Women in Islam Meeting (3/7)

Hey feminists! Miss our last meeting in conjunction with Mizzou’s Muslim Student hijab1Organization? Check out here some of the points we learned from [the incredible power wom] Fatma El-Walid!

First, Fatma discussed some of the misconceptions people have about the religion of Islam. Muslim women who wear the hijab are often asked if they do so because of original sin, but ‘original sin’ isn’t actually a thing in the Qur’an. Women wear the hijab as a form of worship and to privatize their sexuality.

Fatma then showed us this video from The Daily Show with Trevor Noah on which Dalia Mogahed discusses Muslim-Americans and the hijab:

Fatma discussed how Islam emphasizes the right of women to consent to marriage, to own property, and to be able to divorce their husbands. She then went on to describe some Muslim Sheroes, including but not limited to:

  • Miriam (aka Mary) and Khadijah (elite successful merchant and first person to accept Islam) from the Qur’an
  • Aisha, a narrator of the prophet in the hadith who was a political scholar in the Qur’an
  • Fatima Al Fihri, founder of the first academic university
  • Dalia Mogahed (seen above), a scholar and Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in Washington, D.C.
  • Ibtihaj Muhammad, African American Muslim woman and member of the U.S. Olympic Fencing Team
  • Linda Sarsour, Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York and racial justice and civil rights activist
  • Alaa Murabit, Founder of the Voice of Libyan Women and peace and women’s rights activist

Fatma also went on to discuss the struggles that Muslim women face within a Western and especially U.S. context. For example, some Muslim women have stopped wearing the hijab since 9/11 out of fear of Islamophobic violence. Women who do wear the hijab are more likely to be victims of a hate crime. Often, Westerners conflate a cultural issue with a religious one, blaming the entire religion of Islam for inequalities that actually stem from a certain culture.

In the realm of feminism, white non-Muslim women often claim that Muslim women are oppressed by their religion without knowing much about it – they assume privatization of sexuality means oppression of sexuality, and therefore strip hijabi women of their agency and autonomy to wear what empowers them, which isn’t feminist at all. It also is an extremely Western and xenophobic view of empowerment – that the only way to be empowered is the white American way to be empowered. Instead, non-Muslim feminists should be focused on listening to how to be an ally to Muslim women instead of deciding what they need.

Our next meeting will be March 21, and we’ll be having one or more guest speakers coming in to discuss women’s history and disability, so don’t miss it! (There’ll be free food, sooo…)

–Allie

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