The Veils of Democracy: Into the thought-experiment of Steal this Hijab

Dear Steal this Hijab readers:

I launched Steal this Hijab in April 2010 as a way to communicate all that I was learning through my PhD studies on gender rights in an Islamic context. I maintain StH in my spare time, and given I work, research and am politically active – there is not much time to spare!

However, I feel the idea-experiment that StH is the fruit of, continues to be an important aspect of my development as a critical thinker (dare I say scholar?!), and activist. Steal this Hijab demands me to stay quite vigilant about searching for new ideas, movements and ways of calling for and creating a world where equality, freedom, mutual aid, and cooperation serve as the foundations onto which we sketch our lives.

One of the central commitments that I have decided on in terms of the ethos of StH is a dedication to amplifying the voices of those who struggle for justice – allowing them to speak for themselves, yet trying to make those voices heard at all levels. This commitment is ultimately in the service of my own conception of democracy as a praxis that must continuously be struggled for, even as it evolves and changes and appears in different guises over time and space. I seek to understand and promote forms of democracy that utilize a horizontal decision-making process. One that understands that fundamental and sustainable change comes best ‘from below’, from the struggle of ordinary people who take control over their own lives for their benefit, but also for the benefit of their families (in whatever configuration!), communities and larger society.

I think the tension over individual and communal needs will be addressed through a creative process that does not seek to collapse power around one pole or another – but sees that freedom (even individual freedom) as an imperative foundation of a socialist society. I think this means we draw from those models that have been won for us through thought and struggle, whilst searching for novel understandings and new ways to organize ourselves that help us to press the project of liberation forward. This sort of conception of practice in political theory is often referred to as direct democracy and forms of the basis on which many libertarian socialist organizations formulate and practice democracy.

I have felt more and more that the conversations happening in the field(s) of gender studies at its intersectional or axial points are some of the most emancipatory of any I have come across. Mainly because I think the struggle over gender, its implications and formulations of power structures both within and without, ultimately converge into a focus on issues of inclusion and exclusion. In the abstract that notion seems somewhat intangible, but when contextualized it becomes quickly apparent. A classic example from a gender studies perspective is  the debates over abortion – who should ultimately be responsible for the decision of what a person does with their body. How far does autonomy go when it comes to the question of a potential other life? Is the right to life strictly in the hands of the person bearing the fetus, or should society extend rights (even an equality of rights) to the fetus? If the fetus needs to be considered in decision, how should this be done, and to what extent does the life of the fetus have over the right to life, including quality of life, of the person bearing it?

In many countries throughout the world, the issue of abortion and its connection to issues of democracy – especially direct democracy – are fundamental. In the case of abortion the decision to continue with a pregnancy or not often does not lie in the hands of the person who is carrying the fetus. In Ireland where I live, the state is the ultimate decision maker on this question. And the state has, until this day, made the decision to exclude the right of the individual over a dated conception of the will of the whole – coming out of the dominant notions held by the Catholic Church. Catholic conceptions of societal ethics continue to influence what is perceived as the status quo in Ireland, despite a clear change in attitudes towards both ethics and the Catholic Church. But with a political system that perpetuates top down power structures in the favor of maintaining the status quo in order to maintain themselves, means that principles of direct democracy and individual freedom are subordinated to the will of a perceived majority. Rather than allowing for ‘choice’ – the right to choose what one does with their own body, the power over this decision is made by the state not, for instance, an individual woman.

The example of abortion, and the need for a robust democratic process that balances the needs of the individual with that of their community – a process that one can enter into or exit out of voluntarily, whose aim is mutual aid, means asking the question of how to organize ourselves in a horizontal manner that bring to bear the myriad of voices in our societies in a way that people are able to participate freely, with equal powers and equal say?

I am fully aware that we dwell in a world where this must be culled from the wreckage we’ve created, and it can be a painful, insidious process. However, I fully believe that without socialism, without an answer to how we are going to share our stuff, share the resources and potential of our world fairly, environmentally, equitably . . . we will perish. This means the participation of all in our communities, not in a coercive or brutal fashion, like socialist regimes of the past (and some of the present!) but in a way that recognizes and celebrates differences whilst seeking a stronger solidarity of the whole.

I think it will necessitate a great deal or organization, of work that will not always be glamorous and a lot of experimenting. However, if we are to decide that we want our planet to live out the fullness of its life in this galaxy, if we are to survive global warming and climate change, and if we are to decide to think of ourselves not as infinitesimal glimmers of light that burst and die, but rather as connected forces in a perpetually streaming river of life we might have a better understanding of the ferocious power for good that is our potential on this planet.

The question remains about how we do this. How do we birth this world into full being? People have been asking these questions for a long time, and they continue to be important to consider anew. And these are the types of questions, observances and struggles that Steal this Hijab is keenly interested in. We seek to find novel ways people are participating positively in their communities, and have narrowed our focus to the movements that specifically look at gender and rights discourses. We see this as a lens through which we encounter the myriad of equally important issues – like class, race, ability, etc. that effect how our communities are organized, interpreted, understood and lived.

The focus on gender in Islamic contexts comes out of my own personal experience as an activist and the evolution of how I identify myself. Born in the United States to an Iranian father and an American mother, the questions about my own identity began early on, and with the intrepid journey to better understand what, by so many politically motivated accounts, was a clear divide between East and West. It’s a divide that has produced in me, an affection for the questioning of boundaries and borders. An urge engendered in the deepest part of my being to be critical and analyse and ask questions and never accept finalities. This has often landed me in trouble. . .  with my parents, with my teachers and eventually with all those in authority – be it bosses or the machinery of the state. My learning curve as a critical, active participant in my world rose exponentially with the world I inherited as an adult. A world where an autumn morning in the first few days of my university life changed the composition of power structures away from an orientation of openness (for a few), to the suspicion of the many – especially those who came from Muslim majority countries. My white skin, and non-hijab wearing head, provided me with a privilege others from my cultural and ethnic background did not have the safety of. However, my visceral urge to ask questions set me upon a unique path – one that saw me join the work of a tiny, but remarkable solidarity campaign called Voices in the Wilderness (Voices).

Voices was a campaign, whose second floor apartment that doubled as an office, organized delegations of activists opposed to the economic sanctions policy in Iraq, to travel to the country with the specific intention of breaking these sanctions. The act was for Americans, a federal crime, punishable by the potential of 12 years in prison and a fine of up to one million dollars. Because voices was a grassroots campaign of activists, it was not able to break the sanctions in any significant way in terms of providing needed supplies to desperate civilian infrastructure in Iraq. In this way, the small amounts of aid that voices was able to literally carry over in suitcases and handbags, served as more of a symbolic gesture than any practical one. However, the need to call attention to the effects of this policy on ordinary Iraqis – not the political elites – was important in raising the question of the policies’ purpose and more generally helped to bring forth more abstract queries that were important to consider.

The problem of the sanctions policy, however, was not only how it affected the lives on Iraqis – though that was the most crucial aspect. Far more insidious was what the sanctions policy illustrated about the role the U.S. played in the world more generally. The sanctions policy signaled a disregard not only for the lives of Iraqis, but what might generally be acknowledged as an incoherency in how the U.S. viewed and defined itself as a nation, and how it acted and behaved relative to other nations in the world. The sanctions policy itself was not exclusively an invention of the U.S., it was ultimately a policy invented and implemented by the United Nations. But it was one that came into being and perpetuated at the behest of the United States, because it served an important purpose in a larger regional power struggle in the region.

Unfortunately we all know the story from here, a war in Afghanistan, a second in Iraq and an ongoing regional struggle over political power that is increasingly sectarian in nature and composition. Voices has continued their work struggling to demand an end to U.S. economic and military war in the Middle East, and they are joined by many organizations throughout the world that continue to shine a light on U.S. imperialism. What has made the last years in the MENA region peek the interest of activists the world over are the uprisings and revolutions that have turned post-colonial power structures up-side down. Maybe not entirely reversed, but knocking down the notion that the region is fated to be ruled  by dictatorships funded by oil and backed up by the largest capitalist economies on the planet: America, Russia, India, China. People have been in streets (as a handful have always been), but their numbers grow, their demands becomes larger and louder  and include more and more sections of society.

Steal this Hijab has been especially heartened by the ways in which issue-orientated groups have attempted to work in solidarity with each other and with different sections of the population in order to strengthen the demands of the whole. Women’s rights groups have joined with football fans have joined with LGBT activists and folks bridge demands across class and ethnic identities. These spurts of activism are extremely delicate and not without their problems, but they kindle the project of liberation as it sparks or as it roars ahead. In Turkey activists have learned from other movements, especially Egypt, that dialogue at a grassroots level is needed before the move towards electoralism spoils meaningful dialogue on the composition of the society they endeavor to create. These community councils are the living embodiment of the ideals espoused by direct democracy, and help to prove the tangibility of the notion.

Their is much more to this story, but I will have to continue it in the future. For now, I wanted to focus on communicating some of the impulses and purposes that has led to this very spare time project, and let you know some about where Steal this Hijab comes from and where it wants to go. I would love to have the time and resources to expand the website into something more significant. Perhaps someday I will be able to do that, but for now it remains a project that shares the ebbs and flows of my own life.

I encourage commentary and (meaningful) exchanges on this blog. Hopefully some day some of you may send me stuff to publish, and we will have more regular readers and daily posts. Until then, the project continues.

In Solidarity,

Farah

for Steal this Hijab

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#resistankara: Notes of a Woman Resisting

 

by Pinar Melis Yelsali Parmaksiz

The Gezi Park protests can be, and are being, analyzed in multiple ways. Meanwhile, on its nineteenth day as this piece is being written, the protests and the solidarity of the protestors continue to advocate for a life in which resisting and acting with creativity and humor transform human existence.

Women of different generations and walks of life have participated in this resistance and solidarity, which started in Istanbul, but has spread over many cities. First and foremost among these was Ankara. For the women protestors, there are different reasons behind their resistance; a significant number of these reasons overlap with resistance to government interference with the female body. That is precisely why the resistance has moved away from the banality of everyday life, creating new kinds of public relations in urban parks, walking anew through old neighborhoods. Considering that women rarely take to the streets, besides on 8 March [International Women’s Day], what can be said about being a woman engaged in resistance and on the street in this new state?

It is likely that only few of the women on the streets would identify themselves as feminists, but this popular uprising constitutes a process of resistance, whose language, form, and ethics are produced on the streets. As such, it provides opportunities for political engagement and exchange, which are also educational. A new kind of language and solidarity has been developed, not despite religious, ethnic, sexual, political, cultural, and generational differences, but precisely by way of such differences. The passive resistance and community built in Gezi Park has already provided us with various examples of this new language. Here in Ankara, too, people are resisting in solidarity in similar ways, and yet the proximity of the state and the concreteness of its presence make the physical struggle here more continuous. Both Kuğulu Park, which the Ankara Metropolitan Municipality attempted to demolish in the past, and Güvenpark, which went through a series of alterations, have great symbolic value.

The most recent of these alterations was undertaken in 2003 by, once again, the Metropolitan Municipality, in the form of a de-pedestrianization project for the central Kızılay area, where Güvenpark is situated. This project became relevant again in the context of the military barracks proposed for the site of Gezi Park, because the prospect of the Kizilay project was once subject to a plebiscite, similar to that which is being suggested for Gezi Park. Traffic lights were uprooted and pedestrian crossings were blocked in Kızılay. Later on, however, following the reactions of Ankara residents and local NGOs, the Metropolitan Municipality took a step back. The Kızılay plebiscite, which was already viewed as shady, was declared invalid. Having these memories in mind on 31 May, thousands of Ankara residents gathered in Kuğulu Park and walked down to Kızılay. For this reason, the central role played by Güvenpark and Kuğulu Park in the resistance is especially meaningful. Add to that the ghost of Kızılay Park, which used to extend across from Güvenpark in the 1930s; in its place now stands a giant shopping mall.

Of course, for women, being able to go out is an issue. On the one hand, thousands of women did take to the streets, filling the squares and avenues of Ankara. On the other hand, women with kids have had to make arrangements: to go with or without the kids; to plan to first feed the kids and put them to bed and then leave; to share the babysitting responsibilities with the fathers and the grandparents—all in a persistent effort to find a way to get to the street, the park, the square. Spraying anti-teargas solutions in someone’s eyes, volunteering to work at the temporary libraries established in the parks, picking up the trash, advising people not to use swear words, talking about the real addressee’s of swearwords, debating, but still, talking, screaming, not keeping silent, not swallowing, and walking, and walking again.

One action in Istanbul that was of marked importance in terms of female participation was the arrival in Gezi Park of mothers, whose children may or may not have been there on the eve of 13 June. They went out on the streets to turn the tables on the call from the Mayor of Istanbul for mothers to “come and fetch your children,” and, more generally, on the government’s political discourse, whereby women are recognized in and defined through the domestic sphere. In doing so, they made it clear that motherhood cannot be instrumentalized as the sole legitimization of identity politics, and they enabled us to imagine motherhood as a liberating experience and identity.

In addition, Taksim brought the mothers of the so-called marginal and slacker “Children of Gezi” together, if only symbolically, with another group of mothers. They shared Taksim Square with the so-called Saturday Mothers, who gathered last Saturday, as they do every Saturday, for the 429th time in Taksim, to ask—not for their children’s right to life, but for justice for their unresolved cases, most of which involve state violence against political or Kurdish activists. They also shared Taksim Square with the mothers whose children, having been murdered by the state in Roboski, were called terrorists.

The historiography of feminist movements in Turkey maintains that the second wave of the feminist movement post-1980 consists of the daughters of the first generation of Kemalist mothers. The Gezi Park resistance is not a feminist protest, but it might be considered as having important outcomes for women. The fact that the middle class constitutes the main social base of the Gezi resistance increases the number of Kemalist women participating in it. Despite that, many more women, other than just Kemalists, are part of this resistance. What is truly novel is that “even” the Kemalist women are getting beyond their ordinary hang-ups, the demons of Kemalism: the Kurdish people and the covered women.

The silence of the media has had a significant role in this. Another significant role has been that of the Prime Minister and his paternalist jargon. Women are raising their voices against a male power figure, who does not miss any opportunity to rule over the morality of “maidens” and the sexuality of women at large, while at the same time trying to sugar-coat with the idea of freedom his jargon about “my covered girls.” Moreover, it is heartening that women, especially Kemalist women, are rising against the real and symbolic fathers who have constantly told them how to live. I am excited to transform the street into a place of resistance and solidarity alongside the women of my neighborhood. Given that the shopping malls have been the most “secure” areas to take children in these days, it seems all the more vital to me that we should lay claim to our neighborhoods.

Striving for Muslim Women’s Human Rights

by Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons

I am a practicing Muslim and an Islamic scholar who received my Ph.D. with a focus on Islamic law and women from Temple University in 2002.[1] I came into the tradition via Sufism, the Mystical Stream in Islam. It was my great fortune to meet and study with a Sufi Master from Sri Lanka, M.R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen[2] who I met here in the United States in the fall of 1971. Meeting him was the culmination of my search for a spiritual guide who could answer questions about the nature and purpose of existence that I had been posing to my parents, ministers, Sunday school teachers, and the like since I was 12 years old. Questions that had troubled me for over a decade included: “Who am I?” “Why have I come here?” “Why are we all here?” “What is this spectacle in which we are all involved really about?” Prior to meeting and studying with this highly revered teacher, I had not found satisfactory answers from any of the sources I went to with my queries. Bawa practiced gender inclusiveness and taught a mystical and non-hierarchical gender interpretation of Islam that valued women and encouraged our leadership and participation in all aspects of the community. I was drawn to the Islam that Bawa described: an Islam of equality, peacefulness, and unity that is exemplified in the human being’s life by inner patience, contentment, trust in God, and praise of God. This was a spiritual state of consciousness accessible to all human beings. Bawa often reiterated the “feminine” qualities of Allah, His/Her compassion, and His/Her mercy as being the two most important attributes of God. This was the Islam I embraced.

I grew up in the Jim Crow South during the 1940s, 50s, and early 60s. During this period, I experienced virulent racism and what I would later identify as sexism in all of the institutions with which I interacted. But I also saw strong women in my family, my church and my school who resisted both racism and sexism, overtly and covertly. These were women with positive views of themselves and their ability to make a way out of no way, just as their foremothers had done. They were the backbone of my family, my church, and my school. These women made a strong impression on me, and because of them I never questioned my ability to accomplish any goals that I sought to achieve. This attitude propelled me into the swirling vortex of the Student Sit-In Movement and later the Civil Rights Movement where I became a leader, working as a full time field secretary in SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee), primarily in Mississippi and Georgia.[3]  I served as the Project Director in Laurel, Mississippi duringFreedom Summer in 1964 and for some twelve months thereafter. I was also one of the founding members of the Atlanta Project of SNCC, which developed the ideological underpinning for the Black Power thrust within SNCC and served as the Project’s Assistant Director.[4]During my time in SNCC, I was beaten, jailed, chased by the Ku Klux Klan (had the tires shot out during one such chase!), led marches, and held my ground. There were many female comrades in this struggle who withstood much more than I and were known and respected for their leadership, their insight, and skills.

I was one of many women in the Civil Rights Movement who stood shoulder to shoulder with men as we confronted the officials who upheld the Jim Crow system that we were hell bent on destroying. In many of the rural and small town areas in which we worked, women built the movement and sustained it. There would not have been a Civil Rights Movement without the women – known and unknown – who were the foundation for the structures of change we built.[5]

The above biographical information is an important backdrop for my views on Islam, Muslims, and women. It will help to explain my inability to submit to misogynist interpretations of Islam used to lock women into second-class status or worse in many majority Muslim states and institutions. My own experience with women from my childhood until now prevents me from succumbing to many of the ideas about women’s inferiority and their place in the world espoused by many men (and sadly women too) in numerous Muslim societies and institutions, including those in the West. In my work described briefly above, I learned that most if not all of what had been taught about Black people in this country were lies told to keep African Americans mentally enslaved and to bolster white supremacy. Everything possible was done to make whites feel innately superior to blacks and for blacks to feel completely inferior to whites. The entire Jim Crow system was devised and rigidly maintained for this purpose. I also came to learn that the stereotypes promoted about women as the “weaker” sex were used to justify and bolster the patriarchal system in which men control women’s lives. I saw how religion and culture were used to make women compliant and often complicit in their own oppression. I have seen how religion, tradition, and culture have been abused historically to convince women of their inferiority to men and their need to be obedient and compliant to the men in their lives.

Because of my longstanding rejection of institutionalized patriarchy, including that found within some Islamic communities, my relationship with Islam has been wrought with ambivalence and tension.

Yet, I have made Umrah – the small Pilgrimage to Mecca – and found it one of the most profound spiritual experiences of my life. I love dearly the Bawa Muhaiyaddeen mosque that I and the disciples of Bawa constructed in Philadelphia in 1984. Spending time there in contemplation and prayer are special times for me. The prayers, the month of fasting (Ramadan) and other Islamic rituals are dear to my heart. I lived for two years in Jordan and traveled regularly to Egypt, Palestine, and Syria. There is much about these cultures that I love and embrace in spite of the blatant sexism I saw and experienced. I have traveled to other parts of the Muslim majority world where I have witnessed varying degrees of sexism not unlike what I experience here in the U.S. Additionally, I have spent time in numerous Muslim communities here in the U.S. where I often find it difficult to accept, as many feminist Muslims and their allies have since the nineteenth century, what I see and hear. These include the support for the Personal Status provisions of Shari’ah law[6] by many Muslims and their denial of its discrimination against women and non-Muslims, which I find distressing. The emphasis on women wearing hijab and other “Islamic” garments to show that they are modest believers is troubling. The rejection of women as prayer leaders, or callers to the prayers, I also find difficult to accept. I stand with those progressive Muslims who reject the idea that women cannot lead mixed gender prayers or give the call to prayer. There are Muslim communities here in the U.S. where women give the call to prayer, lead prayers, and give the Friday sermon. It was my great pleasure to worship with such a group in Atlanta, Georgia in May of this year. The emphasis on women’s biological role as determinative of every aspect of their life as well as the promotion of gender segregation in public spaces greatly disturbs me. It is saddening, but not surprising, to see that such views are also espoused here in the U.S. by other religious groups.

Even more difficult for me is the idea, still clung to by many, that the woman is to be obedient to male family members who have the right to control her. Again we see these same sentiments expressed here in the U.S. by those who identify with the Christian Right. I am saddened by the use of the more misogynist passages from the Hadith[7] as well as sexist interpretations of Qur’anic texts to justify the views and practices being embraced, which are unacceptable for me personally.

Equally, if not more troubling, is the widespread resistance to a public exchange of ideas within the Muslim community, especially when initiated by women, who are expected to “accept” male perspectives and interpretations, many of which were developed in the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries of the Common Era. These conservative interpretations defy what I and many progressive Muslims see as the essentially egalitarian message of the Qur’an and the early Muslim community when women such as Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, the first wife of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.), Aishah bint Abu Bakr, said to be the favorite wife of the Prophet (S.A.W.), and other women played significant leadership roles in the bourgeoning community.

Many Muslims – women and men – do not accept these retrograde views and are on the front lines fighting for women’s human rights. We women who consider ourselves feminists are questioning the male and often misogynist interpretations of the sacred tenants of Islam. We are focusing a feminist lens on Islam’s canon and are deriving different interpretations from those that have prevailed for centuries. “Seeing a single essence or ‘spirit’ of Islam, a single blueprint for gender roles…proves difficult. Islam is not one thing, but rather a set of beliefs and values that evolved over time in rhythm with changing historical conditions and local customs and practices with which it came into contact.”[8]

We feminist Muslims – as our Jewish and Christian sisters have done – are bringing this insight and information to the forefront. We are arguing that Islam is NOT a monolithic structure etched in stone for eternity. We are seeking to separate Islam the religion from culture, tradition, and the social mores of the societies in which Islam arose and took root. We are reinterpreting the sacred texts anew from a feminist perspective. We are reviewing the history of the religion and are finding and bringing to the foreground earlier interpretations of earlier sects or groups in Islam whose views were more egalitarian, but were labeled heterodox and dismissed. We Muslim feminists seek to reinterpret, reconceptualize, contextualize, and historicize Islam and our societies’ rituals and practices.[9]

We know that we have a difficult task before us. Thirteen centuries of belief and cultural tradition are hard to change. But it is a struggle we must wage for our daughters and our daughters’ daughters.

[1] I spent two years (1996-1998) on Fulbright and NMERTA Fellowships during dissertation research in Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Palestine focused on the impact of Islamic law on women, which culminated in my dissertation, The Islamic Law of Personal Status and Its Contemporary Impact on Women in Jordan.

[2] Muhammad Raheem Bawa Muhaiyadeen arrived in the U. S. on October 11th, 1971. He traveled extensively in the United States selflessly sharing his knowledge and experiences with people of every race, and religion as he had done for over fifty years in Sri Lanka.  He established the Bawa Muhaiyadeen Fellowship of North America in Philadelphia. Since then branches have spread throughout the United States and Canada as well as in Australia and the U.K. For more information on Bawa and the Fellowship see the official website of the Bawa Muhaiyadeen Fellowship at: http://www.bmf.org

[3] See Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, “From Little Memphis Girl to Mississippi Amazon,” in Hands On The Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts By Women in SNCC, ed., by Faith S. Holsaert et al, Urbana, Chicago, & Springfield, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2010, pp. 9-32.

[4] See Winston A. Grady-Willis, Challenging U.S. Apartheid: Atlanta and Black Struggles for Human Rights, 1960-1977, Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2006.

[5] There are excellent books that have been written about women in the Civil Rights Movement. I highly recommend: Women in the Civil Rights Movement: Trailblazers & Torchbearers 1941-1965, eds. Vicki L. Crawford, Jacqueline Rouse, & Barbara Woods and Sisters in the Struggle: African American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement, edited by Betty Collier-Thomas and V. P. Franklin, New York University Press, 2001;

[6] Shari’ah or Islamic law is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Shari’ah deals with many topics including crime, politics and economics but it also covers religious and personal matters. For example, how one performs the ritual prayers in Islam are spelled out in the Shari’ah, as is how to perform the Fast of Ramadan or the Pilgrimage to Mecca. The Shari’ah also covers marriage, divorce, sexual intercourse, hygiene and the like. There are numerous books on Shari’ah in the English language that can be found easily on line. One such title is: Mohammad Hashim Kamali, Shari’ah Law: An Introduction, Oxford, England: Oneworld Press, 2008.

[7] The Hadith are the collections of the saying and actions of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as remembered and recorded by his Companions. These collections are seen as authoritative and are considered second only to the Qur’an in their importance for the faith.

[8] Khalidi, Ramla, and Judith Tucker, “Women’s Rights in the Arab World.” Special Report of the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP), pp. 2-8, n.d.

[9] For a fuller treatment of my views on the global Muslim feminist for Human Rights see my essays, “Striving for Muslim Women’s Human Rights-Before and Beyond Beijing – An African American Perspective” in Windows of Faith: Muslim Women Scholar-Activists in North America,ed. by Gisela Webb, Syracuse, N.Y.: 2000, pp. 197-225 and “Are we up to the challenge? The need for a radical re-ordering of the Islamic discourse on women,” in Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism, ed. by Omid Safi, Oxford, England: Oneworld Press, 2005, pp.235 – 248.

(originally published at The Feminist Wire)