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The Fall and Rise of the Veil: Leila Ahmed Those of us leading this transformation are confident in claiming Islam for ourselves. (Sociology 156)

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Presentation on theme: "The Fall and Rise of the Veil: Leila Ahmed Those of us leading this transformation are confident in claiming Islam for ourselves. (Sociology 156)"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Fall and Rise of the Veil: Leila Ahmed Those of us leading this transformation are confident in claiming Islam for ourselves. (Sociology 156)

2 4:34 Traditional translation: – Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband's] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance - [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand. (Shahih International) 2

3 4:34 Key word: daraba – Usually translated to mean to beat or to hit But Laleh Bakhtiar, in her English translation, interprets the word as to go away from – Root verb has many possible meanings, including hers Mohammed never reported to have struck his wives, said bet husband the one who treated his wife best, women to be granted divorces at will – Bakhtiar concludes that translating as to beat not internally consistent with Quran, decides to interpret as to go away from, i.e. to divorce – The return of scholarship and interpretation, but animated by Islamist political impulse Male ISNA secretary general in Canada condemns Bakhtiars translation, considers banning it in ISNA bookstores ISNA president Ingrid Mattson rebukes him, affirms the diversity of North American Islam, the value of debate – The supremacy of men and right to enforce it through bans may once have gone unquestioned, but not today ( ) 3

4 Changing face of Islam in America Not a matter of questioning the validity Quran, but of understanding it correctly – Does justice necessarily include gender equality? Post-9/11 era in America a moment of unprecedented opportunity for Muslim, feminists, liberals, and progressivesand even of liberal progressives. – Critiques of radical & even strongly conservative Islam, such as Wahhabism – Womens place in Islam a subject of public concern Nomani (2004): Ive seen that if we dont assert ourselves, were relinquishing our religion to be defined by those who speak the loudest and act the toughest. (272-74) – Even so, activists typically reject the label feminist (291) 4

5 Changing face of Islam in America It seems that anyone aspiring to leadership today in the religious-cum-academic community among Western Muslims, American or European, must give some generally liberally inclined attention at least to issues of women and gender. – To these, gender equality appears self-evidently a part of Islamic justice – Many such scholars get their BA in the US, attend Islamic university in the Muslim world, return to US for grad school, combining the two scholarly traditions American Islam confronting same changes in gender politics faced by American Christianity & Judaism in the 1960s & 70s (275-78) 5

6 Changing face of Islam in America Abdul Ghafur: Global Islam in the midst of a transformation led largely by Muslims in the West: because we have certain academic freedoms and freedom of speech and freedom to worship. These civil liberties are largely unknown in Muslim-majority countries. Those of us leading this transformation are confident in claiming Islam for ourselves. – True? Or is it better to speak of emerging Islams, as we might Christianities? Saed: Patriarchy and sexism are not necessarily Islamic traits but are actually cultural traits. – Islamic, even Islamist, and American values intertwine (280-82) 6

7 Identity & Activism For the young generation of American Muslim activists, their identity as Muslim Americans clearly trumps and supersedes their sense of identity and community as grounded in either ethnicity or national origins. – Ideological legacy of Islamism; non-activists may place much more emphasis on nationality – Also a distinction between Islamist understanding of Islam as necessitating political and social engagement, and the more private, apolitical understanding of the American Muslim majority As Islamism spreads in the Middle East, identities change and bonds between, for example, Egyptian Muslims and Egyptian Christians may be loosened as bonds between Egyptian and Saudi Arabian Muslims grow more salient ( ) 7

8 Womens Rights Concerns w/womens rights and equality can be found in liberal, radical feminist, & conservative American Muslim women – Liberals & radical feminist may or many not wear hijab, conservatives (ISNA, MSA) women are consistently do, in addition to other concealing Islamic attaire Widespread concern w/minority & womens equality not found in Islamist movements in home countries, which typically emphatically reaffirm patriarchal institutions & practices – Brotherhood theorist Sayyid Qutb excluded women from among those who were to be considered autonomous human subjects subservient to no one and entitled to equal justice in the ideal Islamic state that was to be ruled by sharia. (292) 8

9 Womens Rights Female leaders, like Ingrid Mattson, not found in Islamist leadership outside the US – Even in the UK, they imported American Muslim women for for a female-led prayer event The emergence of this wave of Islamic activism in relation to issues of women and gender is... the product of the convergence of key elements in the teachings of Islamism with the ideals and understanding of justice in America in these very specific decades. – Had this merging occurred in 1950, for example, the concern with womens equality would not have been an issue In their home countries, Islamist organizations do not advocate equality before the law for minorities, in America they do ( ) 9

10 Identity & Activism It is Islamists and the children of Islamists and not secular or privately religious Muslims who are most fully and actively integrating into [a] core and definingly American tradition of social and political activism and protest in pursuit of justice. – It is they, after allthey and not us, the secular or privately religious Muslimswho are now at the forefront of the struggle in relation to gender issues in Islam, as well as with respect to other human rights issues of importance to Muslims in America todayand implicitly of importance in the long term to other Americans too. (297) But recall that Ahmed focuses on the most progressive minority of the Islamist and Islamist-influenced activist minority (301) Fifty years ago, it looked as if the veil was headed for extinction. 50 years from now, who knows? (305) 10

11 What does it mean to be a secular Muslim? The word changes meaning across time and space Dr. Tariq Amahd: We do not pray five times a day, do not read the Koran and have not spent much time inside a mosque. – Describes practices of the pre-Islamist majority, at least in Egypt – Focuses on the outward signs of belief Secular a term applied pejoratively early on in the rise of Islamism to Muslims who were not Islamists and who did not practice Islam as Islamists did, for example, who did not wear hijab even though many women were, in their own eyes, believing Muslims. ( ) – Islamists capture & define conceptual labels – Some Muslims finding themselves alienated by and feeling no sympathy with the now dominant Islamist strain of Islam, perhaps begin to wonder if they in fact are Muslims after all: if this is Islam. – Putnam & Campbells nones & Christian conservative politics 11

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