Lady Khadija, Lady Fatima, and Lady Zaynab are exemplary models of Islamic femininity. Their virtue, intelligence, patience, and strength is celebrated in Muslim civilization, alongside other reputable women. These women stood up to the sociopolitical injustices of their time, making their permanent mark in history. Without these paragons, the religion of Islam falls apart. Throughout the Quran, God explicitly addresses both men and women, because they are both necessary in the establishment of good societies and families. The Prophet elevated the status of women, from being buried alive beneath the Earth, to having Paradise beneath their feet.
But today, we live in a time where it is almost easier to say that you are a cannibal than to say that you are not a feminist. People look at you as though you are in favour of rapists, sexual assault, inequity, and bad behaviour to women. The truth is that we live in a very individualistic society, where competing individuals are pitted against each other in all aspects of life. There are constant clashes between economic classes, races, religions, sects, and now, even genders. As individuals, we stand largely on our own, with little communal or neighbourly support. Instead of viewing society in a familial, tribal, or communal lens, we view society as a collection of selves in constant competition for jobs, grades, wealth, reputation, and territory. As Muslims, it is true that we have individual responsibilities, but we are also commanded to be selfless - not greedy, stingy, territorial, or combative - and genuinely look for the collective interests of our communities.
Faith in God, Trust in God
A Muslim is one who has become convinced, through reason and intuition, that there is no god except the One Creator, Sustainer, and Nurturer of the cosmos. We then accept the prophethood of the final Messenger (s) due to his inimitable character and revelation. After we have established the Book of Allah and the Sunna of the Prophet as our ethical foundation, we are to follow the moral guidelines and principles that they espouse. It is our belief as Muslims that Muhammad (s) was the last prophet and messenger, and that the system that he brought would be one that would be in our best interests in every era and every place. Our God, in His boundless compassion and mercy, wants us to live out the most fulfilled, natural, and productive life, so that we may achieve the best of this world and the next. Islam recognizes that men and women are different, but equal, and so different instructions and obligations have been given to each gender for our own best interest. God has also warned us of what happens to communities that transgress these natural balances - dogmatism, nihilism, and eventually destruction.
Feminism vs Women's Rights
Feminism is much like the Marxist dialectic, except the proletarian class is replaced with women, and the bourgeoisie is replaced with men. Feminists advocate for women's rights, but its underlying theory is that men have collectively oppressed women by monopolizing all forms of power: political, economic, cultural religious, physical, and sexual. Its goal, therefore, is to destroy the patriarchy - which it says has been built to keep women down - and redistribute the power. Historically, feminism addressed some serious issues: suffrage (women's right to vote), economic independence, and generalizations against women. There is no doubt that some aspects of pre-modern society and developing countries have been very oppressive towards women in particular, including violence and economic oppression.
There is, however, such a thing as being an advocate for women's rights without being a feminist. All of the prophets uplifted and defended the rights of females, but they were also proponents of a patriarchal system. Islam advocated for the right of women to own property, take leading roles in commerce, choose their husbands, and take part in politics. Societies still addressed domestic violence, and chivalry instated the respect of women, the removal of their burdens, and holding them in protection and honour. Women were even exempted from religious and economic responsibilities to make their lives easier. In reality, a good man wants the best for his mother, his sister, his wife, and his daughter. Similarly, a good woman wants the best for her father, her husband, her brother and her son. These "patriarchal" civilizations consisted mostly of women who would reinforce these values in their sons and daughters. It's inconceivable that a worldwide system would collectively dupe and oppress all women for thousands of years.
But the underlying premise of feminism is that the two genders are at war with one another, and the only way to stop that is to destroy the patriarchal power structure. This simplistic worldview sees all aspects of patriarchy - including Abrahamic religions - to be oppressive and designed to put women down. It generalizes all men, it ignores any good that came out of traditional communities, and it puts the world on a dangerous course. The gender war basically pits the two genders against one another, perpetuates misconceptions about men ("mansplaining", "manspreading", "toxic masculinity", unhinged objectification) while ignoring men's issues (graduation, suicide, poverty, drug addiction, gang violence, work-related injuries, conflict, imprisonment, unfair divorce settlements and custody cases). The movement presupposes that men are privileged just by being men, and then ignores the many ways that men suffer.
Feminism is Changing
This is not an argument for weak women, there is no women in my mind stronger than Fatima, Zaynab, Umm al-Baneen, Sakeena, Ruqayya, Khadija, Asiya, and Maryam. They all displayed strength in their life and were often killed or imprisoned for their strength. I do not believe that all women must be submissive, gentle, meek, or put up with male abuse. Pre-modern societies had their misogyny: preventing women from owning property (how is that any different from Fadak?), forcing women into marriages, having women pay dowries, and having women put up with brutally violent husbands - all of this is haram and reprehensible.
However, supporting third-wave feminist ideology is different from supporting women's rights. As Muslims, we should be against an ideology that preaches Free Love, which is promoted by some of feminism's pioneers ( such as Mary Nichols), and promoted by popular modern feminists like Gloria Steinem. We should be against the idea that marriage and the patriarchy are a plot to keep women down, which is the position of Wollstonecraft. We should be against a feminism that shames stay-at-home mothers as uneducated and brainwashed. We should be against the simplistic idea that males are privileged just for being male, which leads to policies and customs that ignore the issues of our young men and boys. We should be against a raunchy feminism that would like to normalize female sexuality (the Vag.ina Monologues, #freethenipple campaign, slu.twalk, Femen) and legalize prostitution (Margo St. James, Norma Jean Almodovar, Kamala Kempadoo, Laura Maria Agustin, Annie Sprinkle, Carol Leigh, Carol Queen, Audacia Ray). We should be against a feminism that enshrines discredited narrative over fact (the wage gap, rape culture) and silenced those that disagree with it. We should be against an ideology that promotes the legalization of late-term abortion. We should be against queer-focused, anti-nuclear family feminists that have sway over the LGBT and Black Lives Matter movements. We should be against a feminism that denies any biological, anatomical or psychological basis for gender, and promotes gender-fluidity, non-binary and nongendered identities, genderless bathrooms, and cross-dressing. We should be against any ideology that promotes censorship on campus or among academics; including the idea of a safe-space. We should be against an ideology that attacks the hijab and separates harassment from clothing (a clear contradiction of 33:59 in the Quran). As someone who works with young people, I can say that all of these ideas are very influential among millennials, including young Muslims.
Freedom to Work, or Freedom from Work?
While feminist ideology has often run against capitalism and the free market, there is a strong aposteriori link between feminism and capitalism. It's an unintended unholy alliance: just as feminism encourages emancipation through economic independence, the free market will always want more consumers, more workers, more students paying tuition, longer hours of operation, more bank accounts (more revenue from interest), and more people relying on outside food. Most feminists today realize that there will not be a proletarian utopia, at least not any time soon, and so co-opting the current system is good enough for now. Many policies are being proposed and implemented to give women an edge in the business world. Today, women have a 2-1 advantage getting a STEM job (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) at an American college (Cornell 2015 study). A lot of this is because of the oft-repeated statistic that women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. The problem with this statistic however is that it does not take into account career choices, degrees, hours in the work place, men being more likely to ask for raises, and female CEOs less likely to give themselves a higher salary. When you account for these factors, the gender pay gap is only about 4 cents, and there is no way to verify if those 4 cents are because of gender discrimination or other reasons. Wages are different from earnings.
Although feminist tropes can be good for upper-middle class white women, who want to escape the boredom of being a housewife or mother to work in bookstores, offices, and schools; it can be extremely detrimental to working-class women, who are now forced to work as maids and babysitters while raising their own children at the same time. Many women must support their children and their parents, often without the support of a man, whilst working overtime. All households in the future will definitely require two full-time incomes just to make ends meet. The problem, however, is that women no longer have the freedom not to work. They are basically forced to work to upkeep a home, because their husband's salary is now likely worth significantly less than it used to be. They will no longer have the option to stay home and raise their kids: nursing them, teaching them, and safeguarding them. Now, they must rely on babysitters, the television, the internet, coaches, and out-of-touch retired relatives. Leaving children unattended also gives predators and abusers more chances to get to these children. In general, naturally, a mother has the best interest for her children. When she is removed from the picture, many children grow up unloved, abused, suffering from mental health issues, behind in school and filled with the media's filth.
I can understand the reasons for female economic independence, but it comes with several costs: delaying marriage, raising one's chance of fornication and casual relationships, and having less family time during marriage. Especially today, economic independence is taking much longer to achieve, because more people are attaining university degrees. As Muslims, we must brainstorm as a community and find a more Islamic middle ground and moderate path.
Islam is not against working women whatsoever. Lady Khadija was a rich businesswoman, and the Prophet was her employee. A woman can do whatever she wants with her own money, while a man is obligated to spend his money on his family. In our fiqh, a wife can even demand to be paid by her husband for any housework or childrearing that she does. Many women in the history of Islam were known for their knowledge in the Islamic sciences and their personal virtues. But this all happened in "patriarchal societies".
You cannot rely on the education system to teach your children ethics or practical life skills. On the contrary, you may even have to reverse some of the negative affects that public schooling can have a child. How much energy can realistically you give to them when you are working and under stress, on top of other responsibilities? There must be a middle way: take the first few years off, then work part-time (or go to school) until they hit adolescence. In our religion, a woman can also demand a wage for household responsibilities, demand a dower of her choice, and demand a maid for cleaning or nursing. These tools need to be revitalized for the modern age, even if it means that men work longer hours and families live within humble means.
As a child, I was able to do extra reading and math, French, Arabic, Islamic classes, Quran, sports, and eat only home-cooked meals, all because my mother took those years off. Most of all, she gave me the love, attention, and energy I needed as a child, without relying much on babysitters. She was able to become a teacher, memorize the Quran, volunteer at my school, exercise, have a social life, and have time for my father. Any lifestyle we choose will require some sacrifices, it's about what you prioritize. As a highschool teacher, I learned a lot about the parent-child relationship and how it affects their school and social life.
Feminism plays right into the hands of misogynists
In feminist circles, marriage is constantly attacked as a patriarchal institution designed to oppress women. Stay-at-home mothers are mocked and seen as weak and brainwashed. This is completely irreconcilable with Islam, which promotes marriage and motherhood as means to reaching God and a balanced, fulfilled life. Instead, free love is pushed for both genders, and a strong effort is being made to take all shame away from all forms of sexual deviation. Advising our sisters is now considered "sl.ut-shaming". But free love is incredibly oppressive towards women. Men can now have as many sexual partners as they want, without their parents' permission or knowledge, without being responsible for children, for food and shelter, or for other marital responsibilities. If sex is freely available, then men can do this indefinitely, without getting married, and they will become more adept at this with age, which is usually coupled with economic stability and maturity.
Furthermore, with feminists pushing to legalize "sex work" (prostitution), they believe that they are trying to free sex workers from the patriarchal law enforcement. But does this really help women? Paving the way towards legalizing prostitution means that cheating will be accessible to more men. More men will just rely on the sex industry, and less men will need to commit to a woman through marriage. With free love and immodest clothing and behaviour, women open themselves to the objectification of players, without those men paying any consequences. God created women to be the most sentient and empathetic of beings, and there is no doubt that being used, abused, and heartbroken repeatedly inflicts permanent scars. With more men checking out of marriage than ever before, and a 50% divorce rate in some parts of the world, it is not a mystery that older ladies with many past partners - and even children - will not be able to find the most desirable spouses. Islam recognizes the power of sexuality, which can either build or destroy communities. A woman is most fulfilled with a strong, stable man by her side - this is conventional wisdom in every culture - and so Islam recommends early marriage. But instead, feminism encourages women to get a full education and climb the corporate ladder, only to find that there is a lack of suitable male partners that can stimulate their intellect. With drug abuse, suicide, war, homelessness, and other crises that affect men in particular, there is always a natural imbalance in society. God hates bachelorhood and divorce, because they destroy the family, which is the basic unit of society. Men potentially lose most of their assets in a divorce, and often lose custody of their children, which causes more men to just keep a girlfriend.
Prostitution is not the oldest profession, it is the oldest oppression. Sex in Islam is enshrined in the protection of women, while free love victimizes women in many different ways. it is true that 1980s Second Wave Feminists were against prostitution and pornography, because they objectified women. But feminism today is changing, and its campaigns play right into the hands of perverted men.
Feminism is Anti-Scientific
Feminism ignores tons of conventional wisdom, science, psychology, and evolutionary biology. One of the faults of feminism is that it assumes that all feminine and masculine traits are socially constructed. Meaning, any characteristic of a gender is a product of culture and society, rather than nature. This flies in the face of everything we know about gender through biology, psychology, chemistry, and anthropology. The reality is that we are hardwired with certain traits, which allowed the human race to survive and thrive for thousands of years. Human nature does not change overnight due to an ideology. Political correctness and gender politics is silencing the academic process ("trigger warnings" and "safe spaces" are the most unacademic and unintellectual concepts in modern universities). The reality is that male and female brains are different. Men and women excel in different subjects and they tend to [refer different careers. Male domination of the STEM fields or physical labour is seen as a sexist social construct by feminists, rather than just respecting the different skills men and women have. Males and females compliment one another; they are not supposed to be exact copies of one another. In today's sanitized politically-correct culture, we can no longer highlight these differences without being silenced or shamed.
The question we are brainstorming is: is gender a social construction and a function, or is it biologically/neurologically/chemically/anatomically/psychologically rooted? Most reasonable people would say that it is both. Even the LGBT movement, which argues that people can be born with a male or female brain, would therefore agree that there is such a thing as a male or female brain, or a male and female anatomical appearance ("lipstick feminism"). So we must ask ourselves, do these differences have social consequences? Are we attracted to the same things in the other gender? Is motherhood and fatherhood exactly the same - and if they are different, what are the consequences or growing up without a mother or a father in a divorced or gay household? Why have almost all cultures used the exact same division of labour for generations? My view is, in answering these questions, we will conclude that men and women should have the same rights, but that their behaviour and affect in society will generally differ. And this is a good thing - it brings balance to the system. Men and women need one another to live a fulfilled life.
Not to mention the current LGBTQ trend (i.e. gender politics), which are a spin-off of identity politics. I can now identify as a 6'10" grade 1 lesbian Chinese female fox without being challenged in most academic or work settings. We can debate the roles or stereotypes of men or women, but if we are silenced from questioning basic identifiable realities, then what does that say about our ability to answer the real questions?
Addressing Women's Issues
I firmly believe that the issues of domestic violence, forced marriages, and unfair treatment of women needs to be openly addressed in our community. Domestic violence is a symptom of a diseased heart. It destroys families, and it cannot be taboo in our communities to openly challenge its reality. The caveat, however, is that we must address these issues in a way that does not give credence to movements that are set on destroying our civilization as well. As Muslims, we should rise above the domestic power dynamic and learn how to be compassionate, merciful, and loving. God created marriage as a sign so that we may know Him. But we can reproach these serious issues without compromising our futures.
Allah's Hijab: http://www.shiachat.com/forum/blogs/entry/65-allahs-hijab/
Feminism and Islamic Epistemology: http://almadinainstitute.org/blog/feminism-recalibrating-faith-according-to-an-islamic-epistemic/
Feminist outrage: http://muslimmatters.org/2014/11/17/the-hypocrisy-of-feminist-outrage/
The Gender Pay-Gap Myth: http://www.businessinsider.com/actually-the-gender-pay-gap-is-just-a-myth-2011-3?op=1
The Decline of "Marriageable" Men: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/11/all-the-single-ladies/308654/
Women who have more sexual partners have unhappier marriages down the road: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/21/more-sexual-partners-unhappy-marriage_n_5698440.html
Same-Sex Science: https://www.firstthings.com/article/2012/02/same-sex-science
Marriage will never be a Feminist Choice: http://www.xojane.com/issues/unpopular-opinion-marriage-will-never-be-a-feminist-choice
Is feminism destroying the institution of marriage? http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/11824814/Is-feminism-destroying-the-institution-of-marriage.html
Egyptian women number 1 beaters of husbands: UN study http://tribune.com.pk/story/1158555/egyptian-women-number-one-beating-husbands-shows-un-study/
More than 40% of domestic violence victims are male: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/sep/05/men-victims-domestic-violence
Ashura march for LGBT victims: http://i.imgur.com/otAHWTD.jpg
MSA Gay Pride Month: http://i.imgur.com/eACrFns.jpg
University of Toronto professor attacked for refusing to use "genderless pronouns": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4R0bWC41g4
Why as Muslims we cannot support Noor Taghouri: https://themuslimvibe.com/muslim-current-affairs-news/why-as-muslims-we-cant-support-noor-tagouris-decision-to-feature-in-playboy