I have been asked about what my thoughts were regarding the event entitled ‘Can Muslims escape Misogyny?’ organised by a Muslim organisation in London.
With all due respect to the organisers, I think the titling of this event is ill-advised. The title ‘Can Muslims escape Misogyny?’, may lead the wider public to perceive the reason for the event, as reinforcing the current Islamophobic cliche that Muslims are generally misogynists, and that we are collectively guilty of it. Consider what if there was a debate called ‘Can Muslims escape barbarism?’, or even ‘Can Blacks escape crime?’, or even ‘Can Gays escape being the main spreaders of AIDS? ‘. Would it be easy to explain that those events were only talking about some Muslims, Blacks, or ‘Gays’? These titles inescapably assume that the starting position is that Muslims are barbarians, blacks commit crime, and that Gays are the main spreaders of AIDS – and merely seem to question only whether or not these positions can be ‘escaped from’.
If the title of the event was ‘Is Islam misogynist?’, it would have been better, in my opinion. It is a neutral question, that does not assume a position prior to answering it.
Better labeling of events is important: ‘Can Islam address the mistreatment of women in the world?’, or ‘What is the Islamic solution to injustice against women’, or even ‘How can Muslims eliminate the abuse of women from the world?’. These better titles will A) Show that Islam is against mistreatment of women, B) Allow Muslims to be educated about how to tackle such issues, and C) Show the greater public that Muslims are actively tackling such issues, and not requiring any outside ideas or concepts to reform Islam.
Secondly, the use of the term ‘misogyny’ is misleading. It is mainly employed in Feminist theory, which critiques traditional social and familial structures, and is deeply misplaced.
The injustice towards women occurs not due to a hatred or contempt of women – but due to selfish abuses of power. These abuses of power are occurring across the board throughout the Muslim world, and world in general. The poor get abused, the defenceless, the exploitable, the civilian population, the intellectuals (who criticise the government), the scholars, and even a great deal of men. In fact, more men are beaten, abused and killed in the world than women – as men are considered more of a threat to the powerful – this is why governments, police and armies arrest more men who are political dissidents, and not their wives. Injustice does not discriminate gender, injustice will happen whenever those in power view it as a privilege and not a responsibility, and abuse their position over those who do not have it.
Muslims are told by Feminists that the only way they can obtain rights for women, is through Feminism, and Feminist discourses, and not by calling for the application of Islam.
If, as the Feminists argue, this can be eliminated by removing power from those that wield it, in order to protect others, and therefore get rid of ‘the power of males over women’ (which they call ‘patriarchy’), then you must also get rid of government, police, army, family, money and all such institutions – which is frankly absurd. The real solution is to have accountability, and the establishment of an enlightened solution and set of checks and balances that will be used to ‘straighten’ those with power into doing justice, and guide those who have power, as to how to wield it, and by giving adequate protection to the weak. This is how Islam approaches the issue, not by eliminating power, but by inculcating responsibility, and we should focus on how Islam can achieve this.
Using Feminist discourse is potentially dangerous, as Feminists would consider the Islamic organisation of the family as ‘misogynistic’ . Likewise they would also label as ‘misogynistic’ the Islamic system of inheritance, the male obligation to support and physically defend the family, and the position husbands are given with respect to responsibility over the family (of course, with mutual consultation between the spouses).
As Muslims, we should be very wary of borrowing terms that we do not fully understand, or that have the underpinnings of foreign and unIslamic concepts, which unwittingly make Muslims employ a discourse (e.g. Feminism) and language that does not exist in the Islamic worldview. Misogyny is not the problem – injustice is.
Lastly, the press release accompanying the titled event reads ‘Muslim Intellectuals Prepare to tackle misogyny in Islamic theology’.
Islamic theology is not ‘anti-women’, nor are there ‘anti-women’ opinions that need to be tackled. Nowhere, even in the most shallow and cultural understandings of Islam, does it advocate the oppression of women. The only issue is, only whether some Islamic opinions adequately protect women from unIslamic husbands or practices; Or whether the current institutions in the Muslim world, are doing enough to enforce Islamic rights and protections for women. Currently, I’d argue that most (if not virtually all) do not even enforce the most basic of Islamic rights or protections for people generally, let alone for women.
I am in full support of events which talk about the Islamic solution to the mistreatment of women, and the denial of their Islamic rights in Muslim countries and communities – but we mustn’t lose sight that these problems are merely symptoms of the greater problem of a lack of Islam, and its application, in those countries.
The Muslim world is currently suffering from stagnation in thought, shallow and superficial thinking, misunderstandings of the world, and a regression to a state which Islam considers to be one of anarchy, i.e. Jahiliyyah (ignorance).
The maltreatment of women is only a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. We as Muslims should free ourselves from this first, as well as freeing ourselves from foreign discourses which skew Muslim thinking and approaches to tackling these issues, and potentially end up obstructing the solution, rather than providing one.