1. The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes
In the early 2000’s, my Dad would keep his hair rather long and slicked back; he reckoned he was the brown doppelgänger of Elvis Presley. In fact, the earliest childhood memory that I can recollect is sitting at the very top of the sofa, attempting to style and braid my Dad’s hair, whilst he would watch reruns of “Kavanagh Q.C.” on the VCR player.
It didn’t take long for me to accept that I had absolutely no hope, or potential, in the hairdressing sector. I quit attacking my Dad’s scalp with glittery pink butterfly hair clips and would sit in his lap every evening, watching his favourite shows on the television with him. This lead to 5-year-old me developing an almost fanatical obsession with legal dramas: “North Square,” “Shadow of the Noose,” “Judge John Deed.” You name it, I adored it.
I can remember my Dad moving the sofas to convert the living room into a makeshift courtroom. He’d lift and place me on top of the coffee table, where I’d bang a ladle against an upturned saucepan, shrieking “ORDER, ORDER” to the imaginary jury, whilst sentencing my Dad to 800 years in prison for no apparent reason whatsoever (sorry Dad). To allow me to look the Oscar-worthy part, he even went to the extent of buying me a curly blonde wig that channelled Sandy from “Grease” as opposed to Sandra from “Harvard Law School.” It did the job, I guess.
Over the years, although I ceased the saucepan-banging, my embarrassingly weird “Law & Order” passion didn’t dissipate. However, it did help me escape housework by using the feminist card: “Dad, under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, you can’t make me vacuum up, make him do it”, (referring to my older brother). Consequently, much to my brother’s dismay, Dad would stick a rota to the fridge, ensuring that house chores were appointed evenly between the two of us. It didn’t work. My brother managed to fool us all by leaving the vacuum cleaner audibly switched on for hours whilst he’d play on the PlayStation upstairs — smart.
As I got older, I acknowledged the existence of feminism to be of a greater dimension, a greater purpose, and a greater power than to simply avoid the vacuuming.
It is true to say that feminism has been viable for the great changes that have occurred in the lives of women. However, it is also true to say, that due to feminism, I, as a Muslim woman of colour in the west, have never felt more alienated.
Quite frankly, it seems the concept of western, modern-day feminism solely entails taking to the streets to chant “free the nipple” with your tits out, revealing your hairy, unshaven armpits to raise banners of cartoon vaginas with “pussy power” scrawled at the bottom, whilst simultaneously viewing any form of covering as “oppressive.”
The unifying movement of feminism that was initially established to empower women and to simultaneously celebrate womanhood has become a paradox within itself due to the evolvement of western modern-day feminism; segregating and marginalising women, eradicating the true notion of feminism in the process. Western modern-day feminism in simpler terms is what I’d describe to be white “feminism” — cue the quotation marks.
As a young Muslim, I’ve lived under the dark shadow of the 9/11 terror attack for the majority of the course of my life. Therefore, for as long as I can remember, Muslims have been under constant scrutiny through a Western lens. After the rise of “terrorism” assigned to Islamic fundamentalism (which might I add, completely contradicts every fundamental principle of Islam), the plight of Muslim women is arguably the most popular choice of debate. From forced veils to victims of violence to jihadi brides, Muslim women seem to be a favoured topic to discuss by the Western press — yet they are never spoken for through the authentic lens of their own voices. They seem to be spoke for through a Western rhetoric.
This modern-day feminism has lead to a Western crusade attempting to “rescue” Muslim women. However, ironically enough, Muslim women need rescuing from white feminism: de-humanising and reducing them to a prejudiced stereotype.
Regardless of being so popular and diverse in number, Muslim women are still fighting to be heard in a chorus of white feminists. It seems as though Muslim women are only ever warranted to amplify their voice publicly when they’re portrayed as victims, and presented as having a deficit of rights due to Islam.
I suppose that White feminism believes that besides being “oppressed,” Muslim women don’t really have a lot to do. I mean, besides Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American Muslim woman being elected to a state legislature in Minnesota and speaking truth to power; besides Linda Sarsour, the Muslim activist who co-organised the Women’s March the day after President-elect Trump was sworn into office demanding accountability; and besides Carolyn Walker-Diallo, the first Muslim woman elected to serve as a judge in the United States, of course.
We must begin to learn to accept that practicing faith, embracing femininity, and promoting feminism are not separate entities. Rather, each factor has the potential to contribute to the compatibility of the other.
And it’s time.
It’s time to start representing, respecting, and shining a spotlight on Muslim women.