Praying behind women

Until the 15th Century the Friday khutbahs were preached in the name of the queens and women heads of states in Yemen and Iraq. That is an extreme honour because these women literally dictated the sermons so, in effect a woman did ‘deliver’ the khutbah. I have been told that there are also a couple of ahadith that suggest that women led prayers in the Prophet’s time and he acknowledged that.

However, traditionally the Friday prayer has become men’s hanging out time in a ‘religious manner.’ It is a time to create brotherhood bonds, discuss religion and politics, and generally ‘chill out’ Islamically. That is why, I believe, Friday prayers should be a soothing experience and the sermons should stimulate the intellect.

On the other hand, we must realise that women are increasingly getting involved in politics and work outside the home. They need intelligent conversation too. Where I live I have plenty of relatives living in the same town. However, all my cousins are homemakers who haven’t studied beyond high school or best attended some college courses. I share no interests with them and our conversations become extremely boring after a while because despite my efforts I cease to contribute effectively.

I think women also need congregations where their concerns are raised. I don’t want to discuss anything with men. I don’t want them to pray with me. I don’t want men to pray behind a woman. I don’t care for all that. That is not equality and that is not what interests me. I want to discuss investment opportunities for Muslim women within Islamic means and regulations. And I want to discuss it with a woman who knows about Islamic finance because I know that a man will tell me to sell jam.

We need to hear from another woman and not a man what lies for us in religion. Blogosphere is not our khutbah place. We need to connect with women in the real world. At least I need that. I want to hear what a Muslim woman like me thinks about politics, religion, feminism, marriage, child-bearing and child-raising. I want to know what God says about women. I want to know what lies in Heaven for women. I want to know how God feels about lesbians. I want to discuss the feminine side of God; how He loves us like 70 ‘mothers.’ I want to know what should be done to men who rape their wives. Sorry but the khutbahs don’t tell me all that. I want to do more than swap recipes and talk about fashion with women.

Consequently, I don’t look forward to Friday for spiritual revitalization. I wish I could look forward to it as a day when the entire family can go out and meet like-minded people; where we can spend a good hour or so praying and talking about what is important to both men and women in Islam.

Therefore, I feel that it is important for women to be included in Friday sermons. One way of doing it could be to have separate sections in the mosque where two separate khutbahs could be delivered – for men and for women by men and by women respectively. Having it on any other day after any other prayer will dampen the spirits of the many interested women because Friday prayer is so hyped up in Islam. Mosques should ideally arrange for a child-minding facility while mothers congregate because many women can’t attend Friday prayers as they have to stay home and look after their children. This way women will be able to see and communicate with the khatibah rather than peek through screens to see the khatib.

So here is what I think: feminists should stop trying to tame the shrew. Sermonizing men and women and leading them in prayer is the end product; the process is different. Women like Wadud are jumping at the result without going through the process.

First, we need to convince women that it is important for them in the 21st Century to get involved in religion and politics. Women should reach out to like-minded women and tell them that it is equally important for women to communicate and share ideas. I am very sure that women who have no where else to go if they need answers or if they are in abusive marriages will love the idea of meeting up once a week for Friday prayers and opportunities for discussions.

Would I pray behind Wadud? Yes, I would. I would do it for the novelty of it. And I would because I haven’t prayed behind an imam in many years. I don’t want to pray behind a man who has no interest in me as a human being. In all the khutbahs that I have attended, none ever addressed women issues. When Muslim men believe that woman outnumber men, shouldn’t they discuss issues that plague women? I am certain listening to Wadud speak in the khutbah would have been rejuvenating for me.

If I were in Wadud’s place I would insist on separate prayers and discussion opportunities for women. I have both led women prayers in my school and prayed behind women. It was the single most uniting experience for me. I wouldn’t care about men praying behind women just because I don’t even bother about their religiosity.

What are your thoughts on this? How many of you think equality is achieved through men praying behind women? How important is this issue for you as a feminist?

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57 thoughts on “Praying behind women

  1. unsettledsoul says:

    It’s not really that important for me. I too support Wadud and admire her tenacity, and the point she is trying to make, the principle behind her point, etc..

    I think what concerns me more is the physical facilities. Mosques in my area discourage women coming to Friday prayers because the spaces for women are tiny, showing there is not much concern about a woman coming. Ok, so the men aren’t very concerned, whatever, but it would be nice for us women to be concerned I think. I don’t see that, though.

    I also agree that if they want to be segregated then let’s completely segregate, let’s have the women have their own imam (female of course) so we can have our own leader to look up to and discuss with. Why doesn’t that happen? Now that, I would attend, because there is a woman leading and a discussion ensuing. I don’t see that anywhere I have been, unless we consider Friday Halaqahs?

    I understand your feelings concerning having women in your physical presence to discuss things with. I do not have that, at least not from fellow Muslims (I have non Muslim women I discuss things with). I don’t know if it is because people generally discuss surface issues when in each other’s presence, preferring not to go too deep, or if the women I am surrounded by really do only care about cooking, fashion, and gossip.. I’m not sure.
    I don’t want to discredit them, at the same time I don’t bring it up either, having no idea what their politics are and not wanting to have my views trampled on as “Western” therefore just an ill informed convert. You know?

    • Metis says:

      Thanks for your comment US. I feel like what we are doing here on this blog could be done face-to-face with like-minded women after Friday prayers. Women who are educated and have studied Islam have so much to share and we have so much to learn from them. It is like all these centuries men have been talking *about* women – what we should and shouldn’t do. It would be a pleasant change to hear about us from a woman.

  2. Zuhura says:

    I don’t care where the men pray; I just don’t want them telling me where to pray. The discussions you envision sound lovely. I’ve been doing some academic reading lately on “piety movements” and women’s discussion groups in Egypt and India. It sounds like this is developing in various Muslim societies, though unfortunately it is often linked to fundamentalist Islamist movements. Muslims for Progressive Values offers both mixed gender prayers and discussion of these issues, so I’m lucky to have some of this in my life, though I wish it was every week!

  3. Marahm says:

    I can hardly imagine not having been part of a group of well-educated, thoughtful women, praying together, studying religious and societal matters together, supporting each other, and providing inspiration, friendship, and a safe place for all female concerns. I belonged to several such groups while living in Riyadh. Frankly, I would not have converted to Islam had I not been blessed with such strong, admirable feminine leadership, especially in the place that is famous for female oppression.

    Ironically, I have found no such counterpart here in my American city. though I blame myself because I haven’t looked very hard. I work. On-line community gains importance because women are working, and have no time to form meaningful communities in person.

    No, I would not want to pray next to or in front of men. That would simply be one more way to blur the distinction between men and women— a common mistake of feminism.

    • Metis says:

      That is super interesting, M! I would have thought it would be the other way around. I hope you find a decent group of like-minded women soon.

  4. LK says:

    Amen! The mosque near my old apartment actually held lectures for women only every Friday in the very nice, and large, women’s section. Was quite lovely. I think you are right though. If segregation is what they want then it should be fully, complete, and equal segregation with equal facilities and a female Imam. Otherwise its just shoving the women out the door.

  5. One way of doing it could be to have separate sections in the mosque where two separate khutbahs could be delivered – for men and for women by men and by women respectively

    I ultimately agree with this. I would also add that women’s spaces need to be kept in mind while building mosques. I still don’t understand why in every single mosque I visit, the mens’ section is alway way bigger than the womens’. Is there an unspoken rule that states that one side should be bigger or do the powers that be just conclude that women don’t go to mosque anyway no matter how erroneous such a conclusion may be.

    It seems to me that a lot of priority is placed on men as opposed to women when it comes to spaces in the mosque and other prayer spaces. While in university in England the men would crowd into the women’s section every Friday while ignoring that the female section was crowded as well. Now in Nigeria, it’s easy for men to catch up on their daily prayers because there are prayer spaces on sidewalks and small mosques but these places are usually out of bounds for women.

    • Metis says:

      There are many mosques where women can’t even enter which I think is so unfair. I *think* women’s mosques would be a feasible solution. I hope so at least.

  6. Wafa' says:

    (Until the 15th Century the Friday khutbahs were preached in the name of the queens and women heads of states in Yemen and Iraq. That is an extreme honour because these women literally dictated the sermons so, in effect a woman did ‘deliver’ the khutbah. I have been told that there are also a couple of ahadith that suggest that women led prayers in the Prophet’s time and he acknowledged that.)

    Could you please give us names of books to such amazing stories ? or links? i would love to know more, thanks 🙂

  7. Lat says:

    Excellent post!

    In China such a woman’s mosque exists with only women doing all the work except for a few cases that only men are to perform.Saw a documentary on it.It was very enlightening as women from all ages came together to pray and discuss all issues concerning them.Just like how you put it.Even the mosque looks Chinese and their culture is different too.I loved it!

    I’ve only attended Eid prayers, no friday prayers at all.Son tells me that on fridays men had to pray on women’s spaces as their numbers increase.And so far he had not seen any woman pray on friday.This is because of the belief that friday prayers are important only for men and it still permeats society today.

    Can two kutbahs by different people be delivered in the same mosque? I thought only one imam in a mosque can lead prayer,right?

    • Metis says:

      Thanks Lat!

      “Can two kutbahs by different people be delivered in the same mosque? I thought only one imam in a mosque can lead prayer,right?”

      Let’s have a separate mosque 😀

  8. “They need intelligent conversation too.”

    We always needed intelligent conversation. It’s not something new now that we are more in the public sphere.

    I don’t want them to pray with me. I don’t want men to pray behind a woman. I don’t care for all that.
    “That is not equality and that is not what interests me.”

    I definitely agree, but at the same time I think it’s important to note the arguments men use when they justify not praying behind a woman, since those arguments are extremely offensive and insulting and therefore should be challenged, whether we want to pray in front of men or not.
    This idea of a woman’s body as dangerous – women as fitnah etc – is ridiculous and yet VERY widespread. Fatwas dealing with men praying behind women cite that ONE argument as enough of a reason! It is important to look at the thinking behind such reasoning, and how “woman” is being created.

    In Egypt there are lots of meetings at mosques for women led by women, and many of these “female imams” are intensely popular. Same goes for their khutbas. However, do they really address women in a productive way, or do they recreate the system of patriarchy we get from (many) male khutbas? Most of them simply repeat traditionalist/literalist ideas, with the end result being they are telling women it is ok that they are being abused. And of course when even a woman is saying that there’s reason to stop and believe it.

    My dad hasn’t gone to a mosque for around 30 years now, because he hates listening to the khutba. I think the standards in general have declined alarmingly, which is one of the biggest problems facing Muslims today, since so many people take the khutba seriously.
    Also, Reza Aslan brought up the point that young people don’t go to the mosque anymore – and I have to agree. So to reach young women, maybe we need to look at other places outside the mosque, such as schools, universities, etc.

    • Metis says:

      Sara, I totally understand that argument and I think this excuse that men are beasts waiting to jump at a woman who is praying in front of them is quite lame. I think it boils down to the fact that women are always treated as inferior and unable to guide men in matters of importance.

  9. Sumera says:

    I too dont see the interest in Friday prayers, suffice I’ve only been a handful of times in my life despite there being facilities for women at these mosques too (which often means in a separate room, cant see the Imam – therefore no “real” interaction). I would LOVE to go to a female only space mosque, where you can interact with a woman imam, make it a woman and CHILD friendly space and have courses/activities that women would find useful and relevant.

    I understand there are these mosques in some places in China – I’d love to go and experience what they are like. Insh’Allah one day !

  10. Becky says:

    I absolutely love the idea of female-only spaces with a female imam, that would be absolutely amazing!

    I’m not too concerned with women praying in front of men, though I would like for us to pray side by side, but it’s not an issue of huge importance to me.

    Though I don’t think online interaction can replace stimulating conversation in person, I do think it’s incredibly important as many would otherwise have to go without. Depending on where you live, and how much you’re able to get out, it might not be possibly to attend events, Friday prayers etc., so in that way I believe the blogosphere and general online interaction is incredibly important, useful and relevant. I know it is to me, it’s only through blogs, especially after creating my own blog, I feel like I’ve discovered people “like me”, even if they don’t have exactly the same opinions, it’s so amazing to have people who think like me and understand and respect my point of view, so thanks to all of you!

    • Metis says:

      Blogging is very important and I have learned so much from people’s blogs … hence my research. I think women like us are compensating for lack of religious gatherings in our societies by creating and reading blogs. But we don’t have a scholarly figure and at least I have begun to enjoy online communication a lot more than *real* communication so I have become a recluse in many ways.

  11. mariam says:

    salam 🙂
    I am agree with all Sara said completely.
    in new mosques in Iran women have relatively proper space and sound system, but real problem is context of Khutbahs that dont meet needs of young generation, both female and male.because of that I dont remember the last time I went to mosque and I have never attended friday prayers because I dont want to hear what Israel is doing in Gaza.
    “I don’t want to discuss anything with men.” why ? how we can progress without involving men?
    one issue that I think is important, is education, sadly more than half of illiterate women in the world are muslim and even those who can read and write assume that their first and last duty is raising kids(I dont mean raising kids has less value).they never study books to be accustomed with different ideas,so they never challenge current situation.if in Iran more and more women want change and many of protesters were women is not because of space of their mosque , it is because of this issue that 60% of university graduates in Iran are women.
    however what you said in your post is more realistic than what Wadud advertise.
    and personaly I prefer interacting with you than old women in mosques 🙂
    mariam-Iran

    • Metis says:

      “why ? how we can progress without involving men?”

      Mariam, I don’t think men want to discuss anything with us; they want to discuss about us which is why we are where we are. In Saudi Arabia men decide that women can’t drive. In Iran they decide in which spheres women can operate. In the GCC countries men decide that women will lose their nationality and social rights if they marry men from outside their countries. In Pakistan men decide when to kill us for their honour. And in each of these countries the women who stand up to demand their rights are humiliated and called loud-mouthed. A need for feminism is created. If we had our own comfort zones and our own spaces where we could discuss our issues and problems and where *we* would discuss about men and how men should behave, things would have been very different. Women who progress don’t need discussions with men to be where they are. It is so sad but that is true at least in my experience.

      I enjoy discussions with you too! There is so much to learn to from you and I’m grateful for that.

  12. unsettledsoul says:

    I think what Sara (CLA) and Mariam pointed out is very much getting to the center of this issue. Women are enforcing our own repression/oppression just as hard, if not more, than men. Internalized oppression, or ignorance, or both?

    I think this hurts us more than anything else, because if men can point at some women and say “they agree with me” then they have plenty enough excuse to continue on in the name of “religion”

    • Metis says:

      Like Mariam said, a source of this self-oppression is lack of education but where such women exist, men are equally uneducated. It is a vicious cycle of illiteracy and stupidity.

  13. Marahm says:

    I, too, saw the TV spot on the women’s mosques in China, and I was impressed. Actually, I was envious! Why couldn’t we do that in any other country?

    We’re too busy working.

  14. unsettledsoul says:

    In Black culture in America there is something called a “house ni**er” Which, back in slavery days was the fellow black person hated by all of the field slaves because they enforced the oppression of their White masters. It evolved to be called an “uncle Tom.” Today if a black person is called a Tom it means they have turned their backs on their own people in favor of the Whites instead. I guess you could even look at it as an “apologist” point of view. Some may call irshad manji or ayaan hirsi ali a “tom” as far as selling out Muslims in favor of pleasing or apologizing to Whites/the west for the religion of Islam.
    Women who enforce patriarchal rules and interpretations of religion could be seen in the same light as “house ni**ers” during slave days or uncle toms today.
    They do not help us, they help hold us down. They are brainwashed by the politics of the day. They are unable to see the bigger picture and they have swallowed the propaganda whole.

    • susanne430 says:

      So maybe we should think of changing those women somehow. Maybe the root of the problem is changing the way these “toms” think. Would literacy classes help? Would somehow boosting their self esteem be profitable in this? Let them know this patriarchal view is NOT the only one out there and you won’t be damned for hell if you refuse sex with your husband, blah, blah, blah. Or is it none of our business and to each her own? Or is it very much our business because it affects the WHOLE of Muslim society and brings it down? When do we intervene and encourage change and when do we let people be the masters of their own fates even if they do bring down society/religion/whatever as a whole?

      What do you think?

      • unsettledsoul says:

        I am not saying these women are toms from my personal opinion, but from what I see many Muslims say and also from the strong reactions many Muslim have toward these women, I think what is happening is these women being looked upon as sell-outs, which made me think of the issues within Black culture in regards to sell-outs.

        I personally am not so sure these women need literacy classes, they certainly are highly intelligent and deserve their own respect, but they also certainly do a disservice by painting Islam with a broad brush, instead of looking at it from a cultural perspective, or even the dynamics of their own families.

        Tom is a reference to Muslims selling out to their own kind by apologizing to non Muslims and enforcing stereotypes and blame etc against Muslims.

        As far as women in the Mosque preaching against their own self-interest, I definitely see this as an internalized form of prejudice, and do think possibly education would help, but when religion is used as the reason for repression or abuse or whatever, it is hard to change a person’s mind. They think God is on their side.

        • unsettledsoul says:

          Sorry, the women I am referencing at the beginning of this comment is Irshad Manji and Ayaan hirsi Ali

        • susanne430 says:

          Oh, I’m sorry. It seems I got things all mixed up! I see what you mean about “selling out to their own kind by apologizing to non Muslims and enforcing stereotypes and blame etc against Muslims.”

          I wrongly associated the word “tom” with the ones letting men run all over them and keeping them down. Sorry for that. Thanks for reexplaining. I’ll hush now.

          • Metis says:

            That Tom comment and discussion that followed was quite interesting.

            From my experience, there is a difference between scholastic learning and education. Education which would be called ‘tarbiyya’ in Arabic is a whole system which includes learning social behaviour, training in traditions, travel etc. Learning would simply be what we learn in school. Our problem is that we are churning out women (at least in the GCC countries) who have learned but they are not educated. Because of patriarchy they have not traveled enough and they have not worked outside their homes and now they don’t even work inside their homes! Comparatively men are better educated even if they are not learned and so they know how to rule women. These women are impressed by the *educated* men and hence serve a role in self-oppression.

  15. susanne430 says:

    From your post I thought this was interesting: “When Muslim men believe that woman outnumber men, shouldn’t they discuss issues that plague women?”

    However, I don’t see men (except for a rare few) wanting to delve much into women’s issues unless it’s to keep women in their places. So it’s going to be up to women to change things for the most part.

    In my church, it’s common to have Bible studies – men only or women only – that meet once a week during a certain number of weeks. Like every Tuesday night for a couple hours for eight weeks. They discuss a lesson from a study and then they talk amongst themselves about whatever topics arise. They also have groups for people who have gone through divorces or lost people to death (Divorce Care and Grief Share.) The sky is the limit in advertising what kind of group you want to have and then inviting people to come enjoy – hopefully – stimulating conversation and fellowship.

    Even on Sundays, they have classes some with men and women together, some men only, some women only, some for young people, some for senior citizens .. it’s a great way to make friends and develop closer relationships. Very helpful especially if you go to a big church. I wonder if something like this would be helpful to Muslim women. The women-only groups are lead by women. Maybe such things exist and you want more. I enjoyed the post and can relate to your wanting more stimulating talk than the exchange of recipes and discussing whose hijab is the most glam. 🙂

    • LK says:

      Oh you have circle! We had circle at the mosque I use to go to where the women and the men (all in their 20s) got together and discussed what they thought was important. It was fantastic!

      • susanne430 says:

        Yes, we don’t call them “circle” but maybe Young Adults class or College & Career or some creative church people came up with one called “Spares & Pairs” to call their class. 🙂 They seem to have good times hanging out and doing activities together.

    • Metis says:

      That is excellent Susie! Really liked that idea. The church in our area has excellent services for children (child minding, camps etc) so women can not only enjoy worship but also have time for other activities. That would definitely be helpful to Muslim women.

  16. Marahm says:

    I’m sure the women in China work, but we cannot compare, and perhaps I was being facetious in trying to do so. My point is that Western women– Americans, at least– have put themselves into a trap, with their insistence on being just like the men. They’ve ended up having to work full time, then keep house and raise children full time. Religion and other passions get squeezed in, sometimes.

  17. Marahm says:

    Manji and Hirsi Ali may be called ”Toms”, but they have a message that has value even for those who disagree with them.

    How did they arrive at their positions? Seems to me that an examination of how they became who they are would be even more instrumental than an examination of their conclusions regarding Islam.

    • LK says:

      Actually that may have been how we all started to work in the US but now we have to. Trust me, you can’t live off of one person’s salary anymore, especially if you have children. Many working mothers wish you could, I know quite a few. But with so few jobs and the jobs not paying more but prices going up we have no choice but to work. Unless of course you have a super rich husband 🙂

    • unsettledsoul says:

      They came to their conclusions because of their terrible history of abuse. I read both of their books and am not saying I personally am calling them a Tom, but I can see why Muslims would think that. I can also see why they are the way they are, although I believe their blame is a bit misplaced.

  18. sana says:

    Back home there was a group called ‘Iqra’ which only consisted of women and was lead by them. They would gather on some days and discuss things, but not always politics but religion, how to be a ‘good’ muslimah and how to be a good (submissive) wife and blah blah blah.I never thought that was for their welfare and education apart from Quran and hadith.
    Plus I think there are a very few men who would like their wives to involve in intelligent talks. Even if women do get together for prayers and their own khutbahs like I mentioned about ‘Iqra’ above ,men (and some women) would call that as gheebah and fitnah and gossiping. I have heard that myself. They say women hardly pray and then sit and gossip more about their mothers in law and husband. That is such a cheap thought.
    Personally I would prefer that and I love your idea about the khutbah and surely many would benefit.

    • Metis says:

      “Plus I think there are a very few men who would like their wives to involve in intelligent talks. Even if women do get together for prayers and their own khutbahs like I mentioned about ‘Iqra’ above ,men (and some women) would call that as gheebah and fitnah and gossiping. ”

      That is sadly very true.

  19. Marahm says:

    Manji and Hirsi Ali came to their positions due to profound neglect and even abuse, just as unsettled soul suggests. When I say we need to examine their histories, I don’t mean that we need to verify their stories; we accept their stories as true, at least for purposes of discussion.

    These authors do not need to be “retrained” or “reeducated.” Their experiences are genuine and valid, not only for them, but for hundreds of their readers who have recognized private truth in their stories. When little girls (Hirsi Ali for sure, but I’m not sure about Manji) are mutilated in the name of Islam, they are mutilated in the name of Islam, and that’s all there is to it. Whether or not Islam requires or even condones such mutilation is of no consequence to the victims. In fact, their suffering might become worse when they realize that their mutilation had no real basis in any kind of religion.

    The background of this truth is what must catch our attention. Efforts made at any kind of reeducation must be aimed at those who would today impose abuse upon children in the name of Islam.

    We might think that victims are the best spokespersons for reform, for justice, but the opposite seems to be true. Victims have an agenda, a personal rage totally appropriate, and calling out for revenge. If victims have been indoctrinated regarding their abuse as a function of Islam, then their efforts at vindication will center upon tearing down Islam.

    They have the right to do so, whether they are correct about Islam or not. Others have the responsibility to go behind such scenes, to root out the superstition and ignorance that produced the experiences and resulting attitudes of these authors.

    Sorry for going off-post. I just wanted to complete my earlier thoughts.

  20. Zuhura says:

    I haven’t read Manji’s book yet, but I’ve followed her blog and in the media, and her position doesn’t seem anything like Hirsi Ali’s. Manji is still a Muslim while Hirsi Ali rejects Islam completely. In what ways are they similar?

  21. Marahm says:

    I haven’t read Manji’s work, but I believe she is a lesbian. That fact would put her outside of mainstream Islam, at least with regard to fellow Muslims. Manji and Hirsi Ali may not be alike at all in terms of Islam, but they are alike in that they reject common beliefs amongst Muslims, and call for active rejection of the Islamic status quo.

  22. Zuhura says:

    Calling for active rejection of the status quo is what feminists do. I don’t see how standpoint that can be compared to that of someone who rejects Islam altogether.

  23. Marahm says:

    We’re not comparing Manji to Hirsi Ali. If we were, your point would be well taken. We are merely drawing the line between those two and the mass of Muslims worldwide who follow what they’ve been taught from their predecessors.

    They were likened unto the “Uncle Tom” characters from American slavery, who left the bulk of the slaves in the fields and went to work for the white masters in big, comfortable houses. The analogy is probably not the best, but it works well enough for purposes of this conversation, I think.

    • Zuhura says:

      Well, they’re being lumped together if not compared. How has Manji gone to work for white masters? Seems to me she’s more out there on her own, like most progressive Muslims.

  24. unsettledsoul says:

    Marahm,

    Very true, freedom of speech, even if it is freedom to hate.

    Yes, with Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s new book that is out, it is most certainly freedom to hate. I read the first chapter and had to stop because it was so filled with her own bias and opinion and a real fear of Islam.

    The reason I read their books and “stick up” for them among conservative Muslims is because I too think their stories are important.

    I asked that question also but it was regarding terrorism. How can we say these men are not Muslim when they are screaming that they are doing it for Islam?! My point from that was if someone says they are Muslim then they are Muslim, and we can’t say they are not.

    Possibly true for what you are saying also. If these abusers are doing this horrible stuff, genital mutilation, honor killings, etc etc then are we doing a disservice to victims by saying “oh, well these abusers are following culture, not Islam?”

    Misplaced blame is common among victims. A woman who is raped will most likely hate all men for a very long time, many victims take a blanket approach because it is safe and will guarantee protection from ever having to go through that again. Eventually , for their own mental health, women are encouraged to reflect and gain some insight. I volunteer for a rape crisis center at my local hospital and misplaced blame is a common thread for most people who make their way to us. And you are absolutely correct, it is their right for the rest of their lives if they choose it, but that does not mean we don’t encourage them to see the whole picture.

    I agree, victims may not be the best spokespersons, and that is where my problem lies. The American media has Hirsi Ali and Manji as their “default” Muslims that they go to as the voice of Islam or the truth of Islam, and of course they play right into the stereotypes and fears because of their background of abuse. And that is my issue of contention.

    Anyways, they may have the right to do so, we all have our rights, but does that mean they are right? Like I said, they are woefully misguided, their anger and blame is misplaced, and yes their stories are tragic but that does not negate them from responsibility. We cannot let our own pain turn into our own ignorance or we have lost.

    “they reject common beliefs amongst Muslims, and call for active rejection of the Islamic status quo.”

    I have to say I completely disagree (respectfully, of course) with this statement. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is doing nothing but spreading the same fear and hatred that Islamophobes spread. She does not reject common beliefs, she rejects Islam and Muslims. Genital Mutilation and abuse is not a common belief among Muslims, although this is what she is trying to tell the world, along with the fact that Muslims are trying to “takeover” and that the west needs to stop them.

    It is true, we need to advocate for women who have suffered in the name of Islam, but we also need to speak out against hate speech.

  25. Marahm says:

    “Ayaan Hirsi Ali is doing nothing but spreading the same fear and hatred that Islamophobes spread. She does not reject common beliefs, she rejects Islam and Muslims.”

    OK, she’s gone further than mere rejection.

    “… the voice of Islam or the truth of Islam, and of course they play right into the stereotypes and fears…”

    How can non-Muslims not fall into their skewed perspective? I don’t know. Plenty of thoughtful material has been written by women who are wise and grounded in Islam, but their stories do not have the drama nor the popular appeal that belong to the two authors we’ve cited.

    Perhaps our struggle as Muslims boils down to the individual. When enough individuals are able to articulate and live according to universal principles of peace, cooperation, and the “love thy neighbor” injunction, authors such as these two will be seen for what they are– proponents of sour grapes.

  26. Lat says:

    Really enjoyed the comments above.

    Living by example is definitely a good way to show the peaceful and loving side of the religion.Someime ago,a teenage Malay-Muslim girl passed on and her parents donated all good parts of her organ despite being discouraged by relatives not to do so,as it might go against the religion.For the parents they wanted the girl to live and this was one way for them to cope with their lost.Her donated organs went to four other people,all of different enthnicity and age.To me I say they took the courageous step forward.This may not be as equal a drama or popular as the two famous feminists but this heartfelt plight of the parents who lost their only child to a freak accident truly stand as a living example.

  27. […] The comments on this post made me realise something. Where do we place feminists who were Muslim once? They are actively reinterpreting scripture in their own way so in some ways they behave like Muslim women whom I earlier called “Islamic feminist theologians” (the process Wadud calls Islamic Feminism), but these women are not Muslim feminists.  Women like Wafa Sultan, Taslima Nasrin and Ayan Hirsi Ali are extremely important, influential and powerful women. They are braver than the men who leave Islam because they don’t hide behind pseudonyms and they have almost always been victimised by their society in the name of religion. […]

  28. unsettledsoul says:

    Zuhura,

    “Well, they’re being lumped together if not compared. How has Manji gone to work for white masters? Seems to me she’s more out there on her own, like most progressive Muslims.”

    The point of the analogy was to show why some Muslims believe Manji is a sell-out. Manji, in my opinion, could be labeled a sell-out because she takes a stand against Muslims when she is on national media shows speaking with non-Muslims. She also blames Palestinians for what is happening with Israel, and takes the side of Israel. Many Muslims would say she is speaking against the plight of Muslims and taking the side of Zionism.

    Some may say this is comparable to Blacks taking the side of their White masters back during slave days. Not the greatest analogy, I know, but it is what this issue made me think of.

    • unsettledsoul says:

      Zuhura,

      Also, I apologize, I did not go into detail earlier about why Manji could be viewed in these ways, for that I apologize. Sometimes I assume people know what I am talking about, and that is not good! lol I guess I have this general idea about Manji, from reading her books and seeing her speak on television, and the overriding theme for me is one of anti-Islamic rhetoric.

      Anyway, I think her being on Israel’s defense is a main reason many dislike her and can “lump” her with Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

      I personally hate when the media calls her a “moderate.” I personally do not like her. This is how I lump her in with Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

      I actually wish I did like her! LOL, I agree with much of what she stands for and is fighting for. In the end though I think her message gets killed by the fact that she is in support of Zionist ideals, which is the main reason she is loved by the American media. I see the Palestinian apartheid as the #1 human rights issue in this world, and the fact that she sides with Israel’s stance on the issue is just too much for me.

      But, I will keep reading her books and watching her speak. I always look for the chance that I may be wrong about her.

      • Zuhura says:

        Thanks unsettled soul. I didn’t know about her stance on Israel — I will look into that more. But I disagree that she takes a stance against Muslims (as a group). She takes a stance against Muslims that she doesn’t agree with. Don’t we all do that? She just happens to get more media attention when she does it, probably, as you say, because of her views on Israel and Palestine.

  29. Sophia says:

    I wish I knew of an all female mosque… I’m a little intimidated to go into a mosque in the first place, and i think I’d be less so for an all girl mosque.

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