Islamic feminists speak out on the struggle for rights

  • by Mariya Salim (New Delhi, India)
  • Inter Press Service

Zakia Soman, co-founder of the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) or the Indian Muslim women’s movement, in an exclusive interview with IPS, said the historic victory was important for the women-led group to verify this ( A patriarchal clergy) arrogance.

“Most of our members have an intimate devotion to Sufism. We cannot allow a bunch of conservative men to take it away from us. We are equal human beings, equal Muslims and equal citizens in a democracy, ”she said.

“When they refused to listen to us and continued to prevent us from entering the shrine, we unanimously decided to prosecute them.

The BMMA filed a public interest dispute in 2016 when, after years of unhindered access to a Sufi shrine, the Haji Ali Dargah, a sudden restriction was placed on women entering the inner shrine of the shrine.

The organization’s submissions to the High Court challenged this ban based both on constitutional guarantees and on women’s rights in Islam. The verdict was in their favor and in 2016 the High Court ruled that “ women should be allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum on the same basis as men. ”

Soman says that Haji Ali’s victory was personally a tribute to his maternal grandmother who was a devout Sufi.

Another achievement for BMMA has been the slow acceptance of the Qazi woman performing the “Nikah” or marriage for Muslim couples. An area that has remained exclusively for men, while nothing in religion prohibits a woman from celebrating a Nikah.

However, the BMMA has been the target of criticism for its struggle to codify family law in India. Many believe that the anti-Muslim community climate in the country calls for other issues to be taken forward.

“Today Indian Muslims are facing huge assaults in the form of lynching, discriminatory laws, citizenship laws and the impending national registry of citizens, so-called jihad laws” love, etc., ”says Soman.

“There is a direct attack that puts a question mark on the citizenship and patriotism of Muslims. I don’t know how many women would come forward to fight for family rights in the face of such enormous political dangers.

She recognizes the need to continue to fight for gender-equitable reforms in family law from the inside.

The BMMA and many other Muslim women’s movements around the world are challenging patriarchal interpretations of religious texts that treat women as unequal. As Islamic feminists, they believe their religion believes they are equal to their male counterparts.

Zainah Anwar, Executive Director of Musawah, the global movement for equality in the family and co-founder of Sisters in Islam, Malaysia, says, “For many of us Muslim women who choose to engage with religion in the area of ​​women’s rights is an article of faith according to which Islam is just and God is just ”.

“If justice is intrinsic to Islam, then how can injustice and discrimination result from the codification and implementation of laws and policies made in the name of Islam,” he asks. her in an exclusive interview with IPS, questioning the patriarchal family laws implemented in the name of religion.

Historian and scholar Dr Margot Badran defines “Islamic feminists” and says that they are inspired by “the Qur’anic concept of equality of all human beings” and thus insist on applying this concept to everyday life. Defining ‘Islamic feminism’, she says it ‘explains the idea of ​​gender equality as an integral part of the Qur’anic notion of equality of all insan (human beings) and calls for the implementation work for gender equality in the state, civil institutions, and daily life.

All over the world, Muslim men have been in the realm of interpreting Quranic texts, and these interpretations have been mostly patriarchal. However, Islamic feminists are changing the contours of these debates.

The movement has a long history and in March 2005, Amina Wadud, an Islamic and feminist scholar was at the center of debate, criticism and discussion. Dr Wadud accepted the invitation to lead a mixed prayer and led it to the Synod House in New York. Having received death threats and criticism from those who believed Islam prohibited the act, the former professor of Islamic studies at the University of Virginia said in numerous media interviews that have followed: “There is nothing in the Quran or the hadith that forbids me to do this.

After Shah Bano’s judgment in India and the passage of the Muslim Women Bill in 1986, and in a community-polarized atmosphere, Muslim women who developed a feminist consciousness attempted to redress the injustice of gender in Muslim personal law followed at the time by invoking and relying on Islamic reinterpretations of sacred texts.

As in the Muslim societies of the time, also in India at this time, women were seen as symbols of the religious tradition, any dissent on their part being interpreted as a betrayal of community identity.

This paradox was interrupted, however, in Muslim societies at the end of the 20th century. Like their counterparts in predominantly Muslim states, the conservative male clergy (mostly Ashraf or upper caste) in India began to place more emphasis on patriarchal gender notions, which in turn prompted many women to embrace themselves. engage in activism to counter these claims.

These women saw no inherent connection between patriarchy and Islam. At the end of the 1980s, there was the emergence of a movement which was “feminist in its aspirations and demands, but Islamic in its language and sources of legitimacy, one version of this new discourse is Islamic feminism” .1

In recent times, there have been several efforts in various parts of the country for Muslim women to enter the religious realm by interpreting the Quran and Sharia from a women’s perspective. They strove to reclaim space using constitutional means and the law of the country as well, which were increasingly taken away from them.

Challenging the status quo is not easy, however, and Muslim women around the world challenging patriarchal norms have faced resistance from both inside and outside their communities. Anwar told IPS, “We are often accused of being Westernized, anti-Islam, anti-Sharia elites, women who have deviated from our faith and have a weak Iman faith. Reports are made against us to the police, to religious authorities to take action against us, to silence us, to accuse us of having insulted Islam, to ban our groups.

“We cannot be told that Islam is a way of life … and then give Muslim men the sole authority to decide what Islam is and what it is not. It is despotism. As we can see from Muslim women leading reform and rights movements around the world, we will not be silenced and intimidated, ”Anwar says.

1 Ziba Mir? Hosseini, “ Muslim Women’s Quest for Equality: Between Islamic Law and Feminism ” (The University of Chicago Press 2006) 32 (4) Critical Inquiry 629

Mariya Salim is a member of the IPS UN Bureau

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© Inter Press Service (2020) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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