Muslim women speaking up against violence are silenced. We must amplify their voices

4500Muslim women inhabit a uniquely marginalised space in a world where the existence of rampant Islamophobia both disregards their voices in the wider world and is also used to justify silencing their voices within Muslim communities – by prioritising the issue of anti-Muslim racism over the struggle against patriarchal oppressions.

This reaction is familiar to many Muslim women who speak out, write, or activate in public spaces against the patriarchal oppressions and violence they face. The active policing of women’s voices inside Muslim communities and the prejudice and racism faced by us outside of our communities contributes to creating exceptionally testing conditions for Muslim women survivors of violence, activists, and allies.

The prevalent patriarchal order dictates which forms of violence against Muslims are more urgent and demand activism on our part. Under this order, anti-Muslim racism wins many times over before patriarchal oppressions are even discussed. The system that protects male privilege and gender hierarchies goes into overdrive when the reputation at stake is that of prominent Muslim men, such as clerics.

When Muslim women speak up about this, we are accused of creating theatre. Some people add the helpful reminder that “not all Muslim men” behave like this. I grew up in a majority Muslim country; I know not all Muslim men are sexual predators but I also know that many, many men are – in cultures, communities and countries around the world. So I choose to believe women.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN (UK)

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Tunisian women free to marry non-Muslims

_97814350_gettyimages-504960454Tunisia has overturned a law that banned women from marrying non-Muslims.

A spokeswoman for President Beji Caid Essebsi made the announcement and congratulated women on gaining “the freedom to choose one’s spouse”.

Until now, a non-Muslim man who wished to marry a Tunisian Muslim woman had to convert to Islam and submit a certificate of his conversion as proof.

Tunisia, which is 99% Muslim, is viewed as one of the most progressive Arab countries in terms of women’s rights.

The new law comes after President Essebsi pushed for the lifting of the marriage restriction decree that was put in place in 1973.

He said in a speech last month, during celebrations of the National Women’s day, that the marriage law was “an obstacle to the freedom of choice of the spouse”.

The restriction was also seen as violating Tunisia’s constitution which was adopted in 2014 in the wake of the Arab Spring revolution.

Human rights groups in Tunisia had also campaigned for the law’s abolition.

The order comes into force immediately and couples are free to register their marriages at government offices.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE BBC 

Panel shares view on role of women in major religions

women

Women representing different religions came together Sunday to explore the important roles their gender played in the founding and development of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The panel discussion at the Turkish Cultural Center of Long Island in Ronkonkoma was part of “Abraham’s Table,” an interfaith series designed to share traditions and perspectives.

Rabbi Sheila Goloboy, Sister Vicki Toale and Middle Eastern studies lecturer Zuleyha Colak highlighted the women who, religious texts say, interacted directly with God or angels and guided the early leaders of the three major monotheistic religions.

Goloboy said the matriarchs of Judaism — including Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Hagar and Keturah — had “large roles” and “strong voices.”

“They’re socially subordinate to their husbands but not inferior,” said Goloboy, who is a social worker at Heart and Soul Community Counseling Center in West Babylon. “These were powerful women.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM NEWSDAY.COM

‘The Way People Look at Us Has Changed’: Muslim Women on Life in Europe

02Muslimvoices1-superJumboThe storm over bans on burkinis in more than 30 French beach towns has all but drowned out the voices of Muslim women, for whom the full-body swimsuits were designed. The New York Times solicited their perspective, and the responses — more than 1,000 comments from France, Belgium and beyond — went much deeper than the question of swimwear.

What emerged was a portrait of life as a Muslim woman, veiled or not, in parts of Europe where terrorism has put people on edge. One French term was used dozens of times: “un combat,” or “a struggle,” to live day to day. Many who were born and raised in France described confusion at being told to go home.

Courts have struck down some of the bans on burkinis — the one in Nice, the site of a horrific terror attack on Bastille Day, was overturned on Thursday — but the debate is far from over.

“For years, we have had to put up with dirty looks and threatening remarks,” wrote Taslima Amar, 30, a teacher in Pantin, a suburb of Paris. “I’ve been asked to go back home (even though I am home).” Now, Ms. Amar said, she and her husband were looking to leave France.

Laurie Abouzeir, 32, said she was considering starting a business caring for children in her home in Toulouse, southern France, because that would allow her to wear a head scarf, frowned upon and even banned in someworkplaces.

Many women wrote that anti-Muslim bias had intensified after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January 2015, and in Brussels, Paris and Nicemore recently. Halima Djalab Bouguerra, a 21-year-old student in Bourg-en-Bresse, France, dated the change further back, to the killings by Mohammed Merah in the southwest of the country in 2012.

“The way people look at us has changed,” Ms. Bouguerra wrote. “Tongues have loosened. No one is afraid of telling a Muslim to ‘go back home’ anymore.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

Muslim-American Women in the United States: What is Considered Muslim Enough?

AECKERT_101221_502Seren Karasu

Islamic communities within the United States are perceived as one and the same. Since the events of 9/11, comparative studies emphasize Muslim identified individuals as members of an “emerging collective identity” (Sirin et al., 2008, p. 261). However, identifying Muslims as members of a collective group ignores diversity within the Islamic religion. In light of the literature (Jeldtoft, 2011; Jensen, 2011; Sirin & Fine, 2007; Sirin et al,. 2008), institutionalized religious practices (e.g., wearing the Hijab for women and religious beard or hats for men) are viewed by non-Muslims as universal markers of a Muslim religious identity. Moreover, there are gender differences within the Islamic religion making orthodox women more identifiable by out-group or non-Muslims, via their choice to wear the Hijab (to cover their heads). The majority of research rooted in discriminatory attitudes towards women perceived, based on the Hijab, to be Muslim in the United States, focuses on an out-group (non-Muslim identifying) perspective (Elashi, Mills, & Grant, 2010; Jeldtoft, 2011; Sirin & Fine, 2007; Sirin et al., 2008). Out-group discrimination of Muslim women underscores a collective identity assuming homogeneity within the Islamic religion. There is a dearth of research focusing on how Muslim women in the United States define their faith within their own community, and how discrimination occurs within-group (Elashi et al., 2010). Viewing discrimination solely from an out-group perspective, neglects the range of subjective interpretations of being ‘Muslim enough’ in American Islamic communities. To address the literature gap, the present review will examine how female Muslim identity is constructed in the United States.

Muslim-American women face the challenge of reconciling different aspects of their identities. It is important to recognize categories of one’s identity (i.e., gender or race) are not mutually exclusive, and intersectionality underscores that multidimensional nature of identity (Crenshaw, 1989; 1991). Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989) coined the term intersectionality to encompass how the interplay between one’s race and gender changes one’s experience. Therefore, Understanding a Muslim-American woman’s identity, involves understanding the intersection of her gender, religion, and in most cases her race. Sirin and Fine (2007) discuss how a “hyphenated self” (p.152), can be used to understand how one’s identity can be “at once joined, and separated, by history, the present socio-political climate,” (p.152) etc., especially during global conflict. Muslim-American women’s identities therefore have become hyphenated in the aftermath of 9/11 in the United States. How much a Muslim woman chooses to identify with her faith is subjective. However, perceptions of Muslim women differ depending on how visibly religious they appear by both in-group and out-group members.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NYU.EDU WEBSITE 

True Islam teaches gender equity and empowerment of women

womenBy Samantha Issam

As a feminist, one reason I chose Islam as a religion is because true Islam teaches gender equity and empowerment of women.

Before I converted to Islam, I, like many Americans, believed Islam was a religion that degraded women. News stories of child brides, honor killings and punishment for rape victims make it easy to interpret Islam’s treatment of women as terrible if we solely rely on these monstrous anecdotes. Our newsfeeds are filled with stories about extremists who treat women as less than human, leaving room for critics such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali to state that Islam is “especially bigoted against women.”

In my path toward Islam, I discovered that if all Muslim men actually practiced what Prophet Muhammad taught, they would be gentle, kind and equitable toward women. Instead, extremists are the brutes who lead to the question recently featured in The New York Times: “What is the Future of Women in Islam?”

Based on my experience, the answer is best left to the women of Islam — not the critics.

Not until I interacted directly with Muslim women did I find genuine understanding of the extent to which Islam empowers women to be educated, productive members of society. I attended an all-women’s event in a mosque, where I participated in women-led workshops and seminars on Islamic knowledge.

I was impressed with the scholarly knowledge of the women but was even more surprised by the Muslim men at the event. I was struck to learn that there were dozens of men in the kitchen cooking for the hundreds of women. Since then, I’ve seen how Muslim men in my community extend themselves for the comfort of Muslim women, whom they respect. This is far from the Islam you see in the news.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL