It may come as a surprise to many but Islamic feminism is a vast field of study. At the University of Texas library where I do research, there is a considerable section of books on the subject–far more by several shelves than on the subject of Kashmir. One doesn’t even know if Islamic feminism should be a distinct subject since there is no field of study identified as Christian feminism–though Zionists have made Jewish feminism quite a preoccupation. Of course it’s true that culture, & religion as part of that, gives women’s oppression a particular cast requiring analyses sensitive & cognizant of differences.
There is no theoretical matrix that feminism must adhere to. It’s not an authoritarian creed. But the problems women face in every culture are all expressions of the same phenomenon–the violent, hateful, & insidious disrespect of women in private, social, & political life.
Women’s attire has always been a subject of scrutiny by feminists–from the scanty outfits worn by women athletes relative to males; to the misogynist promotion of naked protesting; to the Islamophobic fetish with the veil Muslim women wear. There are many clothing issues but when the veil takes priority over sexualized attire in political discourse to represent male dominance, we ought to smell a stinking rat.
Ironically, feminism & the social movements of oppressed nationalities have made society sensitive to that thing called “multiculturalism.” Even the white supremacist David Duke tips his hat to it to peddle his rancid message. So it’s obvious they can’t drag non-Muslim feminists out to attack the veil. Instead they beat the bushes for unsavory characters like Asra Nomani who calls herself a Muslim while excoriating Islam & denouncing the veil & doing so in a way non-Muslims could not pull off & principled people would not whilst Muslims are under international attack. Now the Nation magazine has published an article titled “Is hijab really a symbol of liberation when millions are oppressed into wearing it?” by a Kashmiri Muslim woman named Arshia Malik.
Her argumentation, such as it is, is absolutely banal & directed at feminists like me who defend women’s right to wear whatever the hell they want without damnation. In her contorted logic, our solidarity places us in league with the Taliban & Wahabbist/Salafist forces in Muslim societies. Is she for real? She cannot, or will not, distinguish between societies like Iran & Saudi Arabia that impose the veil & women who choose to wear it.
Malik doesn’t have to like wearing the veil; I didn’t like the veil when I was a nun because it was too hot in the summer & I don’t like things on my head even in winter. But that’s all personal. Why can’t Malik see what’s going on politically? She lives in Srinagar where women in veils are leading protests against the Indian occupation. She knows damn well Islamophobia is the ideology of war-mongering. Is she more in accord with that so that she can turn her back on Muslims under attack to join the pack of wolves attacking them?
Most non-Muslims don’t know much about Islam; most Christians, at least Catholics, are hard-pressed to explain their own catechism. Catholics don’t even read the Bible. We don’t know if the Quran requires the veil or not. Who cares? The Bible doesn’t say you can’t smoke, drink, dance, or play poker but many Christians still ban all of them like interdiction came from the mouth of God.
Women in veils are leading popular uprisings in several countries, including Kashmir where Malik lives. If at any time they decide the veil is oppressive, they will remove it & they don’t need polemical discourses from anyone to decide if they want to or not–including the likes of Malik. If Malik wants to serve the cause of feminist justice, she ought to write about the affects of the Indian occupation on Muslim women in Kashmir instead of pandering to Islamophobia among the liberal readers of the Nation with banal arguments indistinguishable from right-wing Zionist Phyllis Chesler.
And for the record: how come no one goes after Mother Teresa for wearing the veil? Is it because she was so in tune with the power elite?
Photo is Kashmiri Muslim workers demonstrating against the government in a one-day general strike, 2012. Do they look like they need remedial intervention about their veils?
(Photo by Dar Yasin/AP)