Does Islam Need Feminism – Part 2
Channel: Fatima Barkatulla
File Size: 18.91MB
Webinar with Zara Faris, Daniel Haqiqatjou and Fatima Barkatulla
Just going back to the subject, regarding the impact of feminism, on Muslims just generally even within the Muslim world.
Let's just go back to Europe and let's look at the roots of feminism in Europe.
Sister Fatima, you you claim that there's a historic source of feminism in Europe, due to oppression of women by the Christian church? Do you wanna give us a bit of an understanding around around that particular subject area?
Yeah, I mean, I think we could say that, you know, because there have been different stages and shades of feminism. Throughout history, there will have been many different things that contributed to feminism,
and feminist ideology. However, one of the things that I found very, that seemed very, very clear to me, when I was researching this subject was
just as atheism and secularism
came about, very much, you know, due to the oppression of the Christian church, in Europe.
You know, over time, I believe that feminism also
finds its roots in the oppression that was meted out by the Christian church. In Europe. I mean, one of the, one of the very shocking kind of things that you can find out about is the witch hunts that took place during the 15th to 17th century, that was sanctioned by the Catholic Church, all over Europe, including America as well, where, you know,
women, predominantly women, 85%, of people accused of being witches. And, and by the way, being a which could be, it was a very arbitrary term, you know, it could you could be accused of being a witch, or a devil worshiper for any kind of weird behavior that people saw in you and reported from you.
Between, it's estimated between 40,000 and 100,000, women were killed in Europe, due to these witch hunts. Right, and there were no trials, you know, that women were thrown into rivers and, and literally burnt at the stake. And this was sanctioned by the church. Also going right back.
If we look at the fact that, you know, women didn't really have access to the, to the Bible, men didn't have access to the Bible, either, you know, the average man on the street, but women especially, were not
encouraged or not allowed to learn the Bible. And, you know, the whole story in the Bible of
Satan will shed light on you know, and Adam and Eve, in the garden, blames Eve as the primary primary reason, or the primary source or person responsible for the downfall of man. And that's very clear in the Bible, in Genesis three, Adam blames Eve. And God tells the woman tells Eve that all the pain and you know, any difficulty that she has in life, especially during childbirth, or due to the sin of Eve, right, and again, celibacy. So, in other words, staying away from women, especially, it was seen as being the peak of piety for a man, right.
So, these things and other, you know, forms of oppression, certain basic rights not being given to women, like the right to property, the right to their own legal identity, things that Muslims when were not an issue, you know, things that Islam gave women
were big problems for women in the West and especially in Europe. And I believe that this kind of oppression, and long term oppression led to, you know, the beginnings of, of women, you know, formulating, you know, the first waves of feminism.
So, that's the, the background that I was referring to. Okay. So when when we look at the concept of oppression,
in early sort of history of Europe, when it comes to women,
somebody can present the same kind of argument about Muslim communities and the Muslim world. And there is a sense of oppression of women in the Muslim world. Now, surely women and girls should live with respect kindness, love, support, and the full measure of rights all people deserve. So, Danielle, is this happening in the Muslim community in the US
Is there such thing as female oppression? And should women? How should women stand up to this?
Well, I think we have to look at where this question is coming from and the context in which it's being articulated.
with all due respect, pushed back on some of what Sister automized mentioned about
the treatment of women in European society. When we look at something like witchcraft, for example, there are also more men who were treated, who were accused and convicted of practicing magic. Okay, so this is not something that specifically affected women to the exclusion of men. Men were also seen as, as possibly practicing dark arts and magic. And we're also convicted of this within medieval Europe, and even in Muslim societies as well. And the problem that I have, and I mentioned this idea of patriarchy, the problem with I have with a thesis that there had when we look at historically there's been
mis, systematic, mistreatment of women by men. This is a very problematic thesis, and I don't think actual historical fact, justifies that thesis, because many of the examples that are cited are very selective. And this is not to say that women have been treated perfectly at all times, and places not at all.
Certainly there has there is abuse of women and taking up their rights. But it's not something that is specific to that gender, there's also the mistreatment of men, there's also the taking of men's rights in different scenarios and context. And I can talk about this for hours. But just to make it more succinct, is feminism gives us this very,
this specific lens in which to understand and very selectively look at practices in the world and focus on the plight of women to the exclusion of men. And the other point that I often mention is that this idea that women have systematically been oppressed for, since the dawn of time,
is very insulting to women, because it says that women have not been able to match wits with men, women have not been able, throughout 1000s of years to understand that, oh, we are the victims of this systematic subjugation. And we're being taken advantage of we're being abused. And we haven't even realized this, let alone overturn those systems of oppression and only within the past 100 years of women realize that this patriarchy the systematic oppression exists. And only within this
modern period, have we discovered this grand conspiracy to subjugate women. So this is very, this is a very problematic thesis. It has great negative implications for all organized religion. And in fact, first wave feminists from the very beginning, had their target on religion to attack religion,
especially Christianity, especially Islam. So we have to be aware of this and not buy into ideas and perspectives that don't have a basis in reality, and are contrary to our religion.
And but I think it may if I'm a doctor,
yes, I just wanted to make the point that what I'm trying to highlight is that, as Muslims, we have to realize that feminism emerged in the in Europe, because of historical reasons as well, you know, we can't deny the fact that there were specific historical things that were happening in Europe. So for example, even just take the world wars, right, and the fact that millions of men were dead, and now women were needed for the workforce, right? And these little these, these factors do add up to explain to us, somewhat, you know, why some of why it was that feminism emerged in Europe and why Muslims never felt the need for feminism, because, you know, the rights that were denied women in
Europe were already given to Muslim woman, many of them and, you know, Muslim women on the whole did not have these, this kind of reaction. So I don't think it's, it's necessarily buying into the narrative to say that there were certain specific
Thick historical things that were happening in Europe, that we as Muslims need to realize, you know, feminism was kind of a reaction to
I don't think there's anything kind of conspiratorial and in, in in highlighting that I absolutely agree with you that there were historical factors within Europe that led to the rise of feminism, the act of the will, where we see Historically, the first dimension of women's rights and the mistreatment of women was by European colonizers. We see the first people who are really raising the issue of women's rights, women's education, women's dress, are actually white colonialists like john Stuart Mill or Hobbs or Condor say or Montesquieu or Voltaire. These were really the first feminists and the reason they were raising these issues of women's rights to attack in indigenous societies,
including Muslim society. They're using this as a justification to colonize and to civilize the Muslim world because the Muslims are so backwards, the Muslims are mistreating their women, the Muslims are not allowing their women to dress in this European way. And instead, what Muslim women have to avail themselves instead of Muslim women have to, you know, primarily the, in the home domestic context, these were critiques that
the colonizers used European colonizers to attack and colonize the Muslim world, and also other indigenous populations within China, the Native Americans, the Aboriginals in Australia, this is where we find the first expressions of women's rights within the 17th 18th and 19th centuries, and then only with at the end of the 19th century, were those kinds of discourses co opted by the first wave feminists who discuss the place of women in European society. Right. That's the actual historical progression, the first expression of women's rights was used by these men, European male colonizers.
Okay, I mean, we clearly discuss the historical context of feminism and how that's being portrayed,
even by academics today, and just going into the manifestations of how feminism presents today in contemporary time, I just want to reflect on something sisters are that you, you mentioned that you debated a feminist journalist, and self proclaimed political lesbian, Julie bindle, who stated that if she could, she would put all men into a camp with wardens, where their female relatives could check them out, like library books, and you talk about this concept of reverse sexism. But women cannot be sexist because they do not hold political, economic and institutional power, as has been explained earlier, by by some of these feminists, you want to go submit an idea about the idea of
reverse sexism and this argument not women cannot be sexist, because they do not hold political, economic and institutional power.
Sure, um, and to sort of build on what's been discussed already so and to tie this in with the idea of patriarchy, and the idea that men have held power in society to the detriment of women, and for a long time. And, and also just to connect with with what was discussed earlier, before going in deeper into this question. And there are a lot of parts of particularly Western history where we look at how women were treated, and we say, it's, you know, from one perspective, and it is easy for a group to look at that and say, yes, the women were oppressed. And the fact is, and in those periods as, as, as in today's period, it's not necessarily a case of oppression, but rather
ignorance. So where there is ignorance and rights of many groups of society will be denied. So for example, when we talk about how before, you know, in Europe, women couldn't own property, whereas in Islam, they could. And the flip side of it is that in Europe, and you know, particularly in England, when women couldn't own property, it also meant that they couldn't actually ever be taken to court or have any debts because their husbands would be the ones that would have to be taken to court for any any monies that the women owed. And if there were any legal repercussions for anything like that the men would be
The one that would have to face the brunt of it, not the women. So there are two sides to that. And there isn't that that isn't to say that that is the right way for things to be at all. And it's just to say that when this narrative is put together about how one group of society is hard done by, and we have to be, and I think perhaps this is what brother Daniel is suggesting, we have to scrutinize that for our own benefit. So we need to look at whatever these claims are. And, and we can even put history aside for the moment, and let's look at what we're dealing with today, what is really going on. And when people do come to us with grievances, whether it's men saying that, you know, we want
to earn a living for our families, but we can't, because there's too much corruption or tyranny. And, you know, not because they want money, so that they can go on a yoga retreat, you know, they want to be able to, they want to be able to provide for their families, if they can't, and you know, because of either, you know, in the Muslim world, because of,
you know, discord, it's unsafe, there's too much corruption, and, you know, they're prevented from that. And oftentimes, you know, young boys are going out to earn to provide for, you know, very large families if their fathers are no longer around, because for whatever reason, you know, if because of war, or you know, all kinds of circumstance. And as a result, then obviously, women's rights are also, you know, denied just to get to that to the, you know, to the heart of why we're having this discussion. So, in Islam, a woman has, for example, the right to be provided for, but that's not going to happen if a husband can't get, you know, can't get the work or is unable to
actually earn, because there's too much corruption in society. And in Islam, you know, the woman, as does the man they have, you know, she has a right to go out and seek an education. But she can't do that if the streets are unsafe, because of you know, because there is,
you know, it's basically a battle zone. And you know, in Islam, a woman has a great many number of rights, but they are hinged and connected with, with men's with men's rights, and with men's roles as well. So we have rights and duties to each other. And the problem arises is when we magnify on one group of societies, right, and we ignore the fact that we are interconnected in how we live and how we structure and how we achieve these rights at all, when we ignore the fact that one person's right only exists when another person has a duty to fulfill it. And we're not answering the question, all we're doing is aggravating the sentiment or the feeling of dissatisfaction that people
have, if we are just demanding rights, as it were, if we are just demanding rights and not talking about the infrastructure that is necessary to be put in place so that this domino effect of injustice doesn't occur, then again, we're not really answering the question. And, and in the West, I mean, as we mentioned earlier, this is manifested in a great many varieties of feminism's so you have social feminism, eco feminism, you know, intersectional feminism, and then you have slightly more radical feminism, of which pay your questions you need byndoor it, you know, is a school of it is a member of that sort of camp of feminism. And so she had made this comment which you mentioned,
which is that, if she could, she would put all men into a camp with wardens, where their female relatives could check them out, like library books. And now, of course, she said afterwards that and she's not the first to make such outlandish statements are pretty common, particularly amongst them, you know, the more what they call themselves as radical feminists, but really, it's kind of a slope, and they will end up going in that direction at some point anyway. And she did mention after that, you know, Oh, she was only joking. But the point is that
a man couldn't make the same joke. And now if a man had said, for example, if he could, he would put all women into a camp with wardens, where their male relatives could check them out like library books, and then afterwards said that he was only joking he would be socially hung drawn and quartered, anyway, it wouldn't matter. Now, the reason this is interesting is because this brings up the question of something called reverse sexism so often, feminists and other members of similar political ideology, you know, into identity politics sort of groups, and they will say that there's no such thing as reverse sexism. And what they mean is that it's not possible for a woman to be
sexist towards a man because men are
Victims of something like a patriarchy. So they say that women because they've been subject to according to them, this sort of,
you know, this political, economic and institutional power, if women are prejudice, and it doesn't count as this, because it doesn't change the status quo. This is what they would claim. Now, it's funny because, you know, sexism is sexism, discrimination is discrimination. And for Muslims in particular, you know, we live our lives trying to have the concept of accountability at the forefront of our minds. And it's not that Oh, when is it okay to be discriminated free? When is it okay to be sexist? These types of conversations come up in, you know, in amongst,
you know, in discussions amongst those who you know, who subscribes to different identity politics, but for Muslims, this is something that we need to be very wary of, and this is why I decided to write about that. And the point here is that being a member, even if we want to, whatever the group is, whether it's racial oppression, whether whatever type of oppression it is, as a Muslim, being a being a member of an oppressed class, whether it's for wealth, race, gender, even if we want to go that whatever that whatever the reason is, as Muslims, it doesn't give us a license to then inflict injustice against others, water asserts superiority over members of what we perceive to be the
oppressor class. So, being you know, if we are an individual in society where we're hard done by for whatever reason, it doesn't exempt us from our own life purpose. as Muslims, it doesn't exempt us from our own duty as Muslims to do what we can for justice and for for our own accountability so that we don't have to answer for that and
it's better than the me of sleep alone Allah subhanho wa Taala reveals in the Quran, for example, a very interesting conversation between an A weak group or a group that you know, that it that is described as oppressed and an overbearing group or an oppressor group. And the weak group and the overbearing group have both been condemned in the hereafter according to this passage. And the verse and the verses are in chapter 34, verses 31 to 32. And it goes as follows. Allah says, In the Quran, if you could see when the wrongdoers are made to stand before their Lord refuting each other's words, those who were held weak will say to those who are overbearing, if not for you, we would have
been believers and those who are overbearing will say to those who were weak did we avert you from guidance after it had come to you rather you are criminals. So in other words, these two groups they will wrangle with each other they will argue with each other while standing before their Creator. And the oppressed group will be trying to blame the the the oppressor the overbearing group, and the oppressor will then turn around and remind the oppressed that okay, you were oppressed, but you could still have followed divine guidance in your own behavior, saying, you know, we didn't make you do wrong just because we were doing wrong. And you know, interestingly, the Quran describes both
groups in this passage as wrongdoers. The word literally uses volume, which means, you know, oppressors. So this is something that is really important to flag because sometimes when we are dealing with situations where we are talking about, you know, cases on what we would describe as injustice, and how to how to, you know, combat that how to deal with that, how to address that, sometimes people think it's okay to then reverse the discrimination that they have experienced in order to try to, quote unquote, level the playing field or to say that, well, it happened to us, we're in such a weak position now that you know, this, this won't ever cause any real harm. In
effect, it's just venting. Well, this is not what, as Muslims, we are allowed to do, we have to make sure that we deal with things in the way that the Quran has described, and in a way that doesn't give rise to any kind of residual feelings of anger from the other side. So, for example, going back to, you know, the likes of, of Julie bindle, etc, etc. Because feminism in the West has been so aggressive. And because it's at the core of its ideology, it ends up advocating for female privilege rather than to redress
Any perceived notions of injustice, because of that it's actually resulted in a counter movement in the West. So you have a lot of groups that describe themselves as men's rights activists, and, and even to some extremes, you have some amongst those who describe themselves as men going their own way, which means they want to live their lives without engaging with women at all, no marriage, nothing.
So Islam doesn't want us to be swinging wildly on this pendulum. And when we feel that we can, you know, as the saying goes, when the oppressed becomes the oppressor, whether they're really oppressed, you know, we're not talking about that right now. But just in their own minds, if somebody is oppressed, and they feel that they can then, you know, do the same in return. I mean, we have countless examples in our society of why this when and why this goes wrong. And academics, philosophers, you know, Islamic philosophers and historians. So many people have noted that the oppressed often take on the guise of the oppressor because they think that that is what power looks
like, they think that that is how to resolve their issues. Allah Subhana Allah says, No, you know, deal with things justly. And when you encounter a problem that applies the solution that is measured, and not just for the sake of revenge, which often and some families campaigns do end up resembling. And so yeah, hopefully, there's a bit of bit of an explanation on how Islam answers the question, is it ever okay to be discriminatory? And the answer is no.
Okay, we we've approached what we're approaching five o'clock here in UK. So, from five o'clock onwards, we were hoping to get in a number of questions from the audience. What I will do is some of these questions are in essence related to some of the questions I had put to yourself I was thinking or pushing for yourselves from panel discussions are all referred to one question, which is