Home Women in Islam What does it take to be a feminist?

What does it take to be a feminist?

By: Fatema Makki

Amina, a 19 year old Tunisian activist, posted pictures of herself online; topless with the words: “My body is mine;it is not the source of anyone’s honor;” paying respect to the Ukrainian feminist protest group “FEMEN.”

The protest group, an allegedly “feminist” group, has been organizing “Topless Jihad” parades, in which women expose their bare breasts to the public with words that scourge Islam scribbled all over their torso and chest; the objective of which is to “develop leadership, intellectual and moral qualities of the young women in Ukraine” and “To build up the image of Ukraine, the country with great opportunities for women;” and not to mention the most prominent objective that is to support Muslim women all over the world.

In response to “Topless Jihad” day, certain Muslim women created #MuslimahPride on Twitter. The campaign is described as “Muslimah [term for a female Muslim] pride is about connecting with your Muslim identity and reclaiming our collective voice. Let’s show the world that we oppose FEMEN and their use of Muslim women to reinforce Western imperialism.”An array of Muslim women, from different ethnicities and nationalities and speaking different languages, are contributing in the campaign, writing: “I am a proud Muslimah”, “I do not need ‘liberation’”, and “Me veil; my choice.”

Feminism, as defined by the dictionary, is the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men. The feminist perspective on the body proposes that the rational powers of the female mind must rather be stressed. Female bodies are not“commodities to be preened and maintained to enable [women] to entice men into matrimony so that they would have the material means to live.” The body is not meant to be treated as a means of allurement; consequently, a woman is not a sexual being but rather a human being. Where does FEMEN stand amid the aforementioned?

As Sara Salem, PhD researcher at the Institute of Social Studies in the Netherlands, notes:

“Feminism has the potential to be greatly emancipatory by adopting an anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic and anti-Islamophobic rhetoric, instead of often actively being racist, homophobic, transphobic and Islamophobic. By clearly delineating the boundaries of what is “good” and “bad” feminism, FEMEN is using colonial feminist rhetoric that defines Arab women as oppressed by culture and religion, while no mention is made of capitalism, racism, or global imperialism. It is actively promoting the idea that Muslim women are suffering from “false consciousness” because they cannot see (while FEMEN can see) that the veil and religion are intrinsically harmful to all women.

Yet again, the lives of Muslim women are to be judged by European feminists, who yet again have decided that Islam - and the veil - are key components of patriarchy. Where do women who disagree with this fit? Where is the space for a plurality of voices? And the most important question of all: can feminism survive unless it sheds its Eurocentric bias and starts accepting that the experiences of all women should be seen as legitimate?”

The Islamic view on women is indeed a feminist one as it takes into account her identity as a human being first and foremost.  Islam proposes that the woman and the man complement each other physically to produce a human being. She also shares the man the development of the sources that elevate the person's standards of living. Some people might wonder about the meaning of this verse: “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women.” (4:34).

They might interpret it as men are the supervisors over women. The same is mentioned in the Christian teachings, which say that man is the head and the crown of the woman. However, the words "protectors" and "maintainers" mean, in Islam, the "managing"; it is the man's responsibilities to manage the businesses of his home; he is the one who spends.

She is also independent in her choice of marriage; she can marry the one she wants. However, we advise her to consult those who have experience, knowledge, and honesty, so as not to be deceived emotionally. The woman is also free in the way she wants to manage her businesses, her property, and her inheritance.

On a political level, the woman has the right to vote for whoever she wants; neither her husband, nor her father or brother can force her to vote for a certain person. She is independent in her political decision, as well as in her choice to the person she sees good to her country. She also has the right to be elected and to be a candidate and a member in the parliament, and a representative of the people, if she earns the required number of votes. She can also hold any position in the civil service, including the position of a head of state.

Nudity, advocated by FEMEN, contradicts with the protest group’s statement. Nudity has proved to raise the vitality of sexual instinct and demand for sex. It represents the female as a direct sexual instinct prone to harassment and abuse. Perhaps FEMEN needs to take a closer look at the Islamic teachings in order to attain themselves some genuine liberation.