Get Your Laws Off Me

Salaam everyone! Thanks for joining me this lovely day.

After some consideration, and in follow up with something I wrote last week, I am kicking something new off today: a new series where I can give vent to a lot of thoughts that I carry around all the time. You may have noticed from posts like this and this that I can get kind of crazy-bananas about things that have to do with women and so-called “women’s issues,” both in Islam and in the wider socio-political context that I live in as an American Muslim woman.

What really got me wanting to write about these kinds of things are some comments that I a highly ignorant man so graciously left on my Goolge+ account a few weeks ago, that really drove me up the metaphorical wall.

They were on my I am an (Islamic) Feminist post, where he promptly informed me that I cannot possibly be a Muslim woman and a feminist at the same time. He went on to cite Saudi Arabia, Iran, and “shariah law” as his reasons, and he even had the face to quote some ayat of the Qur’an at me, and then explain them. TO ME. Incorrectly I may add.

Naturally I contradicted all of this with ever-undervalued facts, and seeing that he had lost the battle on one front, he went on to attack the whole feminist movement in its many iterations, since the very beginning. He even blatantly told me that perhaps it was the fault of the suffragettes themselves that they did not have the right to their own property, to an education, or to vote and participate in public life. Which is why, according to him, men are now “leaving you women behind and going their own way, because you are not worth the effort and no matter what we do for you, you just complain about it.”

Oh the very fount of ignorance I have stumbled upon!

So for this post, I want to talk a bit about some feminst-y things. Feminism is a subject that I am very interested in these days (though in the past I have vehemently rejected the label of “feminist” for myself), and I am trying to learn more about it every day. Not only do I do a lot of reading on the topic, both from an Islamic and secular perspective, but I would totally love any discussion here from some of my readers as well!

That being said, I am by far no expert on the topic. And I understand that there are some valid critiques of the feminist movement in general, especially those that come from women of color, which I hope to learn more about and address in the future inshaAllah. I also understand that there are aspects of the feminism movement that may not align directly with Islam, which is why I am very mindful of taking the good from feminism that can coincide with my higher value system, Islam, and leave the parts that are conflicting.

But for today, I want to talk a bit about two aspects of the feminist movement that my comment-conversation with that dude brought up in my mind, and have been stuck there ever since.

Firstly, and something I feel very, very strongly about: body autonomy. What I mean by that is that every woman has the right to control her own body (what is on it, what she puts in it, what she in general does with it), and another woman’s choices are most likely none of my business. I definitely touched a bit on this topic in last week’s Hijab Fridays post, but I just want to re-iterate it again with a slightly different focus.

This is especially relevant where the case of non-Muslim women is concerned. Within the Muslim community, I may offer sincere advice to a sister if it is done properly and comes from a place of love and care, not a place of “you have to be just like me or you are going to hell.” And even then advice is all I can do. But outside of the Muslim community, I cannot and should not impose my beliefs on the women around me just to make myself feel more comfortable, or worse, like I am “saving” people.

Would I love it every woman could feel the self-respect and dignity that I do when I put on my jilbab to go out of the house? Yes, of course. Am I going to tell every woman I come across that she is naked and hideous and makes me uncomfortable? Goodness, no. Whether you are covered or not, it is about your choice to dress how you are comfortable. Not my opinion, not the government’s opinion, not your boyfriend’s opinion, etc. etc. And not anyone’s business (I’m lookin’ at you, all the men who used to catcall me pre-Islam, and swear and spit at me now).

Because of my belief system, I do not believe in abortion except in exceptional circumstances. This means that I myself will not be getting an abortion unless it is a life or death situation. This also means that the choices other women make is absolutely none of my concern, and quite honestly that option should be available to the women who need it.

Because at the root of feminism is the idea that women should be spending their time building each other up and not tearing each other down.

Going a step further in this idea, I firmly believe that no room full of middle-aged men has any right to make any single law about what a woman can or cannot do with their bodies, down to cutting a single fingernail. A man has no right to tell me what birth control I can or can’t take, what surgeries I can and can’t have, and what services and screenings I do or don’t need.

And I believe this the other way, too; I believe a group of middle-aged female politicians would have no right to be drafting laws on circumcision and prostate matters. If you don’t have to deal with the repercussions of your laws on your own body, you don’t have the right to make them.

The second issue I have had on my mind quite a bit lately is the issue of equality.

I know this one can get tricky, because Islamically men and women have the same human value, but different functions on this Earth. And obviously being a Muslimah, that is the view that I am most inclined toward.

There is a vein of Western Feminism these days that does take men as the be-all end-all “standard” of what it means to be human, and therefore a woman has to have/do every single thing that a man has/does in order to be considered equal.

The equality I am talking about is more of a “levelling the playing field” kind of equality. The kind of equality where if a man writes this article for $100, I would also get $100 for writing the same article. If I write the article for $75 to my male counterpart’s $100, that is where the problem lies.

It is also about opportunity: I should not be turned down from a job that I am 100% qualified for because my age, sex, and marital status make me “pregnancy risk.” Equal opportunity to work, study, and participate in the aspects of public life that affect us are essential areas where equality is necessary.

And like I said before, it goes both ways. (think Emma Watson and the HeforShe campaign…). Yes, I think a woman should have the right to a paid maternity leave, and not be at risk for being fired from her job for also happening to have a family. And I also think that men have every right to a “paternity” or some other type of paid family leave so that they can spend time with their wife and newborn without having to use up all of their vacation or sick days.

And if you think that gender stereotypes only negatively affect women, I need to write another whole blog post just on that. Which I think I will do, since I am guessing by now y’all think I have gone on quite enough for today!

I would love to hear your thoughts, men and women, Muslim and non-Muslim (as long as they are actual thoughts not ignorant rambling). Do drop me a comment, or hit up the contact form and let me know what you are feeling about this article, and my plan to write more like this!

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Forced Covering and Forced Uncovering are the Same Thing

Salaam!

Today’s post is all about an argument I hear ALL the time from critics of the hijab, on why Muslim women are stupid “sheeple” to wear it, and why it is so inherently oppressive:

“Well Islam forces women to dress a certain way and be ashamed of themselves.”

Quite honestly, it’s ridiculous; I literally just let out an audible sigh even writing that sentence. So I figured it may come in handy to have a whole blog post about this topic, so that the next time a random man tries to teach me my own religion on social media, I can send the link and be done with it (plus others may stumble upon this and find it interesting, who knows)!

Firstly, I would like to make a slight differentiation between Islam, and the human-run governments of Muslim majority countries.

Yes, in Islam modesty and covering oneself is obligatory for either gender. Yes, the way to do that for a Muslim woman is in loose, non-form fitting clothing, that is opaque and not ostentatious.

But everyone, every single Muslim, has to wake up in the morning and make the decision every single day to practice Islam.

This applies to all the obligatory acts in Islam; Islam tells you what to do through the Qur’an and sunnah, and you have the choice whether you are going to do that or not.

Some may say forget it, I can’t pray ‘asr today. Some may be careless about their fasting Ramadan. Some choose to drink alcohol, some choose not to wear the hijab. And let’s not forget the fact that Muslim men run around all the time in ridiculously tight jeans, or shorty shorts that barely cover their underwear, let alone their full awrah, with all manner of ridiculous hairstyles that are not necessarily condoned in Islam.

Now, I’m not saying there aren’t consequences for these choices, but that rests with Allah swt. It’s not my business force anyone, man or woman, to practice any part of Islam that they don’t want to practice. Allah swt guides who he wills. Gentle advice and caring discourse with that person is all I can do.

This is where that differentiation comes in: Islam tells you do to X, Y and Z, for example, wearing the hijab, and you make the choice whether to obey or not, and live with the consequences of that choice on your life and the hereafter. Governments, however, make laws that exploit Islam to their own benefit in order to control half of the population and keep the power in their own hands.

See where they diverge there?

Because we all know that when you force a woman to cover when she leaves her house, whether that be abayah and niqab, or the Persian chador, it is a matter of control, not one of faith.

Because you are for sure not doing anything to help her faith. You are forcing her into an insincere action, which at best will put her off of sincerely wanting to wear hijab for good. It is doing nothing for her in terms of reward or sincere piety.  At worst (and sadly most commonly) you are pushing these women straight out of Islam.

So what do laws like this actually do? Control how a woman uses her own body, make her a second class citizen, and all the while consolidate your own power over the half of the population that you are subjugating.

Yep, this is an issue in the government of many Muslim-majority countries, but lets take a look at that excuse again, this time changing “Islam” to a generic “you”:

“You are forcing women to dress a certain way and to be ashamed of themselves.”

So, are the French, German, and Austrian (among others) bans on veils not forcing women to dress a certain way? Forcing a woman to uncover herself, or dress in a way that is uncomfortable for her, just for basic opportunities like education, a job, going to the police or court or taking care of other every-day things at a government building; isn’t that just as inhumane as any other infringements on the rights of women?

Is the ever-changing fashion industry not subliminally forcing women to dress a certain way, and at the same time shaming them for anything that makes them different? The beauty industry, whose sole job is to tell women what they should be ashamed of and then make them buy their products to fix that, isn’t that teaching women to hate themselves in a very subversive and deep-rooted way?

Street harassment, groping, whistling, staring, all of these things that occur to women daily in the “civilised” West and the East alike, are these not examples of men trying to exert control over women as objects?

You see, forcing women to cover themselves and forcing them to uncover themselves are two sides of the same dirty old coin. Either way, it is usually a bunch of elite males sitting around in a room signing laws that will give them the rights to control women’s bodies, from how we are dressed to reproductive rights-things that they will never feel the impact of on their own lives or bodies but will continue to reap the financial and political benefits from.

In short, Islam has nothing to do with forcing women (or men) to do anything, but lawmakers sure do quite a bit, whether it is in the name of religion or secularism, East or West.

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A Case for the Unfortunately Inanimate and Inarticulate Scarf

Happy Friday everyone!

Today I wanted to share with you another little something that I wrote quite a long time ago, probably right after I had decided to wear the hijab full-time.  I remember feeling fed up with the groups of men that used to circulate around the downtown area of Santa Cruz, with nothing to do but leer at women.  I know it sounds  like I am referring to all men here, but I promise I’m not one of those, “women need to rule the world and men are nothing better than animals” types!

I was also feeling fed up with some of the negative energy I had been getting from people about the headscarf business, including some family and friends, which is why you can probably sense the tinge of sarcasm at the end, when referring so some sort of “cure” for this kind of issue.

At any rate, just another look into directly-after-shahada Ashley’s thoughts! Hope you enjoy! Continue reading “A Case for the Unfortunately Inanimate and Inarticulate Scarf”

Guest Post: Is it Really Such a ‘Man’s World’ After All?

Salaam all. Ok, you know how much I love a good chat about women and our status in Islam, so you can imagine how excited I was to find a fellow blogger, convert, and Muslimah sister who likes to talk about the same thing!

Today, I am so excited to have my friend and sister Khawlah writing a bit about the story of our very first parents, Adam and Eve (as), and how their beautiful story in the Qur’an has set the precedent for women’s rights in Islam.*

Khawla unexpectedly stumbled upon Islam in the Spring of 2013, and took her official shahada on February 3rd of the following year. Islam has brought her purpose, peace, contentment and happiness, and she uses her writing and blog Muslimah Misunderstood to share her experience as a Western Muslimah, with all of the challenges, frustrations, misunderstandings and misconceptions that she faces. She aims to channel all of these difficulties into something productive, creating an honest celebration of the true beauty that Islam provides in this world and the lives of individuals.

So, without further ado:

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The most notable time for women’s rights in recent history has to be – in the UK at least – the Suffragettes. A pioneering group of females who fought, risked, and in some cases lost their lives in a brutally determined movement to fight for the women’s right to vote; a law which was finally passed in England in 1918.  But if the Suffragette leaders were here today, would they feel their work was done? In the progress that modern society has made since the early 20th century, how far have we come in terms of equality and women’s rights?  Continue reading “Guest Post: Is it Really Such a ‘Man’s World’ After All?”

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A Simple Purple Scarf

Salaam my lovely readers!

So for today’s Hijab Friday post,  I have something a bit different for you. This is something I jotted down in my History 41 notebook at UC Santa Cruz (instead of paying attention to the lecture). It was fall 2014, and I was deep into my study of Islam, after having returned from my time in the U.K. I had been harboring these kinds of feelings every Tuesday and Thursday as I sat in class and tried to pay attention, and finally just had to get it out on paper.

The girl I was writing about is now actually a friend of mine on Facebook, after I met her at a class at the mosque, quite a while after I had officially converted, and began to wear the hijab myself. Funny how these things work, isn’t it…

So, I hope you all enjoy a glimpse into my pre-Islam self, and the kinds of things that I was thinking and feeling while on my journey to taking my shahada. Continue reading “A Simple Purple Scarf”

My Hijab, My Empowerment

Salaam, everyone!

So I wrote a guest post a little while ago for the awesome Muslim Mummy’s series on hijab.

She started this series as a way to get the word out there about why Muslim women wear the hijab, and what exactly it means to them, amidst a sea of people talking ABOUT Muslim women and the way they dress.

I absolutely love the idea of getting women’s voices out there, especially where the headscarf is concerned. There are so many different stories out there, and each woman’s relationship with hijab is unique.

I shared a bit about how my hijab has been a source of empowerment for me, and if you want to head over and check out her website and my article, just click here!

I already shared this yesterday on Facebook, because it was also picked up and tweeted/shared on Facebook by Mumsnet, in the U.K. and it was my first big blogging milestone! I was just to excited not to share, alhamdulillah!

Hint: if you go like the Facebook page you can get in on announcements like this earlier, plus so much more content than just my posts!

Anyhow, I hope you will have a look at my article and the rest of the series as well, and let me know what you think!

woman in red headscarf sitting on rock facing a forest, text "I am an Islamic Feminist" Muslimah According to Me

I Am an (Islamic) Feminist

Hello all!

I have been wanting to write this post for ages, but I have been putting it off and putting it off. The reason? Honestly I don’t feel qualified to write on the subject. I still don’t have a fully formed idea of how I feel about “feminism” as such, and I know I have a lot more learning to do on the subject from both a “Western” and Islamic point of view.

But just recently during an interview I was doing for another blog, I got asked the question “what would you say to those who say that Islam is degrading to women?” Continue reading “I Am an (Islamic) Feminist”

woman in pink headscarf and blouse facing the ocean on a sunny day, text "The One Perfect Hijab Does Not Exist" Muslimah According to Me

The One Perfect Hijab (does not exist)

Here I go, heading straight for another controversial topic!

The thing is, as a convert, over the past two years I have gotten pulled in a lot of different directions as to how I should be dressed. My Arab friends think that only a black abaya is appropriate, my Pakistani friends give me their salwar kameez, and my Algerian husband doesn’t understand why I would cover my feet even when we go to the beach in Tunisia.

The common thread between all of these things Continue reading “The One Perfect Hijab (does not exist)”