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MuslimGirl Founder Claims Islam Is “Inherently Feminist”

March 26, 2015

She has started a web presence to bring together her feminist views and concept of Islam. MuslimGirl founder is 22 years old and says that she believes Islam is “inherently feminist.” MuslimGirl doesn’t explain HOW Islam is inherently feminist. She just states that it is and then rails agains “Westernized” attacks against Islam. For all of her reaction to a Western reaction to Islam, she fails to understand that her reaction is just that, a reaction, not necessarily a proactive state that will speak to others, not that she has to, that is, speak to others. One might assume that launching a web presence assumes she wants to speak to others, but she merely reacts to “Westernized” concept of Islam, assuming that the only knowledge anyone from “the West” might have is Fox News, which is insulting, but it’s also merely a form of reaction. There is no religious depth to a person who uses her religion to lob insults.

The problem I have with MuslimGirl is that she doesn’t seem genuine. Oh, her anger is genuine, but it’s all anger. There is no specific genuine emotion for her religion that is voiced in a way that isn’t just reactionary, a bit like throwing a religious tantrum to get attention:

No one has the right to pass judgment on Islam or Muslim women if their only knowledge of either of them comes from Fox [News] or “American Sniper.” The whole premise of feminism is to empower women’s individual choices and autonomy of their own lives. It’s interesting how Western feminism has always been gung-ho about this concept unless it is applied to Muslim women. Not only does the misconception of Islam’s relationship with feminism reveal a very politicized and stereotypical image of Muslim women, but it also infantilizes us as though we are incapable of thinking or making decisions for ourselves. As a Muslim woman, my hijab is my feminism; both in asserting my authority over my body as well as defying post-9/11 Islamophobia, racism and stereotypical expectations.

This woman uses her hijab as a form of rebellion and then lashes out when others judge the motivation for wearing a hijab. I get it: she is young. She is angry. Maybe she wants to be heard. And, I am always up for a feminist debate. What I don’t like is when said feminist uses insults or derogatory statements against entire countries like “the West” to try to get a point across while generalizing about all of Islam being a feminist agenda. It isn’t. Simply put, if Islam was a feminist, an inherently feminist religion, then all the women in predominantly Muslim countries would enjoy equal rights beyond compare, beyond any of those “in the West.” They don’t. While “the West” often fails to acknowledge women as even full people, I don’t pretend that it is feminist. I don’t delude myself that way.

 There is a much more compelling argument in response to an article about a Muslim woman wearing short shorts, responding to people who judged based on appearance, and frankly, this argument is more compelling than the comment about wearing a hijab to defy Islamophobia, as if  a clothing change that defines a religious movement that has declared war on another religion can do that. But the argument from the woman who wrote about short-shorts is much more compelling:

But before I get there, I need to comment on judgment. You see, when we sense the need to say, “I have no right to judge her for wearing short shorts because for all I know, she’s probably a much better person and Muslim than I am,” the implication is that she may be subject to judgment because of what she’s wearing. Would the same person say, “I have no right to judge this girl who’s wearing the hijab and practicing Islam the way I believe she should, because for all I know, she’s a much better Muslim/person than I am?” We also don’t get to not-judge people just because they might be better than us in some way or another. We don’t get to judge people, period.

“We don’t get to judge people, period.” Much stronger statement, don’t you think? She isn’t using a religious tome to attack, merely to separate that religion shouldn’t be used as a tool of measure, and this woman’s take on the concept of feminism and Islam is staggeringly simple, but rings true in it simplicity, that Muslim men determined their view of God, not Muslim women. Muslim women have every right to construct their own concept of God, unfettered by an imposition of patriarchy:

I emphasize that Islamic law was established by a group of elite Muslim men (most of whom held views on women that would be offensive to many contemporary Muslims, men and women alike). Gender is important here because think back to my above point on culture and religion: patriarchy reigns and frequently blinds our perception of religion and hence of the parts of Islamic law that pertain to gender and sexuality, especially to women. We may want to believe that Islamic law is solely from God, solely from the Qur’an, but that is not the reality because God hardly played a role in it. For God, the Shari’a is whatever is just, whatever is good; men have decided, and largely continue to decide, what exactly justice and good mean. There have been and continue to be multiple sources of Islamic law, and the Qur’an has been hardly a part of it, mainly because of how open it is to interpretation (I know – it’s heartbreaking that the Qur’an isn’t as clear, decisive, and simple as we’re taught when we’re kids; I was crushed when I found out, too). And believe it or not, circumstances and necessity are considered a source of Islamic law. It gets complicated here because every other Muslim then feels compelled to opine, “Yes, BUT! But only an authentic scholar can speak on that, not you,” and it gets even more complicated because none of us can agree on what an “authentic scholar” means.

No, this doesn’t mean dismissing the centuries of scholarship and hard work on Islamic law (unless you want to do so), but it does mean thinking critically about it when its effects are harmful to us, whether as individuals or as community members. We cannot be spiritually blackmailed into accepting every guideline about us (Muslim women) just because scholars worked hard for centuries to reach a consensus on so many (patriarchal) guidelines and rules about us. We get that the scholars may have meant well, but that’s irrelevant and does not negate the reality of the damaging consequences of some of the guidelines they established.

While MuslimGirl still has yet to establish her voice as anything other than reactionary, she has established a platform for a nuanced response to the means in which feminism and Islam can interact, how feminism really asks for a woman’s perspective, without male influence, to define spirituality not as a response to a male concept, i.e. that the female body is inherently a sexual form that must be covered so as not to incite violence against women (which could only be argued that worked if women who wore the hijabe faced no violence, and this is definitely not the reality of so many women today). Spirituality is deeper than a visual image or deeper than one’s body or image. Who would have thunk?? Women are more than their vaginas? What?? Says whom? Women’s spirituality is vagina-identified?

It’s about time the religion of Islam stopped talking about women’s bodies and started talking about what spirituality is, the very essence of which does not condone or describe a corporeal form. How do women define their sense of God in Islam when they are not yoked by their physical forms?

Perhaps, in this way, MuslimGirl feels that when she puts on the hijab, she can ignore her body and focus on spirituality, but that’s not her argument. Her argument is that she wears the hijab out of defiance, to attract attention. In it’s own way, she is revolutionary. She is demanding attention. She is using image though, specifically a very feminine image to incite, as it were, outrage. That, perhaps, is less than productive. If we apply feminism to Islam, we should focus on spirituality, a lack of anchor to the physical image, a mind that is not moored by gender, a connection that isn’t based on the physical but rather the metaphysical. Feminisms application to Islam could be about the female’s experience, but I much prefer the interpretation that we remove the filter of gender and image and focus on the spiritual. MuslimGirl anchors her image to her religion and then is angered by it. Leave the image and let’s talk about spirituality.

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