By Inas Younis, New Age Islam
01 February, 2014
When it comes to lending moral legitimacy to the war on terror, sex is the new currency. The rhetoric of female emancipation is being packaged with everything from terror control to Islamic reform. The custodians of Islamic reform argue that the Islamic theory of law is open to a wide range of interpretations and can accommodate a more liberal world order. And while this may in fact be true, should the question of rights rest on the triumph of one interpretation over another?
To make a plea for women’s rights in a cultural climate where men are forced to break moral laws in order to exercise moral autonomy, and where religious consensus takes precedence over objective law, is dishonest. For what good is a liberation movement that will secure a women’s right to be as free as her intellectually censored and anesthetized male counterpart? What can we hope to achieve for women and their rights when the subliminal motivation of the practitioners of tribal ideology in the Muslim world, is not the intellectual disarmament of women but the disregard for the viability of intellect? What progress can we hope to achieve, when the motivation is not to elevate man's mind and spirit, but to destroy it. And to do so with the moral authority granted to them by the moral agnosticism of the westernized Muslim, who has not been able to take an intellectual approach to political problems, but is subconsciously reinforcing that same sense of tribalism with his fashionable obsession with women’s rights.
For what we identity as tribalism in the east has its western corollary in the identity politics of the new left, the Muslim new left. Identity politics seeks the interests of social minorities based on the same kind of criteria that inspires the blind loyalty of a sectarian. Both claim special favour by virtue of birth right, the first because he was born with a particular attribute, the second because he was born into a particular tribe.
The westernized Muslim’s evolution from the primitive ideas of tribalism to the more sophisticated but philosophically identical politics of social marginalisation, does not have him on a quest to secure the individual rights of men, but the right of their women to lead them in prayer. It has him advancing feminist interpretations of the Quran, as if the issue is misinterpretation of religious law, rather than a wilful disregard for the “rule of law”.
If the only remedy Muslim Intellectuals have to radicalization and tribalism is more of same kind of unity at any cost, with unity as the only standard of value, then we are broke. So long as Muslims continue to congregate around identity, rather than ideas, then the conversation is over.
Muslim intellectuals are so consumed with placating the establishment with rhetoric about women’s rights, that the only consolation they can give the Muslim Ummah is that they intend on using the same religious means (the Quran and Sunnah) to achieve a different end. Forgetting that the issue is not freedom won over by a more liberal interpretation versus a radical one. The real issue is- freedom from official interpretations.
So no matter how politically correct modernized Muslims are, trying to appease the critics on all sides will have no meaningful impact on reality except to dilute our perception of it. And it has misdirected Muslims away from public outcry to public relations. Being pro women, pro minority, and pro popular will not give mild mannered Muslims any more credibility, until and unless they have a real revisionist credo. After all, to be in a position of leadership requires that you actually take a position.
After sad meditation it has come to me that the battle for women’s rights has had the opposite of its intended consequences. For now, not only are women in the third world oppressed, but Muslim women in free societies have had to endure the corruption of their own passions in the pursuit of combating the negative imagery imposed upon them by a hostile media.
What Muslim women want is no different than what every human being inherently deserves - the right and protection to act independently of a group, to be identified as an individual, and not a walking billboard. Whether that bill board is an endorsement of the blinding Burqa or of a brand obsessed overachieving modern woman was never the issue. Because the role of our thinkers is to identify the abstractions and not just the tangibles. It is to show us both sides of that same coin. If we are ever going to reinstate Islam as an ideology of justice, then the place to start is civilisation's most sacred non-negotiable tenant -- individual rights.
I for one declare, that I do not wish to fight for the status of women, or even the status of Islam, but rather the status of the emancipated mind of each and every one of its adherents- man or woman.
Inas Younis is a freelance writer residing in Kansas. She has written for Muslim Girl Magazine and her work was featured in the anthology Living Islam Out Loud. She contributed this article to New Age Islam.