I have been reading with interest the debate about Ayaan Hirsi Ali's recent fall from grace over at Pickled Politics . The post which kicks it all off argues that Ali did nothing to help Muslim women reform their communities and made it harder for them to take a stand. One commenter points out Ali did give assistance to a young Muslim woman who was being physically abused by her family, an act for which she should be commended. However I believe her adoption of an 'either or ' position regarding Islam and the rights of women has at best done nothing to help Muslim feminists and at worst may even have damaged their position by making it easier for them to be attacked as un-Islamic.
I should stress that I have no quarrel with her decision to reject Islam. Whilst I personally have no religious beliefs, I accept that other people do and believe that Ali was ultimately more concerned with promoting her personal view of Islam than supporting Muslim women. The difficulty with her position is that it is unrealistic to expect vast numbers of Muslim women to accept it. After all in rejecting Islam they would be rejecting their own sincerely held religious beliefs, and in some cases their friends and family not to mention social and cultural attachments. Rather than go over the whole Ali business again , I intend to ramble for a bit about Islam and women.
It cannot be denied that from a feminist perspective the Qu'ran contains a number of troubling passages, though I am baffled at the insistence of some that this is 'real' Islam whereas the more female friendly passages can be safely ignored. Could the hostility between the Muslim fundamentalists and the Islamaphobes be mutual projected self loathing, given that their interpretations of Islam are strikingly similar?
I take the view that if you are concerned with the rights of Muslim women rather than seeking opportunities to attack Islam, then your time would be better spent educating Muslim women about their religious rights than telling them to give up their religion. If you claim you are not Islamophobic but are critical of Islam as it is currently practised, then give all these women your support. Oh and of course I will expect your full support of my western feminist goals. Otherwise I might get the wrong idea and think you're going in for all that ' uncivilised barbarians mistreating their bitches' stuff and I'd doubt your commitment to the ladies cause.
To illustrate what I mean by 'religious rights' let me cite a couple of examples. Muslim women are entitled to a pre-nup just like Hollywood stars. In fact they've been at it for years. Zeinab Al Ghazali was born in 1918 and discarded one husband for breaching his marriage contract before remarrying on better terms for a second time. The grounds of divorce were that he 'took up all of my time and kept me from my mission'. Zeinab was a member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which I think makes her a prime example of what I am getting at when I reject what I have termed the 'either or' option above. I would also suggest that women's rights would be best served by ensuring that all Muslim women are aware of their Allah given right to negotiate the terms of their marriage contract and have the confidence to assert their rights in this area.
A more romantic version of independent life for Muslim women comes in the form of a Sufi mystic and poet Rabiah al- Adawiyyah. She lived alone, was celibate, vegetarian and lived a life devoted to prayer and mediation. A Sufi woman who rejects wealth and sexual love because there was no room in her heart for anyone but Allah, cannot properly be considered un-Islamic unless one is more concerned with sectarian in-fighting than Allah.
It is also worth noting that women are forbidden to cover their face when on pilgrimage to Mecca. Why is it un-Islamic to behave as well as if one is on Hajj at all times? I have no problem with women covering up in the name of Islam if they choose to, though I confess I'm slightly puzzled why baring all is regarded as liberating in western culture. That said, I must admit I do enjoy the sight of a nudie lady.
Muslim law is founded on three components the Qu'ran, the Hadith and the 'ulama' . Anyone regardless of gender can become a member of the ulama (people with an in depth knowledge of Islamic law). This feminist suggests that it is high time the ulama included a few women and suggests it is up to men to come up with reasons why they cannot join. At the same time they might also wish to explain why their wives cannot enjoy the similar status to the prophet Muhammed's wives Khadijah (businesswoman) and Ai'isha ("take half your religion from this one") unless they are suggesting that Mohammed couldn't control his women in which case I'll step aside and watch them talk their way out of that one. Neither the Qu'ran or the Hadith can be reformed but the ulama can. I vote we stop bashing Islam and start supporting women. After all as Mohammed stated in answer to the question 'Whom should I honour most? 'Your mother, Your mother, Your mother' and then your father.
You may wonder why I'm sticking my beak in so I shall explain:
1. I am a feminist.
2. I am a curtain twitcher
3. This was all I could think of to write about.