Can we end these discussions that claim to “prove” that “Muslim women” are challenging “stereotypes”? (Apologies to reader for the constant quotation use – I clearly have a lot of problems with this sort of discussion.) It’s the same reason I find the idea of viewing the Muslim woman’s body as a constant site of resistance unaccrptable. That is, this profound idea goes, Muslim women constantly seem to be resisting something or another, and the Al-Jazeera discussion on their breaking stereotypes is a part of that resistance conversation I find so troubling and frustrating. And old. (See the comments under the Al-Jazeera linked post. I like what Amina Wadud says there in a comment: “Fabulous…as long as you don’t start ANOTHER false stereotype, that only young Muslim women are breaking barriers. Or maybe it’s just because these ladies are so attractive as well. Good on them.” Someone named Danya Shakfeh also writes some thoughts worth reflecting on.) Instead of challenging the underlying reasons because of which these assumptions about Muslim women exist, we’re actually and ironically reinforcing the stereotypes when we give the Muslim-women-haters examples here and there of why they’re wrong.
Tag Archives: Muslim women
The Islamic Reform Symposium in Exeter: authority, Muslim feminists, and woman-led prayers
In June, I attended an Islamic reform conference in Exeter, UK. It was a beautiful experience, and I’m saddened that the symposium at which I spoke was the last of the 3-year project – because it would’ve been great to try at it again, hah!
The Link Between Authority and Knowledge – or: how knowledge is gendered
Nobody believes me when I say authority has everything to do with gender (well, okay, some people do believe me, especially the Muslim feminists – God bless you all!). I’ll write on this–i.e., on how knowledge is gendered, on how the production of knowledge is gendered because of who creates it–in more detail some other time, though I attempted to sketch out the problem with gendering authority in a guest post for The Fatal Feminist’s blog under the title Muslim Women and the Politics of Authority. Or: How to Determine a Woman’s Right to Speak on Islam. But for now just know this: We gender knowledge, we gender the main sources of our knowledge by interpreting them in a very narrowly gendered way (if you ask me, I insist that the sources of Islam aren’t the Qur’an/Sunnah but actually the consensus of the male ‘Ulama), and then we tell especially the feminists: “No, no, you got it all wrong. You don’t know your stuff. Your KNOWLEDGE of Islam is wrong,” denying that our (traditional, agreed-upon) “knowledge” of Islam is gendered to begin with, with women’s attempts to contribute it almost completely dismissed and seldom appreciated and accepted as “real” knowledge; the only time they’re accepted as “real,” “authentic” knowledge is when the women’s contribution/addition reiterates the same patriarchal nonsense the men teach and insist upon. Plenty of examples, but one of my favorites is as follows – watch what happens when a woman tries to interpret the Qur’an – hint: “it’s an interpretation that’s not its [the Qur’an’s] interpretation”! Or the position of a woman is “one of ignorance”! Ugh, patriarchy gives me a headache.
Freedom from the Forbidden (a poem)
The poem and note below were written January 5th 2010; I’m transferring them from the old blog.
One of my favorite Pashto songs, written by Ajmal Khattak and sung by Gulzar Alam, goes:
Raadak sho zrha isaarawale ye na sham
Khula maata kha da kho gandalay ye na sham
My complaints and concerns overwhelm my heart; I can no longer keep it in!
My mouth is better off broken than sewn
“Forbidden” – a poem
I have dug inside me,
A well – a deep, infinite well.
In it lives with me My God
The God of both women and men,
The God of the oppressed and the liberated,
The God of the cursed and the blessed
There with me, my feelings dwell,
Far from the fondness of human thought,
The feelings I’m forbidden to relish,
The secrets I’m forbidden to reveal,
The questions I’m forbidden to raise,
The mistakes I’m commanded to regret,
But I don’t. For I have no regrets.
Only mistakes to learn from.
There, I speak the unspeakable
I quarrel with My God,
And My God allows me this –
And there, I think the forbidden
And My God hears me, too,
There, I demand answers,
And My God answers me, too,
My God hears the shattering of my voices
And pacifies my frustrated nerves
There, I heave sighs suppressed elsewhere,
And screams ignored elsewhere,
But I must scream,
For the forbiddance of speaking has boiled my brain,
And the ludicrousness of the ulama, the “learned,” vexes me,
And the labels of heresy and blasphemy grieve my soul
But I must tell my stories.
And I tell my God,
Why have you forbidden me these natural thoughts?
Why am I nothing but a dangerously seductive being, who
Incites sordid feelings in men?
You must forgive me, Dear God, for I mean no harm,
But you must permit me to ask –
Why do you objectify me when You created me Yourself?
They tell me You’re all-powerful;
But then why did you make me the reason men behave so despicably
When they see my face, or my hair,
Or my ankles,
Or my eyes?
And My God smiles at me
And tells me
“Don’t confuse My guidelines with the orders of men.”
Just as the well starts to flood, and I
Develop confidence and valor
And my spirit ascends the seventh heaven,
And my heart glows with peace
And my mind enfolds the universe
I have become a woman.
A woman at last.
And I’m going to tell my stories.
March 1, 2010
“In Your Worship, Be Free!” – Except, Don’t Be.
The article below was published first on MuslimGirl.Net and is titled “Why Are Muslim Guys Responding to the ‘Short Shorts’ Article?”
The title I’m using in this blog refers to the last line of the Hussain Makke article I’m critiquing below, since it completely contradicts his entire premise even though he’s giving the advice to the rest of us. I love it, though: In your worship, be free. It’s beautiful.
A recent hype in the online Muslim community was this article called “Practicing Islam in Short Shorts.” By a Muslim girl. A number of people shared the post, and a few — from my circle of friends — pitied the author, prayed for her guidance, dismissed her experiences as “cultural, not Islamic!” I let it be known to some such commenters that such reactions are grounded in arrogance and ignorance because they disregard a Muslim’s experience with Islam; they have idealized Islam and the Muslim experience in such a way that any Muslim who doesn’t have the romanticized experience with Islam growing up was simply never exposed to “Islam” but to “culture.”
Yasir Qadhi’s Statement on the Women’s Mosque Is Condescending to Women.
This is a response to Yasir Qadhi’s statement on his Facebook page where he shows fake support for the women’s mosque. The saddest part is that he probably meant well; he was probably expecting a pat on the back, a nice, humble thank-you from Muslim women because he’s basically saying that “Hey, Muslim men! If y’all stop disrespecting women in the mosques, maybe they won’t go around taking matters into their hands and counter-reacting with an actual mosque of their own! So start respecting them and their space in mosques so this whole women’s mosque move can go away!” And don’t get me wrong: It’s telling that I am tempted to acknowledge what he probably thought was support for Muslim women (because Muslim men leaders rarely speak on the disrespect and humiliation that women face in mosques). But I refuse to say, “Awww, thank you so much for finally saying openly that women are treated beyond poorly in mosques!” because our leaders should be saying that anyway. Not simply in response to a women-only mosque!
Snake in the Grass
That condescending paux support of the women’s mosque expressed by Yasir Qadhi who prolly expected a pat on the back for how far he’s come with his views on women in the last some years.
It seems the women’s-only mosque in LA has brought out quite a bit of male panic—and brought out the white knights alike. Most of you have undoubtedly seen what Yasir Qadhi, Abu Eesa’s BFF, has had to say about it:
When our sisters are deprived from the right to come to the mosques, or given sub-standard accommodations and treated disrespectfully, it is only natural that some of them will take matters into their own hands and counter-react.
Some of that counter-reaction will be legitimate, and some illegitimate.
Oh please, Yasir. Do let us know that some of our “counter-reactions” are illegitimate. I presume that you, of course, are the one who gets to decide which “counter-reactions” (because that’s all this mosque is–just a bunch of women throwing a tantrum) are illegitimate? Unsurprisingly enough, Yasir Qadhi and his like don’t seem to believe that rape jokes are illegitimate.
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A Message for the “hOjabis” Facebook Group Admins
If you are a member of this FB group I’m talking about below, I urge you to re-think your values. If you have ever used the word “hojabi” to refer to a woman whose hijab style you don’t approve of, with the excuse that it’s “un-Islamic,” I urge you, too, to re-think your values and re-evaluate your relationship with the divine and with fellow humans. You’re doing harm to yourself and to those on whom you put such labels.
Because, as usual, this post got longer than I’d intended for it to, here’s a brief outline: I’ll first introduce this FB group, then share some of their photos with group members’ comments on the photos, and then discuss ten things that are wrong with the group itself as well as the broader concept of a “hOjabi” woman and what it means for Muslim women. Continue reading
When God Isn’t Watching (a poem)
My latest poem. I’ve been wanting to write this for a long time now, and I finally got to sit down and do it. The idea was overwhelming, and it’s a huge relief to have gotten it off my chest at last.
Thank you for reading!
When God Isn’t Watching
When God isn’t watching
And she lets herself be consumed by a pain I don’t understand
I stand there watching her,
Silently breaking into tiny, sacred flakes of cotton
The way God’s words will on the Day of Judgment
As she screams of sin
Of God’s wrath
She confesses things I don’t understand as sins
She screams, plucking her heart out of her soul
Her spirit, her strength shriveling up
And she withers into submission to the Divine
I stand still, watching from afar
As I make sense of her pain
Pain caused by the wrath of a Being I don’t know how to love
By the guilt of transgression against an almighty God
By the love of a God embedded in her soul
And yet, yet, she breathes a sigh of joy into the world
A sigh that guides her out of nothingness
But into a universe that belongs to her
And she slowly molds herself back into the perfection she embodies
She again becomes all things sacred
The things she touches and feels and desires become sacred
The spaces she occupies become sacred
All aura around her beams with her noor, the noor of God
For indeed, heaven lies beneath her feet
Time and again, when God isn’t watching,
She becomes her own God,
Her own heaven and her own hell
I still watch from a distance, wondering
Wondering how she finds solace in a merciless God who
Chooses to remain oblivious to her pain
As she breaks over and over, mending herself over and over again
When God isn’t watching
December 15, 2014