Debunking Huffington Post’s “Muslims Are the True Feminists”

Hey everyone! It’s your friendly ex-Muslim Abdullah Sameer. I am sure you must have heard the argument that Islam is a feminist religion. In this post, I will be going through an article by Huffington Post, that explains that Islam is a feminist religion and that Islamic feminism is the best.

I chose this article because I found this to be the one that perfectly explains what Muslims mean by feminism when they say,  “Islam is very pro-women” and how it differs from what feminism actually is. The crazy thing is, it’s not just Islam, but other orthodox religions that are incompatible with feminism. Most of them have very strict gender roles and often the woman gets the short end of the stick.

Even within Islam, there are sects like Ismailism where women actually have more rights, but she is not talking about that, she is talking about Orthodox Sunni Islam where the woman has to cover up, pray behind men, get half the inheritance, and so on. Let’s see why she thinks it’s feminist and what evidence she brings! I give you “Muslims are true feminists by Gabby Aossey, Huffington post” 

As a quick intro, Gabby is a half Mexican half Lebanese who identifies as a Muslim woman. She writes for Al-Jadid magazine. 

Here is how she started her article:

“As American women, many of us have an idea of what feminists are; freelancing women with all the sexual freedom in the world. But this is exactly the problem with American feminism; it is all about sex and the liberation of our bodies. Certainly, things like abortion and contraception are a part of that freedom, but in today’s society, the fight has taken on a much different tone.”

Okay, so there’s a problem with the first part of this paragraph already. ‘Freelancing women with all the sexual freedom in the world’? You mean giving women the right to wear whatever they want and be intimate with whoever they want to be with as long as they are over the age of consent? Is that really a bad thing? 

People can have their own opinion about what is appropriate and what isn’t. Feminists don’t say all women need to be showing off their bodies and having sex with random men. They say that women should have the right to choose. So basically if a woman doesn’t like this sort of lifestyle, she doesn’t have to follow it, but if she wants to, she should have the freedom to.

She the continues –

“Hip Feminist campaigns like Free the Nipple only encourage a gullible behavior of disrespect for our own bodies, leading to everyone else around us disrespecting our bodies as well.

 If we want to be respected as women and taken seriously in all our endeavors we should look to a new source: Muslim women.

Muslim women, as well as Muslim men, see everybody as a sacred temple, especially the female body. Opposed to exposing themselves, it is through modesty. When we think of modern feminists we should stray away from the new American trends and start looking to what we have always thought of as a contradiction – Muslim feminists.”

Already she is straw-manning. The “Free the nipple” feminists are not mainstream, even though their point is the freedom to choose. So she’s started off with a strawman. She used the most extreme example of feminists in order to defeat it which is what a strawman is. And why is uncovering equated to disrespecting bodies? Don’t many cultures go around with their bodies showing?

Why is that considered disrespectful? So if men show their chest, they are disrespecting their bodies? Hmm. So I’m guessing Islam says men can’t show their chest either, right? You used Muslim men as examples of those who respect their bodies right? What does Islam say?

[Islamic Preacher]“For the young men let me make something clear the awrah for the man is from his navel to his knee. That means you can’t see from his navel to his knee the shape of his body His front or back should not be seen” 

So according to Islam men have to cover their bodies from their navel to their knees. That’s it. Since feminism is about equality and this article makes the case that both men and women need to abstain from exposing their bodies too much, I guess the same rule of covering applies to women too… right?

[Zakir Naik] “The Quran and Islam have prescribed hijab. That means the women should be covered. The only parts that can be seen are the face and the hands upwards of the wrist. This is for the modesty”

Ohh… I guess not. Gabby implies that women’s bodies are more sacred. We just started the first paragraph and there are so many issues already. Feminism is about giving women equal rights to men and that includes freedom to wear whatever they want… Modest or not. Islam has different rulings for what men and women can wear and what they need to cover.

Islam says women have to cover-up significantly more than men and that goes against feminism. So I am sorry, Islam does not give women the freedom to wear whatever they want and so it definitely isn’t a feminist religion. Twist it however you like.

Anyway, let’s continue reading.

“Contrary to American popular belief, Islam has a culture and history of women empowerment. In the Qur’an, which is believed to be God’s word told to Prophet Muhammad, women and men are described as equals in everyday actions and responsibilities. When it comes to family, charity, children, sex, and much more, a man and a woman have the same duties and that is to continue on the straight path.”

Mmmmmh… call me skeptical. Equal responsibilities and duties? Oh really? We read in Quran 2:228

“Women have the same rights against their men as men have against them, but men have a degree above them. Allah is All-Powerful, All-Wise.”

That’s odd… I thought you said men and women have equal rights and responsibilities according to this article. Perhaps a tafsir is what we need to clarify that terrible Islamophobic thought we are all having about this inequality in Islam. 

According to Tafsir al-Jalalayn, “Women shall have rights due from their spouses similar to those rights due from them with justice as stipulated by the Law in the way of kind conjugality and not being harmed, but their men have a degree above them in rights as in their duty to obey their husbands because of their the husbands’ payment of a dowry and their husbands being the bread-winners”

Oh. But I thought “women and men are described as equals in everyday actions and responsibilities.” according to Islam. So Islam gives men a degree of rights above women… So what does that mean? Unequal rights!

We haven’t even talked about how the Quran says men can go on their wives however they want,, how men have the right to hit their wives, how women get an unequal inheritance we didn’t go into any of that but anyways supposedly the Quran says men and women are equal

Then we talk about Khadija. She claims Khadijah shows the strength of Islamic feminism. Early Islamic women kept this idea alive. The first Muslim woman was Khadija, Mohammed’s first wife. Without her influence, Islam might not have emerged as successfully as it did. Khadija was a businesswoman and a landowner in the lands of Arabia. When Mohammed was given revelations, it was Khadija that ensured him that he was not going insane, but that he was a chosen one.

It was Khadija that pushed Mohammed to listen to God and the angels that were trying to communicate with him and to not run in fear. It was Khadija that gave Muhammad the support and confidence in his development as becoming God’s last prophet.

“Khadija, a woman, was the strength that allowed Islam to fully bloom. Just this one example gives us a view on how true Muslim women are; outspoken, driven, certain, and courageous, the epitome of a feminist.”

Khadija was a successful businesswoman before Islam. Before Mohammad. She actually financed Mohammad so let’s not thank Islam for her success. She got that money from her father, and if she had a brother under Islam she would have got half.

Secondly, yea she was gullible enough to believe Mohammad when he told her he was a prophet, and then she advised Mohammad to continue listening to those voices in his head. How is that a symbol of feminism? She was just supporting her husband. How does this represent strength and courage? She wasn’t going out there doing anything. You can make the argument that she was a supportive wife who trusted her husband. But that’s about it.

“So it’s no surprise to see Muslim women today modeling themselves after these prominent female figures. Muslim girls look towards these instances of strength for guidance in this scary, patriarchal society.”

So….. Muslim women need someone like Khadija to look up to? So they can be as gullible as her and support their husband’s delusional thoughts instead of… I don’t know… Taking her husband to a mental hospital? I guess there were no mental hospitals back then so we can forgive her for that. 

All Khadijah did and this article highlights is that she supported her husband. That’s it. That’s it. She didn’t stand up for women’s rights or anything courageous… Where are the strength and courage that are being constantly spoken about? Muhammad used her finances to promote his own delusional views.

“Hijab is the headscarf that is worn by Muslim women and no; it is not supposed to be forced on them by their fathers and husbands. Wearing or not wearing the Hijab reflects a Muslim woman’s own personal choice.”

Maybe to you but not to a lot of women around the world, hijab is compulsory for many of them. Also, I don’t agree with the statement that Islam doesn’t allow husbands and fathers to force their daughters to cover up. What is force?

According to Islam, women need to be obedient to their parents before their marriage and their husbands after their marriage. If the husband orders her to cover-up and she says no, doesn’t the verse about disobedient wives apply here?

According to this verse, a husband can go as far as to hit his wife (yes even if it’s lightly) if she doesn’t cover up upon his demand. That would fall under nushuz or disobedience or rebellion How tolerant and unforceful

“For me, this idea especially showcases feminism in America. With all of the pressures in our American society to have a certain physical allure; to have long, luscious hair, a skinny yet curvy body, flawless facial beauty, Women go through hell. With this, we succumb to the pressures that we generally think we are free of; we oppress our natural womanhood with constant worry about how we are to look to others around us.

We do not have the courage to stand up to this societal critique and say ‘My body is not to be ogled at. For many Muslim women, however, they strive to achieve just that. In this way, they liberate themselves from these everyday pressures. They actually have the courage to say “Hey, I am not an object of pleasure. I am a woman who commands only respect for who I am and not how I look. They have the power to self-liberate as well as the courage to diverge from the American norms. And they do not get attention from showing off their figure, but they get attention by how they present themselves. Muslim women get respect and are looked at beyond aesthetics; they are actually taken seriously in their communities.”

This is such a ridiculous thing to say. Yes of course you should be appreciated for your intelligence and courage and other characteristics. But why is it shameful or even patriarchal for women to want to be appreciated for their looks too? What is so bad about women who want others to listen to their opinions as well as be complimented for their looks?

Obviously, if you take this too far and say the only thing that matters is beauty then it’s wrong and damaging. Why does the same ruling not apply to men? Do you not think men feel pressured to look good as well?

This article is extremely problematic. Muslim women are also expected to cover-up they’re demanded to cover-up So again they’re judged by their looks The expectation on how Muslim women have to dress is really high. You can trust me on this.

Try going to the mosque wearing skimpy clothes or any sort of “un-Islamic clothing”. Try going to a Muslim country. Man, even in Saudi Arabia, my mom who was in her sixties was told off by a Muslim man because she had a few hairs showing under her hijab. Do you really think that Muslim women are free from being judged for their looks? Hell no!! They’re constantly judged and criticized and condemned for not being “Islamic enough” in their clothing. You believe people complimenting women for their looks is degrading. Or that women who want to look nice for themselves are victims of patriarchy.

“Isn’t this what feminism should be? Don’t women deserve consistent respect and to actually be listened to without drools or criticisms over our bodies and looks? I believe the answer is yes In the Muslim-American community; and even in parts of the greater Muslim world, modest women, whether they wear hijab or not, are respected and called upon, despite what our mainstream media feeds to us.”

No. This isn’t feminism at all. You complain about women being criticized for their bodies yet you do the same for women who don’t wear modest clothing. Feminism includes the freedom of women to do anything or wear anything they want. If you aren’t on board with giving women the freedom to wear revealing clothing if they want to, you aren’t a feminist. Sorry.

I love how she uses the Muslim world as an example of places that respect women. According to a 2013 poll, Muslims in most Muslim countries say that wives should always obey their husbands. According to a 2014 poll, Muslims in most Muslim countries believe that women wearing hijab is the “appropriate” way for women to dress.

She then writes, “I finally understood who is really oppressed by a patriarchal society and it is us. Women who wear the hijab have freed themselves from a man’s and a society’s judgmental gaze; the Free the Nipples have not. They have fallen deep into the man’s world, believing that this trend will garner respect. “

I would like to just call out the elephant in the room. She doesn’t wear a hijab. Not only that, it was a man who told women to wear hijab It was Mohammad on the advice of his friend Umar. He didn’t like people looking at his wives. That’s where the hijab comes from. Is that not patriarchy right there? Mohammad has also said in a hadith that no country that appoints women as their leader will ever prosper when he heard that the Persians had appointed some woman as their queen.

Well, the easiest way to refute this claim is to look at the numerous women leaders such as Queen Elizabeth II. Not to mention Queen Sheba who is mentioned in the Quran. Anyway, this is a dumb overgeneralization on Muhammad’s part.

In Conclusion, do I think Islam gives some rights to women? Yes, of course. Every religion gives some rights to women. Islam does give women the right to refuse a forced marriage (if they are old enough to), it gives women the right to sue for divorce in an Islamic court, give the right to education and jobs, etc. But just because Islam gives some rights to women which are severely limited compared to the rights given in modern societies to women, it doesn’t mean it’s a feminist religion.

When people say Islam is anti-women they don’t mean that Islam says women should be put to death the minute they are born. They mean that Islam is on the whole oppressive to women and is unfair to them, so citing a few Islamic references to show the few rights Islam gives women or to mention Khadija, the woman who became rich before Islam and whose money was drained after Islam does not prove anything

Remember, we need to continue the battle these bad ideas and call them out because the truth is important. Islam is not good for women, and it’s surely not good for the world.

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