There are many ideologies or -isms that we hear in our day-to-day life liberalism, secularism, racism, semitism, and feminism to name a few. Most of these ideologies began as a struggle to get freedom from some negative and prejudiced elements in the society. Feminism began sprouting around the end of the 20th century. Feminists believe that the solution to women subjugation, injustice, and inequality is in creating awareness and raising voices against it.
Current status of women in Islamic societies
How can we close our eyes on the gender based discrimination in our own Muslim culture. Rooted in our culture not in the religion, but of course, it goes without saying that culture slowly becomes so integrated in our lives that religion and culture become one regardless of how different they are in the real sense.
The subjugation of women in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, rural areas of Pakistan and in many other Muslim countries always make the news headlines around the world. This prejudice not only has caused harm to the Muslim women empowerment but to the face of Islam.
After the end of colonial period what Islamic world learnt from the west was that women are unduly limited to the private realm of home. Women themselves wanted to gain more empowerment by being more active in the public realms of life. On the other hand, many rights of women like their right to inherit parent’s property and their right to decide for their own marriage was seized by the men. Though religion did not take those rights rather religion explicitly gave these rights to women.
But, somehow, modernism gave rise to the notion that the reason women got subjugated under colonial rule is that we laid back in secular education. That we should focus only on gaining insight into reasoning, logic, science and other modern education. Only then we will be able to rule the world and solve our problems. This meant that religion will be something only learnt by the scholars and maulvi in our society. The common man has nothing to do with it. Many-so-called scholars and maulvi gave fatwas that did not correspond with the teachings of Islam. But the common man did not think how illiterate he is becoming in the religious sciences and how it can impact the society today and tomorrow. Society became sexist and misogynist but the common man had nothing to do with it. In the end, what these common men and women attributed the root of these problems is “religion” not to the “lack of understanding the religion”.
Women lost their rights but we progressed in science and technology. Now today’s women want to progress at the same pace that other genders of the society. And that is their right. She wants to reform her role in society, she cannot remain subjugated and treated like a second-class citizen. Apparently feminism provides a good platform to achieve liberation and gain freedom.
Some Muslim women therefore, joined the movement of Islamic feminism to find ways in which they can gain empowerment, equality of rights, and freedom while still practicing Islam. Others believe that religion and religious institutes are patriarchal, misogynist, and sexist and therefore they cannot get their aims under religious umbrella. While still others believe that feminism is a grave threat to our religion and it only means to erode all the Islamic traditions, beliefs and will only introduce negativity towards religion. Everyone has their own reason to believe in one way or the other.
The problem is not whether feminism is a threat to religion or religion is a threat to women rights. The problem is that if you believe that religion has all the solutions for equality for every segment of the society why cannot we exercise that equality in our society. The other problem is that if women are following any western agenda (that many people believe about feminism) then why cannot we propose our own solution to solve this problem of gender inequality. Why women is going to the feminist bandwagon if Islam can provide such good solution for equality among genders.
When we critique feminists for their harsh slogans and chants why don’t we go and research where feminist ideology contradicts with Islam and where it does not. Is the contradiction something that cannot be allowed to exercise being Muslim or is it something that cannot cause big harm to our religion. For example, personally when someone says the equality of economic, social, and civil rights is the slogan of feminism, I am a big feminist. But if someone says that wearing hijab is a choice for a Muslim women not an obligation, I cannot agree.
Why not the fortunate women in our society who have husbands, fathers, or brothers who love and respect them. Who have male family members who attest to the notion of equality and empowerment of all genders can go out and use their power to help the powerless women. Part of the problem in our society is that it is not only men who want to snatch our rights but it is also other women who do not care about how we should respect each other’s rights and how to give each other space in life.
To me it is a big challenge to see many women leaving Islam completely or partially because they believe that Islam contradicts with their feminist rights. They think that Islam makes them oppressed and second-citizen of the society. While on the other hand I also feel guilty to see many women with staunch faith to become rigid and critiquing the feminist ideology for being too liberal.
Also something of instant importance is to highlight the gender norms that are not rooted in Islam and that only developed due to the culture that we brought from other societies or from our own.
We point our fingers at those feminist bandwagons that are pulling Muslim women toward themselves and driving them away from religion we should know about the Islamic rights of women. We should exercise those rights in our homes, our workplaces, institutions, religious places, community and overall society. Because we can make a difference today that the world can reap today and tomorrow.
It is easy to say that the brainwashing that any ideology is doing to the Muslims today is not because of some western agenda but because of our own misunderstandings about the religion and its practice in our life. Everyone needs an answer to their problems if our family, mosques, other institutions cannot provide answers to these problems we will look at others to provide us with a solution. That solution may pose a threat to our religion but forget about it we ourselves are a big threat to our religion because we do not seek knowledge of it in the true sense.