Friday, October 06, 2006

A good question I was asked recently on whether Islam and Feminism are compatable or not?
To answer this ill need two parts !

Part I

Although there are some features of the feminist cause with which we as Muslims would wish to join hands, other features generate our disappointment and even opposition. There is therefore no simple or "pat" answer to the question of the future cooperation or competition which feminism may meet in an Islamic environment.
There are however a number of social, psychological, and economic traditions which govern the thinking of most Muslims and which are particularly affective of woman's status and role in Islamic society. Understanding these can help us understand the issues which affect male and female status and roles, and how we should react to movements which seek to improve the situation of women in any of the countries where Muslims live.

(a) Family System
Islamic traditions also prescribe a much stronger participation of the family in the contracting and preservation of marriages. While most Western feminists would decry family participation or arranged marriage as a negative influence because of its apparent restriction of individualistic freedom and responsibility, as Muslims we would argue that such participation is advantageous for both individuals and groups within the society. Not only does it ensure marriages based on sounder principles than physical attraction and sexual infatuation, but it provides other safeguards for successful marital continuity. Tragedy, even divorce, is not so debilitating to either adults or children since the larger social unit absorbs the residual numbers with much greater ease than a nuclear family organization can ever provide.

(b)Individualism vs larger organisation
The traditional support of the large and intricately interrelated family organization is correlative to another Islamic tradition which seems to run counter to recent Western trends and to feminist ideology. Islam and Muslim women generally advocate molding of individual goals and interests to accord with the welfare of the larger group and its members. Instead of holding the goals of the individual supreme, Islam instills in the adherent a sense of his or her place within the family and of a responsibility to that group. This is not perceived or experienced by Muslims as repression of the individual. Other traditions which will be discussed later guarantee his or her legal personality. Feminism, therefore, would not be espoused by Muslim women as a goal to be pursued without regard for the relation of the female to the other members of her family. The Muslim woman regards her goals as necessitating a balance with, or even subordination to, those of the family group. The rampant individualism often experienced in contemporary life, that which treats the goals of the individual in isolation from other factors, or as utterly supreme, runs against a deep Islamic commitment to social interdependence.

Hold you breadth for Part II (differentiation of sex roles - avoiding a "unisex society", polygyny and my views on what I see as Islamic feminism....)

Any comments on these points raised would be welcomed!


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