Dear President Erdogan,
Have you ever heard the story of Shajar al-Durr? The “gentle lady” widow declared Sultana of Egypt in the 13th century. The “fragile” woman who, almost single-handedly, terminated the Seventh Crusade. The “dainty” leader who orchestrated the capture of King Louis IX of France. The “delicate” politician who fiercely negotiated with the French, regained control of Egyptian land, and ransomed Louis IX for 1,000,000 bezants, a whopping 30% of France’s annual revenue at the time.
But how dare she go against her nature? How dare she successfully defend her country in a position of power reserved only for man? Right?
You make a public attack on feminism as an insult to women, but you’re missing the point. Feminism is as much of a movement for men as it is for women. But that might be why you have a problem with it.
Feminism is not the rejection of motherhood as you say, President Erdogan. Feminism is equating the importance of motherhood to the importance of fatherhood. Feminism is allowing our children, regardless of gender, to dream of fitting into the mold of any position in society. Feminism is creating an atmosphere where men can be stay at home dads in the same way that women can be stay at home moms. It’s to create a society in which men can be generals and presidents and doctors and judges in the same way that women can be any and all of those things — with the same opportunity and with the same respect. That is feminism.
Feminism, President Erdogan, reminds us that the nature of gender equality is not a modern one, and the Islamic ideology you are so quick to generalize is not at all anti-feminist. Rather, Islam is a religion of justice, to which feminism is not at all foreign. To quote Reza Aslan’s No God but God,
“[The feminist’s] Medina is a society in which Muhammad [SAW] designated women like Umm Waraqa as spiritual guides for the Ummah … in which women prayed and fought alongside men; in which women like Aisha [RA] and Umm Salamah acted not only as religious but also as political — and on at least one occasion military — leaders; and in which the call to gather for prayer, bellowed from the rooftop of Prophet Muhammad’s house, brought men and women together to kneel side by side and be blessed as a single undivided community.“
I don’t see any indication from Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), the role model of Islamic conduct, that women are not on an equal societal footing with men.
After all, it was his wife, Khadijah (RA), who consoled him upon his first Qur’anic revelation, when he ran to her in fear.
It was Umm Imara who defended the Prophet (PBUH) during the battle of Uhud, to which he recounted:
“On the day of Uhud, I never looked right or left without seeing Umm Imara fighting to defend me” — Islam and Gender Justice by Mohamad Ashrof
It was Sumayyah bint Khayyat, a “delicate” female, who was the first brave martyr in Islam, executed by the people of Quraysh for her conversion. Isn’t it strange that this icon of Muslim feminism shares her name with your own daughter?
Don’t all these women, according to you, go against their “delicate nature”? Weren’t all these women limited to the duty of motherhood? Do you tell your daughter these stories, President Erdogan? Or do you simply tell her what she cannot do, what she can never amount to, as she sits in the audience listening to your anti-feminist rants? I hope you tell her, President Erdogan, that your religion proclaimed that women deserve rights just as men long, long, long before anyone else did.
Or is it easier to preach to a room of women that, no matter how many seats are taken, the room will still only be half as full as a room of men, than to believe those “delicate natured flowers” are as capable of leading a nation as any other man? Is it easier for you to tell your daughter that she, because of her biology, cannot dig in the soil the way a man can, rather than believe that there are female archaeologists uncovering the earth with their bare hands, discovering the wonders of the world alongside their male counterparts? Is it easier for you to generalize the Islamic position for women in society as one of absolute motherhood, rather than open the Qur’an and read all the social opportunities outlined for women that don’t include staying home?
When God judges us, there will not be a separation of male and female souls. Or did you not read the part of the Qur’an that clearly states the most basic concept of gender equality?
“I shall not lose sight of the labor of any of you who labors in My way, be it man or woman; each of you is equal to the other.” (3:195)
Did you not read the part of the Qur’an that allows women clear political power, political duty, stating:
“And the believers, both men and women — they are friends and protectors of one another; they enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong.” (9:71)
You mentioned during your speech that women are only deserving of equal respect and, for some reason, not equality. However, equal respect and social equality fall hand in hand. If the man truly respected the woman, he would respect her dreams, her efforts, her aspirations, and he would step aside and let her achieve without unjust interference. Let the woman do as she pleases. Let the woman be a mother. Let the woman be a doctor. Let the woman be a ruler. That is respect, President Erdogan. That is feminism.
I am not sure what kind of limited definition of respect you have, but the respect I know is all encompassing. The respect I know has no boundaries. The respect I know, knows no gender or skin color or background. And women deserve every ounce of it.
A Fragile Female™