Does Islam Need Feminism – Part 3

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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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refer to one question which is

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mainly for Danielle.

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And that is a question regard regarding feminist epistemology. So

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the question is how would you respond to criticism from fellow Muslims that you discredit all said overlapping topics, subscribing to feminist epistemology?

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So Daniel, I'll start off with you first sisters are mentioned related to how modern feminists Muslims read the Holy Quran

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as an inkblot test, so they have random ink splashes on a page and projecting their own desired meanings into it. So bringing those two topics together.

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I'll start off with you, Daniel. First, if you just give us a bit of insight to feminist epistemology.

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Yeah, so feminist epistemology, I think,

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itself is very suspect and what it demands. And feminist epistemology is something that is used to criticize the Islamic tradition, it was used to criticize Christianity and the Christian tradition. And there's this idea that knowledge itself is gender. So what does epistemology mean? epistemology is the study of knowledge, what is knowledge? How do we know what we know? This is studied in the subject of epistemology, which is a philosophical topic, but in recent years, there is an entirely separate sub topic or sub genre of feminist epistemology. And what feminists claim is that knowledge itself is gendered language is gendered the way that we employ language and use concepts can

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inherently involve patriarchy, and therefore be used as a system of oppression. And what they point out is that if we look at the Islamic tradition, or the Christian tradition, or any kind of past society, much of the knowledge was generated or discussed, and within schools and universities, we see men in a position of priority or prominence or majority, Visa v. Women, and that is suspect, because then we cannot trust the product of those institutions have those male dominated institutions, because they are speaking as men, and therefore they do not understand

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women's concerns, and they're in effect, silencing women and disenfranchising women. So this is the critique of feminist epistemology. And so what can Muslims say to this, as far as Islam is concerned, we can't accept this view for the very simple reason that our Prophet, the Prophet, peace be upon him,

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was a man and all of revelation comes through him the message that the messenger was a men. And so if we are discrediting men as not being objective, or men not being able to convey truth, absolute objective truth because of their gender, then we are discrediting all of Islam, we're discrediting the Koran itself, because the messenger himself all of a sudden, was a men, not witches. And then the rest of the tradition as well, as I mentioned before, is a historical fact. We see men in the majority. So this is exactly why feminist epistemology is so dangerous if Muslims start going down that path and accepting its basic premise that knowledge can be gendered. And it's simply not the

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case like, how does

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truth have? How is truth affected by your anatomy or by your

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organs like your reproductive organs?

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This is a very post modernistic understanding of proof and it denies the possibility of truth in its very essence. So we have to we have to be very careful not to adopt such a postmodernist mindset that undermines our entire religion from its core.

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But we can and then we can have an offensive attack against this feminist epistemology by saying that, well, if we can discredit certain kinds of knowledge because it's coming from a specific gender, well, would we also couldn't we also say that race affects

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knowledge so that we discredit certain kinds of knowledge because it's coming from a specific region.

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And I mean, some postmodernists do go to that extent and say, well, we have to reject all of scientific knowledge, because it's mainly white Europeans who have produced this knowledge. Or we have to throw out all historical knowledge, because it's mainly white Europeans who are producing or are curating this knowledge. But we can go further. Because if it's a specific race, and what about specific ethnicity, what about a specific culture? Okay, why? Why is it race? Or why isn't knowledge specific, this specific, specific cultures? And so you're undermining the possibility of any kind of objective knowledge or any kind of objective discourse between people because everyone is coming

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from a specific point of view, right? So this is the postmodern is premise. And it invalidates and nullifies the possibility of any kind of objective conversation that can be used because everyone is coming from a specific point of view. So there is no objective knowledge. And that's the kind of nihilism that results from a feminist epistemology. And these are the implications of a feminist epistemology that not all feminists acknowledge. or recognize that it leads to this kind of nihilistic anti knowledge, anti epistemology, understanding about human beings, human existence, and our relationships and knowledge. We have to be aware of this and as Muslims not fall into these

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traps, and just wholesale except what we read within gender studies or what different gender studies professors have been writing about for the past couple of decades.

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Okay, sisters, are just going with you and us previously asked regarding how this projects in an understanding of the Holy Quran, for example, for somebody who has a feminist sort of mindset,

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in relation to that, I'll just put another question to you, which is also another panelists question

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regarding the the concept of human being not just an author, on deficient in their intellect, which is basically mentioned in some of the prophetic tradition. Now, in relation to that there's also the issue regarding women,

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their testimony, testimony and being worth half of men, could you give us some kind of indication how Muslims could reef rephrase them in terms of in modern day context?

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Well, first to sort of build on what was discussed just now by brother Daniel, and in particularly how that epistemology that feminist approach to this issue has been translated by Muslim feminists when dealing with the Quran and the Hadith and things like that. And now, whilst their primary claim has tended to be you know, that there's too many male voices in Islamic scholarship, they often claim that you know, that there's too many, the male voice, they say, has drowned out the female voice. And in reality, when you look at their claims, it's really not to do with the male voice per se, but rather what those male voices are saying. So, for example, some of these and I'll give you

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some examples, some of these, these Muslim feminists will quite readily employ and wave as flags some of these male voices if those male voices aligned with feminist ideas. So for example, they will often cite the works of calcium and mean dahil her dad was a little rough man and Mr. Abizaid as being an exhibit hussaini, for example, describe some of these men as being the backbone of feminist scholarship in Islam, which is taking reformist fought on to new ground. So for them, it seems to be not just it doesn't it doesn't necessarily seem to be about eliminating male bias, although that's one way of looking at it, but rather, for them, it's also about redacting. And many

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of the ideas that were carried by by particular, you know, by our scholars, but also redacting a lot of the female voices that our Islamic history is rich with. So for anybody that is not aware, for example, shift up from that, and he has documented at least 8000 female scholars in the heavy sciences alone. And we know that I showed her the local on her was, you know, responsible for delivering to us a huge corpus of Hades generations. So it's important to point out the female voice has not been

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You know, subdued or quiet or even

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even remotely absent in Islamic scholarship rather it's been prominent and but it is almost as though you know a lot of these Muslim feminists would like us to forget that they exist and and following on from this and there are a number of you know, approaches that that lead on on from this so for example,

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I should Choudhry who you know a contemporary, Muslim feminist and openly advocates and cherry picking selectively taking Huggies and arguing that because the Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, she says that he is depicted as both a radical egalitarian man and a patriarchal man who belonged and was comfortable in seventh century Arabia. And because of that, we could choose according to ISO choudry, which had to adopt and which to leave behind and she says, for example, in in doing that selectively to support agenda egalitarian vision of Islam, listen, feminists would be doing exactly what Muslim scholars did when using prophetic practice to support patriarchal

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perspectives of Islam. And Keesha Ali also says something similar with regards to the Hadith. And, you know, further, you know, they will say things like, the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu sallam, they say that he did the best he could to create gender egalitarianism, but without fulfilling this vision in his lifetime. In other words, they imagine that they are here to complete the mission of prophecy that the prophet SAW Selim, according to

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the law, you know, he was just he just didn't finish what he was supposed to be doing. And that's just with regards to the heartbeat You know, there are others, such as I'm an old dude who has already been mentioned, and others who have built on her theories, or may not have a backer of being one of them, who you know, in Keyshia Ali being another that would say that you know, you can reject the even the Quranic text itself, according to these individuals, if it doesn't align with with them feminist values. So what are these? What are these values if they're okay with certain male scholars, but not others? What what is it that differentiates whether they find this acceptable or

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not? And there are plenty more examples where, you know, they go on to admit, it's not about even these feminist Muslim feminists, so called Muslim feminists themselves. They admit that Islam and feminism are not compatible. They admit that what their work is, is to try to reconcile between very different ideologies. So as my bias For example, She openly stated that her method of deciding because she felt that she was in a position to do so her method of deciding if the Quranic teaching were ethical and egalitarian. Her method was to combine the Quranic view of egalitarianism and justice with feminist theories, and Zimmerman Husseini was another one who said that, you know,

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Muslim reformist thinkers, in other words, those who are trying to change Islam not understand Islam, but change it. She said that they have tried to reconcile what they thought to be fundamental principles in Muslim law with modernist conceptions of justice and gender relations. So they will openly admit it doesn't need people like even myself or brother Daniel or sister father in law to say that they're contradictory. When listen feminists themselves are saying they don't they are not compatible. And this is why our work is about reconciling the differences between them. I could go on with so many examples of that. But you know, I think that's,

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that that is what is meant by

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you know, the, the idea that a modernist feminist Muslim would read the Quran as an inkblot test. So sometimes the psychologists do what's called, or psychiatrists will do something called the Rorschach test. And many of you will be familiar if you see the images because they're used in popular media a lot where it's a blank screen or a blank piece of paper and it has a very symmetrical inkblot image on the page and they asked, you know, what do you see? And it seems that for some of these thinkers that I have mentioned the so called thinkers that I have mentioned some of these reformists. The Quran for them is not as the Quran describes itself, the Quran says it is

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more being and it is clear and it has, you know, it has some passages which are more poetic and which are more open to interpretation, but it has others which are longer, which are the legal and typically the madonie verses which are very clear and very direct and very precise in their meaning. But for some of these modernist thinkers, they will look at these passages and

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say, Well, what does it mean to me, and then it will impute their own meaning to it. So this is one of the things that we need to be aware of when we look at, you know, the way that reformers thinkers, you know, such as some of the ones that I've mentioned. For them, the Quran is not is not a text that Allah has given us for our guidance rather, for them. It's just seems to be what does this book prompting you? And almost the way that we would read, you know, outright poetry? And to come back to, you know, some of the to your question with regards to some of the Hadeeth about testimony. And from what we can see a lot of the times these,

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these differences between Oh, so you know, one female witness, as to one male witness is equivalent of two female witnesses. This isn't a very specific situation. So

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in that particular scenario, that would be more typically,

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to do with commercial transactions. And this is because at the time, and you know, women were not prominent, or they were not, you know, that wasn't their main arena, and the commercial world, or the industrial world, or the working world. And it was, obviously a women did work, but it wasn't their primary arena. And so, you would have, for example, if you had one male witness, you would have two female witness, because that was not typically their area of expertise. But similarly, if it was an area that women would typically have more expertise, you would not need two female witnesses, you would have one female witness and maybe two male male witnesses, if it was not an

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area where men could be expected to have an understanding or an expertise, or conversant knowledge. And there are other scenarios, for example, in criminal law, so those which I have just mentioned, are not to do with criminal law. And for example, if you know if a husband accuses his wife of something, and she says, No, I did not, their testimonies would cancel each other out, his wouldn't be worth more just because he's a man. And there are other situations in which you would need many male witnesses to equal one female witnesses such as, for example, accusations of, of Xena, you would need for male witnesses, you and you wouldn't need for women to testify that the woman had not

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whatever, it would just be her word, and you would have, you know, a number of others. So, oftentimes, people bring that up. And because they think it is, you know, when it's one of those, it's one of those griller questions where, you know, we have an understanding of these things, and we have you because we have an understanding of these, we don't take these things as accusatory, but rather, people think that they can be used to undermine, or to show how Islam undermines women, but all of these things, and, you know, they have a deep understanding, and, you know, they were not used in isolation, that, you know, there was part of a very sophisticated system that unfortunately,

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and we have become, in to some extent, we have become archaeologists, of what Islam is, we have lost touch with so much of what these rules and what these laws and what this culture is supposed to give us. And, and part of, you know, what we need to be doing in the Muslim world, as well as here is to revive that understanding, I mean, questions like, like, what, you know, this one would have been, you know, a while ago, common knowledge for most Muslims, it wouldn't have even been a question. And but we are at this point now, where we are dealing with these things and where we need to think about how do we not just answer these questions for the sake of curiosity are for the sake of no

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combating a negative impression of Islam. But we need to know these answers so that we can start to rebuild our communities and our societies based on you know, Islamic understanding and Islamic principles, not just to

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defend ourselves, which is what we are caught, and unfortunately, in a cycle of doing, which is, you know, defending Islam, and we should be doing that, but we also need to be living it and

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generally as well.

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Okay, I'm going to open up the questions to all of you

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about the position of women as mentioned in

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what we call an assumed soil and the Holy Quran and the prophetic tradition. So there are other issues. For example, I mentioned one earlier on regarding the testimony of men relative to women. There are other sort of questions which will link to for example,

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men are are men more superior

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Elisa, so

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Men are more superior, they have a higher position that women

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equality of men or women, does Islam have a different perspective? Sister Fatima? How would you respond to something like that?

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Okay.

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I think that's a lot of those are a lot of topics. But I think, if we look at it from this perspective, and if we keep returning to this perspective, and I know I've mentioned it before, that we have a creator, I think, if we can always go back to that point, and, and the fact that if we believe in a creator, and we believe he, and we believe he's not male or female, right, he's above these human

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characteristics is neither net male nor female, He created us, he sent us guidance, when he sends us guidance, that sometimes doesn't make sense to us because of the, you know, times or the, you know, the the conditioning that we've experienced in the society that we've grown up in. Okay, the very fact that we know that this is guidance from the Creator, should lead us to saying to ourselves, there must be a wisdom behind this, right? So instead of going, you know, head over heels, trying to find and trying to reason it out for the, for the current society, right.

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For me, there's nothing in the Quran and Sunnah that I could be presented with, that is established from the Quran and Sunnah and consensus of, you know, our scholars that would

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shake my faith or cause me to, you know, question,

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the kind of the core beliefs of Islam, because once I accepted that, this is God, and He knows us better than we, in our limited minds know ourselves, it becomes easy to actually say, oh, okay, Allah has said, this should be the case. And so there's a wisdom in that, I might not be able to see the wisdom right now. But sooner or later, Allah will either reveal it to me, or maybe he won't reveal it to me. But the very fact that I know that it's from Allah and His Messenger, that's enough for me to know that this thing is good for me. And I just want to bring it back to like,

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looking at the way that for example, feminists, if we realize that feminists are just human beings, right? They're just human beings, they've, they've had their own conditioning. Okay, they've grown up in a particular society in a particular way, with a particular idea of what right and wrong is justice is and you know, what women should be doing and men should be doing.

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One of the things that we notice is that even in our times, we're seeing some of the results, the negative results, or some of the things that feminists campaigned for, for many, many years. Okay? And what that highlights to us is that instead of following human beings, and what they're telling us is, you know, the right way of living as women,

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we should follow the Creator, because they will always make mistakes. And I'll give you a few examples. I think brother, Daniel, Daniel also mentioned some of these examples. So one of the examples is motherhood and the devaluing of motherhood that we've seen, you know, we're seeing the results of in our times we're seeing mental health problems in young people skyrocket since feminists called for daycare centers to be established, you know, for because they said that motherhood is not something special or unique to women. You know, anyone can look after a baby. They encouraged this culture of daycare centers where babies were literally looked after by strangers

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from morning till night. And now they're actually you know, counter movements to those to the negative effects of what they called for in their time. And books written You know, I've got a number of books on my bookshelves for example, the female brain by LouAnn Brizendine. And there's a book called why gender matters. And a book that I forgotten the author, he's a, he's a scientist, and also by Steve Biddulph, who's a psychologist, he's written a book raising babies, and all of these people and others are saying, actually, it was all wrong. babies need their mothers more than anyone else. You know, there's nothing there's no one in a baby's life that is actually more

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important than, than the mother and the relationship between

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The mother and the child is, is unique. And and it can't be replaced by just anybody else. That's just one example. Again, breastfeeding, for example. Now, you know, the whole when when you walk into an antenatal clinic and the NHS everywhere, you know, you're being told, breast is best because there was a movement by feminists to kind of tell women that no, you know, you have your freedom, because obviously breastfeeding means women have to commit a lot of time and effort. And they kind of had a movement against breastfeeding. And now the government is having to, you know, flip that around and try and get women to breastfeed again, because of the harms that were because of the

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benefits of breastfeeding that the child would be denied. If so, many women stop breastfeeding. And then again, women are seen as, as basically economic contributors, and nothing else, you know, and I think that's why, you know, one of the things you, you did ask me before this webinar was about, you know, why is it that a lot of many feminists actually turned to Islam eventually, and embrace Islam, and I have a number of friends who would have described themselves as feminists, and then they, when they discovered Islam, they embraced Islam, it's because women are looking for, for contentment, women are looking for peace of mind, as human beings, we're looking for the right way to live our

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lives. And they may have been attracted to feminism, initially thinking that perhaps, you know, they'll find some, some of the answers to the things that they're finding difficulty in, in life. But ultimately, it didn't satisfy them. Because it's not a holistic way of life, because it's not from the Creator, right? It's just the blind leading the blind, literally, you know, human beings, leading other human beings to a way of life or to ideas that they think are the best ideas. But then later on finding actually, maybe we might have been wrong about that. Give me some examples of that. So I think if a woman wants contentment, if she wants, she's dissatisfied with the system that she's

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under, at the moment, which treats her as it is nothing more than an economic contributor, as a taxpayer, as, and actually, this might be a bit

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controversial. But, you know, growing up in the UK, I actually believe that women have, from a very young age being groomed, literally been groomed to be more sexually exploitable than

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then they would have been if they had been left on their fitrah. And I've seen many examples of that. And we're seeing the results of that, you know, in our times, you know, some of the negative results of that.

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I think if women want to escape that, and they want to contentment.

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And they're willing to, you know, submit to their Creator, they will find in Islam,

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the contentment that they seek. And yes, the creator does tell us that men and women are different. He tells us that men and women are not the same. We're not we are we have equal value in his eyes, but we're not the same, we complement one another. We don't need to compete with one another.

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And I think those are like the,

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you know, the basic foundations,

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but every aspect of Islam, that I know that friends of mine, who are feminists who became Muslim,

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and who became religious Muslims, every aspect of Islam that sometimes initially they they found, difficult to understand.

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One of my friends recently said to me, You know, I couldn't understand why segregation, you know, when it came to male men and women and segregation, and one of the beautiful things she said to me was that, for the first time in my life, when I became a Muslim, I had real love and friendship with women with other women. And, you know, I kind of explored that with her and she said, you know, you don't you don't realize what a sexually charged environment. The average party is, you know, she said, she used to go to parties with a husband. And she said, she would constantly be be looking at who was talking to her husband. And, you know, there was this kind of understanding they had that

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you could flirt with one another, you could, you know, with other people, etc. But she said, that whole toxic environment and she called it a toxic environment. She said, I didn't know there was another way, you know, to have social relationships until I became a Muslim. And you know, I enjoy my social relations.

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More now without that kind of toxic environment being there. So I think as much as you realize that we have Islam is a gem. Salaam is a way of life that if people were to experience it and you know to understand it,

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they will benefit from it. It is them that will find peace of mind and contentment through it.

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You know, if only they would accept it.

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Okay, Daniel