This past week I’ve received numerous emails linking me to an article written by Rajbir Singh Judge that cites a vignette I drafted with the claim, in the fluid language of academic objectivity, that my desire to pray without a barrier is dishonest and selfish. A telling excerpt is this quote from the article,
“Rather than engage in contestations and reasoning about the Islamic tradition with the Aunties, who exist as serious repositories of knowledge through their extensive networks (which, in turn, could put into question TFF’s certainty), the individual takes precedence and is always already correct in breaking deemed barriers.”
The quote is telling not only because my entire website is dedicated to engaging in “contestations and reasoning about the Islamic tradition.” I already know he’s never visited, because the article cites the guest post on Orbala‘s blog instead of the vignette here. He has never sifted through my writing, but I don’t care for him to read it either. Rather, what is also telling about this excerpt is that, like the entire article, it relies on a sympathetic premise–examining the role of aunties compassionately and investigating their portrayal–in order to villainize younger women, whose arguments, positions, and desires it dismisses.
In fact, the article cites only younger women as the supposed “critics”. If the author were genuine in his exploration, he would have discussed young men’s dismissive attitudes towards aunties, or the uncles who create the oppressive structures which in turn necessitate some of the intrusive behaviors of aunties. Lots of young Muslim women have written about this delicate position of aunties before; in fact, everyone is fascinated with this article because it masquerades as considerate toward a population that is criticized for sexist and often racist reasons… except that, men like the one who wrote this article are exacerbating those reasons by pressing into an “older vs younger woman” dynamic and essentially pitting women against each other in some fantastical theory.
The author treats the piece as a standalone, which is fair, even despite his clear lack of research into what conversations we Islamic feminists have amongst each other, because it does to a certain extent stand alone. But it is not a standalone. It is in fact, part of my thesis, which mentions auntie amina wadud on several occasions, including in this particular vignette itself. In any draft of this piece, the “inquisitiveness, vibrancy and irrepressibility” of aunties is neither incompatible with nor undesirable to our individualism as the article alleges, but the author seems to specialize in south asia and the modern middle east, which against the Islamic tradition leaves out the inclusion of our black leaders. The characterization of my mother–who isn’t an auntie to me but is an auntie to the community, which seems to not occur to the author–as lying “in order to elude their questions” rather than tentatively stepping through complex and nuanced dynamics is already a meaningful observational omission.
If you want to read the full excerpt–you’ve all seen it anyway–I’ve imaged it below.
This is all greatly amusing to me, but for those of you who appear distressed, I assure you it is only expected for men to mischaracterize young women in order to preserve the integrity of tradition under a guise of credibility.
Those of you who’ve pointed out how unqualified the writer is have received some responses simultaneously admitting the author isn’t familiar with engagements in Islamic feminism and emphasizing the dismissal of the auntie nonetheless. Of course the obvious issue with this is that the examples in the article “supporting” its core observations are inaccurate. Needing so desperately to deliver a point as to invent scenarios demonstrates a weakness in the argument, and it’s bad writing. But that was already clear in its investigation of caricatures by reducing younger women to caricatures.