Feminism is quite a loaded term in Muslim societies. Everything from technology to Islamic science and even Islamic banking is acceptable but if I claim to stand for Islamic feminism, frowns begun to appear on faces of every soul who brand every western strand of knowledge as un-Islamic without caring about its epistemology and philosophy. If they would care to introspect at a deeper level they will find out how hollow their analysis and brandings are?
From the failed project of Islamisation of knowledge to Islamic banking most Muslim men of knowledge do adhere to these redundant terms. But would like to term Islamic feminism as a Western extension, conspiracy and project aimed at opening the doors of moral laxity and destroy the structure and institution of family in the Muslim world that is already under strain more because of modernity, globalization and forces of change rather than a grand conspiracy of west. It has become an innocent excuse for Muslims that instead of introspection they brand everything vice as Western and Jewish conspiracy. This conspiracy theory mindset has led Muslims towards self aggrandizement putting a pace on their progress and intellectual development.
The question of women is a tricky one for Muslims as they believe that Islam has bestowed complete set of rights on women hence they do not need salvation in Feminism. Also they may be visionary about this project of Islamic feminism unlike the failed projects of Islamic banking and Islamisation of knowledge that they can surmise about its death, even when it has not matured. Muslim women do not need to be rescued through a legal recourse or a male chauvinist like Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not need to come to their rescue. What they need is to reclaim their rights that Islam, Quran and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) have already bestowed on them. But over the centuries patriarchy, misogyny and interpretation of Holy scriptures at the hands of men have snatched away these revolutionary rights from Muslim women. Now this patriarchy needs to be fought and Muslim women need to reclaim their rights.
Islamic feminism is a movement to restore those rights and interpret Islam in a gender just manner. Let’s leave the label Islamic feminism or Gender Justice in Islam as they aim for the same goals. I associate myself with the gender justice movement in Islam. It is easy for a woman to be associated as a feminist. But man as a feminist? Nay what are you talking about? How can a male be a feminist? No, he must be gay that is camouflaging his sexuality in the garb of feminism. Your make friends tag you as gay or a womanizer. For some male friends, claiming to be a feminist is the best way to reach out to women, make friends and exploit. Most males think that male-female friendship is not possible but with some sexual angle associated with it. Some clever male friends who are aware of your acquaintance with females want you to act as intermediary who is a ladder to their love tangles, affairs and flirts.
To your female friends, colleagues and acquaintances most of the times you are too effeminate as you are emotional like any human being should be. But patriarchy has reinforced this belief among them that men should not sob or display any emotions or they can’t afford to because they are brave and need to protect women. Most of them do not see gentle and gender just men as future husbands but men who are best suited to act as shoulders, thus friend zoned. Also if you afford to have a girlfriend or a fiancé and she ditches you or is unfaithful and you leave her without punishment, whether physical or psychological then you certainly don’t deserve the right to be called a man. Not to talk of your male friends as for them you are a spineless scoundrel, even the female friends tag you as jackass because you don’t believe in revenge.
I remember a fellow male feminist friend, who hosted two female friends for a week. When they were about to leave one of them intimated him that they guess he was impotent because having every chance for a week to take physical advantage atleast with one of them, he missed the opportunity of exploring gorgeous girls. As if getting physical is the only trait of being a man. Feminist or Gender Just men are not impotent or without physical desires but they cherish the fact that before getting physical love must be there, instead of just animal instincts ruling roost. They cherish the value of being loyal to their girlfriends or wives instead of satiating their sexual hunger whenever they find an opportunity.
To the religious minded patriarchal friends and colleagues you are just opening the flood gates of promiscuity, breaking families and granting limitless freedom to women who already have been condemned to be deficient in reason and religion. Further granting them decision making power that too as wives will create a havoc, as the wives are supposed to be subservient to their husbands because marriage as an institution can run only when there is one head. Marriage according to them is not based on mutual love, respect and understanding but on power relations that they camouflage in the disguise of religion and social norms.
The biggest shock you receive is when your female feminist friends would assign themselves the job of a mullah and begin issuing Fatwas when they seem to disagree with you. The best whip to lash at you is to brand you as patriarchal because you may not be on the same page with them about any issue. I had not encountered this bitter experience from fellow female feminists until recently when in a divorce case after listening to both the parties, I happened to reach out at a solution that for me was pragmatic one. But the feminists had made up the mind to punish the husband as he was male and the wife had rattled that he abused her which was admitted prima facie without authentication. Feminism for me does not stand for male bashing, but gender justice in which both sexes are equal stakeholders. I tried to further my efforts in resolving the vexed problem and tried to enquire about the next steps of the feminist group about which I had the illusion that they considered me a part of it. But to my utter surprise and shock the ‘feminist friend’ rebuked me by saying that they cannot disclose their cards as I am a male and its is difficult for me to be a feminist though I tried to be one, as if her ratification and certificate for me was essential for me to be a gender justice activist or a feminist. So the dilemma and dichotomy is always prevalent about your activism and stance towards gender justice even among feminists.
But if your core beliefs are strong and one believes with head and heart in gender justice then these perils are no threat to your cause. Further one needs to remind oneself that there is little good in the world and it certainly is worth fighting for. Gender Justice is one such cause and you don’t need to be a woman to be a soldier for gender jihad. All you need is a burning desire to smash patriarchy and being different to what patriarchs or feminists say about you. You are there for justice and that is all you need to remind yourself.
*M.H.A.Sikander is Writer-Activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir. This article was published by New Age Islam.