I find Islam to be liberating not oppressive: women are partners.
Islam is the first religion which systematically empowered women when women were considered as totally subservient to man. There was no concept of her being an independent entity and enjoying equal right with dignity. We live in a country where women are over-sexualised and sold as 'products' for capitalist gains. A woman's beauty is splashed around everywhere, and she is only judged by that. Islam tells a woman to cover up so that she is not abused as Western women are. Islam provides the security and respect to women community than other religions. The western countries are using the women as an entertainment channels. All the women in the world should think about themselves then decide what is right and what is wrong for them in other religions (than Islam)
What is feminism? Nothing but women’s movement to empower her and to consider her full human being and not mere second sex as ‘Simon de Bouire called her. Thus we see in western countries until early part of twentieth century she did not enjoy an independent status. It was only after thirties of twentieth century that she won equal status legally and various western countries passed the laws to this effect. Yet patriarchy is looming large on her in these countries.
Qur’an empowered her and gave equal status. Another important question is what is the difference between Islamic and western feminism or is there any difference at all. If we go by definition of feminism as an ideology of empowerment of women, there is no difference. On the other hand, women had no rights and but won through great deal of struggle and this struggle came to be known as ‘feminism’ i.e. women’s empowerment.
But there are significant differences also between Islamic and western feminism. Islamic feminism is based on certain non-negotiable values i.e. equality with honour and dignity. Freedom has certain Islamic responsibility whereas in the west freedom tends to degenerate into licentiousness, though not in law but certainly in social and cultural practices. In western culture sexual freedom has become a matter of women’s right and sex has become matter of enjoyment and lost its sanctity as an instrument of procreation.
Qur’an does lay down certain strict norms for sexual behavior. Both man woman have right to sexual gratification (a woman has as much right to sexual gratification as man) but within marital frame-work. There is no concept of freedom for extramarital sex in any form. Sex is permissible only with marital framework. Sex, as far as Islam is concerned, is not mere enjoyment but an act for procreations and hence has sanctity.
It is important here to emphasize that in a patriarchal society men decided the norms of sexual behavior. It was theorized that man has greater urge for sex and hence he needs multiple wives and woman tends to be passive and hence has to be content with one. This is not true as far as Qur’an is concerned. Qur’an’s approach is very different. It is not greater or lesser degree of sexual urge which necessitates multiple or monogamous marriage.
Whole emphasis is on monogamous marriage (in both the Qur’anic verses i.e. 4:3 and 4:129). Multiple marriages were permitted only to take care of widows and orphans and not for greater sexual urge and the verse 4:129 gives the norm of monogamy and not to leave first wife in suspense or neglected. Thus as far as Qur’an is concerned sexual gratification is a non-negotiable right for both man woman. And hence a divorcee and a widow are also permitted to marry and gratify their sexual urge.
Also, in western capitalist countries women’s dignity has been compromised and she has been reduced to a commodity to be exploited. Her semi-naked postures and her sexuality is exploited commercially unabashedly. It is totally against the concept of woman’s honour and dignity. Unfortunately western feminists do not consider this as objectionable but accept it as part of woman’s freedom. Some (though not many) even advocate prostitution as woman’s right to earn her bread.
This is against the concept of Islamic feminism as while sanctioning sexual gratification as much right of woman as that of man, it prohibits extra-marital sexual liaison and on one hand upholds dignity and honour of woman and on the other, exalts sex on the level of sanctity and restricts it for procreation.. Thus it would be seen that discourse of Islamic feminism, while having something in common with modern western feminism, it also significantly differs from it. Islamic feminists have to observe certain norms which modern western feminists are not obliged to.
There is institutionalised oppression of women in all cultures. In India Hindu female foetocide numbers approximately two million every year. Hinduism is rife with sexism. Women are classed as objects owned by men. The Muslims from the Sub-continent were converted from Hinduism. They carry even now a lot of Hindu traditions of dishonouring women mostly in isolated ruler areas. In urban areas Muslims are well educated both Islamically and worldly and women have all the rights given by Islam.
UNICEF photo of the year shows, a bridegroom, 40, with his 11-year-old bride in Afghanistan. The bridegroom is going to take care of her and their future children. UNICEF photo of the year must show that the teenage pregnancies and abortion, drug addiction, binge drinking and anti-social behavior is on the rise in Britain. All of them are burden on British tax-payers. This is sickening. It's no wonder Great Britain is in such a bad shape. Ten years old British girls are haveing babies out of wedlock. They are not allowed to get married but are allowed to have babies. Teenage pregnancy rate in Great Britain is the highest in Western Europe. It is a civilised country and Yemen is a backward country because it allows young girls to get married.
The Holy Quran gives more rights to women than the so called western civilisation.
Western Secularism cannot teach Muslims how to treat women. Islam teaches us how to be civilised. Islam is a middle path. Women are even abused in the UK Parliament, which is called the Mother of Parliament. It is not just verbal abuse the female MPs have had to deal with. The tradition of killing women for family honour is a “curse”. Violence against women is a global phenomenon. An Australian Judge failed to jail nine males who admitted gang-raping a 10-year old Aboriginal girl, by saying the victim probably agreed to have sex with them. More than half the babies born to British mothers this year will be outside marriage for the first time since records begins. There is a steady decline in marriage among British couples. Nearly all births to Pakistani mothers are within wedlock.
The veil signified the rejection of an unacceptable system of values which debased women while Islam elevated women to a position of honour and respect. It is not liberation, where women go naked. It is just oppression, because men want to see them naked. Miniskirts and plunging necklines represent oppression. Veil is a sign of liberation from a prevailing and dangerous western, secular norm – namely, a view of women purely as sexual objects. Western culture is liberalism, and that is in itself a set of norms. But now the time has come that liberalism must change its attitudes because Britain and the whole of West has undergone significant change. It is a fact that a veil cannot be equated with forced marriages, female circumcision or unequal education for girls. The real difference between man and woman is that they have different kinds of bodies designed for very different purposes, and they have also different kinds of mind because these, too, are designed to contribute differently to human needs and purposes. Men tend to be more imaginative and have more flair than women, but women are much more tenacious and better at multilasking than men.
Muslim boys and Girls need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Male and female Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. Muslim youths feel torn between two cultures, thanks to the state schools with monolingual non-Muslim teachers. Islam teaches Muslims youths to be virgin but western education system teaches the opposite. It makes their lives very confusing. They suffer from Identity Crises. The solution is that each and every Muslim child should be in state funded Muslim schools because western education makes a man stupid and selfish according to Lord Bertrand Russell.
Iftikhar Ahmad http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk