Humairaa Mayet | 29 April 2019 | Image: The Islamic Monthly
With tides shifting and changing in the private and public spheres of the Muslim world, both men and women must familiarise themselves with emerging issues. In an interview on Salaamedia, Aaisha Dadi Patel, an author and journalist, shed some light on the concepts of Islamic patriarchy and Muslim feminism.
The term ‘Islamic patriarchy’ is problematic in the sense that it “reiterates the message that Islam is patriarchal,” a notion that Patel strongly disagreed with. It is not Islam that is patriarchal, but rather Muslim people. This distinction must be drawn so as not to confuse the two.
There is definitely a place for feminism in Islam, stated Patel, as at its core, Islam advocates for justice and gender justice notwithstanding. However, the concept of feminism has received large amounts of backlash from within the Muslim community. This is due to the lack of understanding present within these communities, explained Patel. Feminism is subjective, resulting in different interpretations, yet equity and justice serve as its foundation.
Institutions put into place to assist society are biased towards men and continually dismiss women, treating them as second-class citizens.
Patel wrote an article concerning these issues, parts of which were used in a pre-khutbah talk given by Minhaj Jeena recently. In this talk, Jeena explained that Muslim patriarchy sees men as morally and intellectually superior, while women are seen as temptresses who must serve the desires of men. These ideals are conflated with Islam, stated Patel, but in reality, it is not so.
Indian, Arab and African cultures are inherently patriarchal. Often times Islam is mixed-up with the principles of these cultures, leading to many misconceptions and people who think that the beliefs of these cultures are a part of Islam.
Systems in place continue to empower Muslim men, regardless of what they have done. Due to lack of community support following the harassment of Muslim women, women turn to each other for support, as well as for assistance in the dismantling for patriarchal structures.
Ultimately, Muslim women are not asking for radical reformations, but for the privileges and rights that they were accorded over 1400 years ago, but which have been refused to them.