My Love/Hate Relationship With Fifty Shades

By this time, all of us have heard of E.L. James’ bestselling erotic novels: Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. These books have sold over 300 million copies worldwide, and the movie based on the first book opened at USD 60 million. Moreover, the long-awaited release of the movie based on the second book is finally upon us. There are elements in Fifty Shades that warrant discussion. I am firm with my convictions, and I choose to air them publicly.

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I first stumbled upon Fifty Shades of Grey in the year of 2012, and a part of me was fond of it. But I also knew that something was extremely wrong about the book. Next, I read Fifty Shades Darker followed by Fifty Shades Freed, and continued to harbour the same perception.

The story is fairly simple. Anastasia Steele, a middle-class senior at Washington State University Vancouver, meets Christian Grey, an incredibly handsome, debonair 27-year-old multi-millionaire CEO. They fall in love, hard and fast. Theirs is a romance full of drama and passion, and they end up living the conventional fantasy: love, marriage and a kid. What’s not so conventional is their sex. Early on in the first book, Anastasia discovers that Christian is obsessed with BDSM – a condensed abbreviation for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism. This is the central tension of the books. Anastasia loves Christian, but she does not want to be his submissive. Christian loves Anastasia, but he is turned on by violent sex.

Throughout the books, it showed the transitioning of a relationship which started off as ‘play’ with no intimacy into ‘play’ becoming the topping on the ‘vanilla’ relationship shared between Anastasia and Christian. One positive aspect of the book was that the readers would see how the characters grew, alongside and into each other. I believe that character development is an important element which should be present in every book or movie.

Though it may appear that Christian was controlling Anastasia, one can observe that he was dancing to her tunes. It is acknowledged by Christian himself. Even though Christian did make Anastasia feel anxious and uncertain (not healthy), she called the shots whenever he behaved erratically. She questioned and challenged him. And above that, she knows that she can leave at any time. That resulted in Christian defying every rule in his book just to win her over.

Moreover, Anastasia proved to be free from critical nature by accepting Christian with his f***ed up past and heavy baggage. She did everything within her power to reinstate self-confidence within him and dismiss his insecurities. She had hopes of taming him, thus became stronger than all other teaching.

One cannot deem Christian a ‘monster’ for wanting to spank the hell out of Anastasia, because kinks are valid. There is nothing wrong with one being turned on by something atypical, as long as everyone involved is being safe, sane and consensual. At the end of the first book, Ana asked Christian to punish her (“Punish me. I want to know how bad it can get.”) in order to show her how extreme a BDSM relationship with him could be. So Christian fulfilled Anastasia’s request by beating her with a belt. Therefore, it is evident that consent was involved even though she did not safe-word, despite being asked to do so if it became too much for her to bear. So why does Anastasia get to call Christian “one f***ed up son a bitch” when she had exhibited willingness to experience what she did?

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One can justify this act of Anastasia by saying that she was willing to endure all that because of love, which could be put up for debate. The books did portray Anastasia as weak as she succumbed to Christian while defying every rule in her book. At the end of the first book, she left Christian after she realised that they are incompatible. At the beginning of the second book, Christian offered her a ride to José Rodriguez’s gallery exhibit and that was all he had to do to win her back. While I read the aforesaid chapter, there was a chant going on in my head begging Anastasia not to go back…

From the beginning, Christian actively stalked Anastasia. He also controlled her behaviour and food intake and dictated who she is allowed to spend her time with. He belittled her, threatened her and blamed her. As a result, Anastasia was afraid of provoking Christian and was insecure in her own personhood.

Preferring to be submissive or dominant does not demean ones self. Some people criticise women who enjoy being submissive in the bedroom as they are ‘weakening’ themselves for their (usually) male-bodied partner, which is the same kind of logic as people who claim that all men need to be sexually dominant in their relationships or else they are not really a man to begin with. Both scenarios rely on an oversimplification of sexuality and of people. We cannot change what we are turned on by and repressing that is a miserable experience for everyone involved. But according to the books, it is evident that Anastasia did not want to be Christian’s submissive in the first place.

As several experienced BDSM practitioners emphasised, there are healthy and ethical ways to consensually combine sex and pain. All of them require self-knowledge, communication skills and emotional maturity in order to make the sex safe and mutually gratifying. The problem is that Fifty Shades casually associated hot sex with violence, but without any of this context. Anastasia had said yes to sex she was uncomfortable with because she was too shy to speak her mind or because she was afraid of losing Christian. She gave consent when he wanted to inflict pain, yet that did not prevent her from being harmed.

“Fifty Shades is just fantasy!” has been popular in defending the movie’s treatment of its protagonist, but it does not quite ring true. Unfortunately, for one in four women, Fifty Shades is a brutal reality. Would you be happy with a partner who micro-managed your life, dictated what you ate, picked out what contraceptive you used, required you to exercise a certain amount of days and cut you off from your friends and family? Add some good looks, a six pack and billionaire status and voilà, you have Christian Grey!

You cannot fix a violent person with your love, nor is it romantic to be scared.  For Anastasia, love was not always gentle and equitable. It was tempestuous and emotionally draining. But then again, isn’t black technically a shade of grey?

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An Open Letter To Donald Trump

Mr. Trump,

I never rooted for you, and I never will.

But once you were on the verge of getting elected, I found myself saying, “He cannot be THAT bad…”

Oh boy, how wrong was I.

I am a Muslim and a Humanitarian. Yes, it can go hand in hand. And that is one of the reasons why I believed that you cannot be ‘that‘ bad. Come on, you are only human! I waited to see what you have got, as requested by your beautiful daughter Ivanka, despite knowing that you have done everything you could to prove that you are unfit to be president.

It has been a week since you were sworn in, and you have let millions of people down already. People who voted for you, to begin with. People who thought, against all odds, that you will turn out ‘okay.’ People who somehow decided to give you a chance even when you managed to convince them that you are a grave mistake. People who defended you every once in a while, while others freaked out about you becoming the president of The US. People who did not give a rat’s ass about your ridiculous hair, overloaded bronzer, monstrous tie, baggy suit, uneven shirt cuffs and wrinkled pants.

Even though I am not a citizen of your precious United States, I am deeply saddened, offended and dismayed by your ridiculous policies. It was an unfortunate week for politics and decency, which have always been on frigid terms, but are now dead to each other.

On your first day in the Oval Office, you, surrounded by men, signed a ban on federal money going to international groups that perform or provide information on abortions. Amusing, how you and your white + male cabinet consider yourselves fit to make decisions about what women could do with their bodies. Having mentioned that you support an abortion ban at home, signing this order as one of your first executive actions indicates you still see the issue as a priority. Do you not know that reinstating the anti-abortion global ‘gag rule’ will increase the number of unsafe abortions around the world?

Secondly, your policy regarding immigration and immigrants, which would block refugee admissions, uproot the lives of thousands of US green card holders and amp up detentions and deportations of unauthorised immigrants. Do you not know that your wife is an immigrant too?

What caused the latest uproar was that you signed an executive order on Friday to suspend refugee arrivals and impose tough new controls on travellers from seven Muslim countries. You are targeting people based on their faith and national origin, and not on their character or their criminality! How many Muslims from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen have been welcomed into the US in the past? How many of them have established homes, families and careers in the US? How many of them have positively contributed to the betterment of your country, while paying taxes? How many of them consider the US as their home? Just think of all the families who will feel like second-class citizens how. How many people have been been hauled off flights as a result of your decision? How many film directors and actors are unable to attend the Oscars in the wake of your orders? How many students are unable to go back to their studies? Did you not see the chaos and confusion at airports in the US on Saturday, as customs officials sought to implement the order? Alas, you are too wrapped up in your egocentric, diffident, inhumane and dull-witted bubble to be bothered by any of it.

Thanks to a federal judge in Brooklyn, New York, issued an emergency stay on Saturday that temporarily blocks the US government from sending people out of the country after they have landed at a US airport with valid visas. But does ’emergency’ and ‘temporary’ make the cut?

Did you not see how attorneys set up a shop at the O’Hare McDonald’s as they worked to get the people held out? Did you not see volunteer lawyers sitting on the ground, working pro-bono on a Saturday, preparing habeas corpus petitions for detainees at JFK? Did you not see how the JFK airport got roiled by protestors? It was the biggest crowd at JFK since the Beatles landed in 1964! Do you not see how the taxi drivers of New York went on a strike over your Muslim Flight Ban? Amidst the ache, it was delightful to see that ‘your’ citizens from all around the US have got my fellow Muslims’ back. And while you are banning Muslims from entering the US, everyone’s heartthrob (ie; Prime Minister Trudeau) is welcoming them in Canada.

Moreover, let’s not forget that you green-lit the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines, scrapped a money-saving fee cut for new homeowners, froze federal hires, began plans to build the stupid wall and other nods to your base of anti-immigrant hysterics, targeted sanctuary cities, started dismantling the Affordable Care Act, put gag orders on multiple government agencies and removed vital internet content, demanded half-assed environmental reviews so development can proceed (consequences be damned) and many, many, many more despicable things.

I am a Muslim and I love America. I love everything it stands for. I too, want to Make America Great Again, and I cannot believe that YOU happened instead.

Rest assured, humanity will fight back. It is not going to sit around helplessly, while you parade your smug “I-told-you-so” smirk and pout. Muslims and Christians, Jews and Buddhists, Atheists and people of all faiths will co-exist in order to fight the religious oppression you have brought. People with complexions ranging from the darkest browns to the lightest hues will unite to do everything within their power to stop you from practicing open racism. The high income earners and the low income earners would work hand in hand to stop you from sabotaging the economy of the world, as every mindless decision you make will eventually impact the rest of the world. People who are born in the right and wrong bodies will unite to stop you from discriminating humans based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. The married and unmarried, parents and parents-to-be, will do everything they possible could to ensure that a decent future is secured for their young ones. When it comes to humanity as a whole, there would not be any classifications, you will see…

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photo by @quiversarrow

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

“Love alone can unite living beings so as to complete and fulfil them, for it alone joins them by what is deepest in themselves. All we need is to imagine our ability to love developing until it embraces the totality of Men and the Earth.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Yours sincerely,

A Social Justice Warrior

The Battle of Sexes

DISCLAIMER: This Post May Cause Controversy

The Battle of Sexes is the topmost battle of our time. Feminazis spurns Mennists, which lead to #YesAllWomen and #NotAllMen. Yet, the winner of the Gender Supremacy Battle has not been universally declared.

First of all, Feminism. This is the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the genders. This is the true essence of feminism. This is what I stand for. This is what I want to prevail. Fighting for women’s rights is not a synonym for man-hating.

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But –

The evolution of a fraction of Feminists to “Feminazis” jeopardized the true essence of feminism. Feminazis are extreme and perceive to seek superiority over men rather than equality and insist on carrying out a war against men. Recent studies show that this fraction of women are now on the verge of suing male seahorses for giving birth.

I have come across and dealt with different types of males throughout. Ranging from play-dates to schoolmates, co-workers to men whom I have interacted with on social media and through mutual friends, I can safely say that #NotAllMen are assholes. I personally know guys who advocate for the rights of women and yes, they are delightful!

– But then again, there were boys who underestimated my ability to kick a ball around just because I was a girl, thus excluded me from their ball games. Guys who sniggered behind my back at school just because I have a higher intellectual level *smug* and I dared to question. Men who were emotionally abusive and had a doctorate in lying which compelled me to check whether the sun was up every time I received a “Good Morning!” text from one.

Nevertheless, I haven’t lost sight of the men who does not belong on the battlefield at all.

Take my male cousins, for example. They are cheeky in general, but when I hit rock bottom, they are there for me. Their hugs and pep talks whenever I had a bad hair day provided me with the comfort I needed. Now we aren’t as close as we used to be, but they are always a phone call away.

I have male friends who are not trying to get into my pants. They check up on me every now and then, roots for my relationship and sincerely wants me to be the happiest I could be. Ladies, there are good-natured men out there who are striving to be decent people, even in a society entrenched in the patriarchy. But if you are convinced that all men are dogs 100% of the time, you close yourself to meeting genuinely pleasant guys.

And then there’s the most amazing man in my life: My Boyfriend who is also my Best Friend and my Number One Fan. He’s got my back when I wake up with determination, conquer the world and go to bed with satisfaction, and watches out for me in dreamland too. He showers me with unconditional love and that is something which I wouldn’t trade for anything in the universe. اللهم بارك له

These are men whom I appreciate everyday. And I am worried that along the way of becoming determined feminists, some women forget that both men and women deserve equal rights. Of course, there are plenty of men who do despicable things to women, and they deserve to be held accountable, but #NotAllMen are the same. And the decent ones deserve more credit than they get.

Ladies. Don’t let one man alter the way you view the entire gender. Stop rolling your eyes whenever a man holds a door open for you and gives you a smile. Be a strong and independent woman who knows how to value the gestures of courtesy. Stop wailing “Men!” whenever your crush doesn’t text you back. There are guys out there who would text you back in a jiffy. Stop hissing “Men!” whenever a man explains something to you because if someone, regardless of gender, doesn’t know or understand something, and a man does, then by all means, he should explain it! He’s not mansplaining. (Besides, the term “mansplaining” is pejorative. It’s an expression designed to cast aspersion on one group of people based solely on an inborn inherited trait. This term should never be used unless one wishes to belittle and denigrate all men. Clearly, a term that insult all the members of one gender has no part in a struggle for gender equality.)

Men can be awful, sexist, self-centered and heart-breaking creatures. But they can also be beautiful, intoxicating, strong, challenging and tender. They can help us to build ourselves and they can love us selflessly with all their heart. They can see an inner and a complex part of us and believe in it when we fail to do so, at times. They can grow us, and with us, into something truly magical. And it doesn’t always come in the form of a romantic relationship. The love you share with the opposite gender could be within a companionship, too. Hate doesn’t look good on you, darling. Love looks so much better.

Anyhoo, back to what I was saying earlier. Would being “multi-orgasmic” fetch points for women in the Gender Supremacy Battle and would men’s “athletic performance” fetch credit for men too, in the aforesaid battle?

The Battle of Mind

There are two kinds of people in this world. People who consider mental illness like the serious concern it is, and the people/a**holes who ridicule it and question the faith of the person suffering from it. Excuse the harshness, but with regard to the talk of mental illness recently, I can safely say that 65% of the opinions and comments are from the kind of people who fall under the latter of the two.

Mental illness is any disease or condition that influences the way a person thinks, feels, behaves and relates to others and to his/her surroundings. Although the symptoms of mental illness can range from mild to severe and are different depending on the type of mental illness, a person with an untreated mental illness often is unable to cope with life’s daily routines and demands. Although the exact cause of most mental illnesses is not known, it is becoming clear through research that many of these conditions are caused by a combination of genetic, biological, psychological, and environmental factors, NOT due to personal weakness, a character defect, lack of faith, or black-magic, and recovery from a mental illness is NOT simply a matter of will, self-discipline and a couple of prayers. I could keep on repeating this like a prayer, but will the critical Maldivians ever gain an understanding?

Recently a 15 year old girl has reportedly committed suicide by hanging herself from a fan. This awakened the “holier than thou” crowd in our society, and they associated this act of hers to her lack of faith. Yesterday a man has suffered serious injuries after jumping from a building in Male’ in an apparent suicide attempt whilst spectators were having a festive time enjoying the “show.” This is the state of our community today.

I am certain that I have a fair amount of faith, yet I, myself, suffered from mild depression twice. This resulted in mood-swings, changes in personality and social withdrawal. The first time I got out of it was with a lot of pleasantry and support from a bunch of friends. Even if I am not in constant contact with most of them now, with one missing and nowhere to be found yet, I would forever be grateful to them for providing me with the comfort I needed back then. The second time was a tad bit severe than the first, so I increased my level of faith a notch higher than it was before AND turned to my family and friends for support. I did ponder on seeking professional help but later on I did not get to it as my ill condition kept wearing off, which I believe was due to prayers and encouragement from fellow companions. But do you know what the real challenge was, during the two periods I put up with depression? Being told that it was due to my lack of faith, from one of the people closest to me. Being told that if I prayed a bit more, my mental illness would “magically” disappear. Being told to stop moping around and to cheer up, just like that. Explaining my mental condition to that person further added up to my stress and became another battle I had to overcome.

My point? Since mine wasn’t severe and my symptoms were well-controlled, by the mercy of God, I was able to overcome it by seeking solace from prayers and companions, both working hand in hand. Had I isolated myself and kept on praying 24/7, I would not have been able to overcome it. While prayer made me feel better spiritually, the consolation I got from friends and family made me feel better mentally.

So that’s how I coped and overcame. And that is how I will cope and overcome, if, God forbid, I face a similar situation again. My illness was MILD. But there are people out there, suffering and struggling to function in ordinary life due to severe mental disorders. Even if the signs and symptoms vary widely between specific disorders, they are all fighting the same battle and they all deserve treatment. Treatment means all the different ways in which someone with a mental illness can get help to minimise the effects of the illness and promote recovery. This includes psychological therapy, medications and community support programs. However, because there are many different factors contributing to the development of each illness, it can sometimes be difficult to predict how, when, or to what degree someone is going to get better. Just like common cold, flu and fever, mental illness needs to be treated accordingly. Chanting “panadol, panadol, panadol,” as a mantra whenever one gets a fever would not act as a cure. The same way, praying without acquiring proper medication would not help when it comes to mental illness. Hearing the haram-police question their faith and uttering hymns to dispel the assumed evil-spirits would be the last f****** thing they would want to hear.

Unfortunately in Maldives, we lack the ability to provide proper treatment, support systems and EMPATHY to our fellow fighters. Passing on judgement is what most of us do best. Just because one has never undergone a similar situation is no reason to assume that there aren’t people out there who are battling to become the people they once were, back in happier times they have once known.

I would defend anyone with a mental health illness, even if thousands taunt me. I will defend the girl who committed suicide. I will defend the man who attempted to commit suicide. And I will continue to defend all the fighters already fighting, and yet to come. Do you want allegations of suicide or suicide attempts to stop making headlines in this country? Start practicing empathy, or being more empathetic, for a change. One of the greatest ways to improve self-confidence when living with a chronic illness, or when living in a society where this is common, is with education. A person with a mental illness often carries an indelible mark of shame nonetheless and this needs to be changed by breaking the mental health stigma.

Well put, shut up and go educate yourselves.

“No!”

“No.” “Nope.” “Nah.” “Noon.”

See how simple it is to say one little word? Of course, there will be times when it’s not that easy if you’re used to saying yes all the time. As for women, it’s easier to feel obligated to say yes to things that we’d rather turn down so that we don’t come off as cold, rude, or insulting. Learning how to say “no” is a powerful skill and with practice, you may find it easier to master the gentle art of saying no.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying “no” when you need to. Setting boundaries is one of the most important skills to master for both personal and professional growth. By setting boundaries, we find the freedom to behave in our best interest eliminating the distractions and to take a pass on tasks that don’t make the cut. When you say no to the things that don’t help you, you are, in fact, saying yes to the things that will. By saying no, you open up the space necessary for yes.

People will eventually respect you for disagreeing with them. Saying “no” is not the equivalent of flipping a giant middle finger. It’s quite the opposite. When done well, saying no can be far from mean. There is a way to communicate a negative response in a way that leaves the other person feeling valued and heard. It shows that you prioritize self-care to decline unwanted intrusions. In turn, you stop feeling inclined to please people because you have defined a game-plan of your own.

It also makes you feel really good.

Here is a poem I came across on “Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul” which inspired me to write this post. It’s Angela’s Word by Barbara K. Bassett.

When Angela was very young,
Age two or three or so,
Her mother and father
Taught her never to say NO.
They taught her that she must agree
With everything they said,
And if she didn’t, she was spanked
And sent upstairs to bed.

So Angela grew up to be
A most agreeable child;
She was never angry
And she was never wild;
She always shared, she always cared,
She never picked a fight,
And no matter what her parents said,
She thought that they were right.

Angela the Angel did very well in school
And, as you might imagine, she followed every rule;
Her teachers said she as so well-bred,
So quiet and so good,
But how Angela felt inside
They never understood.

Angela had lots of friends
Who liked her for her smile;
They knew she was teh kind of gal
Who’d go the extra mile;
And even when she had a cold
And really needed rest,
When someone asked her if she’d help
She always answered Yes.

When Angela was thirty-three, she was a lawyer’s wife.
She had a home and family, and a nice suburban life.
She had a little girl of four
And a little boy of nine,
And if someone asked her how she felt
She always answered, “Fine.”

But one cold night near Christmastime
When her family was in bed,
She lay awake as awful thoughts went spinning through her head;
She didn’t know why, and she didn’t know how,
But she wanted her life to end;
So she begged Whoever put her here
To take her back again.

And then she heard, from deep inside,
A voice that was soft and low;
It only said a single word
And the word it said was…NO.

From that moment on, Angela knew
Exactly what she had to do.
Her life depended on that word,
So this is what her loved ones heard:

NO, I just don’t want to;
NO, I don’t agree;
NO, that’s yours to handle;
NO, that’s wrong for me;
NO, I wanted something else;
NO, that hurt a lot!
NO, I’m tired, and NO, I’m busy,
And NO, I’d rather not!

Well, her family found it shocking,
Her friends reacted with surprise;
But Angela was different, you could see it in her eyes;
For they’ve held no meek submission
Since that night three years ago
When Angela the Angel
Got permission to say NO.

Today Angela’s a person first, then a mother and a wife.
She knows where she begins and ends,
She has a separate life.
She has talents and ambitions,
She has feelings, needs and goals.
She has money in the bank and
An opinion at the polls.

And to her boy and girl she says,
“It’s nice when we agree;
But if you can’t say NO, you’ll never grow
To be all you’re meant to be.
Because I know I’m sometimes wrong
And because I love you so,
You’ll always be my angels
Even when you tell me NO.”

Women Empower One Another

Listen up, women.

Who among us hasn’t suffered the sting of a woman’s snarky comment, an ickiness of mean-girl shunning or lie-spreading?

Whilst we are working towards changing the thinking towards women in our society, it is saddening to see women trying to tear each other down instead of lifting each other up. Obviously, not all women are like this and there are plenty of men guilty of the same behavior, but why do some of us (ie; women) feel the need to bring each other down?

From the time we’re little girls, we’re taught to compete. I need to be prettier, taller, smarter, my hair needs to be straighter, curlier, whatever it is. I need to get the better looking guy. I need to always be better than because we’re taught to come from a place of lack as women. – Sophia Nelson

Girls pitting themselves against each other in an imaginary competition is internalized misogyny where girls are being sexist toward others of their own gender. We hear so often about the injustices that women face in the society as a result of gender inequality or the stereotyped, but what we do not hear enough about are the injustices we are met with that originate from the hands of other women. This fictional competition and bizarre belief also leads to bullying via social exclusion, malicious rumors and whatnot.
So instead of doing this, slowly ease yourself off of comparing yourself to other girls. Not only will you be doing her a favor, but you’ll be helping yourself as well.

I am sure that many of you have found yourself in a situation where a fellow woman has put you down, a rumor has been spread about you, or you’ve been challenged in an aggressive or threatening way. Or perhaps, in a moment of weakness, you yourself have acted as the aggressor.
Mostly in our society, I see teenage girls fighting over boys! Ranging from school-bullying to psychical fights, it is common to see a girl tearing apart the self-esteem and reputation of another just for the sake of scoring a boy. When I say psychical fights, I do mean hardcore blows and punches. There’s a secondary school in Male’ which is famous for this. I have never set my foot in that place, but it’s a well known fact that the ‘boy-drama’ disrupts the education and well-being of several girls which causes them to leave and pursue their education elsewhere. And as these girls grow older, they come up with more aggressive ways to disrupt relationships and by that time, the consequences would have multiplied too. It is not at all worth to put down a fellow girl just for the sake of the opposite gender who probably is a fuckboy.

Regardless of the situation, the sad reality is, a huge deficit exists in the number of women that make it their personal goal to elevate other women instead of tear them down.

Yet we cannot afford to fall back into destructive ways. Women cannot become a truly unstoppable force for good unless we shake off an old shadow that holds us back and that is how harsh we can be to one another. When we hold one woman back, we hold all women back. And when we empower and support each other, we all go big. The world is calling for us to go big!

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There’s a Wonder Woman inside every one of us. Let’s unleash her this year to better support one another.

Come on, women! We deserve better than this. We are better than this.

Muslim Feminist

The most radical movement in recent times which is revolutionizing the whole social structure and changing the entire basis of human relationships is the Feminist Movement; the drive for Women’s Liberation.

I identify myself as feminist who proudly associates with the “f-word,” along with being a practicing Muslim. Is it possible to be a Muslim and a feminist? Well, of course. Islam and Feminism does not contradict in terms and can work hand-in-hand.

Most of the conflicts between Islam and modern women’s rights attributes to culture rather than the actual religion. Much of what is followed today is the interpretation of a group of scholars dating back hundreds of years, rather than the literal teachings of Allah. The Qur’an is a complex and dense book so that even the act of translation involves interpretation. Reinterpretation of the text is a controversial issue, but there are some interesting attempts by female scholars to challenge accepted wisdom not by deviating from the Qur’an, but by returning to it. This is a religion which unleashed tolerance and equality at a time where girls were being buried alive simply for their gender. A time when slavery was an accepted reality, Islam evoked the freeing of a slave among the best actions a human could take. So at a time when equal rights between tribes are/was unthinkable, let alone between men and women, the Qur’an would constantly reinforce this notion of equality.

Yet gender discrimination is one of the most ill-founded allegations used to discredit Islam. There are several popular myths which perpetuate this gross stereotype.

  • “Islam practices Female Genital Mutilation.”
    There is no evidence to corroborate this from within Islam.

    According to UNICEF, Ethiopia and Nigeria total 43.7 million out of 125 million FGM cases in the 29 countries studied. That is two of the oldest Christian states already counting for 35% of victims. FGM is evidently rooted in central African culture. It is a regional practice, not a religious one.
  • “Muslim women are not allowed to receive an education.”
    Islam encourages education and the pursuit of knowledge.

    “[20:114] And say: My Lord increase me in knowledge.”
    Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 74: “Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim.”
    In fact, this notion of education is so strong in Islam that Muslims are required to question the Qur’an itself. “[38:29] … (They) may ponder over its Verses, and that those of understanding would be reminded.”
    It is desirable for women seek answers that honor their faith, gender and maintaining their dignity whilst excelling in helping society and those around them.
  • “A wife at home has no right to any property, financial security, or to work. if she asks for a divorce, she must return her dowry and has no rights.”
    Islam respects a woman’s right to financial security. 1,300 years ago, Islam clarified a woman’s right to own property, work, and further material entitlements for the sake of independence. Women are entitled to a limitless personal dowry upon marriage, irrevocable in divorce or disagreement. This is in contrast to many Asian cultures where men receive the dowry. A woman also has the right to keep her last name, property she owned prior to marriage, and any income earned during marriage. Her property is recognized as hers alone rather than for the household or for the man. The Prophet’s first wife and the first woman to accept Islam, Khadijah RA, was a businesswoman who was one of the wealthiest in Arabia. If a divorcee has children, she is entitled to child support. “[2:231] When you divorce women, and they reach their prescribed term, then retain them in kindness and retain them not for injury so that you transgress (the limits)…”
  • “Women are overlooked. They have no say nor importance in Islam. If they dare to interject, they will be criminalized.”
    To disregard a woman in Islam is to disregard the consideration given to them through Islam. More than half of Islam comes from a woman. Aisha (RA) narrated over two thousand Hadith which consists the major source of guidance for Muslims and is noted for teaching eminent scholars. No other major religion ordains a female as an authority used to cite religious virtues. To say women should not “dare to interject”, when 1.5 billion Muslims across the world look to a woman’s work in guidance of their faith, is neither logical nor sane.
  • “Showing disrespect to a woman is fine as a man’s status is higher than her.”
    The Qur’an explicitly refutes this countless times.

    “[3:195] Their Lord responded to them: “I never fail to reward any worker among you for any work you do, be you male or female, you are equal to one another.”
    “[4:124] As for those who lead a righteous life, male or female, while believing, they enter Paradise; without the slightest injustice.”
    “[49:13] O’ People, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes, that you may recognize one another.”

So by saying that “Islam and feminism cannot co-exist”, you are handing a victory to that conservative faction. People need to rethink this idea of Islamic Feminism as an oxymoron. It is only through establishing that identity and stability that self-respect can be achieved and a more healthy climate for both Muslim men and Muslim women will emerge.

While world religions squabbled over vilifying women for the “Original Sin,” Islam stepped in and said both man and woman were responsible, they were both forgiven, and they are both equal. Therefore, instead of a religion which oppresses women in material matters, Islam seeks to safeguard and empower them. This, in the end, is what Islamic Feminism is about.