SAAD: Being Muslim does not interfere with my feminism
Opinions Column: My V is for Victory
As this is the last column I will write this semester, I wanted to address an issue very close to home. Many times, when I identify myself as an advocate for women’s rights and feminism, a lot of people tend to find this in contradiction with my affiliation with the Islamic faith. For a lot of people, “feminist” and “Muslim” are two terms that just do not seem to fit right with each other. Why is this?
This belief that champions of Islam cannot be champions of a pro-female voice has a lot to do with narratives of oppression being written from the biased perspective of those on the outside. It’s the typical story of Western ideals, especially in America: We look at other people on the outside and love to point fingers, tell them what they’re doing incorrectly and how they should be saved. But as someone who is both on the outside looking in and the inside looking out, I must say that a lot of us have gotten it all wrong.
Just as people do with everything they read, people tend to look at the information presented to them and pay more attention to the details and explanations that mostly coincide with their own version of reality. So when American people take a look at the Quran, the holy book of Islam, they often look to find excerpts and phrases that fit their description of a religion that promotes the submission and oppression of women.
I’m going to put this out there right now: In Islam, men and women do not have equal rights. But their rights are balanced. What does this mean?
This means that in Islam, men and women are granted different rights in certain aspects of life, but in the give-and-take of the scripture, they are given a balance of power. So whichever rights seem to be allocated to men more in, say, marriage, are made up to women in terms of parenthood. This is not because either of the sexes is considered superior or inferior to the other, it is simply because in Islam, it is believed that there are different needs for different people. And in the modern-day chronicle of feminism, this is often looked down upon.
Yes, in Islam, men and women are separated during prayer and men pray in front of women. And yes, in Islam, men are allowed to have more than one wife and the same rule does not apply to women. But people look to these rules and immediately point out their faults without attempting to understand why they were created. Men who chose to take another wife could not do so without the full consent and comfort of the first wife. And these other wives were not taken for pleasure or greed. A man was only allowed to marry more than once if he had the means for providing for his wives. This may seem completely ridiculous to certain people, but what is absolutely necessary to the understanding of the religion is that Islam was founded in 610. Women did not gain the right to vote in America, the “world’s freest nation” up until the last century. Just as people have adapted to the new revelations of society, people within the religion have adapted too, but in accordance with Islam.
What people fail to point out is how much importance Islam gives to women. Take Khadija bint Khuwaylid, for example. Khadija, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s first wife, was an esteemed, successful business woman. And she is known to be the mother of Islam, the first person, man or woman alike, to accept that her husband was the last prophet. And to really put things in perspective: She was the one who asked him to marry her. And this is all happening during the 600s. Women don’t even do that now.
A lot of things can seem wrong or scary when you don’t understand them. This is why people are so quick to condemn the hijab, or Muslim veil. They don’t fully understand it. A lot of women in America who claim to be feminists look down on the hijab for “oppressing” Muslim women. This always upsets me because I think: Doesn’t dictating what a woman can or can't wear count as oppressing her? In Islam, the hijab plays into preserving a woman’s modesty, because women are cherished in Islam. But people don’t consider this. Rather, a lot of people who criticize the hijab do so because of the idea of women having to be modest where men aren’t required to. But in Islam, there are regulations to what a man can and can’t wear as well. This goes back to the idea of balance.
In a time and place where narratives of Islamophobia are circulated even in the highest office of power, the Muslims who are marginalized are tasked with a decision: Hide or stand up. I choose to stand up and say that not only am I a feminist, but I am a Muslim first and foremost — and more importantly, I am both and proud.
Syeda Khaula Saad is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in English and journalism and media studies with a minor in French. Her column, “My V is for Victory” runs on alternate Tuesdays.
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