Feminism in Islam is not a Facade
By Syerleena Abdul Rashid
Over the years, women have had to struggle to make our voices heard, and in most regions across the world, it still is an uphill battle.
Among the communities that are the most oppressed globally, women tend to be right on top of that list. The misery a woman has to endure will multiply by tenfold if she happens to belong to a minority group and comes from a lower economic class.
Women have been blamed for just about everything. Men blame us for wearing tight clothing and donning make-up which apparently ‘begs’ us to be sexually assaulted or harassed, a notion that makes me ill just thinking about it.
We have been blamed for the breakdown of family values, social ills and various degrees of marital problems. We have been the scapegoat for a majority of miscalculated decisions men have made throughout the course of history either in real life or in literature (e.g. Lady Macbeth, Delilah and Eve).
Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) president Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman said at a press conference a few weeks ago, “The model introduced by the west is a model that will destroy women especially Muslim women… all these slogans of women’s liberation, under the name of women’s rights, would actually turn women into objects of trade and help their attempt to dominate the world and Muslims” (The Malay Mail Online, 27 April 2014). His remarks only reaffirm that chauvinism and patriarchal beliefs still exist in several Muslim communities. But what is disturbing is that people like him only continue to become increasingly vocal. As more media space is given to them, there is a concern that the public will begin to accept these half-baked theories as whole-hearted truths.
The world has a negative preconceived idea regarding the status of women in Islam only because of the Muslim men and women who embrace such extreme chauvinistic views. The patriarchal values and conservative approach to gender issues show a level of ignorance that leads to discriminatory policies and rules – which have an impact especially on women within their community.
The recent wave of Islamisation, which has made its way to our shores, further threatens to destroy Malaysian values and especially, harass my fellow Muslim sisters as this wave takes on an uncompromising view of religion and gender roles.
Malaysians are caught in a tug of war battle between renewed conservatism and secular progression. It is not uncommon to hear reports of Muslim child marriages or biased views regarding survivors of rape and domestic violence. It is also not uncommon to come across communities that continue to deny the rights of education for women and young girls.
Prophet Mohammad (peace be unto him) urged the followers of Islam to respect women, to treat us as equals, to give women the same rights as men and to encourage women to participate in the development of the community and the nation. He believed in not leaving anyone, any gender, behind in pursuit of improving the way of life and in the quest of faith.
Unfortunately, over the years, many Muslims have forgotten this message and would rather believe in hypocrites shrouded behind the mask of religion. These days it would seem that the more religious a man is, the more oppressive his views on women.
These oppressive views are nothing more than the practice of patriarchal values subsumed in religious interpretations and practices. Increasingly, more Muslim women have succumbed to this hypocrisy either due to ignorance or due to feelings of hopelessness or of duty and obligation to be a good Muslim woman.
Feminism is about fighting for women’s rights, social justice and gender equality. Women need to rise above patriarchal tyranny. It is about empowering women, making sure their thoughts and opinions matter, that they have access to education and ensuring that their contribution to the country matters as much as the opposite gender
The Qur’an reveals that all men and women are equal; therefore, people must not be judged according to gender, physical beauty and material wealth. A person’s character and intellect are the things that one should strive for.
Religion is a belief that most of us accept as true, but the way religion is presented to the masses needs further scrutiny. To accuse something of being a façade or of being “ungodly” without any justification is simply uncouth and foolish.