Whenever I post something against feminism, I inevitably get a lot of comments and messages from people who say that they are not feminists, but I need to be more respectful of people’s feelings and not alienate those Muslim sisters who don’t consider themselves “feminists” per se, but also think there are “big problems” with the way Muslim women are treated.
The reality is, I use a mocking tone deliberately. Because there are some ideas that are worth mocking. And I never mock people (unless they really, really deserve it).
We need to take a step back and ask, who is it that finds a picture of 20 or so Muslim male scholars in a photo together without the presence of women disturbing? Who sees that photo and is racked with pain and anguish and rage? Why? This is the sentiment that we need to step back and carefully analyze.
Because if people are disturbed by this photo, that means that they are also disturbed by the fact that most of the scholarly works of our history were written by men. The most well-known scholarly authorities of our past were men. They far and away outnumbered women. This realization is what has led many otherwise traditional Muslim women to eventually dump the scholarly tradition and become some flavor of “progressive” or “reform” Muslim.
But then, what of the fact that all the prophets were men? Shouldn’t that be even more disturbing, since God Himself and not a group of human misogynists chose the prophets? Of course, this is precisely the realization that has led many activist Muslims out of Islam entirely.
That’s where this rabbit hole leads, logically. This is how people connect the dots and you can see Muslim women, young and old, on this trajectory. It all starts with silly outrage over a photo. I’m sorry if that offends anyone, but I am tired of seeing Muslim women leaving Islam by droves at this point. And their evolution, or devolution rather, is all driven by exactly these kinds of artificial sentiments. I say “artificial” because a lot of women don’t have that reaction naturally and are indeed puzzled by it. This feeling of anguish at a photo is all implanted. If it were real, we would have seen 1400 years of Muslim women disturbed by an all-male prophethood. Or all-male khulafa, etc. But we don’t see that sentiment.
Yet, we are still told that, “There really is and has been a unique problem with how women have been treated and we need to do something to change that.” That “something” varies from activist to activist.
But, as I have argued before (link in comments), I flatly deny that there has been or could ever be a systematic program to subjugate women in any society. Yes, we all have anecdotes of women being abused, but these are anecdotes interpreted through a particular lens in support of a particular narrative. In reality, men and women as individuals — as opposed to as genders — face equal quantities of abuse and oppression in the aggregate and we are primed to only see and recognize certain things as such. That doesn’t mean we don’t support those victims of abuse or deny that abuse of women takes place as isolated phenomenon (no more or less isolated than abuse against anyone else). The incorrect leap is to go from those instances to infer this systematic program of patriarchy or patriarchal culture. But that is the inference we have been trained to make, so much so that now, all people need to see is a photo of all male scholars in a gathering and they are literally racked with anguish and pain, very real pain. This is a sickness. This is a big problem and we know exactly where it leads our Muslim sisters.
Finally, we are not going to get at the root of that problem by bowing to the respectability standards that feminist discourse sets out for us. I don’t think everyone needs to use the outspoken and mocking tone that I sometimes use, but some people do, and I do it very deliberately, as I have explained before. Again, I am not mocking people — I am mocking ideas, ideas worthy of mockery. Currently, all the emotionally charged, derisive rhetoric in this debate, if it is a debate, is coming from the vocal feminists and social justice warriors of the world, who use their platforms to mock and deride and cast aspersions against our tradition. Every other word out of their mouth is a slap in the face. Even the names that they give to their organizations are meant to mock and undercut Islamic norms and categories. But that’s ok, of course. That’s appropriate because they are victims and we are oppressors, so if we have something to say, we better be courteous about it, respectful, and sensitive to their feelings, right?
To agree to that is to concede the whole thing.