Thursday, October 22, 2009

Islamic Feminism

I met with the head of our local Muslim school yesterday, who I have known for over 10 years. I have been involved with the school for many years, but not as much as I would have liked after the birth of my children. I am going to be taking on a more active role now and I am very excited about that.

I had a very good talk with my friend, not only about the school and my son's school, which have a wonderful alliance, but also about life.

We talked a lot about my marriage and about my father-in-law. He was very surprised that my father-in-law had not been more supportive of both me and my marriage. He was also very surprised that my father-in-law did not work more closely with my husband. He said in Yemen, when a father is successful, it makes him proud to bring his son up in that same tradition.

I remember the same thing from my former father-in-law. Although he was not wealthy, he did own quite a bit of land. He was so proud of the fact that some day he would give all of that to his sons. (Women receive their inheritance when they marry as a way of insuring their financial control within the marriage. The money is theirs to keep. If the marriage goes south, they are not stuck.)

When I was leaving, my friend showed me the new library at the school, which he was very proud of. I noticed a women's studies section and in particular a book about Islamic Feminism, which I also have at home. I told him that we need to make sure that the girls graduate as Muslim feminists! Then I stopped myself, and we both agreed that Islam is a feminist religion that empowers women. I don't think very many people think of Islam in that way, but at it's root, that is what Islam set out to do. In many ways, that is what Islam has done for me.

Islam empowered me in a way that no other religion has. And, in going back to work, no other segment of my client base has been more supportive of me than my Muslim base.

I also was reflecting with my husband that it is so interesting that people stereotype Arab and Muslim men as holding back strong women, but my American father-in-law seems to have the problem with me, whereas my Arab and Muslim brothers seem to be very proud of my strength. My previous father-in-law is so proud of me. And yet all I feel from my current father-in-law is disgust.

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