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islam and feminism - interesting article

(38 Posts)
kelpeed Thu 16-Feb-17 22:26:12

I mainly lurk on this board, largely because others put theirpoints across so much more eloquently than I could.

But I thought I would share this article, which I found rather thoughful. Its author is refecting on a recent discusion in an Australian tv talk show (with a political bent) where two opposing views on islam were covered. The discussion descended into a slinging match. One of the guests represents a very minor party in a state which is experiencing ongoing high unemployment (ie, representing those who might have voted for Brexit and for Trump if they lived in the UK and the US, respectively). The other guest is a muslim youth advocate. People are saying the show host handled the discussion rather badly.

This article, however, makes a useful point that it is the political and cultural aspects of a paricular country that are the problem and that the problem is the patriarchy, rather than islam itself. I imagine this board has covered this already, but perhaps not so recently, and in the context of the recent elections in the US and UK? This point to me, sounds like a useful one to draw on when people say that what feminists discuss are first world issues. That it is not religion per se, rather, the developed and developing countries all have common political and cultural practices which subjugate women.

The comments also seem interesting (to my, perhaps naive, eye) : that the three Abrahamic religions all have core texts which represented the norms of their times, the qoran being the most feminist. Others pointed out that liberal islam is not really truly experienced outside western countries (comment from me: perhaps because these countries separate church and state laws?) .

I guess I am not trying to just throw up a link and say "how about this"? but to point out what I thought were interesting points, particularly in the context of bringing women together in the face of popular /social media attempts to wedge women's interests.

LastGirlOnTheLeft Thu 16-Feb-17 22:36:31

The Quran being the most feminist?? You lost me right there, OP! Jesus was/is the most feminist of all leaders - he called women to follow him when all around him were castigating him for it; he called out men's abuses of women and he, after his resurrection, appeared FIRST to women!

How on earth is the illiterate Mohammed, who claimed that women's voices were worth only half of men, in any way comparable to Jesus?That is so insulting!

Lessthanaballpark Thu 16-Feb-17 22:47:54

LastGirl, Islam is considered feminist by many because IIRC it gave women certain inheritance rights and allowed wives to keep their dowry upon divorce, which was quite forward thinking for the times. It also encourages education for both sexes although this has been interpreted differently by different factions.

IMO it is 100% pointless to discuss religion as something separate from culture because it IS culture. It reflects the norms and values of the culture at the same time as rebelling against them, so it is both progressive and conservative at the same time.

Jesus a feminist? Possibly, it is certainly easy to take his message as a call for equality. But he also rejected his mother on the basis that the world was going to end and urged everyone to leave their mothers, wives, brothers, family behind. Which to me feels distinctly unfeminist.

kelpeed Thu 16-Feb-17 23:48:51

My intention was not to insult, thankslastgirl. I am trying to have conversation here, to tease out the essential claims set out in the article and its comments . Your angry post is just going to send people away who are a little uncertain about feminism, and would like to have a relatively safe space to ask questions, not to mention, to bring people together. Otherwise we can just replicate the conversation in the Q and A tv show and retreat to our own corners. In doing so, refuse to understand the basis for people's beliefs and how they think their own feminism works in their own context.

The point about Jesus having women followers (an intangible high level sentiment as per the new testament) and Islam's inheritance laws (essentially stipulating tangible financial security for women) is an interesting comparison. As far as I recall from my dim dark scripture days, the old testament doesnt really stack up in favour of women though. But I am not an expert in religious texts, so happy for others to elaborate.

yy less culture and religion is definitely a hard one to separate, but i think culture can be changed, including through engaging with others, exchanging different views and seeing where the overall goals overlap. Obviously this wont happen overnight. The internet, for example, has done a lot to improve communication, in ways that people might not otherwise do in face to face (and sadly, vice versa).

I think separating religious law from state law is one area to tease out, particularly in context of the claim that liberal islam is only practiced in western countries.

YetAnotherSpartacus Fri 17-Feb-17 00:30:34

IMO it is 100% pointless to discuss religion as something separate from culture because it IS culture

This. 'Man' made religion and it is intrinsically cultural.

I do understand your point OP and I agree that various religious texts have been used in patriarchal cultures to subjugate women and that if one looks at the original text one might find that the position is not as extreme as they make out. However, I'd also argue that the original societies that these texts came from were patriarchal and that none of these texts is 'really' feminist. Further, I guess I'm a little confused re what you see the solution as. I'm not sure that going back to these texts and saying 'see - Mohammed / Jesus / Moses / whoever never really said this and what they did say could be interpreted multiple ways' because intrinsically that's fundamentalism in itself. Also, the texts are not always clear in meaning and some are deliberately obscure. Others are scattered sayings and teachings. The patriatchs of the religion will argue that centuries of debate have proved that certain interpretations are right, or we will be right back to where we are now with different factions or denominations arguing the toss about whether JC really did mean that women should not be priests or whether what Mohammed said about Fadima wearing a veil should apply to all women (now, even today).

My honest view is that the sooner the world wakes up to realise that religion is a load of jiggery-pokery the better.

kelpeed Fri 17-Feb-17 01:18:53

YNAS . yep, Religious institutions and partiarchy go hand in glove. Not here to defend which religion works better for feminism.

There is a lot of quite hurtful and polarlising discussions about migrants, muslims which have played out in recent elections around the world. People are surprised about the outcomes, largely because we are all shouting in our own echochambers.

In all of this, Feminism is being pushed aside. Why people are worried, what specific practices that undermine feminism should we talk about, across religions and associated cultures, not within each one. This is what I am trying to muddle through.

Ruby Hamad's article was based on two people compeltely misunderstanding of eachother's perspectives about what sharia law is. In trying to understand why some consider that islam supports feminism, I threw in a corrolary about other insitutional texts.

I am not offering a solution. I just wanted to share and have a chat about what I thought was an interesting article. Here is again.

kelpeed Fri 17-Feb-17 01:32:51

However true it might be, In saying that people should just give religion the flick , well, i do understand for some, it is not so easy. I can see that religion gives many people the only hope they have, especially in countries where women are at the bottom of the socioeconomic pile.

By asking/telling people to just shove their beliefs to one side, is an awful lot to ask. People will just tune out of such conversations. Talking about incremental reform, keeping the communcation open about the benefits of feminism seems more doable in the longer term.

toastymarshmallow Fri 17-Feb-17 01:50:52

I agree OP. We probably have more chance of reforming religion than getting rid of it altogether. People need something spiritual. Even those who do not consider themselves religious often have some form of belief system.

I am no expert on this, but this particular subject is of interest to me at this moment in time. So I will be watching with interest.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Fri 17-Feb-17 01:57:09

Underneath the article you linked to OP is this article.

How young is too young to wear the hijab?

I'm afraid ideas of modesty and covering up leave me unconvinced that Islam is the most feminist of religions.

I'm an atheist so find the whole idea of a religious faith completely mystifying but one which required me to cover up as an article of faith seems more mystifying than the other options available.

toastymarshmallow Fri 17-Feb-17 02:05:38

I read recently some case studies where women said that wearing a hijab was liberating as it allowed them to enter education and the workplace without being accused of being immodest.

This was being given as an argument for why not all women feel oppressed by religion.

I couldn't help but feel that both the women and the researcher were missing the point. If society wasn't in the practice of accusing women of being immodest they would have nothing to feel liberated from.

YetAnotherSpartacus Fri 17-Feb-17 10:16:36

This article, however, makes a useful point that it is the political and cultural aspects of a paricular country that are the problem and that the problem is the patriarchy, rather than islam itself. I imagine this board has covered this already, but perhaps not so recently, and in the context of the recent elections in the US and UK? This point to me, sounds like a useful one to draw on when people say that what feminists discuss are first world issues. That it is not religion per se, rather, the developed and developing countries all have common political and cultural practices which subjugate women

Sorry OP - I'm just trying to gain some clarity on what you are saying here in the quote above. Can you re-phrase?

Prawnofthepatriarchy Fri 17-Feb-17 11:22:50

Yes, YetAnother, I had the same problem. Could you rephrase that, OP?

kelpeed Fri 17-Feb-17 11:30:22

YAS these points were my distillation of a couple of what i thought were interesting points from Ms Hamad's article:

The article covered the point that the patriarchy needs to be addrssed, rather than islam itself. (I thought that this point has probably already been covered in FWR)

For me, a take home message from the article was to try to understand eachother's positions, so that women, irrespective of their beliefs, can have a construcive conversation about feminism.

Why is this important? We are seeing wedge poliics playing out in elections around the world which aim to marginalise migrants, muslims and simplisically labelling minority groups as the bad guys, with little understanding or defining what it is they don't like about these groups.

By the same token, this agenda also seeks to also constrain women's rights in the west. (eg, commentary that women should stop whinging, they have it good in the west, look at country xyz instead). Irrsepective of whatever belief system people may have, feminists have need to work with the common ground in tackling patriarchal institutions. (not saying this is going to be easy!! culture is intrinsically steeped in religion which is supported by patriarcal institutions) . But just attacking people's belief systems , eg islam, straight off and saying it is all bad will mean the conversation is going to be pretty short and unproductive.

As an example of new stuff I learned from reading the article, and from lessthanaballpark I didnt know that islamic law - on paper - has inheritance provisions for women. How does tthis work in prsctice? I don't know, but financial security is also a big deal for women in the west. Looking at the historical origins of such provisions, on all sides, might help us all.

Prawnofthepatriarchy Fri 17-Feb-17 11:42:08

There's a lot in the original article about the difference between sharia as a personal moral code and sharia being enforced by law, as it is in Saudi Arabia for example.

However, at least in the UK, sharia courts are up and running. Don't know about Australia, but here sharia courts make rulings within Muslim communities that are very different from those of the law of the land. Women whose isolation from the outside world means they may not even speak English are subject to decisions that they assume are those of the UK. It's a concern.

It's like the Umma, the world community of Muslims. Some Muslims say this is entirely spiritual. Others say that the long-term intent of all Muslims must be a global Islamic state.

They are very different things. The article doesn't help, OP. It's very woolly and unclear.

Pannnn Fri 17-Feb-17 11:44:19

This is a really complex issue isn't it? I've very good and recent reason to pay attention to this sort of debate/discussion, and have been reading a lot round it - so I am no expert either!

The article and discussion so far is many-legged and shifts from one focus to another. The matter of religion and culture are, imho also, inextricably linked and the 'strength' of application and emphases of religious/scriptural aspects move from society to society don't they, for instance I know there is a chasm of difference between the religious 'culture' of Pakistan and the U.K. for example. That an Afro-American muslim will be very different to his/her conterpart in the Gulg states.

The concern is that the 'populist' road that many countries seem to veering down will lead to a reaction in Islam that will not be what many in the 'west' will identify with.
Will read with interest, thank you.

Bambambini Fri 17-Feb-17 12:19:42

I agree that religion and culture are mostly interlinked. You always get the defensive argument- but that's not real islam, that's cultural influences at play. But what is real Islam and where us it practiced? Muslims don't seem to agree on what islam is anyway.

whoputthecatout Fri 17-Feb-17 12:24:51

There may well be areas in which Islam was more forward thinking than Christianity. After all, it is a much younger religion and the world would have moved on in the 6 or 700 years between the two. (Think of the changes within Christianity now compared with the 15th century for example).

However, I cannot reconcile organised religion and being a feminist. The patriarchy wrote the rules to suit them, whether it's the bible, the koran or any other religious text. Any concession men made to women was similar to what we refer to as chivalry i.e. the condescending protection by the superior of the inferior. They are so much in charge they can afford to throw a few crumbs.

Christianity or Islam: bit like asking whether you would rather be hanged or beheaded.

Bambambini Fri 17-Feb-17 12:25:37

I did have a strict muslim friend who was being pressured by her family to stay with her husband (first cousin). It was the imam from her mosque who spoke to her family and told them they were being unislamic but following cultural practices and that they should support her to divorce. I used to enjoy our conversations, a fascinating (if at times disturbing) look into islam (as she saw it) and her culture.

Bambambini Fri 17-Feb-17 12:27:01

Yes - looking forward to the day we have a female pope, imams and rabbis.

Pannnn Fri 17-Feb-17 12:31:29

Muslims don't seem to agree on what islam is anyway.

Well it would be a massive shock if there were to be agreement!
Rather like Catholics, Proteastants, Lutherians, Adventists, Baptists, neo-Baptiist, quinto-Baptists all agreeing on Christianity. (I'd made the last two up obv.)

noblegiraffe Fri 17-Feb-17 12:41:46

It is hard to see people argue that Islam is a feminist religion when so many Islamic countries are distinctly unfeminist.

It's like seeing someone argue that Christianity isn't a homophobic religion.

Maybe not your version, however there are many versions/interpretations which are, and denying that is unhelpful.

Pannnn Fri 17-Feb-17 12:45:48

yes, I mentioned Pakistan and a muslim woman friend of mine is a finance controller for a v large charity in the UK. On ocassion she has to phone Karachi on business. The call receivers initially refused to discuss money with her, as they wished to speak to a man on such matters.
Obv they had 'fogotten' that the Prophet Muhammed's wife was much older than him and was a very experienced business woman.

SeeTheGood20 Fri 17-Feb-17 13:06:10

I've known loads of mates being pressurised to marry cousins (which is not promoted by any version of Islam anyway).
In the case of forced marriage, all Muslims knows it's unislamic but certain communities put their culture and community above their religion.
Once our mosque played a sermon against forced marriage, urging people to avoid it in the name of Islam. The next day an old woman rang up to complain because her son was defending his Islamic rights to choose a spouse. The cheek!
A friend of mine once told her mum that forcing her to marry was against Islam.
"You don't even do your daily prayers, don't tell me about Islam when it suits you." Was her mother's response.
These people don't care about Islam. Only their culture, which is very patriarchal. It's sad.
Furthermore, I've known many of these old fashioned families. It isn't the men who push these patriarchal views, it's the women! By the time the kids have all grown up the mothers usually rule the entire extended family, pushing stupid ideas for their own gain. Makes my blood boil.

YetAnotherSpartacus Fri 17-Feb-17 13:14:38

Obv they had 'fogotten' that the Prophet Muhammed's wife was much older than him and was a very experienced business woman

His first wife anyway...

Thanks for the clarification OP - I'll have a think and re-read the article you linked to.

Prawnofthepatriarchy Fri 17-Feb-17 13:26:37

Among his subsequent wives was one he was betrothed to at 6, though he did not consummate the marriage until she was 9. It's things like this that make me disinclined to see Islam as in any way feminist.

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