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Ignorant, Arrogant Hypocrites

written by Theresa Corbin and Maryam Lautenschlager

We, as Muslim woman, have handled the ignorant, arrogant hypocrites with kid gloves for far too long. We have been pushed well beyond any person’s limit. The gloves are coming off!  

We will freely admit that being a Muslim woman comes along with so much patronizing and splaining it is maddening and exhausting.

But here’s the thing- we hardly ever experience such splaining from Muslim men. Nah, it comes from non-Muslims of all kinds: doctors, engineers, beauty school drop outs, republicans, lawyers, paralegals, democrats, men, women, children, hand puppets (seriously)… *catches breathe*.

For sure, there are Muslim men who support the patriarchy and even toxic masculinity – nothing to do with Islam. We have never denied this. In fact, a lot of what Theresa does and researches and writes is because she is calling bullshit on this phenomenon within the Muslim community. But even the patriarchy supporting Muslims do not belittle us, disrespect us, or shut us down like the ignorant, arrogant, hypocritical non-Muslims do. 

Ignorance

So the kind of non-Muslim (please note this is not every non-Muslim, but it seems to us to be the majority) we are shining a light on come at Muslim women, trying to tell us about how “bad” our faith is for women and how oppressed we are, blah, blah, blah, ignorance ad nauseam.

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Female Genital Mutilation- Excavating Sharia Part 2

As a faith community, we are facing a serious crisis in human (and God given) rights violations. Many of those “in charge” are and have been misusing religious texts to cripple more than half of our population- women.

We are a global community and these issues have infected our lives on a global scale. Because of these issues, Saadia Haq and I are “Excavating Shariah” in an attempt to chip away at the fiqh interpretations (human understanding of the Shariah (Islamic) law) that have either intentionally or unintentionally ignored the female experience, oppressed women, or co-opted women’s religious dedication.

Female Genital Mutilation Part 2

Part 2 Written by Theresa Corbin

We take it as a serious matter that Islam has been wrongfully used as a weapon against women. We feel we have the right and an obligation, as Muslims, to speak on these issues. Currently we are “excavating” the affront that is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

What is FGM

“Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons” -The World Health Organization (WHO)

There are four types of FMG that increase in horrific nature from the removal of the clitoris to the removal of all external genital tissue and creation of a seal over the vagina, leaving only a small hole for urine and menstrual blood to escape.

It’s hard to read, I know. But imagine having to live through it. A few years ago, I read about the procedures in depth and I was beyond shocked by the brutality and severe physical and emotional scars and complication the victims are left with. Read more here if you want to know more about this brutal reality.

History of FGM

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Female Genital Mutilation- Excavating Sharia Part 1

As a faith community, we are facing a serious crisis in human (and God given) rights violations. Many of those “in charge” are and have been misusing religious texts to cripple more than half of our population- women.

We are a global community and these issues have infected our lives on a global scale. Because of these issues, Saadia Haq and I are “Excavating Shariah” in an attempt to chip away at the fiqh interpretations (human understanding of the Shariah (Islamic) law) that have either intentionally or unintentionally ignored the female experience, oppressed women, or co-opted women’s religious dedication.

FGM Excavating Sharia

 

Part 1 written by Saadia Haq

A new low was achieved this August, thanks to an Egyptian politician Elhamy Agina blatant argument that women’s sexual appetite needed to be curbed through FGM because in reality “men were sexually weak” and unable to match their bedroom demands.

This caused an international outcry whereas I was transported back into time during my university days in Jordan. My short time in Amman provided me with insider view into the Middle Eastern cultures; soon I made lots of female friends that were pleasantly welcoming to a South Asian Muslim woman. The unique combination of studying rights issues in a progressive Muslim nation like Jordan and living together with diverse group of women from Arabian and African nations helped foster many bonds that have grown stronger with time.

Continue reading on Saadia Haq’s blog The Human Lens here

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Just a Peek, Please?

Written by Janet Kozak

In January 2015, Artist Ameena Khan put a call out to some Muslim women. She asked for art contributions to her newest series of paintings entitled “Just a Peek, Please?” Those who replied to her inquiry were asked to give a personal statement they wanted to share with a stranger.

Khan did not give any guidance other than asking them to be honest. What the women sent back were stories, memories, poems, and confessions.

Khan also asked those who wore hijab to donate a scarf that she could use in the work. It was bold choice that makes the art all the more powerful. Knowing that the included scarves belonged to (and were worn by) real women, helps us connect more to both the art and story. The series of 26 mixed media paintings on 12″x12″ canvases was started and completed in 2015 – though Khan began brainstorming the concept about two years prior.

One of the 26 paintings and poems in the series, Stages of Live, depicts the poignant narrative life story of a woman who is proud to both wear hijab in life and be buried in it as well.

Stages of Life, 2015. Image copyright Ameena Khan
Stages of Life, 2015. Image copyright Ameena Khan

When I donned the hijab in 1980, covering was like a carefully placed bandage over a deep wound. Since then I have covered at work, at school, while nursing my babies, through chemotherapy and radiation, and past hostile stares. In the end, when I return to Allah (SWT) my sisters in Islam will cover me in finality and with love. I live, and die, under this cover of honor.”

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Take Back Islam: No More Double Standards Part 2

Take Back Islam: No More Double Standards Part 2

The Double Standard Dilemma: Part II

Written by Stephanie Siam

Last week we met Ali and Jennifer, a newly-married Muslim couple hailing from opposite sides of the globe.

Ali and Jennifer were caught in an issue that often arises in new marriages of the Islamic persuasion: the double-standard. Specifically, that men are often held to (or hold themselves to) different customs, traditions, rules and expectations than women are – within their families, within their societies and within marriages.

As previously discussed, the first way the ridiculous double-standard appear in an Islamic marriage is through the unequal expression of anger. For more about this, please check out Part I here.

The second way double-standards pop up in marriage is through the concept of working – both inside and outside the home.

Working Inside the Home

It’s no secret the United States experienced its own Women’s Suffrage movement during the late 1800s to early 1900s. That was merely to obtain the right for women to vote in federal elections. However, total equality for women is still a far cry from being checked off on the To-Do List of American Civil Rights.

Funeral Director pic
lordin’ it over the Wife

Despite women holding some of the highest positions of power in the States, and other “Western” countries – okay, that ONE position still hasn’t been attained yet … 2016, insha’Allah! – there are still certain stereotypes assigned to women and men, respectively, based on tradition and culture.

Move over a couple of continents, to where men are predominantly raised as princes, catered to for every menial task, and a new wife has a whole load of extra responsibility piled onto her that she might not have been asking for.

Add to this reinforcement by in-laws, society and misguided “scholars”, and the poor girl thinks she has no other choice in the matter but to be her husband’s servant for all of married life.

Take for instance Jennifer. When she moved in with Ali after they got married, she expected he would do his part in taking care of the home. After all, her father had always done his part around the house, especially when her mother worked long hours. When she and Ali had discussed marriage roles, she had mentioned that she was used to her father being active around the house. Ali had not disagreed at the time.

At first, Ali did make sure to keep his dirty clothes in the laundry room. He would also bring his dishes to the kitchen after eating, and he would take out the garbage if Jennifer asked him to.

One evening while they had guests over for dinner, Jennifer called Ali in from the living room to help her make coffee.

“Why did you call me like that in front of our guests?” Ali asked, coming into the kitchen in an angry rush.

“I want you to help me carry the coffee and dessert.” Jennifer held out the coffee pot and some plates.

“I can’t do that.” Ali turned and left the kitchen.

Confused and upset, Jennifer called him back into the kitchen, but he didn’t respond. In order to save face, she took the coffee and dessert out into the living room, served the guests and participated in the conversation until the other couple decided to leave.

As soon as the door closed behind them, Ali spun around in anger. “Don’t ever ask me to serve guests in my home!”

“What is wrong with you?” Jennifer asked. “They’re both of our guests. I’m not a servant.”

“No, you’re my wife. It’s not a man’s job to serve other people. It’s not my June Cleaverresponsibility to bring coffee and dessert.”

“Oh, really?” Jennifer put her hands on her hips and cocked her head to one side. “So, I suppose it’s my job?”

“Absolutely!” Ali stormed down the hallway, coming back a few moments later. “Where are my black pants?”

“Which black pants?” Jennifer was busy washing dishes, and she wasn’t in the mood to argue any further.

“The ones I wear to the gym. I put them in the laundry basket two days ago.”

“Are they not there?”

“I didn’t look. Didn’t you wash them?”

Jennifer let the dish drop into the sink and turned around. “No, Ali. I have been busy. I have a job, too, you know. I only do laundry on the weekend. If you needed them washed, you should have washed them. I didn’t put a password on the washing machine.”

“Wash my own clothes? What do I look like . . . a woman?”

With her mouth hanging open, Jennifer stared as Ali returned back down the hallway to their bedroom and slammed the door.

And so enters the familiar concept of housework being women’s work and men being free to make their messes and leave behind their piles of dirtiness and stinkiness without a second thought of who should be cleaning up after whom. You know, ‘cause it is beneath a man to clean a toilet. Buddy, you didn’t have any problems making it dirty. What makes me the default go-to for your sanitation process?

But this culturally-based idea of men’s immunity to housework is so ingrained in the minds of both women and men from many countries that it often goes unquestioned until it presents a problem in a mixed-culture marriage like Jennifer and Ali’s.

Of course, if we ask Ali, he’ll say that it’s the way it’s always been, or women are supposed to work inside the home Doing it ALLand men are to work outside the home. He may even cite some reference about how the Qur’an says women should “stay in their homes”.

However, what he will most likely avoid referring to is the issue itself: why must women be the ones to pick up after grown men that possess the ability to do it for themselves?

Why are men allowed to sit like kings in their homes, being served by women in every capacity from massaging their feet, bringing them food and drink to practically cleaning and dressing them?

Well, the answer is simple. They’re not.

When asked about how Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) acted in his home, A’isha (ra) said:

He was a human being like any other; he would clean his garment, milk his sheep and serve himself.

Additionally, Sadaf Farooqi tells us the Prophet (pbuh) did the housework and did not “lounge around” expecting the womenfolk to wait on him “like a king on his throne” – even though he did work outside most of the time (and the hadith about the Prophet doing housework is often misquoted as he “helped” with housework. This implies it was the wife’s duty, and he helped anyway. This is not the case. The hadith does not mention helping, but simply doing things for himself. . .because. . .well, he wasn’t broken or incompetent.)

After discussing the double standard of completing housework, it is only natural to move into the final and complementary issue of working outside the home.

Working Outside the Home

It is uncommon nowadays to find a marriage where both partners aren’t working. Even in the youngest countries in terms of “modernism”, newlyweds in their mid-20s to early-30s expect that both the wife and husband will need to work outside the home.

House Lifting
it’s a balancing act

Yet, the expectation remains that the wife, when her “job” is said and done for the day, will come home and keep working until she goes to bed at night: doing the dishes, bathing the kids, cleaning the house, cooking the food.

What ends up happening is the wife becomes overly stressed while the husband sits back and enjoys his time of relaxation after the work day is finished.

Some people say this is the woman’s problem, as she shouldn’t be leaving the house to work, anyway. But there’s nothing in Islam that forbids women from working outside the home.

As we know, Khadijah (ra) was a successful businesswoman even before the Prophet (pbuh) married her. In fact, El-Sayed Amin explains, it was through her business that she met her future husband.

Furthermore, it was Hind bint Utbah and Asma bint Abi Bakr who were instrumental in the success of the Muslims at the Battle of Yarmouk. Clearly, if women were permitted to fight alongside men on the battlefield, then their leaving the house to work at supermarkets in order to help support their families or schools to cultivate knowledge is not an issue.

But what is an issue is the insinuation that women should work outside the home and be responsible for all the work inside the home when they return. Not only is this not fair, but it is totally un-Islamic, as we see above in the discussion of the Prophet (pbuh) and his actions inside and around his home.

Just NO!
And just like in Twilight, this dude is not a real man.

Even worse, many men do not work outside the home. Instead, they rely on their wives to support them . . . and still expect them to take care of the children and the home upon their return from work!

The husbands will sit on the couch watching TV or sleep most of the day, and they don’t lift a finger to help their exhausted and over-stressed wives. Why? Because it’s not their job.

Now, I shouldn’t have to provide a reference showing how ignorant and selfish this belief is. Furthermore, what it ends up leading to is resentment on the part of the wife, and ultimately, dissolution of the marriage and family.

Conclusion

In short, there is only one way to fix the issue of the Double Standard Dilemma in Islamic marriages: communication. It’s one thing to clean up after your husband and serve him if it’s something you want to do. It’s another thing totally to force it on your wife because you believe it’s her job.

As Shahina Siddiqui reminds us:

And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in peace and tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): Verily in that are signs for those who reflect (Quran 30:21).

 

Follow us (upper right of the page), email us (islamwich@yahoo.com), like our face with your face on Facebook, like the post, share it, pin it, comment on it, and/or do whatever social media magic it is that you prefer. Find out more about us in the understandably named “About Us” page and browse other posts in our “Table of Contents”.

Take Back Islam: No More Double Standards Part 1

Take Back Islam: No More Double Standards Part 1

Written by Stephanie Siam

The Double-Standard Dilemma: Part I

Jennifer* was a convert Muslimah. Though she had only recently reverted to Islam, she was always a modest young woman, trusted wholly by family and friends.

About a year after her reversion, she met Ali*. He was a few years older than Jennifer, but since she had always been an “old soul” she was okay with the age gap. After meeting with him a few times, under halal (permitted) conditions, they agreed to marry. She had asked him every question that came to mind about their respective roles as husband and wife, but because of her conservative pre-marriage lifestyle, Jennifer assumed the basic routine of day-to-day living would remain generally the same for her.

One evening Jennifer made plans with a friend for dinner. Prior to going out, she let Ali know her plans, as he was also going out with friends for the evening. As she wrapped her hijab, Ali popped his head into the bedroom.

Jennifer looked at his reflection in the mirror and smiled. “I’m excited to see my friend. I haven’t seen her since college. We used to sit together for hours, just laughing and talking.”

“I’m leaving now. What time are you meeting her?” Ali leaned against the frame, crossing his arms over his chest.

“About seven. Great! So we’ll probably get back home around the same time, I’m guessing.” She stuck a final pin into the side of her scarf, grabbed her bag off the dresser and turned to leave.

“No. I’ll probably be late. Maybe around eleven or later.”

Jennifer walked over to him and patted him on the cheek. “Me, too. I told you. . .we can sit for hours.”

Ali shook his head and laughed. “Are you serious? No way.”

She stepped back, confused. “No way what?”

“No way about you staying out until eleven. That’s no good. Women shouldn’t be out that late.”

Jennifer laughed to herself. “What do you mean? I’m not going out to a club. I’m eating dinner, sitting with my friend in a restaurant. Besides. . .you said you’d be home around eleven or later. What’s the difference?”

“The difference is I’m a man.”

muslim_man_and_woman_by_agent_ea-d2xhuea
ONE NIGHT ONLY: Woman vs. Man!

 

And so it starts. The beginning of a recurring theme running through many, many marriages.

The double standard.

Of course, we can’t just limit this to Muslims, or even Arabic culture (a major contributing factor to this issue to begin with). However, for the purpose of this blog, I am only looking at the concept of double standard within Islamic-based marriages. To focus discussion even further, I will limit my scope of criticism to three areas of double standardization:

  1. Expressing Anger
  2. Working Inside the Home
  3. Working Outside the Home


Expressing Anger

 

lucy and ricky

Somebody got some ‘splainin’ to do!

For those of you familiar with the I Love Lucy Show, the image above most likely conjures memories of hilarious scenes between the title character, Lucy, and her Cuban-imported husband Ricky, wherein Ricky spends a great amount of time chiding his naïve and childishly-scheming wife in a mixture of Spanish and heavily-accented English while wagging his finger in a patronizing manner.

This is met, in return, by a loud, whining, “Waaaaaaaaahhhhhhh,” by Lucy, who offers the iconic phrase with closed eyes and a wide-open mouth. Add in the later Technicolor effects of Lucy’s bright red hair and unmistakable lipstick and you’ve got one funny picture.

Of course, if you take a step back and look at the bare-bones story, you see an overly-patriarchal husband chastising his younger wife for something that may-or-may-not be completely her fault. (Well, to be honest, in Lucy’s case, it usually was her fault.)

But the point is, in watching the exchange between the animated couple you hardly ever see Lucy stand up to Ricky. She takes everything he dishes out with a (mostly) closed mouth. And even when she tries to get the upper hand, she does so in a silent, action-oriented manner. . .that often backfires (poor Lucy!).

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show, you may be wondering why I’ve brought it up.

Because this model is played out in many modern Muslim marriages, in the spirit of “heading the household”, the stronger, usually male, personality takes over and expects all to follow his way.

Western female converts know this posturing all to well. Her more-likely-than-not foreign born husband or even her community believes that the her conversion has been a way for her to escape a “hellbound” culture of capitalism, consumption and hedonism. Clearly, when we become Muslim, there is no desire to maintain any ties to our own cultural identity. . .or we wouldn’t have converted, right? *Sarcasm*

sarcasm

For most, the first sign of the “elite male status” rears its ugly head during the first argument. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, both husband and wife are converts (this gets rid of the sticky “in my culture” issues that always come up in an intercultural relationship).

Since we understand couples argue for a variety of reasons ranging from stupid to life-altering, let’s say the water bill didn’t get paid, and now the water has been disconnected. This wasn’t due to lack of funds. It was simply due to oversight by one or the other.

What follows is a typical experience for many female converts in terms of arguing with a spouse:

Husband: There’s no water. What’s wrong with the water?

Wife: I don’t know. Maybe the whole building has a problem?

Husband: I’ll ask the neighbor. (Leaves to ask neighbor. Returns.) They have water. It’s just us.

Wife: Maybe the pipe’s broken?

Husband: Did you pay the bill?

Wife: Was I supposed to pay the bill? Don’t you usually take care of that?

Husband: Did you remind me? Let me go see if the pipe is fused. (Leaves. Returns.) They fused the pipe.

Wife: I guess the bill didn’t get paid.

Husband: Why didn’t you remind me? I have a lot of things to do.

Wife: I also have a lot of things to do. I suppose I didn’t think about it.

Husband: That’s the problem. You don’t think about things that are important.

Wife: Of course I do. I’m just not used to thinking about things that I don’t usually take care of. Since you always pay the bill, I didn’t think about it.

Husband: A good wife reminds her husband about important things.

Wife: So, now it’s my fault because you didn’t remember?

Husband (raising voice): It’s your fault because you didn’t remind me!

Wife (raising voice in response): I’m not your secretary! Can’t you make a note of important things?

Husband (yelling): Don’t raise your voice to me! I’m your husband, and you must show me respect!

This is not ok
This is not okay

Wife (yelling back): Well, I’m your wife! Don’t yell at me!

Husband (increasing in volume): I am your husband, and I have the right to yell! But you will not speak to me this way! Do you understand?

Now, depending on the general temperament of the man and woman, this episode will escalate further with both getting out of control, or one person will eventually back down. But the question is: why does the husband believe it to be okay for him to raise his voice at his wife, but not for his wife to raise her voice in response?

Why are women – especially Muslim women – expected to be demure and soft-spoken, even when being yelled and cursed at by the person whom they are supposed to respect and trust most in the world?

Why are men allowed to give in to their human characteristics of anger and displeasure, while women are labelled “emotional” and told to contain their feelings?

It is only natural to want to respond in kind to someone when they verbally attack you, be it through volume or vocabulary choices. However, this is considered taboo, inappropriate or disrespectful of men when women get upset and show their feelings.

What ends up happening is that over time, the woman will start to exhibit traits of an emotional or psychological abuse victim. She will withdraw at the sign of argument, afraid to stand her ground, even when she is right to do so. Her opinions will become invalid, even to herself.

She will contain all feelings, positive and negative, until pent-up aggression and expression will cause her to be overcome with anxiety. And then she will not know where the anxiety stems from, as she’ll end up letting her emotions fly at the most mundane of incidents (see: opening a blister package for medication).

So, what’s the solution? Should women be able to yell back? Are women allowed to yell back? Are they allowed to get angry? To show their emotions like men do? Is it really the man’s right to dominate the situation and demand sovereignty in decision-making?

Rasoulallah.net reports:

Once, Aisha was angry at the Prophet – peace be upon him – so, he told her: do you accept Abu Obaida Bin Al-Jarrah as a judge between us? She replied: no, this man will not issue a judgment against you in my favor. He said: do you accept Omar as a judge? She replied: I fear Omar. He said: do you accept Abu Baker (her father)? She replied: yes I accept him.

This exchange shows that no matter how he viewed his own opinion in the matter, even Prophet Muhammad (saw) acknowledged his wife’s right over him to be fairly heard and express her feelings.

He didn’t yell and say, “I don’t care what others think. It’s my opinion that counts.”

Nor did he demand they go to the first person he suggested as a mediator. In fact, he didn’t stop offering names until he found one she agreed with. So, even in their disagreement, he wanted to make sure he found someone who would support her and be fair in their decision about the disagreement.

Additionally, Pakistani freelancer Sadaf Farooqi explains in his article discussing an incident where A’ishah (ra) was verbally attacked by her co-wife, Zainab (ra), in her own home :

He [Muhammad (saw)] did not – and this is a very important key point – exhort the wronged person to keep silent in the name of patience and restraint. He did not allow their oppressor to continue with their injustices. Rather, he made sure that the wrongdoing was not just stopped, but that the one who was wronged also defended themselves.

Even though Zainab (ra) was older than A’ishah (ra), the Prophet (saw) gave his approval for her to speak up about what was being said against her.

Truthfully, the answer is not in who is allowed to yell and who is not.

The answer lies in open communication. Understanding the right that both parties in a marriage have for expressing their opinions, being heard and trusting their partner with protecting (through mutually respecting) their feelings.

One person or the other dominating a relationship and holding the other emotionally hostage is the very definition of dysfunction. As we can see from the example, even our Prophet (saw) permitted his wives to have their say and defend themselves in an argument.

Instead of fighting – yelling, screaming, cursing or worse – couples must learn what works best for each of them when they’re upset or angry. This can take time, but the best answer is being open and honest.

If you need to blow off steam, that’s fine. But make it clear to your spouse this is needed. And then get away from them. It’s okay to unwind and calm down. It’s not okay to do it at the expense of another person’s well-being. And it is even more NOT OKAY to say that just because you are male Islam gives you the right to be an emotional bully. . .or worse.

*The couple mentioned in the story at the beginning are fictitious. Any similarity or resemblance to real people is unintentional.

Follow us (upper right of the page), email us (islamwich@yahoo.com), like our face with your face on Facebook, like the post, share it, pin it, comment on it, and/or do whatever social media magic it is that you prefer. Find out more about us in the understandably named “About Us” page and browse other posts in our “Table of Contents”.