Islam and the F word


Islam and feminism are often seen as two irreconcilable, even antithetical ideologies. For many feminists my cultural and spiritual identity is subversive to its aims, similarly many Muslim’s view feminism as sacrilegious innovation- it is the taboo F word that is better left unspoken. So where does that leave women like me, Bristish born, hijab wearing Muslims of colour who abhor patriarchy but feel shunned by repeated Eurocentric feminist diatribes against the hijab, alienating large swathes of women who would like to engage with the cause. Because as much as it pains me to say it, many Muslim cultures are in need of it. Yes we know Islam gave women the right to vote, inherit etc 1400 years before our western counterparts, but the conversation is so much more nuanced. For many Muslims (men and women) calling yourself a feminist is tantamount to heresy, but it’s not, for as long as oppression is gendered, it is in fact intrinsic to being a woman and a responsible human being. Let me be clear here, this oppression is not something specific to Islam, (in fact Islam emphatically rejects oppression in all its manifestations) but to patriarchy. Women the world over are subjugated on a daily basis, be it in the domestic, local or global spheres. The world needs feminism. Including the Muslim world where we have allowed many inherently misogynistic cultures to infiltrate and interpret Islam through this bigoted lens. (eg if you think that a wife should be in the kitchen and subject to her mother in laws wants and desires, you are probably an (ignorant) Asian who is incidentally a Muslim and crucially not the other way round.) In a population of 1.6 billion spanning the globe, this was sadly somewhat inevitable, but it is time to reclaim the position of Muslim women from these cultures. However, whilst feminist ideals are vitally needed, what we don’t need are privileged Eurocentric feminists patronising and excluding us from this vital movement simply because of the way we look. Perhaps that is why many Muslim women, myself included feel more comfortable identifying with third wave womanism. Wherever you place yourself on the spectrum, the key word here is intersectionality. Muslims are beginning to understand that feminist ideals are not in contrast to the egalitarian values of Islam and western feminists need to stop trying to liberate us, but listen as we take up the mantle and begin our own discourse, in keeping with the great Islamic tradition of female scholarship.

we all can do it