in category Politics

Are you a Social Justice Warrior, White Knight or Mansplainer?

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There seems to be a polarised debate going on around feminism.

On the one hand you have those who see feminism as a pernicious attempt to secularise the Muslim community by attempting to present the Muslim woman needing to be saved by engaging in the reinterpretation of the Islamic texts to fit within liberal ideals. The idea that Muslim men are particularly more evil than men in particular and thus the Muslim woman needs to be saved. Not only do those who criticise feminism believe it demonises Muslim men but plays into the colonial stereotype of the oppressed Muslim woman saved by the white colonial master.

On the other hand there are those who claim that feminism has many shades, strands and waves such that fighting against misogyny doesn't equate to adopting secular liberal values. That those who are attempting to criticise feminists are inadvertently justifying the oppression of women through their mansplaining. Or that they seek to distract against the greater crime that's being perpetrated by men against women through domestic violence, sexual abuse and harassment. Why don't they spend more time speaking about the greater crime against women rather than criticising the articulation of those who are oppressed? Furthermore the criticism that's being presented by anti feminists are simply a criticism of one particular type of feminism, the white liberal kind or the femen type.

Anyways here's my thoughts.

Firstly I think it's unhelpful to polarise the debate between feminism and anti feminism. As the language used tends to entrench peoples views rather than enlightening them to understand each other's position. This goes equally for those advocating feminism as to those criticising it. This should never be presented as an either or situation. Either you're against feminism and support current status quo of oppression against women, or you are pro feminist and thus want to see the text of Islam change to fit within secular tastes. A person can be against secularism while at the same time criticise and condemn oppression against women. The substance of what they mean is more important than the terms they use.

Secondly (with the above being noted) we need to ensure we don't develop our language and philosophy that aligns itself with a foreign ideology. Feminism is a political thought originally developed in the west. Therefore it's going to maintain a flavour unique to western political and ideological outlook. What Muslims shouldn't do is co-opt such terminology as it will colour the manner by which we see solutions to problems. This doesn't mean there aren't real problems that exist around women being disadvantaged by men and within Muslim societies and communities. But rather than mimicking foreign terminologies to Islam we should be developing our own thoughts and approaches to this subject. In that way we aren't tempted to follow the dominant cultural and ideological mindset that exists today which is secular liberal capitalism.

Thirdly we need to be aware of our own viewpoint on life and thus the premise on which our rights are set. Gender, roles and identity have been determined by a unique outlook developed by Islam. That means in practical terms when we face problems whether women facing domestic violence, sexual abuse, or roles of gender within the family these will be set by the guidance of Islam. In that way we seek to step out of the box of the secular liberal mindset which is all pervasive. Meaning that sometimes we don't even realise we are viewing problems and it's solutions from a foreign unislamic basis. Eg that the problem is solved by more women in position of leadership, this in and of itself isn't the solution rather it's the type of people (men and women) in positions of leadership who have a particular unique Islamic outlook that address issues and problems.

Fourthly there needs to be articulation and proper importance given by those who criticise feminism to the plight of oppressed women. What some do is try to "redress the balance" by highlighting violence against men which then sounds like ignoring the plight that affects many more women. Thus we see this men v women type approach trying to prove who faces more disadvantages compared to others. If the problem you have is the articulation of problems faced by women within a "feminist" discourse that doesn't mean ignore the problem but rather demonstrate its articulation from an Islamic basis. In that way if the persons problem isn't with you highlighting the problem but with the solution you present within Islam then the issue of ideological viewpoint would now need to be addressed.

Finally I think it's also important to be proactive in demonstrating that many types of oppression against women are built around liberal secular ideas. The very claim by some individuals that Islam needs to be reformed to save Muslim women needs to be turned on its head. The current Harvey Weinstein scandal is a case in point, the problem exists because men and women have attempted to define how they want to interact with each other thus leading to confusion with some claiming that flirting in the work place is fine while others seeing this as harassment (which it is). Islam defines the manner by which we engage leaving any intimate aspects confined within the sanctity of marriage and not beyond that. Thus men and women should interact with each other in their public life as human beings without the sexual dimension at all.

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