Freedom from the Forbidden

All things gender and Islam. No bigotry is allowed in this feminist territory. #DeathToPatriarchy

Mad Mamluks Malaise: what’s with the patriarchy & male fragility on this podcast, tho?

I wrote the other day on some of the issues that came up in The Mad Mamluks episode on on Islamic feminism. But this here is more comprehensive and with observations from other Muslim women (e.g., Zahra Khan, the other FITNA co-founder) as well. Overall, this didn’t feel like a “conversation” at all and much more like the guests were being talked at.  And, also, the title of the episode isn’t okay. It was clear the hosts had a couple of talking points (that weren’t related to all-male panels, which is what the convo was supposed to be about as discussed) – without doing any research on their part – and not really listening to what was being said. At several instances, the men got emotional/aggressive, and it was so ironic how they later then said, “Thank you for not getting emotional in this discussion.” LOL. #Patriarchy101. Below are some of the major issues with the “discussion” and with the way the men hosts behaved.

Important note: We FITNA agreed to be on the podcast with them after getting a better idea of what the discussion was going to be like/about. But that convo wasn’t made the focus and hardly any time was dedicated to it in the irritating 1.5 hours (also, who does such long podcast episodes?!). 

Erasure of Women’s Expertise

The biographies of the two guests had been sent to them in advance. And yet, neither Hind Makki nor Dr. Saadia Yacoob were addressed formally like male guests are addressed in their episodes.  Neither did the hosts include the bios of the guests in the video description like they do with their male guests. So from the start, we’ve got the hosts erasing the credentials of the women invited. And that sets — and it did set –the terms of engagement.

In fact, when someone told them that they should have included the guests’ biographies, they dismissed the suggestion – “here are our bios, presented in a very patronizing way. But so what? Bios are irrelevant.” Never mind that they include the bios of the male academics they invite. But you see, the illogic here is this: gender? please, anyone can talk about gender. No one needs to have, you know, an idea of what they’re talking about. we all know what gender is, what issues women have, what feminism is, and so on. More on this in a separate blog post, though, where I’ll focus on the dismissal of women’s scholarship and expertise, with screenshots and everything. 

“Practicing Muslims”?

The phrase “practicing Muslims” kept coming up and these “practicing Muslims” were constantly pitted against “Muslim feminists.” For instance, they claimed, that the idea of equality, which feminism stands for and apparently Islam doesn’t (!!), is something that “practicing Muslims find problematic,” the implication being that Muslim feminists are not practicing Muslims. And also, there’s no such thing as “practicing Muslims” having a problem with “equality.” Some practicing Muslims apparently do, like the two men hosting this podcast, but not universally and generically “practicing Muslims.” God protect us all from such “practicing Muslims” and it’s a tragedy that they think they represent “practicing Muslims” anywhere in the world. In fact, for too many practicing Muslims, the idea of equality is essential and inherent to Islam and to their practice of Islam. It would help, Muslim Patriarchy, if you stopped giving credit for social and gender justice/equality movements and work to “westerners” – westerners/non-Muslims didn’t invent the idea of equality! Quite far from it, actually, if you know anything about the West.

“We good men support women’s rights … with conditions!”

Also, this was really hard to listen to. The guests are talking about patriarchy, patriarchal violence, the violation of women’s rights in Muslim spaces, and the guys go, “Oh, we all support that! I don’t know anyone who doesn’t believe in women’s rights. None of the brothers I know and hang out with believe in the violation of women’s rights” (not verbatim). Apparently, “no reasonable man” supports the violation of women’s rights.

Okay, listen. First of all, so what if you don’t know anyone who isn’t, you know, sexist? Second, as women, we are telling you this is our reality, and just because you don’t know men who are this sexist doesn’t mean those men aren’t actually sexist – i.e., just because they aren’t sexist in front of you doesn’t mean they’re not sexist. And third, yes, we clearly disagree on what constitutes “women’s rights.” The way you’re treating Amina Wadud – but would never and have never treated a man who’s actually said or done terrible things (like TR? DH? JBro?) even remotely the same way. You don’t even acknowledge these men’s misogyny as bad! So we’re not on the same page. we don’t have the same principles of justice and love and compassion, which we know and value as Islamic essentials and Islamic principles (not exclusionary things like a prohibition on woman-led prayers #sosilly).

Seriously, one of the worst things I’ve listened to. I still can’t get over their assumption that we’re all on the same page about ANYTHING!

On “Equality”

This “equality” business – y’all don’t have an argument there. The suggestion that people need to look and be the same in order to be treated equally has been shred to pieces by experts. The argument is that “no, women and men are NOT equal in Islam and cannot be equal in Islam because they’re different.” This is such an outdated and pointless claim – so what that we’re different? Is it our sexual differences you’re talking about? Because as Saadia pointed out in her response to this, all humans are different from each other! The hosts didn’t understand this, though. See, let me break it down to you.

Do you believe that Chinese and Desi and Black and White men are equal? Because they’re all men, right? If your answer is yes, I’m not sure how you can believe in their equality since they’re all different! Phenotypically, racially, ethnically, and also, culturally and otherwise. Why is it that only sexual differences is where we draw the line of “inequality”? Why are women and men somehow unequal only because of our sexual differences? What about having a vagina means that a woman (with a vagina) cannot lead a prayer or cannot be a ruler of a nation? What about a man’s having a penis makes it okay for him to bend in front of men and women and children and be a president or a ruler and so on?

I hope that clarifies what a senseless claim it is to dismiss gender equality on grounds of “differences.”

But they continued on their rant against equality. They tell us that equality can’t be accomplished in Islam because of the things that women aren’t allowed in Islam (they used inheritance and male leadership as examples. Great responses from the guests to this point, though.) They claimed that mixed audiences can’t be led by women, that because Islam is so against gender-mixing (apparently! This isn’t true, btw) that women can’t speak to mixed audiences. They have no explanation for why women can’t be on mixed panels or speak to mixed congregations or audiences. And yet, they have a mixed audience for their podcast! The ironies. Patriarchy is so full of contradiction. Then again, no one ever said patriarchy is rooted in logic and sense. It’s rooted instead in male emotions.

What’s with your insecurity about female-led prayers, bruhs?

Way too much of the episode was on female-led prayers, which, apparently, is a “principle” in Islam. The prohibition on female-led prayers, the hosts insisted aggressively, is a “principle of Islam,” and they’re “happy” to support “women’s rights” but not if these rights “go against the principles of Islam.” First, again as I said in the other blog post on this episode, an entirely male-made prohibition on women for anything is not a “principle” of Islam. What does that even mean? Islam isn’t founded on such sexist, exclusionary principles.

These guys have falsely concluded that female-led prayer is so impermissible in Islam that anyone who has ever in the history of Islam – like Tabari, Ibn al-Arabi, Abu Thawr, al-Muzani, al-Zahiri (all of whom are highly revered and serious scholars of Islam) – said that there’s nothing wrong with female-led mixed prayers is just wrong and a “minority opinion.” Huh? What determines if something’s a minority view? I’ve challenged this claim in several blog posts (like here  where I respond critically to Yasmin Mogahed‘s misleading and oversimplified article on female-led prayers, and here where I discuss some of my research on the topic), so I’m not going to repeat myself here, but just understand that their conclusion that female-led prayer is a non-negotiable in Islam is false and un-Islamic.

But also, is it just prayer leadership they’re against or women leading anything and anyone in general? What about the Muslim women in Congress? Do these men stand against them because, you know, Islam is inherently against female-led anything, not just prayer? And if it’s just prayer, why? The whole sexualization of women thing doesn’t work for prayers only because women are, you know, full humans and women in all contexts, not just in prayer.

What “boundaries”? What “qualifications”? Qualified according to whom?

They also kept speaking of the “boundaries” of Islam like that’s a thing. (Anyone interested in critiques of this assumption of “boundaries” of Islam is invited to read my dissertation; email me to ask for a copy.) Like, “‘ulama qualified within boundaries of Islam….” By doing this, they have just thrown Muslim feminist scholars out of this circle because they are interests in “ulama” only, as though only the ulama get to tell us what Islam is and is not. It’s always funny and ironic to me when (Sunni) Muslims insist on the apparently good quality of (Sunni) Islam that “there’s no clergy in Islam,” and then turn around or in the same breath invoke the ulama’s authority on anything! Which one is it, does or doesn’t Islam have a clergy?

What’s also worth noting here is the definition of the word “ulama.” It’s like in my research when I asked Muslims whose opinions on Islam mattered, and they rightly pointed out things like a person’s qualifications, knowledge, how long they studied, etc. And then when  I asked them to name some such scholars/qualified people, they named only men and this list included Nouman Ali Khan! NAK is not a scholar of Islam, he’s not a ‘alim, and he has even admitted to not being a ‘alim. Then I had to explicitly ask for women, if they knew any women scholars who fit this criteria of scholarship, and they named Yasmin Mogahed! Yasmin Mogahed as a scholar of Islam! As a ‘alima! Not only has she admitted to not being a scholar, she has no such credentials – she has a bahcelor’s in Psychology and Journalism. She’s also the only female teacher at Al-Maghrib, which supposedly only hires qualified teachers to teach their students. (I think they have another female teacher now but I’m not hopeful.) For more on Yasmin Mogahed, who of course came up in this episode, see below.

So why do these people get to define what a scholar is and whose viewpoints are legitimate? why do you get to define who are the ‘ulema in the boundaries of Islam? And what exactly is it that makes the ‘ulama qualified? If you mean it’s their opinions, patriarchal as they are, then just be honest and say that so we know what you really mean. If you mean something else, tell us that. It’s pretty clear to me that it’s the patriarchal claims of these ‘ulama because Yasmin Mogahed espouses and promotes those, too, and she’s not scholar so as long as someone, ANYone, supports the patriarchy, they can be identified as a ‘alim. I knew this before, though, so nothing new. Stop wasting my time. You’ve NO idea how much energy fighting patriarchy requires of people.

Also, we LOL’d @ why doesn’t FITNA have a “scholarly board.”

Well, first of all, it does. Two of the three founders of FITNA are Phd scholars of Islam! so there’s that. And they say this to the face of the one of these scholars. Bravo! Please tell us more about how much you believe in women’s rights and how much you love women.

Basically, “I wouldn’t respect women if I didn’t have daughters / female relatives.” AKA, I can’t see women as, you know, actual people – just only in relation to me.

Hard eye roll at “Allah has given me daughters so I can understand these issues better.” Can we not, please? Can we not say things like this? The idea that the only way you’re capable of respecting and understanding women better, and, you know, treating us like humans, is if you have daughters is offensive and ridiculous. How many women do you ever hear saying, “God has blessed me with a son so I can understand men better”? None. Because that’s not how learning to respect and honor people works.

And more eye rolls at 44:00, when one of the hosts says he doses want rights for women because, you know, he has female relatives. Just a shocking reminder that, actually, you can be an ally to women and view women as legit full humans even if you don’t have any female relatives, daughters, etc. You can also, well, hate women while loving your mother and daughter and wife. Please read more on misogyny so you don’t sound this ridiculous when talking about and to women. (Oh, and while we are at it, you can love your father and still be a feminist and in fact even hate other men! And/or having a father doesn’t mean you automatically love your father. Calling out abusers and insulting “all men” doesn’t mean you need to say, “not all men, because my husband is actually really nice.” That’s… that’s … PEOPLE! Stop wasting my time and making m repeat this! This isn’t how patriarchy works!)

“EVEN racial representation?! Gah, we don’t got time for that!”

Okay, so there the guests are, explaining the importance of fair representations and explaining why it’s important to have women on all panels – and no to all-male panels – and they mention black people, and the hosts immediately interrupt to say, “Oh, we don’t have time for this. We’re digressing.” #EyeRollsFTW (Also, totally cute when they say at 54:58: #notallmen! Bravo here too. More hard eyerolls.)

They’re literally like, if we’re gonna have to be conscious about gender, then “where do we draw the line?” What’s next? Race? Ability/disability? It’s apparently “opening a door” to … I’m not sure what, but something bad, the guys think.

No, it’s not “just about qualification” – how naive and dishonest.

To the constant claim that it’s all just about qualification we don’t see race or color or gender or anything else, just one’s qualifications: yeah, that’s real cute, too. There’s research on this claim, and it turns out, we DO see race and color and gender and everything else. Check out this, for example, on the ways in which gender does play a role in how we view qualifications and authority and legitimacy.

The disturbing thought is that these guys are just so not open to the idea of fair representation that they’d rather keep only men in positions of authority because we can’t, apparently, attain a level of fair inclusivity. Ahhh, the slippery slope of inclusivity! Gosh, how awful it would be if we tried to be intersectionally inclusive!

And, no, it’s not a disservice to end all-male panels, LOL. So much eye-rolling here. #icanteven. It’s in fact a disservice to Islam, to Muslims, to humanity to have all-male panels instead. You’re depriving everyone of non-men, and it turns out … men aren’t the only people in the world, certainly not just white, Desi, and Arab men.

Such a misguided and unfounded fear that if we let women in, then that suddenly somehow translates to not having qualified speakers!

Never mind that nearly every all-male panel I’ve ever seen has an unqualified man speaking on it! They want to keep men in positions of authority, keep men as visible as possible, so desperately that they’ll ignore and “overlook” actually qualified women in the process.

Also, if it were simply about qualifications… why not take Amina Wadud seriously? Why not take Muslim feminists seriously? Especially if you’ll take academic men seriously *who don’t have the training you think qualifies one to speak on Islam*? See the hypocrisy there? See why we doubt your intentions?

What’s with all the hating on Amina Wadud?! Calm the hell down, dues.

They create a strawman with the black rights movement, when they insist – also aggressively – that Muslim feminists “condemn” Amina Wadud for leading a prayer and for her comment about Prophet Ibrahim, just as they (the hosts), if they had a black rights movement, would condemn someone in the movement for saying that black people are inferior if. Not sure what their point was, but the whole “condemn Amina Wadud!” demand was silly and pointless and unconvincing.

I mean, they went on and on and on about why it’s wrong of Muslim feminists everywhere not to have condemned Amina Wadud for saying “un-Islamic” things (that these guys didn’t convince us were un-Islamic, by the way – they just assume we’re all on the same page about everything. #no #justno) – fascinating that they insisted on this while utterly denying that Muslim men scholars in the past have said ridiculously offensive things about women! We’ve been declared inferior intellectually, mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually; we’ve been infantaliized and our husbands granted the right to physically discipline us as needed so that we can become better wives; we’ve been deemed so incapable of making our own decisions about anything that we must always have a man’s permission to even leave the house; our rights are not our rights by default but must be placed in the nikaah contract in order to be available to us (like equal access to divorce).

And my personal favorite one: they were so baffled at the idea that a woman could ever be a leader of men, a whole nation of women and men, that they decided the only way that could make sense is if Bilqis, the Queen of Sheba whom the Qur’an reveres and speaks highly of, must not be a human woman; she has to been half jinn, they figured. Why else would she be such a good ruler that even the Qur’an commends her rule?

And also, never mind that some of the men they have invited on their podcast have also said disturbing – un-Islamic – things about women. Condemn them? Dude, they gave them a platform to air their un-Islamic version of “Islam” on!

How many of these men and other Muslims who attacked Wadud for her comments about Ibrahim – and for something so innocent and Islamic as leading a prayer – have ever condemned past Muslim scholars for saying objectively harmful things about women? It’s not even an opinion that what they’ve said about women, and def in the case of Bilqis, is offensive and harmful and plain false.

The inconsistencies and contradictions here were just mindblowing. Here’s how it works, as these guys understand it:

How dare an individual woman in the universe hold an anti-man sign and why didn’t FITNA condemn her for it!? How dare anyone on fitna – an individual in the universe – boycott mosques for support sexual predators? How dare anyone condemn an MSA for inviting anti-Islam misogynist like DH and FITNA not condemn them for restricting freedom of speech?!

But then magically:

Why aren’t y’all / FITNA condemning Amina Wadud! You need to distance yourselves from her if you’re true Muslims! We do distance ourselves from all things bad –  like sexual predators, misogynists, racists, Islamophobes, etc.  I’m not following ❤

#masculinitysofragile, tho.

Major claps to Hind for talking about fragile masculinity. So on point. #masculinitysofragile

The hate for Muslim women is a special kind of misogyny. These hosts treat even Islamophobes better than they do Muslim women!

This was one of the worst moments in the episode: the hosts read and cite and take seriously Jordan Peterson’s book/ideas, citing him where they agree with him, despite the fact that Jordan Peterson is a known misogynist and Islamophobe and white supremacist. But, hey, the hosts say, you can learn something from everyone! Oh sure … everyone except Amina Wadud? Everyone except Muslim feminists? You’ll read Jordan Peterson’s book but you won’t read a short, groundbreaking book by Amina Wadud? Which brings me to say, by the way, when Saadia tells them that actually, some of the points that Wadud raises in her first book are now taken for granted and they find that so impossible and shocking (a Muslim feminist having anything valuable to say? Not possible!), that they’re like, “like what?” And Saadia points out the creation story and Wadud’s conclusion that God never blames Eve for the fall of humankind, the fall of Adam, that it was both Adam and Eve’s fault. And the guys are like, “We know that already. Who in Islamic history has ever claimed otherwise?” Um… literally all of pre-modern Muslim exegetes?…  That’s a well known fact! Check out anyone’s tafsir and you’ll see a bunch of blaming of Eve and all women there! Sure, now we know it’s a Biblical idea that Islamic scholars adopted and took at face value, but the only reason we know that is that Muslim feminists had to do a feminist analysis of the creation story in the Qur’an.

This who being graceful and kind in your critiques of people somehow never extends to Muslim women and esp Muslim feminists. But we’re expected to be gracious in our critiques and criticisms. I don’t know everything about everything, but I smell the rotten smell of patriarchy.

Anyone asking, “Really? Like what?” in response to the point that Wadud has excellent points that readers can take away from her book clearly has never read the book. Or they’ve read it and don’t realize that it was thanks to Muslim feminists that they can read Wadud’s book and not think it’s anything new. Wen it was written some 30 years ago, it was brand new arguments, and many Muslims didn’t receive it well! Just like they didn’t receive well her leading a mixed prayer, but then again, you’ll always have emotional people like that. #whatareyougonnado

For more on why Muslims need to read Muslim feminist scholarship/activism and cite them and take them seriously, or my theory on why Muslim patriarchy (as represented by many Muslim male academics, Muslim men with a social media following, and apparently the hosts of this podcast) won’t take Muslim feminists seriously, please see here.

Condemn Amina Wadud (for something we don’t disagree with her on!) but not DH for his violent misogyny? lol, no.

Remember that moment where the hosts were also demanding that the guests “condemn” FITNA members for ‘shutting down freedom of speech” like the freedom of speech of Dan**l Haq*q*tjou, because some FITNA members made some phone calls to some MSAs who had invited the misogynist Haq*q*** to give a talk. These protests are apparently a challenge misogynists right to freedom of speech. Okay, so, …. let me get this straight: having DH disinvited is “shutting down freedom of speech” … would the hosts say the same for Islamophobes like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whom actually many FITNA members also protested having on MIT campus?

At FITNA, we (or most of us) do believe in boycotting sexist, racist, and other violent and exclusionary institutions, spaces, organizations, etc. We have issued a statement against Tariq Ramadan – we condemned him, someone who deserved be condemned. We don’t believe in condemning people we disagree with in their mannerism. We also don’t believe in condemning someone for their different takes on Islam – unless their take is violent, exclusionary, unsafe, and so on, NOT if their take is simply offensive to someone. Heck, patriarchy offends us all the time! But none of you “upright Muslims” care about that. Convenient that you want us to condemn a woman for leading a prayer and hurting your feelings and masculinity.  #justno.

“You’re only harming yourself, tho.” Actually, no – we’re protecting ourselves. 

It was so cute how one of the hosts said something like, “This one woman on your FITNA page said she would love to go to the masjid to support the New Zealand victims, but she is boycotting a certain masjid because it supports Tariq Ramadan.” And the guests are like, yeah, people are allowed to boycott spaces they don’t feel welcome in. And the hosts are like (not verbatim), “but why didn’t y’ll tell her that that was the wrong approach? It’s your job to tell her that she’s only hurting herself by doing that.”

That’s real cute. Actually, she’s not hurting herself by boycotting mosques. On the contrary, she’s protecting herself. Anyone who doesn’t know about this reality is asked to check out #UnMosqued, a documentary and a movement and a hashtag. It’s esp Muslim women who are unmosqued and other Muslims who believe in women’s rights and existence and safety in mosques and other spaces.

Um. This may be hard to digest, but we do believe in supporting each other’s efforts for seeking safer spaces all around us. Any mosque that supports Tariq Ramadan is NOT a safe space for especially Muslim women because the message that sends to Muslim women is that when we’re assaulted (and many of us have), that specific mosque wouldn’t support us, wouldn’t have our back.

Also, the sister in question was seeking other options besides mosques for support for NZ victims, like vigils. My campus had a vigil for them, and the mosques weren’t involved. So there’s that.

Related to the hosts’ anger that FITNA condemns sexual assault and especially TR: The hosts are hurt that FITNA believes in and supports the condemnation of violence (like sexual violence in the case of Tariq Ramadan) implicitly or explicitly, such as by contacting mosques and other orgs/spaces to withdraw support from someone who has enabled such violence or has been violent. They are against “call out culture” and assume that anyone who does this is “flooding” masjid emails/mails and “shutting down” criticism – because that “hurts” conversation, it hurts people from “working together.”

They don’t realize that we may have already done the whole “do it privately first.” We always contact the organizers privately and when they dismiss us or ignore us, then we go public. But also, as Hind said so well in response to this, “when public people make public mistakes,” their mistakes do affect people, and so it’s appropriate to call them out publicly.

But all that said, a scary question that comes to our mind is, would these hosts have Muslim groups give platforms to white supremacists, too, in the name of “conversations” and “working together”? Would they withhold public criticisms of white supremacists because, you know, “call out culture is harmful”? Understand that patriarchy is just as bad for humanity as i white supremacy. Male supremacy is a form of supremacy just like white supremacy. DH the Muslim alt-right, so, yes, he needs to be boycotted. He’s dangerous for all women and men and for all of society. Dude, his followers joke about burying baby girls alive (something like, “Wish we still buried girls alive”!). In the name of “freedom of speech,” are we supposed to give platforms to people like this? So much for following Islam.

“Women bring all-male panels on themselves!”

The guys claim that it’s women’s fault that all-male panels exist. This was all kinds of ironies because, again, this episode became an idea specifically in response to all-male panels, which these guys actually support and see no harm in, and then they turn around and say, “Well, it’s your fault that all-male panels exist.”

At one point, they gave Yasmin Mogahed as an example of a female scholar (thankfully, Hind corrected them), but it didn’t matter to them that Mogahed isn’t a scholar. They responded with, “Well, yeah, but she’s visible!” In other words, it’s not qualifications they want. It’s legitimacy as established through visibility on social media. Mogahed is doing good by being visible and putting herself out there on platforms, and that’s why she gets a lot of attention, people invite her to speak, she’s considered a scholar and taken seriously, and  actual women scholars aren’t taken seriously or seen because, simply, they’re just not demanding a platform. They won’t take up space like Mogahed does.

I’m just all kinds of confused.

The guests did an excellent job responding to these  ludicrous claims, though. Then again, they did an excellent job responding to everything. This is why we need women leaders and need to ditch the men ones.

“Thank you for not being emotional.”

The hosts commend the guests for not being emotional. When have women ever been “emotional”? It’s men, remember? Start paying more attention, and stop looking for women to exhibit stereotypical qualities you were fooled by patriarchy are “feminine” things like “being emotional.” Everyone knows men are more emotional (I mean, try talking to a man when he’s angry or offended or has his feelings hurt) but no one wants to admit it.

“Okay, but what exactly do you want? We want a list of your demands to make our lives easy.”

This had us cracking up. Feminists need to create a list of things that we want so that these hosts can, you know, what exactly it is that we want and give it to us like the good brothers that they are to us ❤ if only we’d just be clear like that … #smh.

Basically, quit with your assumptions about everything and start reading and paying attention.

The hosts made so many assumptions – about the guests, about FITNA, about feminism, about Islam, about Muslims – and it was so clear they hadn’t prepared what they were gonna say or how they were gonna respond. It was as though they were simply there, and that this episode existed just, to “challenge” these two individual women as “representatives” of feminism. When, again, I remind you, this whole thing started because they saw our posts against all-male panels and wanted to have a “conversation” with us on it.

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Categories: Death to patriarchy

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