If Donald Trump’s version of Muslims were true, I’m probably the most un-Muslim Muslim who’s walking—sans burqa—on the streets of LA. Yes, I pray five times a day on the regular (okay fine, four, only because it’s really really hard to wake up in the mornings), I recite a different verse from the Quran every night before I go to bed—but I also believe you should be allowed to love whomever you want to, wear whatever you think looks good, and not rely on your husband to bring the turkey bacon home.
It’s a strange time to be a muslim
It’s a strange time to be Muslim. You have radical extremists, who’ve got the teachings of the Quran in a funk. But you also have people like Pierre Bergé, co-founder of Yves Saint Laurent Couture, taking issue with designers creating Islamic fashion, saying that, “When brands invest in this Islamic garment market, they are shirking their responsibilities and are promoting women’s bodies being locked up.” And I hate to break it to you Monsieur Bergé, but saying “I live in Morocco most of the time, I am really not Islamophobic,” is as good as saying “I am not racist, my neighbors are Black.” I get it, there are assholes who kill the innocent and claim to be Muslims, but my people are also contributing to the global economy on a scale that’s barely talked about.
I’m lucky enough to live in Los Angeles, where it’s diverse, and I haven’t been attacked on the streets for believing in Allah. But would I offer information about my religious beliefs to Uber drivers who ask me inappropriate questions? Absolutely not. Am I terrified for women who wear hijabs living in the US? Yes. But I’m also incredibly proud of them at the same time.
Despite the rampant Islamophobia that’s happening throughout the US, I’m living here out of own free will. But watching political rallies on TV, I see a growing number of places where I would simply not be safe. And while some of our growing Islamophobia is based on flat-out backward ignorance, some of it (Hey, Pierre Bergé) is based on a righteous liberalism. It comes from an idea that the West knows Muslim women better than we know ourselves, and that the West’s version of feminism proves that Islam is a backward patriarchal worldview. But that is another kind of ignorance—the willful kind.
Feminist Islam, Explained
I’ve never known Islam and feminism to be separate entities. I was born and raised as a Muslim in Singapore, and while my parents have probably never realized it, the way they brought us up made my brother and I feminists. They’ve have never made me feel like I was lesser in stature because of my gender; they taught me everything they teach my brother—from reading the Quran, to learning how to fix a broken toilet, to equal opportunities in our education.
As a result, my marriage is about as egalitarian as it gets. We equally share the burden of putting gluten-free bread on the table; my husband vacuums the floors as often as I act as technical support for all our gadgets and devices. We exist—perhaps in a bubble—where women are not weak, and a man with weaknesses is not any less of a man.
And yet, when it comes to marriage in Islam, there is a widespread preconceived notion that women have little to no rights. But getting married in Islam requires a contract between equal partners, but the bride has exclusive rights to stipulate her own conditions, including divorce terms.
Islam is… radically forward thinking?
There’s a text in the Quran that addresses polygamy—it stipulates that men are allowed to have up to four wives:
“… marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice.”
It isn’t worth nothing that this text was revealed to Prophet Muhammad after the Battle of Uhud, which saw scores of Muslim men dead, leaving their wives as widows, and single women unmarried. In a time where it was unheard of for women to go out to work, or fend for themselves, the Verse came down for the purpose of protecting the women, orphans who are of marrying age, and to increase the number of the Muslims by allowing the men to marry multiple wives. It was never intended for a man’s sexual pleasure, privilege, or in support of his ego.
In a time in history where men could literally jump from one wife to another, forsaking the last, Islam brought about responsibility—if you can’t treat your one wife justly, don’t marry a second. It’s a step more feminist than society at that time. Does it have its flaws when applied to society today? Definitely—but so do a lot of religious texts when applied to modern society.
It’s easy to brush off something you don’t understand, or something that you haven’t practiced as barbaric. It’s also easy to offer “help” where none is needed. I think religion is faith based on your own interpretation. My religion is one that upholds women to the highest degree. My religion believes that men and women are equals… and I think it’s time everybody knew that.