(Fractions of this post were written in the comments section of Feministe, of AlmostClever, and probably other places.)
This has been brewing for a while, but today I read a discussion that pushed it over the top. AlmostClever is so lovely and patient, and a much better person than I am for putting up with such bullshit.
The bullshit has to do with other Muslims, but I will get to that in a second. On a similar note–
One of the very understandable and sound criticisms of nonreligious feminists has been that if the interpretation of religious texts is subjective, and that if everyone is equally correct in interpretation, then everyone is cherry-picking and violence in the name of said religion is as equally justifiable as the good in the name of said religion, and there is nothing to say that terrorists or fundamentalists or sexists are wrong.
A few days ago I said the following:
Because let’s face it: despite literature’s reputation of being all warm and fuzzy and deep and “there are no wrong answers ’cause everyone’s right all the time and rainbows and kittens and cookies!”–you can be wrong. You can be so, so wrong. Not only in interpreting literature[…]
And that applies to religious texts. Not everyone is equally correct.
Those who act violently in the name of Islam blatantly ignore peaceful verses in the Qur’an and cherry-pick so that they can confirm their own beliefs and actions. I, on the other hand, am not cherry-picking. I’m not picking and choosing from only peaceful Quranic verses. I still accept the verses that refer to violence, but in order to fully accept them–and in order to fully accept every verse–they have to placed in their proper contexts, and when you do this you can clearly see that practically every verse that fundamentalists use to back up their violence allow for such behavior only in self-defense.
I suppose it then becomes a question of whether or not they believe they are defending themselves, but to me that is a question that is outside the text. My point is that a fundamentalist can say, “This is what it says!” and I can argue that they are interpreting it incorrectly, and be right. When interpreting any kind of literature, you can’t just pull things out of your ass because “everyone is right and interpretation is subjective!” There are right and wrong interpretations. You have to be able to argue yours. You can’t claim that Moby Dick was a mermaid, or that East of Eden was a war book, or that the main character of The Great Gatsby wasn’t a total asshole. Okay, maybe that last one’s up for debate. You can’t claim that The Great Gatsby was materialism-enthusiastic. Better?
But being a woman, it doesn’t matter how well you can argue your interpretation. It matters that you’re a woman.
So what we end up with is not just nonreligious feminists telling us we don’t know our own beliefs by claiming that they aren’t compatible with feminism because men are the ones who ultimately decide what religion is (according to their implication), but fundamental Muslims telling us we don’t know our own beliefs because they are objectively asshats.
To be absolutely clear, I don’t find criticizing a religion disrespectful, and I don’t find criticizing an individual’s beliefs disrespectful; what I’ve found disrespectful is the assertion from some feminists that because I would suggest that my beliefs are compatible with and supportive of feminism must mean that I don’t know my own beliefs (and yes this has actually happened to the point of armchair psychology), regardless of how much time I spent with study and analysis, because if I did I would agree with privileged sexist men, and instead I think they’re all gits with no reading comprehension.
I find it so frustrating when non-Muslim Western feminists tell me about feminism and What Is Feminist and What Is Not Feminist because they think my religion makes me incapable of understanding and fighting or something. Excuse me, but while Islamic feminism may not have been called Islamic feminism, feminism in Islam is much older–and took off much quicker with much more fiery passion (before patriarchy shat all over it)–than feminism in the West. As a matter of fact, it is built in to the religion.
But white women own everything, so they define feminism. And men define religion, because THAT IS SO FEMINIST.
And I don’t see how anyone can’t identify the contradiction–I supposedly don’t know about my own religion because I don’t find it intrinsically violent, but those douchebags with male privilege who have stolen the rights and power derived from the religion itself from me for centuries to twist it into corrupt political weapons are not only right* to say IS intrinsically violent but also to ACT upon the violence they interpret because they’ve got their religion down? My interpretation is incorrect, and What The Religion Really Is is violent because men have made it violent, but What The Religion Isn’t is my non-violent interpretation of it, because that interpretation is wrong–it must be wrong because it doesn’t have the necessary privileges to back it up in masses and allow it to explode into validity. In other words, privileged asshats FTW!
*right as in without it being supposedly a case of “cognitive dissonance”
Claiming that my interpretation must be incorrect because men are the ones who define religion is anti-feminist. And if you believe otherwise, you are wrong.
Now that I’ve dissed certain other feminists, back to certain other Muslims!
You don’t have to identify as a feminist to be Muslim, but Islam is INTRINSICALLY a feminist religion. Islam has ALWAYS BEEN an INTRINSICALLY feminist religion. There is proof after proof after proof. And if you believe otherwise, you are wrong. You are wrong about either feminism, or about your interpretation of Islam.
If you are Muslim and:
your interpretation of Islam inspires violence, you are wrong.
your interpretation of Islam is anti-democracy, you are wrong.
your interpretation of Islam is anti-woman, you are wrong.
your interpretation of Islam forces gender roles, you are wrong. See above.
your interpretation of Islam encourages body policing, you are wrong. See above.
your interpretation of Islam encourages the murder of adulterers and apostates, you are wrong.
your interpretation of Islam encourages the murder of LGBTQ people, you are wrong.
Because you are actively contradicting the peacefulness of the message. Amongst other things, including very very CLEAR verses. Want to argue about it? Great! But I’m warning you: you’re wrong.
Because all interpretations are not equally correct.
Muslim men who attempt to define feminism for me, men who tell me what I can or can’t wear, men who tell me that I should or shouldn’t work, men who tell me what my rights are and are not according to the false version of Islam they preach need to be slapped back into place. I plan to have children. How will I raise daughters in this world? Women are abused and raped and murdered and brainwashed. There is no time to be polite. Any man speaking on the matters of women needs to STFU unless they receive a personal invitation from yours truly, or from a woman who is also arguably correct in her interpretation. Also this person is awesome.
Islam will be reclaimed.