11 October 2006

Islamic Feminism Resources

I'm posting some links here for those interested in reading up about Islamic feminist theory, and that will be it from me on this topic:

Islam and Feminism
An introductory survey.

Discussions and comments on calls to ban all forms of the veil, from a Muslim women who wears the head-scarf. Focuses on basic issues of civil liberties.

Women in a Qur'anic Society
A summary article by a respected female Muslim academic discussing Islam, gender, and women in society.

Spiritual Role of Women in Islam
Essay on spiritual-ontological gender equality issues based on the Qur'an.

Women's Political Rights in Islam
Looks at Muslim history, as well as Islamic legal texts and sources, to discern the role of women as political subjects.

Legal Rights of Women in Islam
Attempts to correct the misconceptions about the idea that women are systematically marginalized or repressed by Islamic law.

The Fear of Hijab
One Muslim woman's attempt to understand why widespread western cultural revulsion at the phenomenon of women covering their heads with a piece of cloth.

The Veil and Sacred Space
A highly creative exploration of the meaning of the veil by a non-Muslim female academic.

Women in Islam, Judaism & Christianity
An intriguing comparative analysis of the what Islamic, Jewish and Christian religious texts say about women.

And an article on the head-scarf that might be of interest...

"Why do I Wear the Hijab?"

By Sultana Yusuf (a 17-year old Toronto high school student)

Published in Toronto Star: Young People Press.

A while back, a couple of girls in Montreal were kicked out of school for dressing like I do. It seems strange that a little piece of cloth would make for such controversy. Perhaps the fear is that I am harbouring an Uzi underneath it.

Of course, the issue at hand is more than a mere piece of cloth. I am a Muslim woman who, like millions of other Muslim women across the globe, chooses to wear the hijab. And the concept of the hijab, contrary to popular opinion, is actually one of the most fundamental aspects of female empowerment When I cover myself, I make it virtually impossible for people to judge me according to the way I look.

I cannot be categorised because of my attractiveness or lack thereof. Compare this to life in today's society: We are constantly sizing one another up on the basis of our clothing, jewelry, hair and makeup. What kind of depth can there be in a world like this?

Yes, I have a body, a physical manifestation upon this Earth. But it is the vessel of an intelligent mind and a strong spirit. It is not for the beholder to leer at or to use in advertisements to sell everything from beer to cars. Because of the superficiality of the world in which we live, external appearances are so stressed that the value of the individual counts for almost nothing. It is a myth that women in today's society are liberated. What kind of freedom can there be when a woman cannot walk down the street without every aspect of her physical self being 'checked out' When I wear the hijab I feel safe from all of this. I can be rest assured that no one is looking at me and making assumptions about my character from the length of my skirt. There is a barrier between me and those who would exploit me. I am first and foremost a human being, and not vulnerable because of my sexuality. One of the saddest truths of our time is the question of the beauty myth and female self-image. Reading popular teenage magazines, you can instantly find out what kind of body image is 'in' or 'out'. And if you have the 'wrong' body type, well, then, you're just going to have to change it, aren't you After all, there is no way that you can be overweight and still be beautiful.

Look at any advertisement. Is a woman being used to sell the product? How old is she? How attractive is she? What is she wearing more often than not? That woman will be no older than her early 20s, taller, slimmer and more attractive than average, dressed in skimpy clothing. Why do we allow ourselves to be manipulated like this? Whether the '90s woman wishes to believe it or not, she is being forced into a mould.

She is being coerced into selling herself, into compromising herself. This is why we have 13-year-old girls sticking their fingers down their throats and overweight adolescents hanging themselves. When people ask me if I feel oppressed, I can honestly say no. I made this decision out of my own free will. I like the fact that I am taking control of the way other people perceive me. I enjoy the fact that I don't give anyone anything to look at and that I have released myself from the bondage of the swinging pendulum of the fashion industry and other institutions that exploit females. My body is my own business. Nobody can tell me how I should look or whether or not I am beautiful. I know that there is more to me than that. I am also able to say no comfortably when people ask me if I feel as though my sexuality is being repressed. I have taken control of my sexuality.

I am thankful I will never have to suffer the fate of trying to lose/ gain weight or trying to find the exact lipstick shade that will go with my skin colour. I have made choices about what my priorities are and these are not among them. So next time you see me, don't look at me sympathetically. I am not under duress or a male-worshipping female captive from those barbarous Arabic deserts. I've been liberated.


  1. Thanks for the links.

  2. Check out the works of Tariq Ramadan at Tariqramadan.com
    He deals with feminist issues in a Muslim context.

  3. Hope you don't mind, but I've spliced your links into my page of assorted (mainly Muslim) feminist links:




  4. I've just found the article why I wear a hijab & find it very confusing. No matter what a person wears, they will always be judged by it. As humans we cannot escape from judging by appearences & by wearing veils etc you are simply making a different statement which will still be viewed & assessed by others. My argument is only for equality. Why women & not men? I have read in Islamic afterlife men look forward to the deflowering of virgins & the capture of many wives whilst women have to be happy with looking pretty & being able to keep their husband & not be jealous - this seems like a poor deal! & if looking pretty is important in the afterlife why not in life? Clothes are merely an outward expression of ourselves & if some women want to be sexually attractive & show off their bodies surely in a belief system that rewards with sexual gratification this cannot be frowned upon? What we need to encourage is a soceity where women can wear big baggy clothes if they want to or little tiny outfits without being overly concerned with what others think. We can't please everyone so we should be confident & educated enough to please ourselves! I am very interested in female muslim opinion on this.

  5. most (not all) of the links i've referred to will lead you to things written by muslim women.

    i think the point is that no one has the right to force anyone else to dress a certain way. it's not about arbitrary legal codes, it's about personal choices. muslims make such personal choices on the basis of a certain system of understanding about human beings and their place in the world; non-muslims have other systems of understanding. the discussion of which of these systems makes more sense than the other is a separate issue requiring theological and philosophical debate. depending on your position in such a debate, your views about ethics, including clothing, may well follow accordingly.

    the article you read is not about what other people should or should not do, and whether it should be frowned on. it's about why muslim women do what they do, and that it shouldn't frowned.

    live and let live, that's my motto.

    if you read the material i've linked to, you might begin to understand why muslim women choose to wear the headscarf. in particular, why not engage with the author of the blog "veiled4allah", who is an articulate muslim female whose opinions might interest you, more than mine, a mere muslim male.

    also, your understanding of the islamic view of the afterlife is highly simplistic. i'd recommend reading the works of seyyed hossein nasr, a professor at george washington university, to get a more sophisticated insight into the islamic worldview. on the question of men and women particularly, see sachiko murata's "the tao of islam".

  6. Thanks for your response, but you seem to have missed my point. The article I was refering to was from a girl who felt she needed to justify why she wore her outfit & felt she could not be judged because of it - all I wanted say was, no one needs to justify what they wear she is no more right or wrong than a woman in a skimpy top & mini skirt, neither are "repressed" they are just making different decisions & statements about themselves, but regardless of wat we wear, we're all still judged by anonnamous on-lookers, its part of being human. The point is, it shouldn't matter what an unknown viewer in the street thinks of you, it doesn't matter if they think you're ugly, pretty, fat or thin. The line is drawn at unwanted sexual contact & in Europe & the US, at least, this is punishable in a court of law, so women shouldn't be overly concerned at what people "think" of them. The confusion for me comes from what I understand to be celebrated in the Islamic afterlife, why is sex & therefore being sexually attractive to someone other than your husband/wife OK in death but not in life? You also said my understanding of Islamic afterlife was "simplistic" (but not incorrect!) I don't believe you should have to be a PHD student in order to understand the basics of a religion, the virgin reward seems to be something repeated in many articles I've read. (I'm going to have to leave Proff Seyyed Hossein nasr & MR Sachiko Murata's academic texts until my retirement, when I have a lot more spare time,) but hope there is a more accessable way of understanding the basic principles of Islam until then!!- perhaps you could reccommend a non sexist, modern, translation of the Qu'ran (I would find it impossible to read anything that promoted domestic violence (source-www.themodernreligion.com marriage/how to keep your wife happy) I don't follow any religion exclusively, I have found most translators of religious texts to have changed or mis-interpretted scared works in order to gain wealth, adoration & control. I, being a simple person(!), worship the force of "LOVE" as my God & try my best to find a loving understanding of the world around me & if I'm wrong then God will forgive me, the force of Love is not hateful or vengeful just the purest, highest form of Love. I would also, like to apologise if my ignorance on the subject & re-emailing annoys you, (also for the length of this message!) its just that there are so many different views & interpretations to be found I find it very interesting & helpful to my understanding to speak directly with educated modern minds- which is what lead me here, I'm currently working my way through Al Muhajabah's articles, as you suggested. There is so much hatred being spread at present, I think its very important we all try to understand each other rather than get defensive & attack from our different ways of being. Love & let Love, I say!

  7. Just a final comment- there is a very good video on the Avaaz site relating the Western vs Islam dress issue - http://www.avaaz.org/en/report_back_1/
    My name is Sally Lancashire, by the way, I don't like to leave comments anonymously, but don't want to sign up for a google account. Thanks & Peace to all


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