What it is like to be an Indian Muslim male feminist

You don't need to be a woman to wage gender jihad.

 |  4-minute read |   13-02-2018
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Feminism is quite a loaded term in Muslim societies. Everything from technology to Islamic science to Islamic banking is acceptable but if I claim to stand for Islamic feminism it draws frowns from each person who brands every strand of western knowledge as Islamic without caring about its epistemology and philosophy.

If they would care to introspect at a deeper level they will find how hollow their understanding is.

Most Muslim men of knowledge continue to adhere to the redundant concepts of Islamisation of knowledge and Islamic banking, but would like to term Islamic feminism as a western conspiracy. They look at it as a project aimed at opening the doors of moral laxity capable of destroying the institution of family in the Muslim world that is already under strain more because of modernity, globalisation and forces of societal change than a grand conspiracy of west.

It has become an innocent excuse for Muslims that instead of introspection they brand everything considered evil as a western and Jewish conspiracy. This conspiracy theory mindset has led Muslims towards self aggrandisement putting brakes on their progress and intellectual development.

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Muslim women do not need a legal recourse or a male chauvinist like Prime Minister Narendra Modi to come to their rescue. What they need is to reclaim their rights that Islam, Quran and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) have already bestowed on them. But over the centuries patriarchy, misogyny and incorrect interpretation of holy scriptures at the hands of men have snatched away these revolutionary rights from Muslim women. Now this patriarchy needs to be challenged by Muslim women.

Islamic feminism is a movement to restore those rights and interpret Islam in a gender just manner. I associate myself with the gender justice movement in Islam.

It is easy for a woman to be associated with feminism. But how about men as feminists? Nay what are you talking about? How can a man be a feminist? No, he must be a gay camouflaging his sexuality behind feminism.

For some male friends, claiming to be a feminist is the best way to reach out to women, make friends and exploit.

Most males think that male-female friendship is not possible unless there is a sexual angle to it.

Patriarchy has reinforced the belief in men that they should not sob or display emotions because they are brave and need to protect women.

Most women don't see gentle and gender just men as future husbands but men who are only suited to be shoulders to lean on, thus they are friend-zoned.

Feminist or gender just men are not impotent or lacking in physical desires but they cherish the fact that love must be found before physical bonds are established. They cherish the value of being loyal to their girlfriends or wives instead of satiating their sexual hunger whenever they find an opportunity.

Religious-minded patriarchal men believe granting women, considered to be low in reasoning, limitless freedom is a blunder. They believe giving them decision-making powers as wives will wreck havoc as they are supposed to be subservient to their husbands because marriage as an institution can run properly only when there is one head.

Marriage according to them is not based on mutual love, respect and understanding but on power relations that they disguise as religion and social norms.

The biggest shock you receive is when your female feminist friends take the job of a mullah and begin issuing fatwas when they reach a point of disagreement with you. The best whip to lash at you is to brand you patriarchal because you may not be on the same page with them.

I encountered this during a divorce case. After listening to both the parties, I happened to reach at a solution that I considered pragmatic.

But the feminists had made up the mind to punish the husband as he was male and the wife had alleged that he abused her though no evidence to the same existed.

Feminism for me does not stand for male bashing, but gender justice in which both sexes are equal stakeholders.

However, the feminist brigade decided to keep me at arm's length from the issue saying I was a man and we couldn't be on the same page.

So as a man you'll find your commitment to feminism constantly questioned. However, if your core beliefs are strong with the head and heart committed to ensuring gender justice then these impediments are not really a reason to worry.

One needs to be sure that gender justice is a cause worth fighting for and you don't need to be a woman to wage gender jihad. All you need is a burning desire to smash patriarchy and stay indifferent to what patriarchs or feminists say about you. You are there for justice and that is all you need to remind yourself.

Also read: No, eating cashews is not bad for you

Writer

MHA Sikander MHA Sikander

Writer-activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir.

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