Does Islam Need Feminism – Part 1

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Fatima Barkatulla

Channel: Fatima Barkatulla

Episode Notes

Webinar with Zara Faris, Daniel Haqiqatjou and Fatima Barkatulla

Episode Transcript

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Salam alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh Welcome to our next second webinar on Islam need feminism, Islam or feminism which can truly liberate women. Now in this particular session, which will be approximately one and a half hour, we have some excellent speakers and people who will will discuss the issue related to Islam and feminism. Now, before I get into the detail, let's just introduce some of these speakers. So our first somebody who you may already be acquainted with in our previous session is Daniel haka. Do now I'll just briefly outline again, his his profile, but Daniel, Daniel was born in Houston, Texas, and he attended Harvard University, and he majored in

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physics and modern philosophy. He completed a master's degree in philosophy at Tufts University and is the director of religion. And scientism was the director of religion of scientism at the European Institute.

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Daniel has also studied traditional Islamic sciences. Part time, he writes and lectures on contemporary issues surrounding Muslims on modernity, life and culture, and of course, on feminism. He also writes critical analysis of the theories of biological evolution, which we discussed in our previous webinar. Daniel has spoken a number of spoken a number of universities, community centers and mosques around the USA. And he's in mainly in relation to Islam, Islamic ethos, the mentality, various other topics. So he's collected writings can be viewed on his blog, Muslim skeptic calm, where he regularly posts his work. And he's written a number of very interesting articles. One of

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the other interesting article was the sexual misery of the Western world, which we will talk about later on in Sharla in our webinar.

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Our second guest speaker is Zahra Faris, Zahra Forrest graduated sisters are a part of a graduated in Arabic and Islamic studies from SOS University School of Oriental and African Studies. She's lived for a year in Egypt studying Arabic language, and she is now a researcher, writer and an international speaker for the Muslim debate initiative. And Zahra is also served as a Kurdish Pakistani origin.

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So Zahra has delivered lectures at universities around the country, including a number of different universities, on women in Islam, Justice for women and men, feminism, reformation, revival and Muslims in the West. She's also had regular TV radio media appearances, including on Islam channel on BBC Radio. Zara has also debated feminism with former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, journalist Julie bindle and academic Ziva Mira, mira Husseini, and Marina Botha, daughter of the former Malaysian Prime Minister.

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She's also debated this House believes Sharia law is fairer than English law with an English law judge and QC. And she's also debated Islamic reformation with Tom Holland. So she's clearly somebody who's quite heavily involved in the meeting with a number of different sort of understandings about Islam and so forth. And she's currently writing her first book, I'm not sure what those are sisters are completed the book but on women's rights without feminism, so we'll get to hear a bit about that book, later on inshallah as well. And finally, our third guest speaker is Fatima barkatullah. And sister Fatima has a rich Islamic education from an early age thanks to her parents, and she married

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and passionately is raising four children.

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She studied Arabic and Islamic students in Egypt prominent Institute's such as unfilter center kotova Institute and college of Al Azhar University, and is currently training to be well received which is already in the state of Islamic scholarship. with senior scholars in Institute's in the UK. She has been a key contributor to the discourse surrounding Muslim women in the West, contributing to the Westminister fifth debate, documentaries and live shows for BBC Radio, the world service as well as BBC television channel four and Islam Channel.

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In 2014, she was also awarded awarded I'm not sure if I'm saying this the right way but icon Ottawa international award for young women in Tao and community service or a ceremony in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and currently sister Fatima is the director of seeds of change.

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Which is one of the biggest Muslim women's conference in Europe. And I'm sure Sister, sister Fatima will give us a bit of insight in terms of what this particular organization does. So I won't waste any more time, what we will do is for the over the next one hour, what we will generally do is just put some questions to the panel. And once we've done that for about an hour, and then the last half hour, we will open up questions to the audience. Now hopefully, some of the questions I will be putting to the panel are also questions that you guys already quite interested in generally anyway.

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So first of all, let me start off with

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Danielle.

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Just before we go into the topic of feminism, and before we come to you, Danielle, actually, let's just ask Fatima, sister Fatima.

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Let's get deeply into the root of the question. Does Islam need feminism? Sister Fatima?

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Yes, Somali

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brother.

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And the question does Islam need feminism?

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I would look at it from from this perspective.

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First of all, we know that Islam

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we know that we have our Creator. We believe in our Creator we believe that he sent us guidance through the prophets and then through the prophet Mohammed Salah. What do you say to them?

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If we believe that we have a creator, and we believe that the creator sent us guidance, then that guidance that he sent us is comprehensive guidance as the Quran itself tells us you know that Aloma multi lacantina Allah says, today I have completed for you your religion or your way of life that I have approved for you. So since Islam is a complete and comprehensive way of life, and the last message sent to us by Allah Subhana Allah creator, through the prophet muhammad sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, we would expect it to be complete, would we as we know that it is, but but I mean that even just from that perspective, we would expect, yes, this way of life is complete, the answers to the

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problems that human beings have, can best be given by their Creator. And so everything that we need, as human beings, male and female, to live a good life, to be happy in this life, to be successful in the comprehensive sense of the word meaning in this life and in the next.

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to cater for our not just our physical needs, because we don't we know that we aren't just physical beings, but also for our spiritual our,

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our, our souls, we would expect the way of life

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would expect that we would like to fulfill that. So as a Muslim, I believe Islam doesn't need any external kind of Islam or schism to come in and, you know, fix it, so to speak. If anything, if we were to return and to practice and to observe the way of life revealed to us by our create a properly it would solve and cater all about me.

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Okay, um, interesting. Sister Zahra. Just get your perspective on this. Before we go into the depths of feminism, what what exactly is feminism? And surely is not a good? Is it a good thing? Or is it not a good thing to demand women's rights?

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Salaam Alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh and to everybody who's joined today and thank you for inviting me and thank you to everybody who's joined us as well.

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I think this question often arises, for one key reason the issue on feminism and whether it's compatible with Islam or whether it's

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not is because we often conflate women's rights with feminism and we treat them as though they're the same thing. We treat women's rights and feminism as though they are synonymous. And the reality is that they're not synonymous. And there's a couple of reasons why which I'd like to go into and share with you today. Um, feminism is the best way to understand its place in society. Feminism is to women's rights, what capitalism are called

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communism is to economics. So economics economics, for example, is resource distribution. It's about how we distribute wealth and how we distribute all kinds of material resources. And capitalism and communism have their own ideologies on resource distribution, but they are in of themselves, not economics. So capitalism is not economics, communism is not economics. There are many different worldviews to the question of resource distribution. Now, similarly, feminism is just one approach to the issue of women's rights, and Islam is another approach to the issue of women's rights. Hopefully, you start to see where I'm going with this. And now in its most generic terms possible,

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as per your question, feminism is often described by most people, and, as you know, generally, the equality of men and women. And I don't think anybody here would disagree with the sentiment behind that. And, and it's not the fact that when somebody is criticizing or questioning feminism that they're, you know, questioning the idea that, you know, there shouldn't be any kind of oppression between men and women. They're separate things. And so, feminism and its approach to women's rights, and as has been sort of, touched upon briefly by Sr futhermore, really, and they have very little in common with one another. And other than this very broad notion of, you know, not wanting to oppress

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women, for example, that's the broadest, I suppose you could take it. But beyond that, General platitude, we see that with feminism, for example, it's based on the notion of individualism, and which is contrary to the underlying notion of Islam or being a Muslim, which is individualism, the individual or the individual person, or the self is more important than society and culture, religion, or even God. And as a result for for feminism, or for feminists, again, which is just one approach to women's rights. For feminists, they often will be the ones trying to define what those women's rights should be, feminists will often be the ones trying to define what women's role should

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be. And because of their very diverse and fractured nature of feminism itself, that often results in a lot of disagreement amongst even feminists as to what those rights should look like and how to attain them. So it's basically a big game of trial and error, and nobody's really certain among feminists about what the end goal ought to look like. Whereas on the other hand,

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Islam, Islam, Islam as an approach to the issue of women's rights,

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world that isn't centered on the individual, but rather it's on the Creator. So as sister Fatima, I mentioned, and for us, it's about the Creator. And it's more about individuals personal ideas, but it's about what did Allah subhanho wa Taala ordained for us as to how society should work for us, God is the arbiter of that, and the Quran and the Sunnah, provide for us the method to establish that. So the question comes down to that sort of terminology to that to the methodology and how we define those goals, rather than merely the sentiment behind it. And And one final point on this that I think is really useful to know going into this discussion. A lot of people use the term feminism

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for a couple of different reasons. So sometimes, sisters will use it, I would say innocently, because for them, they may, as I said, use it to mean women's rights. And but for the reasons mentioned above, we should be careful of interchanging those terms because they're not the same thing. On the other hand, however, there are some who might use it thinking that the term feminism or you know that the label feminist or or the language of feminism carries with it some social weight. And sometimes people use it thinking it carries more influential social weight than using the term Islam or Muslim. And oftentimes, there may be groups or individuals who use the term

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thinking that they can enlist either help or sympathy from outside their community, and often, whether winning or not against their own community. And of course, that comes with its own strings attached, which we can go into later. But

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that's one of the problems with it. And the other problem is that sometimes, the term feminism is used by Muslims, occasionally also to broadcast a kind of rejection of their own culture. And I'll end this question with this point, which is that

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a lot of the problems that we are facing, particularly in terms of the rights of either women or men in our society, it doesn't

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As we know, because of Islam, but the absence of Islam, and often it's because of the cultures that we are allowed to, you know, to persist in our in our communities. And the question that we need to ask, when people want to advocate change, who are we addressing? So when Muslims want to advocate change for women, and sometimes we had the, you know, the the fact that the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu, Alayhi, wasallam, whenever he was approached by a woman who had a complaint or agreements or an issue that he would listen, and so we should also listen, when women have complaints. Yes, we should listen. However, the question is, who has the ability to change the

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status quo at the moment? Who are we addressing with these concerns, and at the moment, sometimes we have sisters that use the term feminism, and they go to those that have what little authority they do have, which isn't much they may go to, you know, certain individuals in the community, and using feminist language or using the term feminism,

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they are essentially alienating their own allies, they are alienating the very people who may actually agree with with, you know, the fact that these grievances are genuine, they may agree, and they most probably do. But the problem is, when we couch our issues, or our complaints, in the language of feminism, we are

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putting on the backs of people who quite rightly associate feminism with a foreign ideology that has, you know, and as I'm sure we'll go into later, and cause a lot of harm and a lot of damage, and throughout, you know, to to Muslim communities, and throughout history. And so the language and the use of the term feminism is often met with, you know, an understandable backlash. Now, if we just used different words, so describing behavior that is non Islamic, so where, for example, a woman is being denied, and you know, her right, as a Muslim woman, if we describe that as this is because of jaleo, this is because this is an Islamic, nobody's going to disagree with them. Nobody's going to

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say, Oh, no, it can be a good thing. Nobody's going to say that. But when we say, you know, this is, you know, this is, and there's all kinds of manners of terminology that we that we can get into, but a lot of language that is associated with feminism, with alienating the very people who one would be our allies and changing this and establishing a kind of more accountability in society, we're alienating them. And we are also,

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you know, we are not doing justice to what Islam is as a religion, which is a holistic approach to dealing with these issues. And instead, we are bringing in

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alternative worldviews that actually muddy the situation rather than clarify them. So hopefully, that's it's quite a lot there. But hopefully, that's, you know, a good place to, to and to initiate some of these questions this evening. Sharla. Okay, sorry, Danielle. Just the the issue related to I noticed that one of the articles that you wrote on your, your website was about relating the war on terror to Islam and feminism, it gives a bit of an insight into into will tell us what the war on terror to Islam and feminism is all about.

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Absolutely.

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So, just to preface the question, on the war on terror, let me just make clear that I consider myself to be an anti feminist. And the reason is, I believe that feminism is a very corrosive and destructive ideology. I think what sisters are popping up said is absolutely true, that Islam and feminism are separate and in many ways not compatible. But I go even further to say that feminism is an anti Islamic, anti muslim. And the fact of the matter is that feminism is one of the most influential ideologies that's negatively impacting the fate of Muslims around the world. It has been used to attack Muslims and continues, continues to be used to attack Muslim societies and Islam. And

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I think that, as has been mentioned already, the reason that some Muslims find feminism attractive is because they see that Islam and feminism overlap or seemingly overlap in some areas. Feminism advocates respect for women and Islam advocates respect for women, feminism, advocates for women's rights, in some sense and Islam advocates for women's rights depending on what those rights are and whether they are legitimate or not. So there are

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These overlaps, but we can't ignore all the areas where feminism is contrary to Islam and is in fact anathema to Islam. And I think that three main areas that we have to focus on, I'm going to touch on these three areas, probably more than once in the course of this webinar. But the number one, the central pillar of feminism is this idea of patriarchy. Namely, this idea that all of history since the dawn of time, men have been working together in a sort of conspiracy to subjugate women for their own benefit. And that there are these patriarchal structures of power that systematically favor

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men over women.

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And you can internalize patriarchy and patriarchy affects our language and our systems of thought. And so, but this idea of patriarchy is highly problematic to Islam because our Prophet voice on peace be upon him was a man, all the lfl Russia doing were men, all the major schools of thought, were founded by men, all the major works of Pepsi, beer,

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of filth, and so on and so forth. These were all primarily done by men, which is not to say that there weren't any female scholars in our tradition there, there certainly were, but the vast majority were men. So this is seen as a big, big problem. In according to the feminist philosophy, and many Muslim feminists have a major issue and a problem with the Islamic tradition for precisely this reason. And the fact that that, that Islamic scholarship is dominated by men means that we have to be suspicious of Islamic scholarship and the Islamic tradition as far as feminism is concerned. So these feminists attack, okay, and they, they try to undermine the Islamic tradition, they attack

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the Koran. You have Muslim feminists, and not all Muslim feminists, but you have some who will attack the forum. And we'll say we have to say no, to the Koran, right. And that's a direct quote from one of the most prominent Muslim feminists that in some cases, in some contexts, it is appropriate to say no to the forum, and you have Muslim feminists who are attacking the MDR, the prophet, you have so many Muslim feminists who are attacking all aspects of Islamic law, the Sharia, and all aspects of silk and the tradition as a whole. So this idea of patriarchy is very, very corrosive

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to Islam and to Muslim society. So that's one. The second thing is that feminism, also attacks the family and attacks the home. And Islam is a religion that really really emphasizes the importance of family and the importance of the home. The home is the central hub of Muslims life. And a family the extended family is a central institution of Muslims life and of Muslim society. But in the modern world, that's no longer the case, unfortunately. And that's in large part because of feminism and how feminism has attacked the family. But, you know, I hopefully don't need to emphasize how important family is in Islam. How often Allah mentions in the Koran and the prioritize them as

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mentioned, maintaining ties of kinship with a rahem how we are told to respect and honor our parents, how we're supposed to respect and honor our mothers, especially, and our fathers. But these are institutions that feminism attacks, sometimes in very overt ways, and sometimes in much more subtle ways of feminists call motherhood bondage, especially in the first wave of feminism and the second wave of feminism and the third wave, motherhood is seen as a big problem. fatherhood, the father is a patriarch, father should be seen with suspicion, right? Parents need to be

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wary of hat even having children, which is why birth control and abortion are so emphasized within feminist discourse, because children are a burden. And children also should be wary of their parents, especially their fathers. So all of this is attacking the family and the institution of the family, which is so important within Islam. And so we can see a very direct clash, and we can see the effects of this in the Muslim world. So that's the second thing about feminism and the third thing is that feminism has been used as a tool against Muslim society in the past and the present in terms of colonialism. And even today in terms of programs

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that are being exported into the Muslim world in order to re educate Muslims, you know, quote unquote, re educate them and to influence the way that Muslims form their families and the way that society is structured. So feminism has been used as a tool to further colonialism to further occupation to justify invasions to justify wars against Muslims for over 100 years. And so we have to be aware of that reality, we have to be aware of that history and how it's being continued even up to this day. So I given these three points. It's very clear how feminism is anti muslim, it is anti Islam. And we need to be very aware of this and not just have this naive view that okay,

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feminism is something that can be accommodated, even though as I mentioned at the beginning, and this is our also mentioned that there are some areas of overlap, but there's that overlap mean that we should just accept

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the concept wholesale Islam overlaps with many other ideologies, like communism, that was mentioned or other ideologies that are anti Islam. Do we have to be aware of this