Do Muslim Women Need Feminism?

That was the name of a laughable seminar organized by God knows who at the International Islamic University of Malaysia. The laughable part was the two speakers involved, as you’ll see from the event poster below:

Now, there’s nothing wrong with organizing a seminar on whether or not Muslim women need feminism, but what’s truly hilarious is getting two men to sit on a stage and tell Muslim women whether they need feminism or not.

Seriously, could this university not find any Muslim women to talk on the subject? I’m not even sure these two men were Malaysian, so I have my doubts as to whether or not they could even speak on the context of Malaysian Muslim women’s lives.

Anyway, after the seminar, an audience member posted on Facebook that it was every bit the car wreck you’d expect such a condescending event to be. The two men sat on stage and lectured the audience on how women are inferior physically, mentally and emotionally. They used outdated science, tired arguments, and bankrupt philosophy to ultimately conclude that Muslim women did not need feminism. From all accounts it sounds like they did everything except say that feminism is a Western plot invented by Shaitan to lead Muslim women astray.

It’s certainly possible to deny women their rights and use Islam as justification for doing so, look to misogynist jurists, scholars, and translators for evidence that women are inferior to men. But it is intellectually dishonest to do so.

Enough scholarship exists to prove that this is one the biggest scams in the Muslim world: the revolutionary spirit of the early years in Islam — where strong women were lauded, where equality was enshrined in the Quran, when the mechanisms for guaranteeing women their economic independence and their dignity were put in place — was trampled upon by men who could not bear to give up their privilege They misinterpreted, mistranslated, and twisted everything in order to come up with the same scrambled patriarchy enjoyed by their forefathers.

For many Muslim women who identify as feminists, and for many feminists who identify as Muslim women, here’s what the answer to the question looks like:

God, through Islam, gave me equal rights. Muslim men conspired to take them away. Feminism helped me to stand up and reclaim them.