The latest case of blatant patriarchy (that I know of) in the Muslim American community is this image to the right. Accessible also through this link.
Apparently, over 30 “Muslim American scholars” gathered at some “impromptu” event, and the person who shared this picture, someone taken a little more seriously than he should be in my very professional and humble opinion, with immense pride, so pleased with himself like he was doing us all a favor or something.
And they met to talk about “major issues.” I’m so curious to know what these “major issues” must have been that could be discussed only by men – and I’m curious to know what their definition of “major issues” even is. Obviously, all-male panels aren’t among them. Even though, as documented here, all-male Muslim panels are a disturbingly common reality.
If you were a Muslim woman and didn’t have any faith in your own community, you’d think this was all intentional or something. But we can all just go back to our back seats of invisibility and, at best, marginality and relax and calm down and chill and all because it turns out, this was “just an impromptu” event. #sighofrelief.
Patriarchy doesn’t listen to us no matter how polite we are to it.
Muslim women who are vocal about the patriarchy in our communities are always condemned for not expressing our concerns the “right” way – apparently, there’s a right and a wrong way of standing up to patriarchy. This is just a wild guest based on my own very non-expert, inexperienced experiences with the too many patriarchal male “leaders” and “scholars” of our time, but the wrong way is to publicly condemn their actions, behavior, statements, opinions, etc.
The right way goes something like this:
“Dear Ustaadh/Sheikh/Dr. Male Person everyone must accept as a scholar of Islam who everyone agrees is the best of the best of God’s creation, may God continue to bless us and the whole of Muslim communities everywhere with your scholarship and wisdom and teachings, thank you so much for your presence and for sharing this perspective. Alhamdulillah that we are so blessed to have you among us. May God reward you for all your efforts, aameen. I don’t mean to sound aggressive or complaining or anything, but I just have one small, humble concern that I hope you might have the time to address, if you think it’s important at all– and I’m no scholar or anything; I’m just a lay person with no expertise to have an opinion whatsoever on anything whatsoever – but may I please perhaps suggest that, if at all possible, in the future, inshAllah, more women be included in events like this? Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! God reward you for your time and for sharing your wisdom with us! Salaam.” (Believe it or not, this actually does sound like something I have said and my say to some intimidating male “scholar” if I think he won’t listen to me otherwise. It’s not to mock women who choose this way of making themselves heard – it’s not the way I think is at at all effective or helpful, and it’s a huge-ass insult to all women everywhere, but, hey, whatever works according to your experience.)
You are likely to receive a response if you “engage” them this way. There were a couple of examples almost just like this on brother Joe’s page until he deleted *all* the comments because – per patriarchy’s orders in support of the male ego – any criticism coming from the women you insist are non-existent is nothing short of abuse.
So, after deleting everyone’s comments – even the ones that met the above criterion of the “correct” way to criticize men, this is what we got (sentence above the red line, which reads “Due to the abuse of comments section, all comments were deleted”)
But here’s what happened, exactly.
So brother Joe posts this thing, right, all proud and everything, and then Muslim women noticed it and shared it around on social media, including on my favorite FB page of all time called FITNA, Feminist Islamic Troublemakers of North America (okay, chill – it’s constructive fitna (trouble-making, disorder, etc.) that we’re concerned with – still anti-patriarchy, though, so). As Muslim women and the Muslim male allies responded to the photo with the concern that this is a very false and misleading image of “Muslim American scholars,” brother Joe started deleted comments. My comment was also deleted, as were most other women’s. Brother Joe kept some of the comments, though – and I think the ones that weren’t “too” critical but “just right” probably, like the ones beginning one “Aww, MashaAllah, this is so beautiful, brother! We’re so blessed to have so many Muslim scholars in our community! It would’ve been great to see women, too, though. InshaAllah in the future!” That kind. … Okay, fine, there were like a couple saying, “Where are the women?” and (ironic ones like) “Sad that America has no female scholars. What’s that like?” He event thanks you for your “insights” if you praise him in your comment! But no thanks for your insights if you’re not going to send him lovely praises.
But brother Joe wrote a generic comment to almost all such comments, like this: “There have been women in past events, and there will in future ones too. This was just an impromptu event.” (I can’t find a screenshot of this currently.)
But here’s a screenshot of when he wrote in the original post (after an edit) that this was “an impromptu” event – see last para of the post:
Impromptu my Muslim feminist foot.
Brother Joe keeps telling us this was just an impromptu event, expecting us to be like “oh okay, I guess that’s fine then”? Really? Assuming that’s the case, that’s event worse! As several commenters pointed out, that’s especially worse because it’s in such impromptu cases that our implicit biases surface. If you could only think of men when you thought of a bunch of “scholars” to get together somewhere, that’s a problem.
And it’s equally worse that we’re supposed to accept that as a legitimate excuse for the invisibleness of women scholars anywhere.
But I don’t buy this impromptu nonsense because, really? Really? How curious that there was an impromptu event with over 30 high-profile men like they can totally drop everything they’re doing & attend an event likely halfway across the country?… really? They’re not all from the same neighborhood!
some of the comments from the women – the comments he didn’t delete before someone screenshotted them
brother joe’s accusation that we “abused” the comments section – and patriarchy’s fear of women united together
See, this is the thing that really, really hurts patriarchy. When patriarchal men like Joe Bradford in this case and ICNA/ISNA in their previous responses to women who point out all-male events are not okay (see here), see that women are standing together, they are so threatened and so angered, their ego so hurt and so offended, that they can only say this is abuse.
Patriarchy expects women to be nothing but hateful towards each other – a distorted image of women that is anything but real – so much that when it finally opens its eyes to see us working together, it just doesn’t know what to do with us or our unity. And this is why we have to consistently and constantly call patriarchy out wherever and whenever we see it, whenever safe for us.
the myth of working with patriarchy to fight patriarchy
humans, I’m tired of repeating this, so lemme just give you a link to one of the many blog posts in which I butcher this patriarchal suggestion that if we wanna be heard, we must do it patriarchy’s way. Click here, and look for the discussion on a question posed at the conference about why Muslim women lead prayers knowing that they’ll just lose more authority in the “community.” And here on the claim that “feminist Islam” is “biased” because it doesn’t have the patriarchal Islam’s permission and support to be this way.
In other words, we are expected to seek patriarchy’s permission to even challenge patriarchy. Yeah, rot in your patriarchal hell with your patriarchal suggestions like that. My 7-year-old niece Kashmala disapproves ❤
But, people, don’t you see what’s going on here, don’t you see what women are expected to do? We are expected to be silent. That’s the only way to be heard. Be silent. (… okay, fine, this can be like a deep, meaningful thing or whatever, but not in this case.)
And it’s not just religious leaders who are this difficult to engage effectively, no matter how hard we try.
A few months ago, Haroon Moghul proudly, self-celebratorily posted a video of himself and a few other “Muslim Americans” on an ABC panel, talking about – get this, okay – “racism” in America. The panel had a bunch of Arab and Desi Muslims. Guess who was totally un-represented. Black Muslims. That’s right. Not one black Muslim on a panel talking about racism in the American Muslim context. A lot of people pointed this out to him, and he deleted every comment that did so. He’d only keep the comments celebrating him (oh #fragileMaleEgoThatBegsToBeStrokedInOrder24’7). He blocked me from his whole page for saying – oh wait, actually, I did it the patriarchy way, too! I was all nice and stuff about it. I said, “So great to see Muslims having a platform on popular mainstream American TV! I wish there were black Muslims present, too, though …” see? He got really angry and emotional and all, and said something like, “We did have a black Muslim inviteee, but they canceled last minute!” And “I didn’t organize this.” We’re like …? No one’s claiming you organized it, and we’re not accusing you of anything; we’re just pointing out that this is not okay.
But note how his response was so classic … “Last minute cancellation!” This is what women are told, too, when we point out that there should be (more) women on any panel.
See, this is why I often don’t even bother working with patriarchy anymore. Its ego is too masculine, too fragile for me to be willing to serve it.
so here’s what not to say when women point out all-male panels to you especially ones that you were a part of, whether as an organizer, a speaker, an attendee, or whatever else.
First of all, follow your own advice? I mean, I’m no scholar or shaikha or anything, but I’m just a woman and in my very, very humble opinion, follow you own damned advice? E.g., see below?
2. Acknowledge that this is wrong. Acknowledge that any kind of inclusion is just wrong; it mus never be repeated, and all attempts must be made to redress it asap. This also means following your own advice, like in your tweet below – I mean, I don’t know anything at all, of course (I’m just a woman, as you know), but this sounds so hypocritical, almost? If I had no respect for you, I’d think you’re doing this simply to mock “all being jilted by predominant power structures”? Again, I don’t know anything, but this is just what I humbly think?
But on a serious note, people, people! Do something about this nonsense!
– acknowledge that this is a problem
– let it be known to those who organized the event
– sign this pledge against all-male panels (so that when you’re invited to an event, first ask who else will or may be there and specifically demand diversity – gender, racial, even sexual if I can be so bold to suggest, ideological (dare I!), etc. – and when you can’t attend yourself, always recommend at least two other women in your place. Oh but these women don’t exist, you say. Glad you said so. Click here for over 400 women in various fields)
– openly, publicly call out any organization, panel, etc. that has a male-only or male-dominated list of speakers! It doesn’t work for us women, but it might work for you if you started with something like “Oh, this is such a delight to see! Alhamdulillah for all this! Maybe let’s remember half our ummah in the future? kthxbye.”
But what should you not do when women point out your all-male panel and other nonsense? Easy:
Don’t delete our comments. Don’t accuse us of abusing your comments section. Don’t tell us to “calm down” (actually, never, ever tell women to calm down or “stop being so emotional” and its equivalents, ever, under any circumstances). Don’t tell us to “stop looking for flaws in everything! Just enjoy the moment!” (ew, this one’s one of the worstests).
What you shouldn’t do is allow your fragile male ego to be hurted because women had an opinion – shockingly – and shared it with you in the expectation that you will stop celebrating your own self for being one of the 34 men at some “impromptu Muslim American retreat” or something.
Another thing you shouldn’t do is to tell us to do your homework for you and give you a list of women who should have been there and/or who should be there in future such events. Understand the bigger problem with the ways you respond to us when we speak out about this problem.
And don’t mansplain to us what is “actually” going on – like, “This isn’t misogyny!” “This isn’t sexism!” Or “We’ve got bigger issues!” Really? And who’s “we” exactly?
And, also, don’t tell us to get off the internet and “organize better if you have issues with this panel!” How… HOW do you not see the problem with this? Must we explain everything to you? Can you not think on your own for a second?
And maybe, also, not block women from your page after they write comments you don’t like on your page?
Basically, just be humble. And don’t do anything the Prophet (saw) wouldn’t do.
And to those (not involved in all-male panels/events) telling us that our choice/need to publicly condemn this is “unfair, wrong, un-Islamic” and such nonsense, hear this:
- Stop retorting with unhelpful responses like, “FINE! Who should we/they invite, then?!” Um. We’re not gonna do your homework for you; you should already know that. But when we do give you several names, don’t respond with, “Wha? I never hearda those women! We’re only looking for high-profile, internationally well-known scholars.” Ya, and exactly how do we think these women will become well-known if they’re constantly ignored and invisibilized?
This suggestion that there are few or no Muslim female scholars is totally false and misleading. If you don’t know of many, or if we as a community don’t hear of many, that’s not because they don’t exist or are just too few; it’s because of the reality of too many all-male panels that celebrate only men. See how circularly patriarchy works? The point is that the number of traditionally trained female scholars isn’t small at all, but if we think that, that’s only because of our misconceptions based on our patriarchal standards of authority, on the patriarchy of “traditional” Islamic educational systems and the shaykh circuit in the U.S.That we can even make comments like these, supporting this pathetic treatment of both female scholarship specifically and Muslim women generally is an unfortunate consequence of these men and their PR machines’ excellent job at “blinding us to the existence of female authority and brilliance” (as a friend of mine puts it nicely).
Someone also suggested that the reason they probably didn’t invite women was that it’s always the men who disagree on things. Um. No. It’s false that women scholars, however traditional, don’t have this problem of divisiveness among themselves and their communities. To say that women don’t have these problems is, in a friend’s words, some kind of whitewashing of the issue.” She says that’s like “women are more mature than men so we have to give the men some slack.” Yeah, this thinking is not okay. We are constantly asked to cut the men some slack when it comes to real problems like these, because somehow, this is the only time when men are infantilized, but these same men… these exact same men are also running our communities, our religions – they’re our leaders! How can we keep excusing them?