Muslim women’s rights in Islam

Confronting Patriarchy by Dr Hina Azam

Watch this lecture by Dr Hina Azam, Asst Professor at Univ Texas-Austin.  She posits that much of the problems women face around the world are derived from the way female sexuality is perceived in the Islamic tradition.

What are your comments, reactions?

Addressing Muslim Women’s Sexual Behaviors

by Sarah Hasan
I think about sex all the time. Not in a nasty sort of way. But it’s definitely up there, in my head- All the time.

When I was younger my thoughts were associated more with a fear of the unknown than curiosity. As I grew older and learned more about it from friends, magazines, movies and my sisters (not in any particular order) I was perplexed by the intensity of my curiosity…see, like most girls brought up in a traditional Pakistani household that places hefty value on an indistinct and questionably unadulterated cultural value system, I thought I was kinda weird to have all these questions about sex. Like many others in my social circle, I learned more about it first as something shameful, then taught to accept it as a fact of life and later delved into viewing it through the many psychological, biological, and socio-religious lenses.

Whether or not you think about it as much I do is a totally different topic of discussion (feminist intellectual schmoozing is my absolute favorite…preferably discussions with my girls in dimly lit coffee shops) but no one should deny the importance of starting A discussion. There is a pervasive silence on the topic in traditional Muslim communities (and I say this in a very general way, since Muslim communities worldwide are so diverse not just geographically, but also rich with the culture they dwell in). So it was interesting to come across Organica’s survey of Muslim Women’s Sexual Behaviors, as this is exactly why Cindy, a lovely Arab-American Muslim Feminist blogger has set out to spark a conversation about. She writes it best when she writes “Muslim women are often portrayed as passive beings with little control over their sexual behavior”.

While this is by no means a scientific study, it does serve as an impressive cursor to the conversation which currently highlights one side – the male side – of the story. Quick overviews of parts that blew my mind:

-Based on the variety of definitions provided for ‘sexual behaviors’, 59% of respondents admitted to having extra- (or pre-) marital experiences.

-Sexual Foreplay [with a man/woman] and Self-Pleasure are cited equally as the most common types of sexual behaviors respondents have engaged in.

-How they learned about sex. And here is a prime example of a conversation-sparker: If girls are learning more from friends, internet and sex ed at school- it is so very important that they have the right, comprehensive information that is also culturally and religiously sensitive, so that it applies to them and isn’t just a distant, objective brand of knowledge.

-The high percentage of respondents who would want to engage in oral sex. Engaging in anal sex however is not as widely received.

Indeed, the survey brings to light the fact that Muslim women too “have strong sexual urges, opinions, needs and preferences”. Generally, the participants seem to be a confident group of women with open communication styles, a whopping 93% of whom recognize that as a woman their sexual needs are equally as important as men’s. It goes on to shed light on how respondents’ culture and upbringing has affected their views on sex and virginity, as well as experiences of sexual abuse.

Check it out for yourself- what are your thoughts on how we can begin to address the situation?

You can follow Cindy’s tweets at @Organica_ or holler at her through her blog

Breaking the Silence about Sexual Abuse by Yasmeen Shaban

Sexual abuse is another taboo topic in Muslim communities. This silence and cultural stigma adds to the oppression and pain of the sexually abused victims. We are doing these people a disservice by not talking about sexual abuse. Even more disturbing is that people in power like Islamic religious leaders and teachers, uncles, fathers, and female cousins, are committing these sexual violent acts without punishment from the law and community. Islam advocates human dignity and integrity, freedom from the chains of oppression and inequality, and justice. So why are Muslim communities so silent about sexual abuse?

Organica A story of an Arab American girl writes openly and honestly about sexual abuse. This blog is campaigning to end sexual abuse and has posted responses of sexually abused victims. I noticed that most of these people never received treatment for the aftereffects of sexual abuse. Most claimed that they had trouble being intimate and that they were overprotective. One woman claimed that men were disgusting that she often hid from. Another claimed that her husband was angry because she gagged every time she touched his private area. One respondent said:

“It was also the cultural and religious stigma attached to the abuse. I always felt like such a slut, and being introduced to sex at such a young age means you’re slightly more promiscuous as an adult. It always made me feel easy and cheap. My sexual desires were associated with shame. I can’t have sex with anybody I’m not involved in a relationship with because I feel like that’s an invasion of my privacy. And even people I’m committed to, there are times when I don’t feel comfortable being intimate.”

This respondent felt shame over being sexually abused although this was not her fault. The messages she’s received from the Muslim community have not helped her recovery. She says that any sexual desires she felt were associated with shame. I believe this stems from a repression and silence of sexuality within the Muslim community. Although the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad (s) have talked openly about sexuality, the Muslim community sends a different message to the youth. When attending an Islamic school the messages about sexuality and gender sent were clear, sexist, and repressive. If a female was seen driving in a car with a male on school grounds it was reported to their parents. The female’s reputation was then ruined as the “promiscuous troublemaking female who had no respect for rules or herself” without knowledge of her situation. Are we so shaped and blinded by sexist cultural rules and interpretation of Islam that we can’t see how sexual abuse is hurting our youth and adults well-being?

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