Vicky Beeching interviewed Mo Ansar on Isn’t Islam Anti-Women. I expected some tough questioning. For example about acid attacks on women, the “honour” killing of women, the status of women as sharia is practised in Islamic theocracy now, that dress codes are designed to reflect an Islamic manner rather than their own female or personal identity. How rape victims are treated in the judicial system in theocratic Islamic states, and adulterers. Not being able to hold public office or needing a chaperone to be in public – might just have cropped up in such a discussion.
The answer is that would be a big no. This was a cosy coffee morning interview praising faith rather than a Paxman well done late night grilling. We all have our styles, but not asking a single question on the issues above was an insult to the feminism part of the “Faith in Feminism” site.
Surely for Mo a grilled breakfast would have fitted his appetite for debate:
MA: Yes. It’s quite astounding that the religion which has at its centre a woman such as Aisha, an entire chapter of the Quran called the women and another dedicated to the mother of Christ; should now stand in the dock accused of the worst manifestations of misogyny and abuse towards women. It is a charge which needs to be refuted and with some vigour.
So Mo, in the absence of being asked why those terrible things are happening in Islamic countries to women if religion promotes feminism, here was his most vigorous refutation to a general claim of misogyny:
MA: The shocking truth is that to judge Islam by the worst conditions for Muslim women around the developing world is to create an ugly caricature, one which denies the geo-political machinations behind events and the balkanisation of women’s rights in these lands. The truer picture is that which we see when the rivers or confidence, empowerment, education, peace and prosperity flow together. We can only ask that the world looks towards Yemeni feminist Nobel prize winners like Tawakul Karman, as the real face and voice of a modern, politically engaged and socially astute Islam, rather than those with a Talibanised view of education and equality; it is a hard and closed thinking which wanders around in the shadows beyond the light of Islam. In truth, we may even find that a modern, enlightened Islam has much to offer a West which today, still struggles to find the right settlement for those balancing influences of sexuality, equality and feminism.
What version of enlightened Islam does Mo have in mind for us to judge? Here are some of his words on.
So in this enlightened Islam women should be prepared to be segregated from men whether formally or informally, that women should be dressed modestly – so forget about that party dress because being sexy is pornographic, and mothers the prophet is above your children in status so remember that if they ever become apostates or make a joke that someone overhears insulting the prophet – free speech to insult is not an option.
This is not even an ugly caricature but going by the words of Mo himself. His Islam tells you how to dress on waking, how to socialise, how to speak when you do, who to sleep with when you go to bed and that you had better satisfy each other if married before sleeping. Enlightened is not a word I would use, let alone feministic, to describe this.
Plus we still have this unresolved issue of email advice given by Mo Ansar to a woman suffering an abusive relationship. The only person whose confidentially needs protecting wants to wave it to publish the correspondence – Mo has said no.
The empowerment of women is the key thing to social change – it is an affront to history and the modern situation of women in Islamic countries to suggest that Islam has answered. The advantages for women in secular democratic countries are hard won – and women did it wearing whatever they liked and acted as brazenly as necessary to promote feminism. Women are not inferior – this needs to be clearly understood when your enlightened islam is a woman’s gaze to be lowered in modesty.
Women are being held back by islamic theocracy. It is being challenged by secular, politically astute Muslim women and non Muslim women – at considerable risk from Islamists. The rights of women are not derived by religious scribes – these rights are theirs if only they are not hindered, threatened or cajoled to be less than they truly are. Tawakul Karman survived an attempted assassination by someone wielding symbolically a traditional dagger – the weapon reflecting Karman rejecting Yemeni values of women being subjected to inferior status.
Her would be assassin wanting to kill her for practising “politically engaged and socially astute Islam” was a woman.
In the developing world give women access to birth control, education, health care, the ability to manage finances even borrow for investment, and a say in how the community is run. Let them get on with it. The results are proven when you do. Yet we also need a revolution in thinking too. Educated independent secular women will not need to listen to Mo or me.
It is noticeable that support for sharia by Muslims in Europe is a significant minority (18%) according to Pew Research. Compare that to the Middle East and North Africa (74%).
Release women from the tribal, cultural and religious shackles of seventh century thinking and designated roles so they can get on with much needed change. Mullahs, Taliban, elders and other misogynistic pricks are in the way and religion is the excuse they use.
I would also beware anyone who is for segregation of men and women, and calling for women to be modest, being enlightened about anything. For seen in the true light of the real enlightenment such people are shadow puppets to real rights for women.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog