Equality, liberation, and justice are actively preserved, not merely obtained and expected to survive unchecked and abandoned; thus, a power struggle over the applications of Quranic interpretation will always prevail with relevance in the future as it has for the previous centuries. As the feminist message of the Qur’an is exposed, the justification for gender inequality in Islamic tradition generated through the cultural norms of Muslim societies is overturned as these social structures, assimilated into Islamic jurisprudence by underlying cultural assumptions about sex that are unsupported by Islam, impede the realization of the Quran’s true message of equality, liberation, and justice. But these truths, and this justice, must be perpetually achieved and continuously defended.
Crucial to effectively challenging the patriarchal hegemony as well as those who have assembled it and vindicated it in the name of Islam is the recognition of Islam’s legitimacy at the fundamental center of a feminist movement and the repossession of the religion itself. With these inequalities revealed as constructions of male jurists rather than the will of God a natural paradigm shift in Islamic law is conceivable. But Islamic feminists, rather than an outside force, must develop the discourse for greater gender equality as commanded by the Qur’an that meets the aspirations of women seeking to restore their rights. Given the current realities of oppression, terror, and war, only those who seek to restore their own power by harnessing what was taken from them will truly raise a stable structure of justice; otherwise, the struggle for Muslim women’s equality will be perpetually hostage in the forces of oppressive propensities brought by political and social turmoil. Secular feminism, as helpful as it has been, and as invaluable its support, can only play its most fulfilling role as an ally.
Securing equality for Muslim women must be undertaken from a religious framework, conducted within religious language and jurisprudential constructions, and reexamined from a religious standpoint at which patriarchal exegesis, bias, and processes are challenged at the level of fiqh. Accordingly the dichotomy between Islam and feminism—both a patriarchal legacy and a colonial establishment—must be rendered arbitrary as other falsely fabricated binaries such as secularism versus religion or East versus West. Regardless of when or whether they are justified, these discrepancies and the perception of one or the other as the enemy only place us on the defensive so that we are forced to adhere to one and discredit the morality of the other, an illusion that we must transcend.
In other words, if a Muslim man disparagingly asserts that you are “acting Western” in seeking equality, punch him in the face. He’s using a very deliberate (implemented by colonialism) tactic to silence you. (And if you are Western, kindly remind him so–by punching him in the face.)*
Patriarchal beliefs in both prevailing religious communities have falsely and blasphemously declared divine mandate. As with the liberation movements before us—both in our own religious history and that of our sisters’—usually only the most educated women acquire the power of contesting these irreligious beliefs and challenging the corrupted laws raised according to them. A striking measure to disunite patriarchy from Islamic ideals and holy texts and raise a virtuous and feminist concept of Islam will restore power Muslim women of all circumstances.
*I don’t actually advocate punching anyone.