As this Twitter conversation unfolded, Tweets revealed a diverse Muslim community: Muslim women who are encouraged by their families and their faith to be feminists. Muslims who engage in social justice activism, who play sports while sporting the hijab. Writers, poets, lawyers, activists,…
Hey, all. Be sure to check out my latest piece on Feminspire
Common misconceptions surround the topic of the portrayal of women in Islam and the rights given to them in the Quran and Hadith. Muslim women are perceived by many as oppressed and unequal, the blame placed on religion rather than culture and tradition. Thus, Islam is seen as an oppressive religion: outdated, violent, unjust, and even harsh. This is especially the case for common perspectives and preconceived notions on polygamy in Islam; the idea that a man is allowed multiple wives is incomprehensible to many who view this subject with an ethnocentric perspective, measuring and assessing foreign customs and norms using their own standards and values. However problematic this ethnocentric approach is, even more problematic is the act of blurring the lines between religion and tradition, merging them as one item to be judged, when often times, this judgment is inaccurate. Thus, in order to refute these stereotypes, particularly about women’s roles in Islam, groups committed to promoting the rights of women within the framework of Islam work to expose the misuse of religion and promote the true nature of Islam through political and social influence. These reformists shape and influence the laws of the nations in which they reside, encouraging justice, equality, freedom, and full participation for both men and women in the political and social arena. However, the ways in which these reformists approach and justify polygamy, especially in regards to men’s sexuality, leads to different manifestations of how social justice, expectations of men, and sexuality are perceived among Muslims.
In Malaysia in 1988, a group of Muslim professional women, Sisters in Islam (SIS), committed to promoting the rights of women within the framework of Islam. This group encouraged the full participation of Muslim women as equal partners in society, and placed emphasis on the importance that the female experience, thought, and voice be included in the interpretation of the Quran and in the administration of religion in the Muslim world. In the 1990 Aishah Abdul Rauf vs Wan Mohd Yusuf Wan Othman case, the appellant contested the decision of the Syariah judge allowing her husband to contract a 2nd marriage. She claimed that her husband had not fulfilled all of the conditions set by the Selangor Family Law Enactment 1984 for persons desiring to contract a polygamous marriage. The Malaysian court allowed her appeal. It held that the Syariah judge had only considered the question whether the appellant’s husband had the financial means to support two wives. It concluded, among other things, that there was no evidence that the proposed marriage was both just and necessary or that the husband had the capability of according equal treatment to both wives. In response to this case, the Sisters in Islam women’s group issued a press release in order to further clarify the decision and bring light to the misconceptions that were held about polygamy in Islam and the conditions in which it entails. In this press release, SIS refutes the invalid belief that polygamy is a “God-given right enshrined in the Quran and invalidates the common idea that Islam has found the ideal solution to men’s “alleged insatiable sexual drive” by allowing polygamy. Sisters in Islam applauds the Selangor Syariah Appeal Court’s judgment for spurring a necessary public debate about these misconceptions that were engrained in much of Malaysian familial culture and had been mistakenly elevated to be the word of God. In this way, SIS are not only working towards equality and justice for women, but are also promoting the credibility and legitimacy of men as equal human beings, discouraging the popular dehumanization and animalization of men as purely sexual beings with no control over their desires. SIS emphasize that men are in control of their desires, and thus the Quran does not give them the blanket right to have more than one wife; “Polygamy is not a right, but a responsibility to ensure that socio-justice be done to orphans. What Allah has granted is in fact a restriction on the existing practice of that time when men could marry as many wives as they wanted.” The emphasis lies here on the responsibility given to men to ensure the wellbeing of women and orphans, setting conditions to guarantee that justice is done. These conditions are as follows: 1) polygamy is permitted within the context of war and orphans. It is permitted only if the men fear they would not be able to deal justly with the orphans, 2) the man who wants to be polygamous must have the capacity to be fair and just to all his wives. The verse is a call for just conduct towards women, not a right for men to fulfill their alleged lustful desires or their ego. And just treatment here means more than a man’s financial capacity to support more than one wife. He must be fail in all ways, including the time, support, and companionship he provides to the wives and children, and 3) if the man fears he cannot deal justly with all his wives, then Allah advocated that he should marry only one as this will prevent injustice. These conditions are put in place to ensure justice and to ensure that polygamy is used in the way that is compatible with the Quran and is not taken advantage of or misused. To assure this, the historical context in which these verses were revealed are analyzed in great detail so that their intent is clear. The context that this verse was revealed was a period of tragedy in Islam after the Battle of Uhud when dozens of Muslim men were killed in Medina in one day, leaving numerous women and children without support. In response to this tragedy, God revealed the verse in which He allowed men to be polygamous. This analysis of the socio-historical context reveals the purpose of polygamy in Islam, as a mercy and a tool to give support during a tragic and necessary time. Furthermore, the idea that this verse was revealed as a solution to men’s uncontrolled sexual desires is challenged with an evaluation of Islam’s teachings. Islam is a religion that emphasizes self-control, self-discipline, and self-purification; these ideals can be viewed in many aspects of the religion such as maintaining the five daily prayers, fasting during the month of Ramadan annually, and abiding by the prohibitions on impurities. Thus, the solution to an immoral society, whether in the West or in the Muslim world, is not polygamy. The solution, as found in the Quran and the hadith, is a change of attitude from indulging in promiscuity to one of self-discipline and respect for the opposite sex. In this way, the emphasis is placed on the currently immoral state of humanity, of blind indulgence on desires and perversion of the religion, and blame is taken away from the religion itself. Women are not passive objects to be used for fulfillment of pleasure and desire with no regard to their rights and emotions. Women deserve equality and justice; women’s opinions and consent deserve to be considered. For this particular ruling, SIS showed why multiple wives for men isn’t an inherent right, why the viewpoint of men being animalistic beings with a hyper-sexual drive, incapable of controlling their desires, is not supported or encouraged by Islam, and why it is imperative that women be considered and heard in such cases and legal matters where a man is unable to fulfill any aspect of the conditions that would cause an unfair or harmful living situation for one or multiple wives.
I am a nineteen-year-old Muslim-American woman living in The South. I care deeply about people and seek to create harmony in the relationships I have with people. I was born in Egypt but moved to Finland when I was only two months old and lived there for the first six years of my life before moving to America. I was brought up as a mixture of Egyptian and American, always aiming to never lose touch with my Egyptian heritage and all of my family that lives there. My close-knit family is my safety; I am the most comfortable and content when I am with my family. I am the middle child between an older brother and younger sister, but from us I am the most one that actively works to keep touch with the other hyphenated aspect of my identity on a deeper level. I value my family, I value uniqueness and diversity, and I work to always maintain both aspects in the special mixture that is my identity. I am passionate about becoming someone who is able to incorporate my experiences and my beliefs into a lifestyle. I am passionate about equality, justice, and freedoms, and am not afraid to voice those beliefs in the form of blog posts and article pieces. However, I have bad anxiety, something I have dealt with all of my life, caused by various factors in my life. That anxiety presents itself in the form of difficulty in speaking in public settings – whether it be a presentation for a hundred people, a meeting, or just a discussion in a classroom. This anxiety is something that has hindered me in being able to fully advocate for myself and voice my concerns in settings outside of the Internet. I am a complex person, and often times I have trouble understanding myself. When I was in the seventh grade, I decided to start wearing the hijab (head scarf) and my life has not been the same since. I believe that my life experiences and passionate beliefs have shaped me into the Social Work student I am today.
This might sound like the cliché-Muslim thing to say, but my life is everything but cliché. My experiences, my childhood, my complex emotions, they are all things that make what I am about to say all further from cliché and further from normal. My kind of unordinary was painful and disturbing; unordinary meant secrets, and secrets meant distress and bottled up emotions. But exposure meant pain, and a disturbance in the flawless image, however false and superficial, I had built up for myself. Exposure meant too many things that were too difficult to think about, and so memories were blocked. Despite my feelings of shame, I knew I could control my image, I knew that I deserved to be respected, I knew that I wasn’t a bad person, and I knew that I needed the help and assurance of a higher power in my life. That is why choosing to wear the headscarf, the hijab, was a critical point in my life that changed many aspects of my life. I had always planned to wear it at some point as a religious obligation, but when and why, that was up to me. Overseas, Egyptian culture was very passive to the hijab; the decision wasn’t personal and meaningful as much as it was just a normal fashionable addition to their attire. Overseas, it was almost embarrassing not to wear one when all your friends were. I knew I wanted my decision to be deeper and more meaningful; this was a life-long relationship, a commitment, and a seemingly hard one for someone living in America. The difficulties I had endured so far caused me to desire respect, self-content, modesty, and a cause to be a part of. I refused to let my body be a source of judgment or of potential respect. I would earn my respect from society through my words, my thoughts, and my actions. I would use the struggles I had endured as a source of empowerment and opportunity. I finally had a cause to work for, I finally had a purpose, as a Muslim-American, I would continuously work to prove Media wrong, to clear up misconceptions, to fight oppression and bring a voice to the voiceless, all while fulfilling a religious duty and a personal desire to respect my body and leave the past in the past.
The implications of this decision were not made aware to me until later on. Through the lens of the ecological perspective, one can see the many ways in which I have responded to life stressors and the environment in which has affected my thinking and behavior. The ecological perspective makes clear the need to view people and environments as a unitary system within a particular cultural and historic context. Both person and environment can be fully understood only in terms of their relationship, in which each continually influences the other within a particular context (UNCP).
In order to cope with the challenges and anxieties that were prevalent in my life that were seemingly out of my control, I decided to take control of what I was capable of and build a sense of self-esteem in order to feel competence, self-worth, and respect (UNCP). I believed that I was controlling how society perceived me; I believed that with the hijab I was demanding that society respect me for my thoughts and not for my body. I knew that it would be difficult, but I didn’t perceive the ways in which it would affect me psychologically, how words could pierce through me; I didn’t realize the constant struggle and responsibility a piece of cloth carried. I didn’t realize how all of the microaggressions (Pierce, 1973), the pin-pricks, the slurs and stares, would build up, and how that would affect me.
“Racial aggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults towards a specific group of people” (Moore).
I was naïve to the neon sign I had wrapped around my head and the ways in which society would incessantly judge me, especially living in post-9/11 America. I underestimated the severity of the situation; I didn’t predict that I would be attending so many court-hearings, whether it be to stop the Anti-Sharia bill from passing in Tennessee or for our equal right to have a place of worship.
“In addition to legislative violations of civil liberties, Muslims face physical abuses and social discrimination. The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice reports that allegations of abuse include: telephone, internet, and face- to- face threats; minor assaults; vandalism; shootings; and bombings of homes, businesses, and places of worship. In 2007, CAIR reported receiving about 1,900 complaints of abuse and noted that anti-Muslim physical violence increased by 52 percentbetween2003and2004. These attacks create fear throughout the community as Muslims are targeted in perceived safe places such as mosques and their homes. Additionally, nearly ten years after 9/11, a loud debate has arisen in the mainstream concerning the building of mosques around the nation (Moore).”
Furthermore, beyond the societal aspect, I underestimated how all of this would in turn affect me on a personal and psychological level. Thus, something that had been a personal coping mechanism became a struggle in itself and became a life-long battle for equality and justice, with me as the casualty; injured and hurt, but not broken. One could say, using the ecological perspective of assessing person-in-environment, that the “outcome of the adaptive exchange” – the result of my adaptation to cope with my anxiety – was even more anxiety, but also resilience (Zastrow). Psychologically, I am ever-more persistent, my cause ever-more clear. I have developed anxiety, and sometimes that hinders my ability to voice my thoughts and opinions and advocate for what I stand for. The positive religious coping method I had chosen to use to deal with anxiety of the past instead led to another form of anxiety; an anxiety produced by an attack on my identity and on the way I choose to live my life. Research done by Mona M. Amer, PhD reveals the impact 9/11 had on Muslim-Americans’ well-being. What they have found is anxiety, depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder among a population some call doubly traumatized—first by the attacks themselves and then by the finger-pointing that followed. But they’ve also found effective coping and resilience, especially among young Muslim Americans (American Psychological Association). According to a study published in the Journal of Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, a quarter reported moderate to severe anxiety as a result of racial profiling and discrimination (Clay). These results are especially striking given that admitting to mental health problems is generally considered taboo in Muslim culture. However, despite the anxiety and the prejudice, I, more than ever, take advantage of my position in society as an opportunity educate. I am a hyphenated identity and am content with that; I have a strong sense of American-ness, and I think that gives me resilience. “The fact that young Muslims can experience high levels of discrimination and still identify as Americans is a uniquely American phenomenon. In Europe, Muslims are denied the possibility of becoming an integral part of the country they have settled for generations,” he says. “After two generations in Germany, Turks still don’t call themselves Germans, for example. That’s not the case in the United States (American Psychological Association).
Having experienced discrimination, prejudice, and the anxieties associated with those experiences, my insight will help me in my ability to understand and advocate for clients who are minorities and use my experiences and knowledge to shape public policies and social justice in America. Furthermore, through the analysis of critical points in my life, I am able to understand on a deeper level the mechanisms and behavioral components that are a result of these experiences. I have always assessed and analyzed my life and tried to make sense of it from a psychological standpoint, analyzing the emotions and behaviors and contributing theories and aspects of the social environment to form explanations about my complicated life. It is important to take into account how certain coping mechanisms and adaptive behaviors can impact one’s self-esteem, societal relationships, and mental health, whether working with clients or analyzing, assessing, and advocating for policies in light of equality and social justice for the under-privileged and for those that are victims of their pasts. My own experiences and analyses have caused me to be persistent and to expand my cause, going beyond just my race and religion, standing for equality and justice in every form, for every country, for everyone.
After watching the Somewhere In America video, which consists of Muslim hijabi women, that call themselves “Muslim hipsters” or “#Mipsterz”, dressed in stylish clothing, goofing around with friends, taking selfies, skateboarding in heels, and just having fun, I watched it again, and again, and again.
The video is very well-done; it’s a light, cute video of girls being girls. The colors are beautiful. The clothes are gorgeous. And the hijabi women look beautiful, for reasons other than their clothes. They look beautiful because they’re young, they’re adventurous, they’re grinning, they’re happy.
Just a bunch of really cool-looking hijabi women being girls, being happy, being goofy, expressing themselves, in a really well-done video.
All of a sudden I’m seeing post after post on Facebook and Twitter bashing the video, bashing the girls, dissecting imaginary ideas; people calling them “non-hijabis”, people calling them “disgusting”, people accusing them of “objectifying" Muslim women and promoting fitnah.
Firstly, the amount of MEN criticizing this video is ridiculous (just go read all the tweets for the hashtag #mipsterz). Dear men, until you have experienced how it feels to wear hijab in America, with all due respect, shut your mouth. Being a hijabi in America is a flashing neon sign that screams ISLAM, and we, as hijabis, constantly feel the pressure from our societies and Muslim communities to be perfect in order to represent a whopping 1.6 billion people. I constantly feel the judgemental eyes as I stand in line at the local grocery store, all too aware of the cloth on my head and what it represents. That said, I, being a hijabi, refuse to add to that pressure. As a human being, making mistakes helps us grow and discover ourselves and the world in which we live. Expressing myself through my style, thoughts, and hobbies, helps me grow, as an individual and as a Muslim woman.
Islam does not oppress women, so stop oppressing us by making unrealistic and outrageous expectations that we must all be the same, and must all follow your guidelines and expectations. Stop telling women that their hijab is “wrong” because they choose to wear it in a different way than the girls overseas do. There is a fine line between naseehah (advice) and blatant bashing. And most importantly, stop judging and shaming our women.
I will not be a walking figure for men in the community to judge and criticize as they please. I will not be a walking list of Men’s Expectations.
Secondly, I love (read: hate) how our community digs to find flaws in our women. That is offensive to me. Thank you, for ignoring all the ladies in the video wearing maxi skirts and dresses, layers, and loose clothing. Thank you for ignoring the beautiful smiles these women have. As Urooj said in her response,
"Most of [the women] are ignoring the camera altogether and are wrapped up in their own acrobatics- dancing, jumping, and goofing off with their friends. But because there is some gorgeous lighting and they look pretty in it, they’re being objectified? If that’s the case, is it possible for a hijabi to look good without it being a performance for the male gaze?"
Thank you also for taking that one line about Miley Cyrus twerking, and turning it into a “sexualizing and objectifying video.” Breathe for a second, and go Rap Genius the song first.
“This song is about racism still being alive in America, but #somewhereinamerica there are people of all races embracing African American culture, (wanting to be more tan, Miley Cyrus twerking, etc…) You can’t teach racism when your child is connected to the culture.”
Didn’t know that, did you? Exactly.
Thank you for making something so light and positive, so frustrating. Please continue to tell Muslim women how superficial and shameless they are. Because there really isn’t enough of that happening already.
Women find agency and empowerment in many different forms and #mipsterz proves exactly that. Wearing hijab does not mean you are required to lose your individuality and personality. Whether you are a fashionista or an athlete, no one has the right to stifle your freedom to express yourself. Wearing hijab confidently, proudly, modestly, and if you wish, fashionably, with your own (but halal) twist, creates a beautiful, confident, respected, strong, unique woman.
We are human. We are diverse. And we cannot be forced into boxes that are impossible to fit in.
I wish we (Muslims) would focus more on poverty, war, and correcting misconceptions, and less on over-analyzing something that is plain and simple, a cute/fun video of girls being girls, and that suddenly ONE line from a song becomes the whole focus and purpose of a video. Reality is, there are Muslim girls out there who struggle with and delay wearing hijab because they just don’t know how to make it work and be modest and please God while still including their sense of style, and maybe they found courage in taking that step. And there are non-Muslims (a lot of them) that have the misconception that Muslim women are oppressed, are forced to stay home, and ultimately can’t have “fun” or be independent or follow dreams or do anything really. Point is, we’re each unique, we each have our own aspirations, our own styles, our own hobbies, our own dreams, our own ways of having fun, living life, and expressing ourselves. I think if we focused less on criticizing and over-analyzing each other so much we would go a long way.
Just my opinion.
Regardless, it’s creating conversation and that’s a good thing.
عيش، حريه، فراخ و ملوخية #koloyeghames @ayahabasha
Don’t usually reblog but this required it.
Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.
Being poor is getting angry at your kids for asking for all the crap they see on TV.
Being poor is having to keep buying $800 cars because they’re what you can afford, and then having the cars break down on you, because there’s not an $800 car in America that’s worth a damn.
Being poor is hoping the toothache goes away.
Being poor is knowing your kid goes to friends’ houses but never has friends over to yours.
Being poor is going to the restroom before you get in the school lunch line so your friends will be ahead of you and won’t hear you say “I get free lunch” when you get to the cashier.
Being poor is living next to the freeway.
Being poor is coming back to the car with your children in the back seat, clutching that box of Raisin Bran you just bought and trying to think of a way to make the kids understand that the box has to last.
Being poor is wondering if your well-off sibling is lying when he says he doesn’t mind when you ask for help.
Being poor is off-brand toys.
Being poor is a heater in only one room of the house.
Being poor is knowing you can’t leave $5 on the coffee table when your friends are around.
Being poor is hoping your kids don’t have a growth spurt.
Being poor is stealing meat from the store, frying it up before your mom gets home and then telling her she doesn’t have make dinner tonight because you’re not hungry anyway.
Being poor is Goodwill underwear.
Being poor is not enough space for everyone who lives with you.
Being poor is feeling the glued soles tear off your supermarket shoes when you run around the playground.
Being poor is your kid’s school being the one with the 15-year-old textbooks and no air conditioning.
Being poor is thinking $8 an hour is a really good deal.
Being poor is relying on people who don’t give a damn about you.
Being poor is an overnight shift under florescent lights.
Being poor is finding the letter your mom wrote to your dad, begging him for the child support.
Being poor is a bathtub you have to empty into the toilet.
Being poor is stopping the car to take a lamp from a stranger’s trash.
Being poor is making lunch for your kid when a cockroach skitters over the bread, and you looking over to see if your kid saw.
Being poor is believing a GED actually makes a goddamned difference.
Being poor is people angry at you just for walking around in the mall.
Being poor is not taking the job because you can’t find someone you trust to watch your kids.
Being poor is the police busting into the apartment right next to yours.
Being poor is not talking to that girl because she’ll probably just laugh at your clothes.
Being poor is hoping you’ll be invited for dinner.
Being poor is a sidewalk with lots of brown glass on it.
Being poor is people thinking they know something about you by the way you talk.
Being poor is needing that 35-cent raise.
Being poor is your kid’s teacher assuming you don’t have any books in your home.
Being poor is six dollars short on the utility bill and no way to close the gap.
Being poor is crying when you drop the mac and cheese on the floor.
Being poor is knowing you work as hard as anyone, anywhere.
Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually stupid.
Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually lazy.
Being poor is a six-hour wait in an emergency room with a sick child asleep on your lap.
Being poor is never buying anything someone else hasn’t bought first.
Being poor is picking the 10 cent ramen instead of the 12 cent ramen because that’s two extra packages for every dollar.
Being poor is having to live with choices you didn’t know you made when you were 14 years old.
Being poor is getting tired of people wanting you to be grateful.
Being poor is knowing you’re being judged.
Being poor is a box of crayons and a $1 coloring book from a community center Santa.
Being poor is checking the coin return slot of every soda machine you go by.
Being poor is deciding that it’s all right to base a relationship on shelter.
Being poor is knowing you really shouldn’t spend that buck on a Lotto ticket.
Being poor is hoping the register lady will spot you the dime.
Being poor is feeling helpless when your child makes the same mistakes you did, and won’t listen to you beg them against doing so.
Being poor is a cough that doesn’t go away.
Being poor is making sure you don’t spill on the couch, just in case you have to give it back before the lease is up.
Being poor is a $200 paycheck advance from a company that takes $250 when the paycheck comes in.
Being poor is four years of night classes for an Associates of Art degree.
Being poor is a lumpy futon bed.
Being poor is knowing where the shelter is.
Being poor is people who have never been poor wondering why you choose to be so.
Being poor is knowing how hard it is to stop being poor.
Being poor is seeing how few options you have.
Being poor is running in place.
Being poor is people wondering why you didn’t leave.
By John Scalzi
“Are all of America’s enemies as terrible as they are portrayed? Are any of them unjustly accused and blamed? Are all of the wars the U.S. has started or been involved in justifiable? What have we done? How blind have we become to the truth, and how far will we go to find it? Will we ignorantly sit back and soak up lies, misconceptions, stereotypes, and blatant deception as the world falls apart at the seams around us? As one by one nations bleed, at our hands? And what about Syria, will we let America intervene? And Palestine? Burma? What about the nations the media hasn’t even told us about? Is our silence and ignorance killing them, literally? Can we afford this dangerous and treacherous ignorance?”
As a Muslim living in North America, I couldn’t function in just a hijab, the most covert of the Muslim garbs. People threw rocks at me, asked me ignorant/offensive questions like why I chose to subject myself to an “inherently patriarchal religion,” called me a terrorist, and so many more incidences I can’t even keep track. Yet it’s totally cool to play dress-up with hair and face coverings as long as it doesn’t have anything to do with an actual Muslim? Newsflash: It’s not a costume for you to wear, it’s not another one of your attention-seeking meat/frog dresses, it’s a symbol of my religion NOT a fashion statement.
—McKayla Reilly, (Lady Gaga’s New Low: Why “Burqa Swag” Needs to STOP)
This is what catcallers are telling me: these are our streets. You are vulnerable, and we are in the position of power. You have to listen to us…. they have a right to their own bodies, while I don’t have a right to mine. They think that they have a right to my body.
Be proud of who you are. Don’t let society’s judgements hinder or limit your ability to dream and change the world. Yes, I am Egyptian-American. Yes, I am Muslim. Yes, I dream of the day the world will know true peace, justice, love, and freedom. Yes, I will let my voice be heard. My oppression is not within; I am confident with who I am and what I choose to believe. I am happy with the way I dress and the lifestyle I lead. My oppression lies with society’s brutal stereotypes and misconceptions of who I am.