December 16, 2005

"In Islam, there is no place for feminism."

Asra Q. Nomani disagrees:
We Muslim feminists view it as a struggle that taps Islamic theology, thinking and history to reclaim rights granted to women by Islam at its birth but erased by manmade rules and tribal traditions masquerading as divine law....

To many, we are the bad girls of Islam. But we are not anti-sharia (Islamic law) or anti-Islam. We use the fundamentals of Islamic thinking — the Koran, the Sunnah, or traditions and sayings of the prophet Muhammad, and ijtihad, or independent reasoning — to challenge the ways in which Islam has been distorted by sharia rulings issued mostly by ultraconservative men.

What we are wrestling with are laws created in the name of Islam by men, specifically eight men. The Muslim world of the 21st century is largely defined by eight madhhabs, or Islamic schools of jurisprudence, with narrow rulings on everything from criminal law to family law: the Shafi, Hanafi, Maliki and Hanbali schools in the majority Sunni sect; the Jafari and Zaydi schools, for the minority Shiite sect; and the Ibadi and Thahiri schools among other Muslims. But the first centuries of Islam's 1,400-year history were quite different — characterized by scores of schools of jurisprudence, many progressive and women-friendly. It is not Islam that requires women to wear a headscarf, but rather the scholars in the contemporary schools.


David said...

Now that we have defined the problem, what are the muslim faithful going to do about it? In Iraq they are voting. In Iran they are regressing under a repressive regime bent on obtaining a nuclear weapon. In Turkey there is friction between the secularists and the fundamentalists even though Turkey is trying to gain entrance into the European Union. In France, the muslim failure to integrate into French culture is apparent.
Blaming the problem on eight men may be factually correct but if the faithful have an 'us against them' mentality the battle lines are drawn - muslim faithful vs infidels, apostates, and non-believers.
As it stands now, Islam is preaching dhimmitude as the best the west can hope for.

That won't happen!

Scott Ferguson said...

This is very similar to the viewpoint of Prof. Khaled M. Abou El Fadl, a UCLA law professor, in his book "The Great Theft : Wrestling Islam from the Extremists." His book gave me a more meaningful frame of reference to the issues facing your average Muslim today. It's both accessible and scholarly; and I highly recommend it.

Jake said...

Islam, as practiced by many, is creating a society devoid of the civilizing influence of women. This is disastrous for the men, their families and non-Muslims who have to deal with them.

PatCA said...

The whole struggle within Islam today could be characterized as "Manhood in Crisis."

I'm glad she's writing about this. The silence from the feminist establishment in the West on this subject is cowardly, to say the least. I'm sure this writer would have a few choice words for those who justify this with the cultural relativism argument.

Goesh said...

- progress is moving fast in Saudi Arabia for instance - though women were not allowed to vote in a recent election, they were for the first time in history allowed to discuss the elections with their husbands in the privacy of their homes. You've come a long ways, baby! The hot issue amongst muslim women in the ME is which will come first, voting or driving? I for one have always loved a spirited debate.

peggy said...

There seems to be several flaws in the reasoning of this feminist muslim woman.

Islam like Christianity has two extremes. One is liberal and advocates re-imagining and reforming the faith handed down through the centuries. The other, it goes without saying, is conservative and advocates upholding the whole faith as it has been handed down without revision. The vast majority of muslims, like Christians, if they orient towards either end of the spectrum are more likely than not to orient themselves towards the conservatives and find themselves some personally comfortable spot on the traditionalist end of the spectrum. To these people, talk of tossing centuries of tradition in favor of a so-called "pure" islam that bears no resemblence to the islam of more than a millenium sounds like utter non-sense. Just try to imagine what a conservative Catholic thinks of some of the rantings of say Frank Griswold of the Episcopal Church and you'll get some idea of what this person sounds like to the vast majority of muslims.

Although the conservative positions will be inevitably characterized by liberals as the result of ignorance or stubborness, a great number of these conservative muslims are not only well educated, they have also thought their position through and have one very good reason why they will not reject traditional islam. In order to arrive at a liberal interpretation of any religion, some tenents are always sacrificed or downplayed in favor of others. The problem with doing so is that human fallibility and weakness make picking and choosing what stays and goes to be an almost random and certainly faulty proposition based on the biases and preferences of the revisionists. To the conservative, this seems not only the height of arrogance and hubris but it is also represents a lack of respect for elders and a lack of trust in God Himself that he has been actively guiding and preserving the faith throughout time. Conservatives see liberals tearing the whole cloth of faith to bits and reassembling it to suit themselves.

Although I am not a muslim, I have studied islam and I have had many conversations with average muslims. I am also a conservative Christian so I can definitely see through attempts to re-adjust traditional faith. So I think that I can imagine something like what a traditional muslim would say to this woman.

First of all, the vast majority of muslim women freely choose to wear the veil. Many of them, well educated and otherwise modern in every other respect. Yes, there are some countries where the veil is required by law. Sure, there are some clerics who say that it is mandatory. But most people, being human, make up their own minds regardless and so muslim women are adopting the veil in ever growing numbers in countries where they are free to dress as they choose. Their reasoning is not that it is required but that it is recommended and beneficial and most of all in keeping with the muslim tenent of modesty in dress. To these women if it is good to be modest in dress, then it is better to be very modest in dress. In islam, righteousness is in direct proportion to deeds. So the more modest a woman is, the more righteous she is and the more blessed she will be. To these women, talk of discarding the veil is the same as saying that modesty is not as important in islam as other concerns.

The problems with the veil, seen from a conservative Christian perspective, are numerous and serious. The problems with islam, seen from that same perspective, are equally so. But it is pure wishful thinking to say that it is possible to liberalize islam to the point where it bears no resemblence to the faith known both yesterday and today. Conservative or traditonal islam will continue to define islam as a whole while muslim liberals will fail to make much of an impact numerically or theologically. This has been true throughout the centuries. Unfortunately, islam's brand of conservatism is the well-spring of extremism and the source of islam's conflicts with the West in both violent and non-violent varieties.

Goesh said...

From a seminar in Tehran 1/5/86 on the study of Hi(e)jab and delivered by Sister Zahra Rahnavard:

We may look at the hejab from the window of economy, and then construe the abolition of hejab as an Imperialist plot for the inflow of the putrefied surplus products of the Western Capitalist countries like the readymade garments, cosmetics and even the attractive bodies of women for the publicity of the surplus commodities manufactured in their factories.

Boy! Wal-Mart can't be pleased with such fiery rhetoric! Though it is a bit outdated, one wonders if its veracity isn't still intact in light of Iran's President proclaiming there was no holocaust and Israel should be wiped off the map. Am I confusing fashion with religion here or is it just Friday??

BrianOfAtlanta said...

What's wrong with throwing out over 1000 years of add-ons to the core of Islamic belief? It sounds to me as if this woman is proposing something very similar to "sola scriptura" in protestant Christianity. The Protestant Revolution discarded some over 1000 years of church teaching, and it was hardly a disaster (spoken as a Protestant - if I were Catholic, I might disagree). Why can't Islam do the same?

brylin said...

Despite all of our individual beliefs on issues such as these, some perspective is always valuable: Islam is the fastest growing religion on the globe.

As I read this post and the following comments, I'm thinking that the anecdotal evidence of Islamic liberalism is running against the much broader trend.

brylin said...

Also, consider the empty churches and the overflowing mosques as a measure of intensity of beliefs comparatively among religions.

rocketsbrain said...

The key to victory

See this thought over at Winds of Change:

The key to victory in the GWOT (AKA Islamofascism) is to win the war of information over the validity and credbility of the ideologies/cultures in conflict to meet the desires, wants, and needs of its people.

The ideologoy of Islamofacism is destined for failure as it does not recognize the fundamental truth of the free will of men and women.

A a key facet in the war of information is to drive this point home. Certain pathological practices of radical Islamic culture have roots which predate Islam to the nomadic Bedouin tribal cultures of the Arabian Penisula and Northern Africa.

These abhorent practices that include pedophilia and male dominated theocratic hegemonies do not foster good trading relationships within the modern world. The treament of women as nothing more than chattel is one of these pathological practices.

A key strategic strategy in winning this war of words and ideals is to empower the women of Islam.



whit said...

Here is a quick read on the topic:

Troy said...

Originally some schools of Islamic thought were or liberal, but after Avicenna and Averroes there is virtually nil.

It would be as if Western thought stopped at Aquinas, disavowed him, and then regressed for 1,000 years.

There needs to be a Luther and a Wittenburg Door, but there is no centralized institution to reform. Reform is going to take a long time and be piecemeal at best.

rocketsbrain said...

UPDATE - The Key to Victory

See this related comment thread over at Winds of Change where I linked to this thread:


I agree with your assessment on Iran but I tend to be a little more optomistic as to the outcome if we can kick our government into action.

The clear and present danger is quite clear. The current administration should not be hampered by the LL, MSM, and the EU in what we do to protect the American people.

We must win this war of information to win the GWOT. The LL and the MSM are squelching and filtering information that the world and the American people need to here.

The Blogos has the ability to fill this gap and to unite the American people and wipe this evil of Islamofascism from the face of the earth. Further to force the remaining moderates into a transformational period of reformation akin to similar times with the Protestant faiths and Catholicism.



David said...

If Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world today it is because their birthrate exceeds western averages.

I find the Iranian 'sister's' remarks about economic putrefaction interesting! Consider the terrorists gleeful use of particular modern conveniences to suit their various nefarious purposes.

A religion that does not respect the intrinsic worth of the individual will fail.

brylin said...

David, You aren't considering conversions: "Islam has drawn converts from all walks of life, most notably African-Americans."

brylin said...

"A religion that does not respect the intrinsic worth of the individual will fail."

Sounds like an opinion.

Facts: Islam has a much higher birthrate and has many more converts. Churches are empty; mosques are overflowing.

Troy said...

No one's arguing their growth Brylin. Growth may be an indicator of vitality, but cancer grows fast too sometimes.

Many churches (especially the mainline Lutheran, Episcopalians, etc.) are empty in the U.S. but are exploding in Africa and Asia -- the new expansion of Christianity.

Ironic that the religion, generally, that has embraced this world in all its Millsian Kantian relativist glory is sucking wind while the religion that dares to stand apart grows..... Could it be that people are looking for something different and the vacuum is being filled by Islam and not Christianity? a head scratcher... and one the Church needs to get on (and is doing so)

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