From Issue: 1038 [Read full issue]

Hypocritical Facade

Only within a patriarchal structure is maternity the only social power open to women. When I submit my resume for jobs, grants, or creating short bios in other public roles, the twenty-plus pages is impressive to some, but if a short biographical sketch is composed I always request they include that I am the mother of five children as the most important achievement. This chapter is partially inspired by the living hell for many single female parents, or women with disabled or un-able fathers, husbands, and brothers in a Muslim community that ignores the agony of these women, making them invisible. It is not intended to direct attention to their plight for the purpose of pity. Rather, I use the particulars of this experience as a major criterion for challenging all reformist dialogue that is held primarily by men whose "fight" for justice focuses so exclusively on the right to preserve or extend greater privilege to the ones already privileged - Muslim men. They offer little or no direct contribution to the discourse and practice of family, nor to the eradication of poverty with its negative gender consequences. Neither have they participated in, recognized, or allowed entry into their discourses the words and experiences of the ones who demonstrate the critical failure of elitist reform discourse in the first place - poor mothers.

On the contrary, most Muslim male reformists wantonly secure their own families according to patriarchal traditions. The number of women in the Muslim world whose lives and suffering are allowed to remain invisible discredits the aspirations articulated by such men as progressive Islam. It is disappointing to note how frequently some who are considered the most progressive are at best liberal in their gender agendas as evidenced by the embodiment of their own domestic experiences. Their failure to listen to, understand, or incorporate the self-expressions of the diversity of Muslim women renders them deaf to the intense ways these women need assistance in the name of reformed Islam and the agency they could contribute in constructing reforms beyond the double jeopardy.

If the most oppressed amongst us - those with a life of suffering and despair that lies writhing under the floor of the fancy conference halls and behind the walls of elegant five-star hotel rooms inhabited by those considered champions of Islamic freedom and justice - are not equal participants in the discourse, then reform discourse remains a hypocritical facade. The inconsistencies of elites seeking to enhance their privileges, for example by taking full benefit of their wives' care-work, in order to focus exclusively on power politics as philosophical and theological foundations for a reformed Islamic future, allow this discourse to ignore those whose lives represent the level of survival and struggle most reflective of the need for this movement.

Compiled From:
"Inside The Gender Jihad: Women's Reform in Islam" - Amina Wadud, pp. 126, 127