Feminism In Islam, Through The Eyes Of A Muslim Guy

Feminism In Islam, Through The Eyes Of A Muslim Guy

For the sake of our religion and the women of Islam, men like us MUST do better.
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At a time when Islam is under the most intense scrutiny, it’s been under since our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) introduced it as a faith in Makkah, the role of women and feminism as an ideal in the Muslim faith has been brought into question as a highly contentious point of debate. Many who oppose the ever-expanding presence of Islam in the United States claim that it is a faith entrenched in misogyny and chauvinism, demeaning women to little else than obedient housewives who are at the beck and call of their male counterparts.

They use the plight of women in terrorism-stricken countries such as Iraq and the horrific instances of South Asian men assaulting women who have rejected their sexual advances as justifications for their hatred of what they assume to be a violent religion, and argue that women have no rights to stand for as long as Shariah Law reigns supreme across Islamic lands.

While it is true that many Muslim countries are guilty of disregarding the basic human rights of various groups (Saudi Arabia being a primary instigator), the misconception that women’s rights in Islam are nonexistent is a false accusation, which begs the question - what is feminism in Islam, and what are the rights of a Muslim woman?

Under Islamic law, women have the right to education, equal rights to choose a spouse and subsequent divorce, and the right to own property and title deeds to their own possessions, amongst a multitude of other freedoms.

What many people seem to forget is that Islam was a faith that came down to liberate women from the mistreatment they suffered in Makkah before the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), which included the burial of infant daughters (who were seen as unworthy in comparison to sons).

The very first person to accept Islam itself was Khadijah (RA), and one of the most notable soldiers in the Prophet (PBUH)’s army was Nusayba b. Ka’b al-Ansarriya, who fought in the battle of Uhud against the Makkans during the struggle for Islam. Muslim women have continued to set shining examples to follow throughout history-- clearly, they have set themselves apart in roles far beyond the typical caregiver. Even here on Stony Brook campus, Muslim women such as Chaplain Sanaa Nadim continue to define leadership and a commitment to serving humanity in their own capacity.

What does that mean for feminism in Islam, however, and how can men (such as myself) help to understand the plight of misogyny and free ourselves and others from our own mindsets of toxic masculinity?

We can do our best to follow through with the examples that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) established throughout his life, and make sincere efforts to understand how our actions or behaviors could potentially be harmful and strive to change them. The Prophet (PBUH) was a feminist who fought for the rights of equal representation of men and women in Islam, and we should do just the same in order to help oppressed peoples (both men and women) around the world to realize their rights as human beings.

As men, we can let go of the superiority complexes that have been instilled in us through cultural shifts of power and help to overthrow the darkness of our own inborn sexism and strive to be better human beings for the sake of our fellow men and women.

I can’t say that I know the struggles that Muslim women go through daily, nor would I presume to even begin to understand what opposition they face as they endeavor to establish themselves as professionals. But I can try to make an effort to help by becoming a better version of myself and helping to empower the women in my life by standing up for their rights whenever applicable.

For the sake of our people, men like us can do better. For the sake of our religion and the women of Islam, men like us MUST do better.

Cover Image Credit: Adeel Azim

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What Easter Is Like As A Wiccan

For the majority of people, Easter is the celebration of Christ rising from the dead. But for witches, it's about something very different.
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One thing that can be quite irksome about being a part of the American school/college system is the fact that, for the most part, we are only given time off for holidays recognized by one religion, that being Christianity. I'm not saying these holidays are bad or that Christianity is overrated; far from it. But when you think about the holidays celebrated by Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists or, in this case, Pagans, it makes you wonder how everyone else chooses to celebrate their own holidays in the midst of the all-mighty Hallmark-centric holidays.

Before I converted to Wicca, I never quite understood why the majority of Americans chose to celebrate the gory death and alleged resurrection of someone during the spring, much like how we choose to celebrate Christmas in December even though many historians believe Jesus Christ was born around June. Although anyone can celebrate their own holidays for their own reasons, I think its also important to understand where these holidays may have really come from and how other religious holidays can be represented during this Easter weekend.

Instead of celebrating Easter, myself and millions of other people who identify as Pagans celebrate the holiday Ostara. This holiday is mostly celebrated around March 21, but fell on March 20 this year. During this time, Pagans celebrate the Spring Equinox, when winter ends and the bright colors of spring are allowed to come forward for the year -- when "Night and day stand equal, The Sun grows in power and the land begins to bloom and the powers of the gathering year are equal to the darkness of winter and death."

Ostara is one of the eight Pagan Sabbats marked by the Wheel of the Year. Each Sabbat marks a new season, equinox or solstice, which are used to signify the cycle of life, love, death and rebirth between the Mother Goddess (Gaia) and the Father God (also known as the Horned God). With Ostara in particular, it represents a new age of fertility, as the cycle of life and death of the Horned God starts up again.

There are many ways witches and warlocks from the multiple branches of Paganism choose to celebrate Ostara, but the majority of them choose to celebrate the Sabbat of rebirth by basking in the fresh spring flowers. For many, they can choose to have a ritual in their hard garden or simply enjoy the world around them.

You may be wondering, well what does some holiday about spring have to do with Easter? I'm glad you asked! As it turns out, like many other pagan traditions, the Christian religion got a few inspirations from the Pagans, one of them being the beloved Easter Egg.

What the rabbit represents for Ostara is fertility, magic and sexual energy, seeing as the main theme in the Spring Equinox is fertility and sowing seeds. Many believe that both of the holidays' names come from the goddess Eostre, who is sometimes associated with fertility and is loosely connected to both eggs and rabbits. There are also many sources, such as Jacob Grimm (one half of the Brothers Grimm), who believe that the egg is one of the symbols of early Paganism.

So how exactly do Pagans celebrate Easter, considering it's usually a week after Ostara? Well, for many, they just use the holiday to reconnect with family and celebrate some much-needed time off. For me, I just celebrate with food.

Lots and lots of food.

Happy Easter and Merry Ostara everyone!

Cover Image Credit: Lucid Source

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Freedom Of Dress Includes Muslim Head Coverings

A recent Hoodies ad doesn't seem to understand that freedom looks different.

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Hoodies, an Israeli clothing brand, recently aired an ad depicting a famous Israeli supermodel wearing a niqab with the subtitle, "is Iran here?" After a moment of reflection, she rips the piece of clothing off and jumps around the screen in different Hoodies clothes before a voice-over at the end claims that "Freedom Is Basic." While some have celebrated the ad for calling out Iran's human rights abuses and its compulsory hijab laws, most have critiqued the ad for Islamophobia.

A second ad has replaced the first, depicting many niqab-covered faces that look out of the screen without any subtitles before the niqab is ripped off and the first Israeli supermodel, as well as other models (including a hijabi athlete and a Jewish man in a skullcap), jump around the screen before declaring that "Freedom Is Basic."

Some may think that the second ad makes up for the first, especially because it is inclusive of a hijabi woman, but I am hesitant to agree. The removal of a niqab being equated with freedom, regardless of who else is in the ad, shows a blatant misunderstanding of Muslim modesty.

The Quran calls for modesty in men as well as women, something often overlooked, and that modesty has nothing to do with freedom. Men are told to "restrain their eyes" in order to stay pure. They are told to cover their "private part," which officially refers to the region from the naval to the knee. The Hadith tradition even tells men what fabrics to wear, how long their beard should be, not to wear gold, and more. Restrictions like this do sound oppressive, the very opposite of freedom, but they are for protection and purity. After all, freedom without rules is anarchy.

Muslim women's modesty is similar. Covering oneself is a choice that comes out of the desire to please Allah, for it was Allah who gave the command for modesty. Covering is part of worship, for Muslims are called to life worshipfully in all areas of life, including how they dress. Many women explain that covering themselves gives them freedom from other people's desires and worrying about other's perceptions. It is also a reminder to not dress for men or worry about the external, but focus on the internal.

With this understanding, both Hoodies ads make no sense. The only logical explanation for them is that in some parts of the world, hijab is required and in those scenarios, hijabs and other coverings are tools of oppression used by those in power. Removing them in those contexts would be a display of freedom, but niqabs by themselves do not represent oppression. Tearing them off does not automatically represent freedom. By showing such a simplistic view in their ad, Hoodies stereotypes hijabs and other covers as negative.

I've experienced a sliver of those anti-hijab stereotypes during my involvement in World Hijab Day. I'll never forget when a man made eye contact with me, ran his eyes over his entire body including my headscarf, made eye contact with me again, and then walked away with a look of disgust on his face. When I rode the bus on my school's campus, my friends told me about a group of girls that kept staring at me (which I didn't notice). I've had genuine questions from good people and I've had people ask me why I'm wearing "that" in a tone that sounds like I'm wearing the dirtiest thing they can imagine. But nothing I was wearing was dirty-- I freely choose what I was wearing so that I could better understand what hijabi women go through every day. It was no different than my freely made decisions about what I wear on other days.

Hoodies should remember that freedom does not look one way. Freedom implies choice and sometimes people choose differently than others. Those differences are good and should be encouraged by fashion brands, not stereotyped like in their recent ad.

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