We’re very lucky here at Ummahsonic. Even if the working day starts to slip from pretty good to please-let-us-go-home-at-11am, a positive story usually pops up out of nowhere to pull us back from the brink. This blog about three exceptional Muslim women is one of these stories.
We were recently sent an article from the website Everyday Feminism, so shouts to them, about Muslim women who are working to improve the lives of their fellow sisters – be it through activism, education or on social media.
We’re going to highlight the efforts of three, starting with Hind Makki, founder of Side Entrance.
Credit: Side Entrance.
During Ramadan 2012, a friend of Hind Makki’s was almost kicked out of a mosque after, as Makki writes, she dared ‘to pray in the half-used 2nd floor of a multi-million dollar mosque, behind the male congregants. She prayed upstairs because the women’s area in the basement was hot, loud and moldy.’
This incident inspired Makki to start Side Entrance, a project / online campaign that aims to highlight the often jarring discrepancies between men and women’s prayer spaces in mosques. Over the years, Makki has experienced mosques that boast incredible spaces for female congregants. However, many more offer noticeably inferior female sections.
The Side Entrance tumblr allows women to submit pictures of women only spaces in mosques. Some are excellent, others are deeply inadequate. Makki hopes the project will help improve the spaces that are wanting. As she says: ‘It is my optimistic belief that as more people see photos of the spaces women must pray in, and hear our stories, we will gain more male allies who will collaborate with us to improve the situation.’
An academic, human rights activist, and theologist, Hidayet Tuksal has spent much of her career campaigning on feminist issues. As a theology scholar, Tuksal bases her arguments in religious texts.
She believes that the teachings of Islam go against notions of misogyny and sexism, and that any religious basis for sexist viewpoints is born out of male-centric interpretations of Islamic texts.
In an effort to change this, Tuksal started Capital Women’s Platform in 1994. The platform draws attention to the injustices that religious women offer suffer in secular circles. It also challenges any religious traditions that discriminate against women.
Reading all this, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Tuksal isn’t particularly religious herself. Not so, and her decision to wear a headscarf – even when they were banned in Turkey in the late 1990s – has drawn the ire of her more liberal colleagues.
Yet, her approach reflects her faith. ‘There is no single feminism, just as there is no single Islam,’ Tuksal once said: ‘Given this diversity, I can say I feel close to feminism based on the common denominator of rejecting and fighting mentalities that view the male as the essential human being and secondarise the female.’
Zainah Anwar is the founder of the Malaysian organisation Sisters in Islam (SIS). SIS focuses on women’s rights and family law in the context of Islamic law. Like Hidayet Tuksal, Anwar believes gender equality and Islam are not mutually exclusive.
While SIS offers legal advice, they also do a lot of campaigning, research and advocacy in an effort change public perception with the long term goal of creating legal reforms that are fair to both men and women.
According to Anwar, the organisation was born out of a single question: ‘If God is just, if Islam is just, why do laws and policies made in the name of Islam create injustice?’
Through the work of Sisters in Islam, she hopes to tackle that question.
Like all of the activists we’ve mentioned, Anwar is working to improve the lives of women within the context of our faith – not the cultural practices that have often lead to gender inequality.
Featured image credit: Side Entrance.