This is a nice artical, thought to share.
Arab News, 3rd of April, 2004
Feminist Agenda May Harm Muslim Women’s Interests
Faisal Sanai, firstname.lastname@example.org
On March 18, Amina Wadud, a professor of Islamic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in New York, became the first Muslim woman to lead a mixed-gender congregational prayer. Predictably, it has stirred indignation and debate across all spectrums of the Muslim world.
Somehow, I doubt if the issue has been put to rest. The impetus that drives such issues derives its energy from the contemporary feminist ideals which, for the Western world, are essential ingredients of a civilized society. Moreover, there is certainly no shortage of like-minded activists willing to shoulder the feminist agenda of modern-day Islam.
The common cause within these educated women has been the desire to foment change within Islam that can somehow accommodate their feminist beliefs. While it may be difficult to identify with the standing definition of “feminism”, it is imperative that gender-equality be put under the spotlight of sociopolitical thought when intellectual freedom is being debated.
The trouble arises when religion is held hostage by individual beliefs and interpretations of religious texts, which over time excites calls to incorporate the same within theological teachings. Professor Wadud seems to be treading this “reformist” path. It begs the question whether politically correct gender-equality should assume precedence over acts of religious worship. The issue at hand is what Islam has to say on such matters.
Female imams have become yet another hammer of the secular and feminist elements to beat down the doors of mainstream traditional Islam. This issue has aligned itself with the secular movements within non-Islamic religions which, in turn, have reinterpreted theological jurisprudence in order to accommodate gender equality.
What is presently being solicited is for Shariah to show the same flexibility and accommodation that has been exhibited by various other religions.
There is no denying that female rights are being withheld in vast sections of the Muslim community. The Muslim world is rife with reports of subjugation and arbitrary dismissal of female individuality. Last month, news agencies extensively reported on the loathsome rape edict issued by a tribal council on Mukhtar Mai, a Pakistani lady. Similar ailments afflict the Saudi society where tradition has shackled the life of our female contemporaries. And, can Muslim societies continue to disregard the phenomenon of “honor killing” that plagues our moral backyard?
Certainly there can be no moral or religious justification for such tribalistic notions that have percolated into everyday-Islam. Having said this, I do not wish to confuse female emancipation with abrogation of religious norms and values that are firmly enshrined within Islamic law. The equality of sexes as envisaged by liberal Western movements professes gender equality on every aspect to the point that the gender differences become totally immaterial
. This runs counter to our religious convictions where there is little scope to deny the role of gender in determining rights and responsibilities that are often diametrically opposed to the notion of gender equality.
The Islamic concept guarantees complete equality between man and woman but due to their inherent differing abilities, assigns different roles and responsibilities, both in societal and individual life. Imitating each other’s responsibilities is superfluous and quite frankly imparts the idea of male superiority in what they do where none exists.
In Islam, men and women are equal before God and this equality of stature does not equate to uniformity of roles. We simply cannot interchange these roles based on our individual needs and societal compulsions.
The problem arises when the outside world views this Islamic concept as being sexist, leading some Western-educated Muslim women to imbibe their ideals from a feminist perspective. Such ideals do not have a place in Islam.
It is likely that gender justice, for such women, would be the equivalent of a reformed version of Islam that becomes the arbiter to their preconceived feminist values. However, matters of faith dictate that religion cannot be answerable to social norms. On the contrary, society must conform to religious norms.
The emancipation of Muslim women can only be guaranteed when due Islamic rights are delivered as they are enshrined within our religion. Amina Wadud’s efforts can only be described as counter-productive when her approach remains confrontational. Her actions are a subversive overreaction to the way Muslim women are denied their rights in some segments of our society.