It is an unfortunate fact today that the Muslim community, barring some exceptions, is misogynist. There are lots of individual Muslims who are against gender discrimination, but collectively we still have a long way to go.
As a man, I am not directly affected by such issues and I haven’t done much to change things for the better (other than may be posting about it on this blog and talking to Muslims I know about it). However, now I am the parent of a cute little girl. Hence, I’ll be confronted with this problem soon. In fact, I have encountered some mild versions even now. For example, a number of people wished or prayed for us to have a baby boy. I always had a big argument with them. I would have been equally happy with either a boy or a girl, but my heart desired a girl. Then, there are the comments about Muslim girls having it tough in this American society (as if Muslim boys are free to do whatever). Also, someone mentioned that it is a good idea to send a girl to an Islamic school since she’ll learn Islam and get into the habit of wearing hijab there. I don’t see Muslim parents as much concerned about the dress of their sons.
Discussing these thoughts of mine with Amber, it was interesting for us to discover that we were not alone. Maryam of A Dervish’s Dua has similar concerns.
while I am willing for myself to ‘deal with’ aspects of patriarchy in Muslim community life (negotiate space), I do not want that for my daughter. I do not want to raise her believing that Islam teaches she is a second class citizen.
Let me get this straight off the bat. I strongly believe that at its core Islam is an egalitarian faith which views man and woman as complimentary partners and that each person has the same fundamental duty to respond to God’s will regardless of their gender. I believe that Islam teaches that all human beings are equal and can only be distinguished by piety.
However, I also recognise that Islam has been culturally manifested in very patriarchal fashions and that these manifestations claim to be representing “true” Islam. Islamic law in particular has often codified patriarchal readings of Islam into a canon of orthodoxy that is difficult to question without challenging some fundamental ideas of who gets to speak authoritatively “for” Islam.
I think that the Qur’an and the Prophet, God love him, recognised the limitations of the societal structures of the period into which the Muhammadan expression of Islam first dawned (including notions of masculinity and femininity) but as Farid Esack has written elsewhere. But I also believe there is an underlying ethic of equity which transcends —- is more real —- than the cultural clothing which Islam wears at any one time period.
Therefore I remain a Muslim trying to seek out those egalitarian readings wherever I may find them. But now that I have had a baby – and a baby girl at that – I want more for my daughter than what is currently on offer in the Muslim community. I want her to be valued and cherished as a human being, not relegated to second class because she is female. I want her to play a vital and active role in her faith community, not stand on the side-lines as a marginalised spectator. I want her to have access to all the resources, facilities, opportunities that a brother might have. I want her to have a voice that is equal to any Muslim man who is her peer in knowledge, wisdom and piety.
Will I be able to give that to her? At the moment I think not and so I am starting to flirt with the idea of leaving the ummah so that my daughter might have more than I can give her from within it. It is not an easy decision, as one of the most fundamental ideas in Islam is the communion in community.
I know that I will not leave Islam, for my soul belongs to Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate. The Prophet Muhammad, God love him, will always be my Prophet. But the Muslim community, I am sensing, is a dangerous place to be for a sensitive soul. I want to protect my daughter’s fledgling wings, until she is strong enough to fly in the face of patriarchy. I have tried and worry that I may not be, and in failing then I fail my daughter. I so long for community, and I have good and close friends who are Muslims who I cherish. But I am starting to think that I have no place in the institutionalised religious community.
We are thinking along the same lines as Maryam. While we will still socialize with some Muslim friends, we plan stay away from the local conservative Muslim community (for example, my college MSA). Also, we have no plans of sending Michelle either to an Islamic school or to the Sunday lessons at the mosque.
RELATED: A new group weblog focusing on Islam and women.