societies, which are formulated by traditions, ideologies, as well as the impact left by colonialism which ragged the Islamic identity by mainly trying to relate it with “Shariaa” make our feminist movement distorted and still unable to guaranty a fully unconditional emancipation for Muslim women.

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