Islamic Feminism

~:The Western Perception of Islam and Women's Rights:~
Writing of Bahithat al Badiya 

Writing of Zand Dohkt
Decrees of Women's Rights:

1. Teaching girls the Quran and the correct Sunna.

2. Primary and secondary schoool education for girls, and compulsory prepatory school educatin for all.

3. Instruction for girls on the thoery and practice of economics, health, first aid, and childcare.

4. Setting a quaota for females in medicine and education so they can serve the women of Egypt.

5. Allowing women to study any other advanged subjects they wish without restriction.

6. Upbrining for girls from infancy stressing patience, honesty, work and other virtues.

7. Adehering to the Sharia concerning betrothal and marrage, and not permitting any woman and man to marry without first meeting each other in the presence of the father or male relatie of the bride.

8. Adopting the veil and outdoor dress of the Turkish women of Istanbul

The mindset of the common westerner, be they in Europe, America, or other western democracies, often expresses a stigmatic view that Islam oppresses its women and that that wearing the veil or hijab, is a sign of inferiority and chastised and unquestionable obedience for fear of force or harmful consequence. Bahithat al-Badiya and Zand Dohkt represent two different views of how women are treated in Islamic society. The difference in each woman’s argument will show that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to western perception of Islamic culture and doctrine.

Egypt's Bahithat al-Badiya

The Egyptian school teacher whose name means “Seeker in the Desert” has contributed to the wide variety of arguments pertaining to women’s rights in the Islamic world and the women’s rightful place next to the man, neither below nor behind him. Al-Badiya’s lecture to the Club of the Umma Party in 1909 is very insightful. Among the major points presented, the al-Badiya argues that it not women that have been created lesser than men but that the men have replaced the women’s job with machinery and that the idle mind of the woman without the jobs she used to do, is a harmful thing not only to herself but to the whole of national progress. She then advocates that women should have the same occupational and education opportunities as men. Furthermore, she states a firm belief in the hijab and as protection from the wandering eyes of men wayward man and the anxious eye of the boy in his youth in order to preserve chastity and keep boys and girls from intermingling before marriage. (al-Badiya, 53, 54).

Iran's Zand Dokht

Zand Dohkt has a different perception of women oppressed in Islam. She was in Iran during the Islamic revolution and the enforcement of Ayatollah Khomeini’s version of Sharia, or Islamic Law. Under the Ayatollah, women were declared as mothers and the black veil made compulsory. Jobs were denied to women who refused not to wear the veil and some women were eventually beaten or worse. Schools were segregated and thus, women were only allowed a limited education in many respects. (Dokt, 405-406)

Personal Story of Western Perceptions

Not all westerners are ignorant, but many presume based on first glance. A close friend of mine who is Kurdish told me a story that happened last year in 2007 at University Mall, the shopping center just right outside the campus of George Mason University. She was having lunch with two of her friends who were wearing hijab. A Christian American walked up to one of her friends wearing hijab and blatantly made the comment, “How does it feel to be oppressed?” This ignorance of Islam or, any religion for that matter, is unacceptable regardless of ethnicity or creed. The worst part about the ordeal was that this man was "educated"! Both the accounts of al-Badiya and Zand Dohkt show that the Islamic world, regardless of western judgmental perception, is very diverse and cannot be spoken of collectively. Islam, as transfused into the cultures of various particular regions, is very diverse. Egyptian politics and the Iranian Revolution are two very diverse political, social, and economic climate existing with the Islamic world and the borders of the Middle East. The feminist writings of these two authors are  perhaps the best examples of those works which are rarely heard about and constantly overlooked by the individual who does not study and learn, digging deep for answers to life’s most intimate questions.
"The new Islamic Constitution declared women's primary position as mother. The black veil, symbol of the position of women under Islam, was made compulsory. Guards were posted oustide government offices to enforce it, and women were sacked from thier jobs without compensation for refusing to wear the veil."
(Dohkt, 405)

"But compulsory morality, complusory wearing of the veil did not create the Holy Society that Khomeini was after; but public lashings, stonings, chopping of hands and daily group executions sank Iran into an age of Barbarism" (Dohkt, 405)

"The Veil is the historical symol of woman's oppression, seclusion, denial of her social participation and equal rights with men. It is a cover which defaces and objectifies women."
(Dohkt, 406)

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