“AltMuslimah provides well-written articles that address issues about which there has previously been either silence, or apologia that miss the impact these issues have on the lives of women, men, and children.”
Gender Issues among Muslims have long been central to the construction of Muslim as “Other.” For a discussion of this see, for example this treatment of the stereotype that ‘Islam oppresses women’ put together by the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign.
Muslim response to the stereotyping has tended toward denial or minimization. Academics would point out that with the coming of Islam, the status of women was improved greatly over what it had been in pre-Islamic Arabia. Or, that in England until the beginning of the 20th century, and in France until 1938, a woman lost her separate legal status once she married, and it was assimilated into her husband’s, so in fact she no longer had control over her own wealth whereas in all the schools of Islamic law, a woman has absolute rights over her own property whether she is married or not. There seemed to be an attitude that for Muslims to discuss obvious and flagrant cases of oppression of women in Muslim countries was somehow a betrayal of the religion into the hands of its enemies.
Now a new website, Altmuslimah.com, is taking on issues of gender relations among Muslims with articles that are both thoughtful and forcefully argued. Issues covered include empowerment, religion and authority, domestic violence, interpretation, hijab, talibanization, and more.
This is an important initiative for Muslims in America and beyond, and it deserves our support. The site provides a focal point for the discussion of a particular set of serious issues with profound implications. AltMuslimah provides well-written articles that address issues about which there has previously been either silence, or apologia that miss the impact these issues have on the lives of women, men, and children. However, the significance of the site is well beyond simply promoting voices previously unheard. Through the comment section, readers have an opportunity to engage the authors and each other concerning these issues. If individuals with a range of views and in a range of developmental stages with respect to consciousness regarding the issues will risk the vulnerability entailed in engaging the content respectfully, the resulting process will help to strengthen our community in fundamental ways.
There will be those Muslims who will be troubled by what they read, so there is risk that the site may lead to arguments. Imam Nawawi points out in his al-Adhkhar al-muntakhaba min kalam Sayyid al-Abrar, “A certain person remarked, “I have not seen anything that impairs one’s religion, diminishes one’s respectability, ends one’s happiness, or preoccupies one’s heart like arguing.”
Yet the authors of the articles on the site are trying to address injustice and inequity among the Muslims in fulfillment of their obligation to command the right and forbid the wrong. Our Prophet, may Allah bless him and give him peace said, “When you see my Community too intimidated by an oppressor to tell him, ‘You are a tyrant,’ then you may as well say goodbye to them.” He, may Allah bless him and give him peace, also said, “Command the right and forbid the wrong, or Allah will put the worst of you in charge of the best of you, and the best will supplicate Allah and be left unanswered.”1
May Allah protect the authors and all who read and all who comment from falling into argument, and reward their efforts in struggling for the good of our Community with a reward that befits His generosity rather than our worthiness.