Saturday, January 11, 2014

Life of a Muslim Feminist Huh?

So for those who don't know there's been this twitter hashtag going around where people, mostly Muslim women, and some others,tweet about various problems/double standards and the like. There have been some very interesting and real tweets such as the one that started off the whole hashtag: “White fems want to pull your hijab off and 'liberate' you and Muslims tell you you don't need feminism.”

My problem with this is not the content. Well most of the the content, there was one about twerking and belly dancing and a couple others I thought were enormously stupid but I digress. The content is fine, women as a whole have never really had it totally fair. Black men could vote before white women could. Men still make more for doing than the same job than women. Hillary Clinton is the closest thing to a presidential candidate this country's ever had and she never had much of a chance. Muslim women have even more challenges in a country were sexualized and liberated are synonyms when it comes to women. But everyone likes to get a little ranting off their chests once in a while. It feels good.

However, the hashtag is not by any means the proper means to accomplish anything besides a little social media fanfare and controversy. Let's look at this logically. You post a problem unique to Muslims and say it's the life of a Muslim feminist. Outsiders looking in see that these women face all these problems because of their oppressive religion. You being a feminist (for the sake of this argument let's define it as a woman seeking equal rights and treatment) is made more difficult because of your religious choice. Regardless of whether or not this is your intention you need to see and judge the impacts of your actions. That is the logical implication people are getting from these tweets and its absolutely horrible. Many who don't know about Islam in any sort of detail will see this and instantly get an awful impression of what it must be like to be a “practicting/religious Muslim.”

Not only that, but the problems people are posting about have nothing to do with actual Islam. They have to do with people forcing their cultural views on women and backing it up under the name of Islam. Not only that but this casts a horrible view on all the Muslim men who aren't sexist, and treat WOMEN as a whole with respect. For every person with a bogus, Saudi view on women's rights there are a thousand Muslim men who think those views are just as BS as the women do.

Here is the bottom line, you'll get retweets and likes from certain people. That's the good part, the consequences are that you creating a horrible stereotype of Muslim men being horrible misogynistic dicks because that's what their religion makes them become. The sheer thought that Muslim women should have to fight for rights is sad, and a sign that some people have abandoned what the Prophet Muhammed (s) taught. Some people have used the hashtag and clarified that this doesn't apply to Islam but only some people. However, when people feel the need to clear up the fact that the hashtag doesn't apply to the religion but rather to certain people, well that's when you know you haven't started something good. If your actions require you to clarify and say “no, no my religion isn't so God-awful and sexist” then you aren't doing the right thing. Sure not all of the tweets are about problems/injustices/double-standards but this hashtag as a whole is not beneficial for anyone. The venting of these issues in this manner benefits nobody and reinforces negative stereotypes of Islam and the people who follow it.

That sums up my take on this issue. Now I'm sure there will be those with conflicting opinions and I just want to put this out there before anyone does decide to comment. I welcome your well thought out input, however if you reject my argument and cite my gender and my lack of empathy towards your plight as the reason, here's why your wrong:
  1. You haven't actually touched my argument's points at all.
  2. Your argument is known as a fallacy of ad hominem.
  3. I'm a human being with the logical capacity to analyze situations and their repercussions. My gender doesn't affect my ability to do this.

12 comments:

  1. I appreciate your existence very much faraz :)

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    1. I appreciate the positive reinforcement on every possible social media platform=)

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  2. So I understand that you're argument against this trend is that it makes us look bad? Is it our job to counter stereotypes the west has for muslims? Are we seeking their validation? Is it the stereotype that is the problem? Shouldn't we look at the root of the stereotypes, which is the sexism in our communities and abroad, such as Saudi policies which you mentioned? Don't you think that addressing such issues is the first step to solving them?

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  3. With regard to stereotypes, I feel the "muslim feminist" is breaking stereotypes; the stereotype is that muslim women are oppressed and that muslim and feminist are antithesis to one another. Muslim women showing that they hold both of these identities counters western ideas of orientalist feminism. That, I think, breaks stereotypes.

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  4. Please edit your articles before posting. #GrammarNazi

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  5. First of all, writing off a very real means of a traditionally silenced subgroup highlighting and addressing issues that affect them negatively as "ranting" is unfairly dismissive. Second, you make the all-too-common error of portraying feminism as, essentially, damaging to men - in this case, Muslim men - a view that basically serves to make men look like the victims of witchhunting females (which brushes aside their problems as well, because they are now the aggressors). There's a ton of relevant literature already written on why that claim is erroneous, and I'm sure you can use Google yourself. Third, it's historically the quandary of minority feminists (whether by race, religion, etc.) that if they complain abt the problems within their own community, "white feminism" and others will view them as victims and go the whole ~white saviour route~. Minority feminists /know/ this, but I think it's fair to say the solution to that is not for minorities to just shut up + suffer in silence, for the sake of their more Western counterparts. Maybe if you'd suggested an alternative route for discussion, or even touched on the need for it - but you didn't. Fourth, our views & perceptions are as shaped by our identity + environment as they are by our rational thought, so never kid yourself by saying that your gender isn't a factor in your opinion. Fact is, you don't experience most (maybe any) of the problems brought to light by the hashtag, so it's certainly easier for you to brush this hashtag off + criticize it under the cloak of objectivity (see: ad hominem suggests irrelevancy to a critique - your gender is NOT irrelevant. It represents a privilege that the authors of the hashtag don't have access to, and suffer because of). Fifth, I urge you to wonder why so many muslim women felt the need to publicly air their personal issues as a means of empowerment, and how relevant the hashtag is to their everyday lives. Ma'assalaama.

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    1. 1. I'm not dismissing the real issues that these women are posting about. I'm more concerned with this specific hashtag means of going about it.
      2. I did not say nor imply that that is what feminism was. I specifically stated that for the sake of my argument feminism was "seeking equal rights and treatment." What I said about Muslim men is a side-effect of this means of voicing the issues Muslim women face. You can argue how important that is but you can't say it isn't true.
      3. I'm not saying the solution is to shut up and suffer in silence. I fully acknowledge in the article that women don't always have it fair AND showed the increased difficulty Muslim women have from this quote "Muslim women have even more challenges in a country were sexualized and liberated are synonyms when it comes to women." My point of this article was not to tell everyone to shut up and keep their problems to themselves but that to show that voicing them through these hashtags in this specific way is more detrimental than good. I'm sure all of you know better sources of dialogue than posting stuff on twitter.
      4. My gender isn't a factor in my opinion. Why? Because I'm not dismissing the need for these problems Muslim women face to be fixed. I'm just stating that this specific means of doing so is wrong and harms the face of our religion.
      5. Finally, with all this talk about problems that need to be fixed I beg someone to tell me how these specific posts on twitter are going to help. Trust me, the empowerment you feel from tweeting is nothing compared to the empowerment from actually doing something.
      6. If I haven't already made it abundantly clear from my article and this comment. I'm simply stating that this specific trend is harmful to the already shoddy reputation of Islam in this country, and is not the way to begin dialogue/discussion on this important issue.

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  7. A) Firstly, it is not our job as a Muslim community to make ourselves look perfectly angelic so the non-Muslims won't get the wrong idea of Islam. Clearly, there are problems with our ummah that need to be addressed, especially towards women. We cannot pretend they do not exist to save face on social media.
    B) As a male - and therefore a recipient of male privilege - you cannot tell women to stop discussing problems they face on the medium they choose. And by saying male privilege I mean that you have never been compared to rotten candy, your education is not considered secondary, and your clothing is not a topic up for constant debate. Telling Muslim women to stop complaining is simply not your place. By saying that "not all Muslim men" are guilty of sexist behavior, you are marginalizing the conflict of which many women have been victims.
    C) The only way we can change and fix the way Muslim cultures and individuals oppress women is by talking about it. Social media (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Reddit etc) is an open medium through which global conversations can be started, which is necessary for progress to be made. The priority here is raising awareness of the problems in the ummah, not to make Islam seem more liberal for the sake of Western media.
    I understand you meant this as an impersonal argument of logic and reason, but what you fail to remember is that this is a problem that many people deal with personally, on a daily basis.

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    1. Aisha it is exactly our job as a Muslim community to make ourselves look as perfect as possible so the non-Muslims won't get the wrong idea of Islam. Muslims are the role models of Islam, when we step out into the world, we have a duty to uphold the perfection in our religion. If a human being is turned off to Islam because of our representation of it then Allah will question US about it on the Day of Judgement. He is not going to ask the disbeliever why he didn't double check and make sure that's actually what Islam was, it is our job to practice our religion and give dawah through our actions. This is why I wrote this article; because the thought of the billions of non-Muslims being even more turned off to Islam than they already are because of stuff our ummah is doing sickens me to my core. And say what you want about male privilege my arguement and point still stands. And yes dialogue on this issues is important but not this way and not through this hashtag.

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  8. Completely agree with this post, and I am a Muslim women. I also notice these days, a problem which you brought up and I agree completely with is that so many Muslims negatively portray Islam. But as Allah (swst) said: “Invite (all) to the way of your Rabb with wisdom and and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious, for your Rabb know's best, who have strayed from His path and who receive guidance.” (Qur’an 16:125).

    As an ummah we need to collectively get better at this.

    Thank you for this blog post! Really gave me a reminder on my duties as a Muslim.

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  9. Dear Faraz,

    I know you posted this almost a month ago and may be over it, but after giving a lot of thought to what you wrote, there are a few things that I’d urge you to reconsider and I've written about them here: http://bit.ly/1aIbAs1

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