Disclaimer: Originally published in June 2017. It is being republished since it still remains an interesting topic till today.
The internet is flooded with feminism these days. The internet is filled with pseudo-feminism these days, too.
There is an urgency among feminists to pick up one concrete definition of feminism so that the world can subscribe by it. But the question is – when the world itself is such a diverse community, how can there be a straitjacket solution to the problems of patriarchy?
Interestingly enough, I found a lot of articles explaining how the concept of Islamic feminism is nothing less than the patriarchy. These “feminists” deduce this statement from the fact that Islam is an organised religion, and religion itself was constructed to benefit men.
Okay. Fair point. It is not just religion but every social structure which is an outcome of patriarchy in some way or the other.
What is Islamic feminism?
To put it in an elementary manner, many Muslim women around the world believe that God gave them equal rights, but it is because of patriarchal interpretations of verses in the Quran by certain clerics, that they have been denied their rights.
Allah ordained equality. Human beings, with their own distorted understanding, denied women their freedom.
Also read: The Way Islamic Conservatives Robbed Dangal Actress Zaira Wasim Of Her Achievements Is Absolutely Appalling
How is feminism failing Muslim women?
I remember reading Catherine MacKinnon, a pioneering feminist, say how heterosexual relationships are inherently patriarchal because men have internalised the privileges they have always enjoyed. I agree with that.
But, MacKinnon also adds – it is because of this inherent patriarchy, equality can never be achieved in a heterosexual relationship.
(Waiting for men to come up with #NotAllMen.)
That is exactly what I am trying to argue here.
If equality cannot be achieved in a heterosexual relationship, does it mean that women should be forced into a homosexual relationship, even though lesbianism or bisexuality is not their orientation?
The beloved feminist of the country (though I am not very fond of her), Nivedita Menon, criticised MacKinnon’s study saying that it denies women the ability and the right to bring change in a patriarchal structure.
People will buy what Miss Menon says, but the moment a Muslim woman decides to bring a change within the patriarchal structure of her society, she is being criticised? *slow claps*
Indeed feminism is making a progress.
What feminism today needs to understand?
I have said it time and again, and I still continue to say it – it is very easy to determine what you think is right/wrong when you are sitting comfortably in your rooms. It is very easy to attack anything when you have only read about them in the library.
The real world is very different.
For some women, religion can be a place of solace. Think about those Kashmiri women who have lost their children and believe that turning to religion can lessen their pain, think about Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan which has empowered women to become qazis.
And above all, think of alternate methods of resistance. Think of those Syrian women who have lost everything, and only have Allah to believe in after the world has failed them.
If Muslim women are fighting patriarchy to assert their property rights, inheritance rights, marriage rights – what is wrong with that?
Do you think that Muslim women are too weak to defend themselves? The violence in your language can free a Muslim woman in the same way a white man with gunpowder freed black and brown people.
Questioning a practice is fine. You can question why the Prophet asked women to cover up instead of attacking the men who attacked women. These questions qualify. They even enrich an understanding. But to say that Islamic feminism is farce makes you sound like white feminists itself.
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