I’ve been having a discussion on my other blog, Femagination, with one of my readers who refuses to believe that I can be a feminist and a Muslim. (See the post “Islam and Gender Roles” and the comments about it here.) He or she has raised many interesting questions, but has also been rather aggressive in his or her challenges to my reasoning.
Here are some examples:
You have to be obedient to your husband, he can hit you if you deserve it, you may not leave the house without his permission, and then only in a hijab, and he can have other wives. On top of that your beloved prophet killed the male relatives and kidnapped women and took a child bride amongst his many wives.
I’m just trying to understand how a feminist can buy into a religion that sanctions the near total or total control of a woman. And that is only the written law. The practice in many Muslim countries is much worse: honor killings, female genital mutilation, and the Dutch Muslim “smiley”, and the “cultural defense” to rape in Australia.
However, this person also wrote some things that I thought were worth exploring. For instance:
What most interests me is personal freedom, the right to bodily integrity, freedom of movement, of occupation, freedom to choose, the freedoms that we take for granted in the west, yet are restricted in sharia. Right now you have chosen Islam, but you are not living under sharia law. So you can pick and choose, as you please. But maybe you will feel differently when you are married to a Muslim man, subject to his wishes, and subject to a sharia legal system. Then your personal feelings about these and many other issues will simply be irrelevant.
I admit that I don’t know a lot about Shariah. Even so, I answered this way:
Did you know that Sharia is a reflection of God’s will for mankind, but that there is no universal agreement on exactly what the rules and laws of Sharia are? There is room for interpretation and innovation, particularly if you’re a Muslim of the Sunni tradition, which I am. I don’t believe in some of the adjudications that have been made in Sharia courts and would not live anywhere that practices things like stoning adulterers. But just the fact that these practices are not followed in every Muslim country should tell you that Sharia is not set in stone.
When the commenter accused me of not being willing to critically examine Islam, I wrote:
I am most definitely not closed to looking at Islam critically. I did the same with Christianity and when it failed to make sense to me, I left it. I still hold a lot of Christian-influenced views–Muslims believe that Jesus was one of the greater prophets after all–but I no longer feel that the Trinity is the best way to describe the nature of God. I wasn’t traumatized by things that happened to me in the Christian church—on the contrary, I believe that I found what I needed in the Christianity at that time in my life.
Please feel free to add to this discussion either here or on Femagination.