City of Brass

City of Brass


the misogyny of the Ummah

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

I often find fault with the way in which Yasmin Alibhai-Brown makes her arguments in the pages of the Independent, but I have to concede that on the merits, her main arguments are usually sound. Her latest essay is a good example – she labels the state of women in the Ummah “a dark age” and it’s impossible for me to find honest fault with that assessment. Her essay is a must-read, though I found this portion to be the key:

I am aware that my words will help confirm the pernicious prejudices that fester in the minds of those who despise Islam. Yet to conceal or excuse the violations would be to condone and encourage them. There have been enlightened times when some Muslim civilisations honoured and cherished females. This is not one of them. Across the West – for a host of reasons – millions of Muslims are embracing backward practices. In the UK young girls – some so young that they are still in push chairs – are covered up in hijabs. Disgracefully, there are always vocal Muslim women who seek to justify honour killings, forced marriages, inequality, polygamy and childhood betrothals. Why are large numbers of Muslim men so terrorised by the female body and spirit? Why do Muslim women encourage this savage paranoia?

I look out of my study at the common and see a wife fully burkaed on a sunny day. She sits still. Her children and husband run around, laughing, playing cricket. She sits still, dead, buried, a ghost. She is complicit in her own degradation, as are countless others. Their acquiescence in a free democracy is a crime against their sisters who have no such choices in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Of course, it has to be said that a muslim woman can indeed choose to wear the hijab, or even the burka, and do so as a free and valid choice. The denial of a woman’s right to freely wear it is as wrong as forcing her to wear it. But such nuance is usually outside the realm of Yasmin’s argumentation style. At any rate, the main point is that women in the muslim world are indeed third-class citizens and that represents a dark age from prior eras indeed.

Related: We are discussing this essay at Talk Islam. Also, my classic essay on The Burka and the Bikini serves to highlight some of the nuance absent in Alibhai-Brown’s essay.



  • Morgaan Sinclair

    You know what I just don’t get??? How this all went so wrong! It does seem as if the Prophet, in his early life, was all on the side of women. It also looks as if during his lifetime, he made “concessions” to warlords and to momentary necessity, and the result was that women wound up with fewer rights that his wife (Khadija) had before she met him! Then he dies, and rumor mill takes over, and voila! … in just 150 years there are 600,000 “hadith” that claim Mohammad said all kinds of things and al-Buhkari tries to straighten it all out, and then al-Muslim starts giving us propaganda around Ayesha to resolve the Partisans of Ali conflict, and from there on it’s warlord desert tribalist propaganda to completely control women. Why didn’t somebody, anybody stop this????
    The clearest and most straightforward and most obvious thing about this is: ALLAH MADE WOMAN, AND MAN, IN HIS ARROGANCE, DOESN’T LIKE IT THE WAY ALLAH DID IT. SO, IN ALLAH’S NAME, MAN IS GOING TO COVER UP, INCARCERATE, AND ENSLAVED THIS WOMAN, WHOSE FREE WILL ABOUT HER OWN SENSUALITY AND SEXUALITY HE DOESN’T LIKE, ****DESPITE**** PROTECTING HIS OWN FREEDOM BY FORCE (or, guess how AIDS was spread in Africa!).
    This is such an extraordinary arrogance on the part of men — to challenge the wisdom and authority of God with his own ego — that I cannot imagine what kind of excuse men plan to offer Allah when they stand before him, or complicity women, either.
    This religion has to shape itself up. And it’s MOSTLY not the fault of ordinary Muslims. It’s the heads of the mahdhabs that hold this evil in place. But ordinary Muslims are complicity, because if Muslims hit the streets in massive protests against what the leaders of the schools of fiqh and the potentates of Islamic states do, they would HAVE to listen. But nobody does this. And now, just since 9/11, there have been more than 13,000 attacks carried out radicals in 22 countries against the peoples of 5 religions, but MOST of the victims have been other Muslims, those not toeing the Wahhabi or Taleban lines. And nobody does anything about it, except scream “Islamophobia!” every time some non-Muslim tries to speak out about — to declare some poor Muslim who speaks out an apostate or takfir! I’m sorry, but NONE of this is going to go away unless Muslims get out there in numbers so huge that the very bad guys who run Islam are scared enough of an overthrow that they return Islam to its earliest Meccan precepts — before all the warring, before all the erosion of the rights of women and non-Muslims, before the warlords imposed desert tribalist slavery on just about everybody and then spread it by the sword just as Christianity spread terror and misogyny. Between the two, what chance did woman, one of Allah’s NATURAL CREATURES NOT TO BE ENSLAVED BY ANYONE, ever have?
    I thank you deeply for your words here, and for your courage in bringing up the subject. I truly appreciate it. Every one who does this helps prevent the world from sinking further into the insanity that threatens it.
    Allah bless and keep you.

  • Taha

    I understand the concept of Women in the dark ages for Muslims but I would argue that many societies outside the Western World Muslim and others are in the dark ages.
    But the treatment of Women via the Burkha or Veil is not a one to one correlation. I think any dress that a woman is forced to wear to “please” society norms or peer pressures is bad. Aziz had argues on an earlier post that even the Bikini is as demeaning to women if it is worn to “please to society norms or expectations of men”.
    A better argument would be the actual rights of women and the position they hold in socio economic norms compared to men.

  • Morgaan Sinclair

    A better argument would be that women have the right to say yes and no in certain cultures than in others, and that is the issue.
    I do not have to wear a bikini in America, but I do have to wear an abaya in Saudi Arabia. I can resist ANYTHING the society or men tell me I have to do if I live in a country where I am protected by a rights-based constitution that cannot be taken from me on the basis of whether the Muslim Brotherhood gets a majority of seats in parliament or whether the mutawiyyin can beat me to death in the streets for a dress code violation or whether the Taleban behead enough guys for beard violations that they are willing to sell out MY freedom in all respects for THEIR safety.
    I do not care whether women wear hijab or burka or whatever, ON PRINCIPLE, but Alibhai-Brown is absolutely correct that ALL women, particularly Muslim women in the West, should stand together against veiling at present because the absolutely clear implication is that a woman is NOT OK AS SHE WAS BORN and is to be CONTROLLED FOR AND BY MEN so that she remains a slave.
    And those who disagree can explain themselves to Allah, who is, I promise you, NOT going to be amused.

  • Your Name

    I am not in favor of forcing sisters (or anyone else) to do anything against their will, there is no compulsion in religion but we should be careful because we are Muslims no matter what society we live in and the statement “aquiesence in a ‘free democracy'” implies that some of us are buying into the democratic system of government which is un-islamic and any brother or sister who reads, watches the news, has had a democratically produced bomb dropped on his/her family and/or was born and raised in a democratic society can attest to the extreme racism, injustice and intolerance of a democracy, after all speaking purely in terms of prefixes and suffixes does not the word Demo/Acracy translate to Devil’s Government, we should look to the Quran and Sunnah for guidance and don’t buy into what some unbeliever says is freedom no man can give us freedom, we were born free and thus must exercise our right to be free and be careful not to be one who guides or misleads others into a system that is anti-islamic while professing a belief in islam as this may be misconstrued by some as being islam, remember innovation is in the hell fire! and be very careful not to be one who knowingly or unknowingly acts as an agent for the unbelievers by driving a wedge between brothers and sisters in this deen of Islam, in a day and time when we are being slaughtered, our lands are being taken and we are under constant threat of attack from ‘democracies’ just because we are muslim, we, I dare say cannot be side-tracked by being tricked into arguing with each other about interpretation of deen, true you have a choice to wear hijab or not but its sunnah and we cannot pick and choose what part of deen we wish to follow and call ourselves muslim and let me qualify this statement by saying we all, brothers and sisters, have work to do on ourselves, especially me, but lets not forget we are under attack, lets keep things in perspective, may Allah bless us to avoid those things that will divide us, bless us to strive and struggle with our health and our wealth to insure our right to practice this deen and our rightful place as world leaders because we are guided by the tenets of this deen and may Allah’s peace and blessings be with us all.

  • Morgaan Sinclair

    Please see Abdel-Aziz Sachedina, The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism.
    AND during the Prophet’s lifetime ONLY his wives ever veiled, so one wonders why you are trying to sell the veil as “sunnah” to women who are not the wives of a Prophet.

  • Your Name

    I didn’t say veiled I said hijab…don’t be argumentative use what you can if nothing there for you, fine, keep it to yourself someone else may be interested in stopping the slaughter of muslims more so than wearing HIJAB

  • Morgaan Sinclair

    Perfect example of male aggression. YOU “Your Name” are not in charge of muzzling other people.
    And in terms of slaughter, there have been more than 13,000 attacks carried by Muslims in 22 countries against the peoples of five religions, just since 9/11. The VAST majority of the victims of those attacks have been other Muslims. The deaths number more than 85,000 and the injuries close to 250,000. In Baghdad last year, 17.949 people died. Of that number, 17,742 were Muslim-on-Muslim attacks, and the rest were collateral damage involved with the attempt to stop Muslims killing Muslims in Shi’a retaliations for years of Baathist viciousness, and the rest were Al Qaeda attacks on Shi’as are the ruling party and murders of Sunni tribal leaders and their families after Sunni leaders refused to let Al Qaeda demand marriages of their daughters.

  • Your Name

    I was not trying to muzzle you only trying to stop divisiveness you obviously are trying very hard to promote, wonder who you work for but at any rate you may continue to follow the sunnah of Abdel-Aziz Sachedina I choose to follow the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and will leave you to argue with yourself as your attack (male aggression) is obviously prompted by the sting of the truth and your gatred of men, how islamic of you, stop being devisive sister and allow me my opinion as I have allowed you yours.

  • Your Name

    Sister what hatred of men you display and an obviously democratic influenced bias and attitude of self-importance your arguments don’t hold water, I believe its called ‘argument ad hominem’, there is no logic there but at any rate you may continue to follow the sunnah of Abdel-Aziz Sachedina I choose to follow the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) so I will waste no more of my time arguing with the representative of whatever government entity you are employed by, have you noticed you are the only one that my words upset, what is it they say about the truth, oh yeah, it hurts

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