For some time now, I’ve noticed an interesting, and not in the least bit surprising, inclination among male critics of Islamic feminist thought, to appeal to more prominent figures of authority on Islamic feminism, such as Kecia Ali or Amina Wadud, and allege that these prominent scholars would “disapprove” of the views espoused by those of us who read their ideas, remark on them, question them, expand upon them, and incorporate them into our practice. Never mind that we might have personal or professional relationships with these scholars, that they might be our friends or advisers, random male critics know the scholar–and of what she might approve or disapprove–better than those of us who contribute to her efforts.
It’s telling and amusing to see this happening with women who are alive. I’m accustomed, for example, to men alleging that Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet, would disapprove of me. But for men to insist I adopt a more dignified tone in the name of Kecia Ali, when I can turn around and ask her to find otherwise, is laughable. Amina Wadud, whom male critics have noted dresses traditionally, has never once conveyed to me that she disapproves of my tulip skirts. I can assure anyone she has more important things to think about. According to a few men who’ve contested the merits of Islamic feminism, however, Amina Wadud spends her days absolutely horrified at what Islamic feminists are wearing.
Dear readers, realize this means that there’s a strong possibility that Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet, would not disapprove of you either. These fallacious appeals to respectable authority figures can only survive in religious discourse built on certain incorrect premises: that we care, first of all, and that these opinions and imaginary disapproval are relevant somehow to the purity of our practice.
Apparently, male scholars “disagree” with each other, but female scholars “disapprove” of each other. Male critics can also “disagree” with other men, but must always “disapprove” of women. This is their way of not engaging honestly or intelligently with the substance of your arguments.