We have explained why “Why were you out so late?” and “what were you wearing?” are problematic responses to cases of violence. It communicates that women should be held responsible for their own safety and blamed when things go wrong. But have we ever considered that even well-intentioned instructions to “be careful” and “take precautions” can be energy-sapping and exhausting?
The way women are treated across the Muslim world; the way sons see their fathers dominate their mothers, and the way scholars and imams regurgitate age-old ideas of women’s positions in life are all things that not only need unlearning but clear accessible actions.
We want to (rightfully) debate and critique Islamophobic establishments that bar our sisters from their rights to wear hijab. However, we will ignore the epidemic of the rising “spiritual leaders”, “scholars” and “holy men” in our communities who have been demonstrated to commit various forms of abuse against vulnerable women.
I feel very strongly that we shouldn’t just have ‘sisters’ committees’ which are kept separate from the main decision-making Board. Women should be sitting with men and feeding into discussions and decisions that affect the whole community.
Asma Lamrabet offers a motivational reading of religious history where God repeatedly upholds the equality of women who are made of the same stuff as men. That’s a great place to start a conversation on how power is balanced between men and women within Islam.
I think artists should create what they feel passionate about. Sometimes I don’t feel like creating artwork around activism – sometimes I just want to draw a pretty picture. People reach out to me about creating artwork around other topics – that don’t quite relate to the experiences I’ve gone through or seen.
We don’t need men explaining the concept of equality to us. Women are not a group of dumb, confused individuals who have no sense of what they’re talking about and no idea of what they want. When we demand gender equality, we are demanding that irrespective of differences, the intrinsic equality of all human beings be recognised.
I hope the day will come when you will be free to hold your head up and claim what you believe or support without fear of being “dragged”. I pray for the day when being a Muslim woman – especially being visibly so – is not seen as an open invitation for others to have an opinion on how we choose to live our lives. Until that time, and unless you choose other
What makes it more difficult is that the attitudes of Muslim men and lots of Muslim women always run contrary to the egalitarian values of Islam that you have told non-Muslims about. So it feels like we’re just making things up to protect this religion and make it look good. This is in addition to being sidelined by close friends and family for believing that you, as a Muslim woman, have God-given rights. People constantly try to ostracise you, telling others to avoid you if they want to keep the faith. Being an activist feels really lonely.”
When people pontificate on my freedom or lack of it because of my burqa, this is the reality that none of them sees. For all the love of revolutions and disruptive activism, we forget to acknowledge a nuance where not everything is a violent disruption. There is a ‘quiet activism’ where we change things from within. It is impossible to embody values that stress a community and then expect them to reform in any way. Nobody trusts an outsider.