Welcome to Altmuslimah.com – what I hope will become the go-to place for compelling comment on gender issues in Islam. Our editorial team consists of individuals who have for a long time wanted a space to discuss critical – and often controversial – gender-related matters that are both personal and public. What makes Altmuslimah different is its combination of journalistic and academic perspectives with deeply private looks into our identity struggles vis-à-vis both Muslims and non-Muslims.
Indeed, for me it is the culmination of years of often-tortured contemplation of gender-related matters. It all began in high school, when I defended – passionately, but quite naively – women’s rights in Islam. In college, I realized that many Muslims have less egalitarian interpretations of their religion, and I effectively found myself in a bit of an identity crisis where for a long time I could not reconcile the beauty of Islam with the ugliness of misogyny. There is, of course, no reconciliation between those two, but there are plenty of Muslims who believe there is. And in believing this, these men and women continue to hold back more than half our community from its full potential.
My relationship with gender rights is not merely academic; the struggles I speak of are in some cases my own. From watching my grandmother shrivel away in her polygamous marriage to suffering injustices of my own in the context of personal relationships with men, I have dealt with the issues first-hand. And I am grateful for those tribulations, as they gave me an inside look into real suffering. You can never really understand a struggle without having partaken in it to some degree.
Once safely out of those hard times, it occurred to me that there was a larger purpose to them. I do not purport nor strive to be a spokeswoman for all women, nor a savior of any sorts. But there are other roles to be played, on smaller scales or in less dramatic ways. And at some point in my journey, I knew that my experiences had solidified my commitment to gender justice and that I should strive continually to realize that commitment through concrete action.
Whereas my gender-related work has always been largely intellectual, in recent times, I have added more of a social element. Recognizing that we all grapple with the issues at some level, and also recognizing that the most egregious of abuses are purposely kept hidden until a caring soul slowly brings out the revelation, I strove to create safe spaces for discussion and debate. The Living Islam Book Club is one such effort, and has been going strong for over a year. In many ways, it reflects what Altmuslimah is all about – at our meetings, we talk about the prejudices that plague our community and how we can come to terms with these prejudices in a productive way. As Shazia Ansari writes about in A Space for Literary Discourse?, however, we have been talked about by the larger non-Muslim community and continue to explore inter-community discrimination as well.
Discrimination and oppression aside, Altmuslimah is a celebration of strong women and introspective, counter-cultural men – the type who have not only gone through the struggle but have emerged resilient and spiritually refined. To these men – my husband, brother, father – and these women, I dedicate this site.
Asma T. Uddin is Editor-in-Chief of Altmuslimah.