God's Politics

God's Politics


Rose Marie Berger: Gender Jihad

posted by gp_intern

Asra Nomani and I have a “e-relationship.” I first heard about her in 2003 when she and her mother, Sajida, entered their mosque in Morgantown, West Virginia, by the front door and prayed in the same room with men. By gender-integrating the mosque, they broke a practice on the rise in many mosques in which women are forced to pray behind partitions or in basements. I e-mailed Asra right away to send my support and find out more about her and the movement of progressive Muslim women that she’s helped to shape. We’ve been “e-friends” ever since.

Nomani, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, has been very generous in introducing the readers of Sojourners magazine to the progressive face of Islam. In the latest issue of Sojourners, her article “A Faith of Their Own” highlights another aspect of the gender jihad – namely, Muslim women reforming male-controlled Islamic jurisprudence. Also listen to Amy Goodman’s recent interview with Asra on “Democracy Now!

Rose Marie Berger is an Associate Editor and Poetry Editor for Sojourners magazine.



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Mike Hayes

posted February 15, 2007 at 5:48 pm


Rose Marie, Thanks for telling us about Asra! I think Martin Luther King would be smiling about her audacious hope!



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Wolverine

posted February 15, 2007 at 6:41 pm


Here’s the sentence that I found to be the most interesting in the entire article: By gender-integrating the mosque, they broke a practice on the rise in many mosques in which women are forced to pray behind partitions or in basements. (emphasis added) So while western civilization, and the Christian church, have been moving towards being more respectful of women’s rights and abilities, things in Islam appear to be going in the opposite direction. Just thought that was worth pointing out. Wolverine



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Ngchen

posted February 15, 2007 at 7:40 pm


What, if anything, does the attempt to integrate mosques and reform Islamic law have to do with Christianity?



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sara

posted February 15, 2007 at 9:43 pm


Ngchen – have to do with Christianity? Oh my – what filter did you use to read her article. What a breath of hope for us to live together in the world God created thanks to her efforts to reform her faith. Perhaps if that reform occurs there would be less and less extremist out there insisting and demanding old ways that keep people mainly women and children under the thumbs of men who are so insecure they have to hold women hostage with no civil or spiritual rights. It would do us all a world of good to help her in her efforts and to find a way to understand and accept her faith. I for one am tired of war and killing and sensless wasting of lives mainly ushered in by men. Rev. Sara Hardaway



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kevin s.

posted February 15, 2007 at 9:57 pm


Well, I’m tired of the killing too, but peace could better be achieved by making a radical change for Christ, as opposed to trying to agitate for change within a religion that we know to be a lie.



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lilou

posted February 15, 2007 at 10:15 pm


“we” don’t “know” anything of the sort.



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sara

posted February 15, 2007 at 11:42 pm


THAT IS EXACTLY RIGHT LILOU – WE DONT KNOW AND HOW ARROGANT OF US TO THINK WE DO AND WE ARE ALWAYS RIGHT – SHOWS A HUGE LACK OF HUMILITY – WE ARE UNTEACHABLE!! THERIN LIES THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM – WESTERN EMPERIALISM AT ITS WORST. Rev. Sara Hardaway



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kevin s.

posted February 15, 2007 at 11:52 pm


So believing Jesus when he said he was the way, the truth and the life is western imperialism at its worst? That’s relativism, not Christianity.



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Wolverine

posted February 16, 2007 at 3:35 am


No Kevin, that’s Red Letter Christianity! Wolverine



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Matlock

posted February 16, 2007 at 3:52 pm


Would anyone care to comment on the gender-suppressing issues within Christianity? I am specifically referring to the recent (encouraged) resignation of the female Hebrew instructor at Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Tx.. I really don’t want to encourage cynicism, but I was really disturbed on many levels about this (among other doctrinal issues plaguing the SBC). I see these issues as divisive in that they create conflict and disrupt harmony and unity of purpose/mission in the church. A distraction that is not from God if I may be so bold….



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Bristlecone77

posted February 16, 2007 at 3:56 pm


I wrote Ms. Nomani as well. I read her book about her pilgrimage to Mecca and had recurring dreams I was accompanying her. I understood that it was because all women who were betrayed by religion accompanied her in spirit. She is a strong, good, brave woman who speaks of the courage of Islam more than those ego-bound folk who deny women full expression of that religion. Though I cannot stand with her in person, I stand with her in spirit.



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timks

posted February 17, 2007 at 12:14 am


I wonder if Rose Marie Berger has shared with Asra Nomani her belief that God is a woman? How do you think Asra would feel about that?



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Mike Hayes

posted February 17, 2007 at 4:11 am


Wolverine, Think about it… does all of Christianity provide equal respect for females… I think some females are so disgusted with the male dominance of their sect that they just give up on it and try something new…



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sara

posted February 17, 2007 at 12:09 pm


Where to begin – women have set in the pews for years and years and had men tell them what the scriptures mean to them and interpret scripture with their male bias exclusively to the point that women have walked out. The United Methodist Church has celebrated 50 years of ordaining women this past year. When women were allowed to speak for God, stand in pulpits, teach in seminaries, have professional jobs in churches and religion – things began to change for the better. God did not intend for women to be kept silent, uninformed and with no way to participate in God’s kingdom. Women can do more than cook a meal, clean house, pick up the laundry and raise kids – all worthy things to do if that is your choice but if it is not – women have been held prisoner in this world for too long without access to their full potential as God created them to be. It was an awesome site to see Eleanor Rosevelt standing before the all male UN when it first began – thanks to her work. they stood and applauded her and we are the better for it. If women were president perhaps we would see an end to war for the first time in the history of the world – now that to me is worth fighting for and voting for. Men go to war – women dont. Rev. Sara Hardaway



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timks

posted February 17, 2007 at 5:52 pm


“Men go to war – women dont.” That is nonsense: Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi to name two recent examples. Women are not exempt from the same foibles and emotions as men. What does your case against men have to do with Rose Marie’s comment earlier about God being a female? If Asra is a devout Muslim, as she seems to be, she would be horrified to think of Allah as being female. The UMC has seen a serious drop in membership the last 50 years. I am not claiming that is due to women ordination, but it is a fact. Is that your idea of things changing for the better?



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kevin s.

posted February 17, 2007 at 6:42 pm


” When women were allowed to speak for God, stand in pulpits, teach in seminaries, have professional jobs in churches and religion – things began to change for the better.” What things? How did they begin to change for the better? I see a shift toward relativism, with denominations that allow women pastors leading the charge. I don’t know if there is necessarily a cause and effect relationship there, but when I here you claim that we cannot even know that we need to embrace Christ, I have to wonder.”Women can do more than cook a meal, clean house, pick up the laundry and raise kids” My wife works with propietary software systems for Wachovia bank. There are a number of professions that are not pastoral, but that do not constitute “cleaning house”. “It was an awesome site to see Eleanor Rosevelt standing before the all male UN when it first began – thanks to her work. they stood and applauded her and we are the better for it.” The United Nations features among its membership some of the most oppressive regimes to women the world has ever seen. This is not the fault of Eleanor Roosevelt, of course, but you see the problem with measuring eqaulity by symbolic benchmarks.



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Wolverine

posted February 17, 2007 at 8:01 pm


Mike, You asked if all of the church gives equal respect to women. Across the board? No. But taken as a whole the trend in the church is going that way, has been going that way for a century, and shows no sign of reversing any time soon. The same cannot be said of Islam, even in the United States. And I believe we all need to take account of that awkward fact. Wolverine



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Mike Hayes

posted February 17, 2007 at 10:57 pm


Wolverine, I think the trend in Islam and in Christianity is toward recognition of equality of women.



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kevin s.

posted February 18, 2007 at 2:01 am


Mike, W/r/t/ Islam, on what evidence do you base your perspective?



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Mike Hayes

posted February 18, 2007 at 3:58 am


Wolverine and Kevin, It is backward that women are expected to wear the special clothing… I think that occurs even in some of the more progressive countries in which Islam is the religion of most citizens… It was also backward that women in the US were being told a few decades ago to return to live with an abusive husband because it was their religious duty, rather than being encouraged to obtain a divorce (or at least a separation). I think that practice no longer continues… It is reprehensible that women in countries where Sharia is the law have been buried up to their necks in sand and stoned for adultery, in itself… but, in recent times, women have succeeded in overturning this sentence of death. It is also inconsistent that the male suffers no comparable consequences… In my view…



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kevin s.

posted February 18, 2007 at 4:29 pm


Mike, So, it sounds as though you agree that Christianity is moving in a positive direction regarding treatment of women, while Islam is going in the wrong direction. I think this is inevitable. How can you go in the right direction if you have the wrong compass?



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Mike Hayes

posted February 18, 2007 at 8:46 pm


Taunts by opponents of the values in “God’s Politics” are pretty frequent on this blog. If Dobsen or Falwell or Robertson offered a similar opportunity, I wouldn’t utilize it. And, I don’t think God creates some persons to have the advantage of one set of beliefs (compass) and that God prefers those persons over others who are born into a different set of beliefs. I said that women are making progress under Islam and under Christianity… Kevin twisted my words.



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kevin s.

posted February 18, 2007 at 9:37 pm


Mike, I am not trying to taunt you or your values. If I were going a cogent case that Islam and Christianity are headed in divergent directions w/r/t women’s rights, I couldn’t have put it better myself. Perhaps there is room to say that the proliferation of Islam might not be the best thing for the world? Would acknowledging that what I have just said is correct force you to admit that fact? Perhaps it would be imcompatible with your paradigm, but you might want to consider it.



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sara

posted February 19, 2007 at 2:48 pm


Kevin Who are you to judge they have the “wrong” compass. From the get go you are closed because you already know God has spoken to you they are wrong and not worth hearing or considering. The worst sort of evangelism. Women in religion and plitics and leadership are here to stay – and yes we are the better for being inclusive. Almost all mainline denominations are in decline. Perhaps God is doing a new thing! At time women are better leaders in the pulpit, in administration, pastoral care and teaching. They have reshaped religion and politics for the better. It was one thing to have the right to vote, not too long ago women didnot, it is another to be at the table where decisions are made that affect men and women and children. To know that the health concerns of women matter to those with the money to do the research and women are allowed to be a part of that is huge – huge!! The majority of gradne school teachers and public teachers for that matter of fact have been women. Women who have trained our future leaders and given little value for their role. Dobson, Falwell and Robertson – oh my gosh – how the public can tolerate their blunders and horrible theological judgements is beyond me. I would not be a part of this as well if they were on board with this. I think Robertson has had to back peddle on numerous occasions for making outrageous remarks and accusations. How pious judgmental and plain sick some of it is. You cant always judge things by numbers either or climbing the corporate ladder – a male image by the way. Progress can be measured in other ways. Sara



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kevin s.

posted February 19, 2007 at 3:33 pm


“Who are you to judge they have the “wrong” compass.” I’m not yielding judgment, I’m making an observation. I speak with the authority of the holy spirit, don’t you? “and not worth hearing or considering.” I didn’t say they weren’t worth hearing or considering. I said they believe in a false God. “The worst sort of evangelism. ” That has nothing to do with evangelism. “Almost all mainline denominations are in decline. Perhaps God is doing a new thing! ” Um, yes. Non-denominational churches which eschew stale ritual and political in-fighting for a genuine interpretation of scripture would be one of those new things.”Dobson, Falwell and Robertson – oh my gosh – how the public can tolerate their blunders and horrible theological judgements is beyond me” I would like to know what you perceive to be Dobson’s theological blunders, but Falwell and Robertson are far from mainstream acceptance. For Robertson in particualr, I have not seen what I would consider to be acceptance. Robertson is bananas. I think the same thing about Islam. We both agree that Robertson is wrong, so it is not as though you are considering ALL viewpoints.”Women who have trained our future leaders and given little value for their role. ” I commend good teachers for their excellent work, man or woman. I have no problem with women in leadership positions in the workplace.



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Mike Hayes

posted February 19, 2007 at 8:33 pm


No, Kevin, You are taking the expressions of Muslim fundamentalists to represent Islam, generally. Fundamentalists believe that they can subjugate, abuse, or kill others in the name of the religion they profess to represent… Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and so on… I think you are being unfair to Muslims who live their lives by the same respect for others that Christians and Jewish and Hindu and Buddist and Mormon (and so on) persons do… Keep it up, and I hope others who refuse to think of Muslims in the way you do will just ignore what you and others who express that view have to say on this subject… I think that is the best way to deal with that on this blog… others who think as I do on this issue may think that your posts on this isuue should be responded to… hey, what a country!



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Mike Hayes

posted February 19, 2007 at 9:30 pm


I wish there were a way to start a new topic… The topic would be the after effects of the attacks on the US on us and how we think of Islam and Muslims. I think we (I admit I did) began to wonder about Islam and Muslims. How could so many persons have decided to attack us? What is it about Islam? I began reading whatever I could get, including “God Has Ninety-nine Names”, and I still couldn’t reconcile the attacks and the fact that all of the persons were Muslims. But, as time passed, I began to see that as fundamentalist extremism, and I saw parallels with other similar actions by fundamentalists of other religions… Decisions by those who take it upon themselves to kill others they think of as evil is common to what the attackers did and what the assassin of the Israeli prime minister did and what those who kill physicians in abortion clinics do… And they each apparently conclude that killing others is what God wants them to do… All of it amounts to ignoring the basic message that Christians and Jewish and Muslim persons “take away” from the encounter they have with their religion… love God and love your neighbor… The personal encounters I’ve had tell me that is what all the religions teach… The fundamentalists ignore that message… all of them… Richard Rohr talks about the great themes of the bible… maybe that is what it takes… stressing the broad thinking and less focus on the separate passages… Maybe if Islam and Christianity and Judaism and other religions would do that there would be less confusion resulting from focus on separate passages that lead some to believe what the majority do not…



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