No Honor for A Career of Hate by amina wadud


amina 2014 - croppedA recent decision by Brandeis University (founded in 1948 as a nonsectarian Jewish community-sponsored, coeducational institution) to take back its offer to give Ayaan Hirsi Ali an honorary doctorate hit the media with the usual storm over such a controversial figure.

Most of the resistance to her, as a public figure, comes because of her own categorical statements against Islam. Not only does she choose to be an atheist, but she lambasts those who do not make her same choice. Her sweeping statements are meant to galvanize support against the Islam she has suffered from both as a child in a conservative family and as colleague of a brutally murdered film maker. She lost her bid for refugee status in Holland for lying about her past and was taken lovingly into the arms of certain institutions (like the conservative think tank, American Enterprise Institute  and tea party politicians, like Pamela Gellar). All manner of official trickery was put in her favor such that she enjoys something millions of her country men and women from Somalia would probably never hope to see: US citizenship and institutional support.

It is difficult for me to write why I support the decision of Brandeis University to take back their offer to honor her (although this does not answer the important question: why they even thought to give it to her in the first place ). Many reasons against her have been repeated by individuals and institutions of Muslim civil society in the US starting when she first came here and again at this latest incident. All these are worth following up on. Compare her own words, as she continually notes, they are public knowledge. People know what she has said.

She is fond of supporting her views even at the cost of denigrating the half of the 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide who happen to be women and who wish to remain Muslim. If we take her logic: we are all brain washed, lacking anything remotely resembling reason—let alone love and spirit—to speak on our own behalf regarding this dedication and devotion. That is another reason why it IS difficult to speak: Everything we say in support of our faith is cast as ignorant acquiescence. So I will NOT go that route. Nor will I repeat her hateful statements about Islam in general and other scape-goating. I will also not pretend, as one Twitter fan put it, that she does not have reason to be bitter. Who am I to say what is important about someone else’s experience?

Rather, I wish to point out two things: 1) how can someone make a lifetime career of hate? If she is so against Islam, enough to leave of her own volition, why does she continue to talk about it so much? And why do people support her in that hates-mongering? 2) While she needs credit for her personal struggles against near-death, FGM, near-forced marriage, etc., there are Muslim women with these and more such struggles and experiences who STILL work for their families and communities . Perhaps those US audiences who are busy satisfying their fetish for the “Muslim-woman-victim” story—this one being spoken in the words of one very attractive black woman—cannot spare time to support actual work done in the field to change laws, policies and cultures against such practices.

Another difficulty for me in discussing this comes from direct experience of being black-listed by certain Muslim collectives, being second guessed, even when I am invited to speak at Universities, conferences, government and non-government organizations worldwide, by those voices saying, “why do you invite her, she is so controversial?” or better yet, “she is against ’Islam’”. While I find these accusations astounding, after dedicating more than 40 years of my life to reform within: to reclaim the beauty of Islam over the ugliness that surely does more than just damage our image, “in the name of Islam”, I do not then find solace by aligning myself to a hate campaign.

In fact, I do most of my work on the basis of a radical epistemological question:  Who defines Islam? Who has the power to control public and institutional attitudes, funds, accolades and accusations about “Islam”? Who gets shut out of the conversations, representations, and support? How does the living experience of Islam, so critical in women’s struggles of identity, get relegated to the side lines so US audiences can listen intently to one woman who does little in application to where women on the ground are working and experiencing the struggle against patriarchy or even cruelty? It is a tough question, but I continue to be confounded by why certain self-serving Islam-haters are embraced by certain elements in the US, (most known as Islamaphobes and neo-cons) who have resources to pit Ms. Ali against some of the same Muslims that I have to contend with while continuing to work to promote change from within.

So what do I say?

I say look at the record. Follow the trail. Who has words (let’s face it, I’m a retired academic and published author, so I have LOTS of words, myself) and who backs up their words with ACTS to benefit more than just their own pockets, the size of their name in print and the chance to get established with government support in both Holland and the US?

I cannot claim the support of people who do not read my work or who are told not to read my work by those who claim the right to speak exclusively “for Islam”, but I can relay the message as I did in my recent blog about International Women’s Day  referencing 25 years of grassroots work, that none of us got rich, none of us are famous. Yet ALL of us still work. The work goes on. The next generation of women and men work with us and beyond us, on the ground, with issues that matter in the actual lives of women as they live their Islam.

So it is complicated to say this, but the attention given to supporting this same-old image of the beautiful black or brown victim of Muslim violence, abuse or disregard does NOT represent us. We thought we had moved beyond the image of being victim to our own religion and moved towards a more nuanced reflection; especially since the hard work continues, sometimes in adverse situations in order to make a difference where it counts: in policies, laws, cultural practices and attitudes. This work goes on by those who do not wish to be seen as victims only, but as agents of change in our own well being.

So next time you promote Ayaan Hirsi Ali, could you ask her and her US supporters—who allow her sorry story to get in the way of millions of other sorry stories and the story tellers (who never stop working to make changes for themselves and their communities, all in the name of Islam)— in the words of Janet Jackson’s song: “What have you done for me lately?”

amina wadud is Professor Emerita of Islamic Studies, now traveling the world over seeking  answers to the questions that move many of us through our lives.  Author of Qur’an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective and Inside the Gender Jihad, she will blog on her life journey and anything that moves her about Islam, gender and justice, especially as these intersect with the rest of the universe.



Categories: Academy, Activism, Epistemology, Ethics, In the News, Islam, Politics

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37 replies

  1. Amina, thank you. I have been struggling with my feelings for Ayan Hirsi Ali/Tasleema Nasrin for a long time. My frustrations mostly stem from the fact that these women, Ms Hirsi in particular, uses her cultural experiences and passes them off as Islamic and goes off crying to another country for tea, sympathy and citizenship. As a Muslim woman and like Ms Hirsi, an African woman, these are NOT my experiences and yet, confusingly, we share (or shared) the same faith. To go off topic a bit, for all Pakistan’s hostility towards Malala Yousufzai, I have far more respect for her for obvious reasons. There is no compulsion in Islam so Ms Hirsi and Ms Nasreen are welcome to not practice Islam but to blame and in one fell swoop denigrate others who choose to follow the faith is well, not too bright. Again, many thanks for writing this and bringing some clarity, at least, to my mind :) Salaam.

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    • What happens to Malala is part of the tension over the encroachment of the western super powers into the region as if all that is happening is good and benevolent. There is sheer raw imperialism as well. so there is a strong tendency to reject anything that gets a western stamp of approval.

      Nevertheless we still have to ask ourselves in the west why we like the victor over all odds story so much about these parts of the world?

      thanks for your comments

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      • What happened to Malala should never have happened, western influence or not! A child’s right to be safe and educated are universal rights adopted by most if not all countries in planet earth, many muslim countries included.

        It is the acceptance by the majority, of unilateral actions of the extreme few in the name of religion that provides the general impression of the entire religion to outsiders. And yet you question why outsiders are so quick to help the oppressed?

        Given the choice for a free, independent and self sufficient life, how many of the Muslim women you claim to ‘work for their families and community’ would choose to remain so? Forced into FGM, marital rapes, restricted movements, banned from schooling, being financially reliant and the list goes on. I admit i am only highlighting some extremes and there is good is all religions including Islam – some of the practices i think everyone should emulate.

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      • One thing is certain Pete, in over 50 countries where I have worked and lived Muslim women OVERWHELMINGLY want to be Muslim. They also want to be an active part of the transformation of LIVING Islam.

        So the solution is not the arrogant self serving of one former Muslim or her US allies. The solution is SELF empowerment. That includes acceptance of them selves, their cultures and their religion AGAINST all odds.

        Thus the example of Malala. Clearly, you have NOT listened to her either. Even as a child she speaks against US intervention, drones and imperialism.

        For the height of oppression is to assume ONLY your view is the one the entire world must follow while the views of all others must bow down.

        We are way past the simple either/or binary you present as THE way to go.

        It is NOT Islam OR freedom. It is Islam AND freedom. Start with the freedom of our own choosing TO BE Muslim.

        We have proven that time and time again. Only people like you who romanticize global bullying and ignore our collective and individual identity struggles get in our way. So move over

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      • Well, I can’t say all what has happened to her has been cultural and not religious. Culture isn’t shaped in a a vaccum. The relation between culture and religion can become like that of a vicious cycle, sometimes.

        The worst thing about experiences of women having been born and raised in an Islamic country or under Islamic law (and sorry Amina, I think you don’t count as one, if I am right?) is that the law doesn’t support them when the “culture” kicks in, because the law, all based on Sharia and the Quranic verse in Suratunnisa, gives full authority to the man of the family as the guardian of the females, to make decisions about them.

        You won’t be able to understand this, unless you have lived under Islamic law, and they you get into a disagreement with your father or husband. You will learn there is no refuge for you, anywhere. You just have to obey and suffer. and it is Islamic.

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      • I have lived in 6 countries, 5 of them with established shari’ah courts. I have also traveled and worked in about 50 countries on the issue of gender reform in Islamic law. the link I provided in the blog will give the details to support this: http://www.musawah.org (an international net work.) I have 40 years of Islamic discipline behind my claims of “understanding”, yet you think because I was not born in a Muslim majority country there is some limit on my capacity to understand (and participate meaningful in making changes in the very laws, policies and attitudes)? Maybe, but I will keep trying until reform does come.

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  2. I’ve not heard of these people, but the situation sounds familiar. May there be peace on those who speak out to strengthen their courage, on those who suffer to support and comfort, and on those who hate so that they may learn to love.

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  3. If you’d allow me, I’d post the content of a letter I wrote the New York Times, sometimes in 2008, in response to their article in support of the work of Ayaan Ali, one of the many pieces that intermittently pop up seeking to frame her not only as a past and current victim of Islam, but also as the one able somehow to speak truthfully and effectively FOR Islam. Because of her being characterized as speaking from inside Islam, I gave her the benefit of the doubt until I heard her, on Bill Maher’s show, advocate fully for the banning of Islam (as if that was even an option.)

    “The article pitting Ayaan Hirsi Ali against Irshad Manji, and their diverging views of Islam, especially in relation to the West is interesting but inherently flawed. To refer to Ayaan Ali as a “Muslim rebel sister” is to imply that she is a Muslim, which would give her the insider view and ownership that Irshad has, and that gives the latter the moral and religious authority to legitimately speak out on Islamic issues.
    As an atheist, albeit ex-Muslim one, Ali is no different from any of the usual anti-Islam commentators out there, whether they are her friend and mentor Christopher Hitchens, Pat Robertson, or Dutch politician Geert Wilder, who speak of the faith as a backward, violent religion, the antithesis of democracy. A close study of the Quran would reveal to Ali that the great qualities we typically attribute to the West, such as democracy, respect, freedom and goodwill, are ideals that course the pages of the Quran.

    Furthermore, she is guilty of the same fallacy that fogs every discussion about Islam: the one that assumes the faith to be both whole and static. It is further compounded by the lack of definition of what constitutes Islam. Is it the text itself: the Quran? Is it the spiritual belief? Is it the actual practice of the beliefs? Or is it the cultural expressions of the faith? Islam is instead a dynamic and incredibly diverse religion that is very much susceptible to the impact of the local culture it marries into. It is also easily scarred by the social, political and economical impulses of the communities that practice it. Depending on whether such community is based in the Sultana of Brunei, a rich nation, or some poor village in the south of Pakistan, the religious education and practices, thoughts, philosophy and expressions will vary greatly, helping create different religious practices and related cultural mores that may have the name Islam as sole bond.

    I however, agree with the two women that Islam is in dire need of reform, which can only come about on an individual basis for a lack of central Islamic authority (none withstanding the positioning of Saudi Arabia as such). As the world opens up, so will the eyes and the minds of Muslims everywhere.
    I also believe that feminism in Islam is one of the more important forces to bring about such reform, although the patriarchal Arabic and cultural mindset in the Muslim world, unfortunately makes it all but impossible for such change to be spurred by an open lesbian or an atheist.

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    • Thanks for leaving your comment from 2008.

      FYI the overwhelming majority of Muslims in the world are NOT Arab. Around 20% of them are.. (http://encounteringislam.org/misconceptions)

      Also we have been working on Islamic reform from within for the past few decades. some times it is slow but it is most certainly changing and not merely on an individual level, we are working on policy reforms as well (www.musawah.org)

      One aspect of the reform is accepting more complex identities within and that includes substantial work for and by lbgtq Muslims.

      Alas, I have no reference for atheist who work for the religion but I did get an interesting reply from one during the facebook discussions of this blog. So I have more to learn for sure,

      thanks again

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      • Respected Madam… Adhaan is the foundation lesson of Muhammed Sallam Ahmed it is very necessary to understand the real and crystal clear meaning of adhaan that how Allah is Akbar zaat and in shahadah witness Ash-hadu anna Muḥhammadan-Rasulullāh also mentioned the zaat of Muhammed it is not mentioning a single personality of Muhammed. Allah is zaat e akbar and Muhammed is zaat e asghar…Both the qualities of mercy and merciless are existing in zaat Allah and only the best qualities existing in zaat e Muhammed. After understanding Adhaan we can perform Namaz can understand Islam Justice and Gender and it is very necessary for islamic reforms…

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  4. FINALLY, an insightful analysis from a veteran who actually has a long track record of fighting for human rights and gender equality at both grassroots and institutional levels! The message is: you don’t have to spread hatred, and to be an agent of hate, in the name of doing good works.

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  5. Thank you!!! You articulated the problem of her work “for” Muslim women so perfectly. So perfectly. You have so nicely explained her relationship to conservative political power. I will direct everyone who tries to corner me into supporting her to this post. I get utterly exhausted explaining that she speaks for herself alone and only to an audience of those interested in hating Muslims not listening to Muslim women’s own voices about how they are working within their own communities. I needed this to say to them. Perhaps I’ll keep a copy with me and just read from it in the future. Thank you!

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  6. Brilliant. And I would like to add that her hateful voice doesn’t represent those who identify as agnostics, atheists, deists, humanists, or freethinkers. I am referring here to those who were born into Muslim families and either left the faith or are in the process of doing so or are highly skeptical. These stories are varied too and far more nuanced and less hateful. There are many people struggling to maintain ties with their families and communities and to gain acceptance. Many of them are busy building supportive communities so that those who decide to leave and lost vital social networks have a place to go and feel safe. These varied stories are often obscured by the hateful sound of the self-aggrandizing Hirsi.

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  7. When Ayaan Hirsi Ali first appeared in publications here in the U.S., my reaction was the same as yours, but from a much less educated position: that she was just continuing the Muslim woman as victim image while promulgating her own brand of intolerant atheism. It’s good to know about her conservative U.S. ties and to learn that Brandeis wised up about what an honorary degree for her would mean in terms of their own liberalism. Thanks for this post.

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  8. Salam Dear Amina: Thank for this clarifying words. Currently in Chile a Documentary called Fitna is goind around christian churches. I am worried about the feeding of Islamophobia and how it gets even the most far away lands. Yours words will be a background we can inspire in to fight the bad feelings against muslims and counteract a discourse of bigotry that pretends gain support disguised as defense of freedom. There is no freedom in hatred but captivity. Hugs to you and all the community of F&R

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  9. I have not dealt extensively with the question of Islamaphobia as it is also one of those button issues for me. But you are right, there are some things that fan the flames more than others and we have to be informed and we have to bring that information forward.

    A critical review of the documentary called Fitna might be in order. I confess I also tend to stay away from that kind of drama because the tropes are so redundant I find it infuriating. Still, maybe you can assist me some in this?

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  10. Thanks for complicating this discussion. I have not been following this story closely so did not know of Hirsi’s connections to right wing organizations. I was of course aware that many in the West, including many of my friends in Greece, foreign and Greek, identify all of Islam with advocates of violence and suppression of women. I always try to tell them that there are also progressive Muslims, usually to little avail. That there are people and groups within religions that are or have become patriarchal who suppress women is also true. Using Greece of the present or only a few decades ago, I would say that there was and in many cases is very little room for “choice” to participate in the religion or not or to accept the subordinate postion of women or not–in the villages especially. This is changing rapidly here as it is in many parts of the Islamic world as well. So the key I think is to view the matter with “two eyes” not one, in other words to see multiple truths complexly. This is not easy and for many people it is not comfortable.

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  11. “She is fond of supporting her views even at the cost of denigrating the half of the 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide who happen to be women and who wish to remain Muslim. If we take her logic: we are all brain washed, lacking anything remotely resembling reason—let alone love and spirit—to speak on our own behalf regarding this dedication and devotion.”

    Amina,
    Thanks for bringing this up.

    I agree with you, this is very bitter, and hard to accept. I am a woman of faith myself. My faith, much easier and gentler on women than Islam or Judaism, still does discriminate between men and women, merely on the basis of biological sex, which is really hard for me to accept and believe in, as a feminist.

    Even if I (just because I OVERWHELMINGLY want to keep my faith because of love and devotion, and all good things that it gives me), decide to keep my religion, and even if I succeed in changing the way I and other women and men in my faith live by empowering myself and others, it still doesn’t change this fact a bit that the source material of my religion is sexist (and so is yours, and other religious texts in Abrahamic religions), and the fact that we are all “coping” with this sexism in the scripture, because we tend to keep our faith. Why do we do that? Ayan says because we are brain-washed. Some of us may say because the benefits we get from this overweight the costs. I think it is an important question that should be discussed. Ayan is simply offering one answer to that. This shouldn’t make her sound like an evil. If it is indeed proved that there are women around the world that keep their faith, despite the fact that the benefits they get from it, is not overweighted by the costs they pay for it (that’s simple decision-making process, Sorry my neuroscience language sometimes comes in), then this is indeed strong evidence that Ayan is right. Some people are actually brain-washed to accept and follow something that is doing more harm to them, than good, because they are frightened of suffering from a bigger imaginary harm in the other world (fire of hell, and being hang up from their breasts or their hair, and yes, this is real stuff taught at school during compulsory religious hours in an Islamic country).

    Not everybody has had the chance to freely choose their religion. Many of us, in making that decision, are influenced by biases shaped during by our upbringing. Saying people’s decisions are not informed choices and people are being brain-washed into them does not sound nice and friendly, but unfortunately there might be some truth in it. That, we will never know, unless we make sure the upbringing of every single child gives them a chance to be free from biases while growing up, and then see how many people will still adhere to such decisions. Not anything we can test anytime soon. Until then, Ayan’s theory is untested, and shouldn’t be silenced.

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  12. As a neuroscientist, I’m sure you know that “facts” must have some evidence. Just because you make a grand sweeping statement about my religion’s “source material” then call it “fact” does not make it so. Likewise your claim about “real stuff taught at school during compulsory religious hours in AN ISLAMIC country” about “hanging by the breast” is not only an unsubstantiated assertion, it has no basis in the eschatological threats that actually do occur in that source material. But it sounds pretty scary so adds flavor to your message.

    What you write here is beneficial to demonstrate how easily people assert their “freedom” to speak about Islam while neglecting to allow Muslims to do the same, or to speak for themselves. As I wrote already there is no reasonable response any one can make to such accusation except to be accused of being brainwashed.

    Nor is there any evidence that AHA is “offering one answer” to anything that Muslim women, or Somali women experience regarding patriarchy or practices of violence. She is simply repeating her story and then taking it to the bank. How does that “answer” systemic oppression?

    The “test” for her false claims has already been established. It was the reason she was not allowed to keep her citizenship in Holland. It has been refuted with evidence by millions of Muslim women who work for justice in their communities and internationally. No one is silencing her just by not extending yet another undeserved honor to her.

    However the threat that each time we speak in favor of our religion AND work to reform patriarchal practices in our community is simply our being brainwashed is not just cyclical, it is destructive to our very efforts. That was the reason I chose to highlight this particular person. The same goes for you: if you cannot help us then get out of the way and focus on your own “sexist source material”, I’ve spent 40 years focusing on mine.

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  13. This discussion reminds me of a bridging conversation that I once participated in at a Unitarian Universalist women’s conference about 15 years ago. The two groups that were talking with each other were women who worked at home and women who worked outside the home. Those who worked at home felt guilty that they had not followed their careers and were jealous of the other women that they had developed themselves as individuals in their careers. Those that worked outside the home felt guilty that they didn’t spend as much time with their kids as they felt they should and were jealous of the other group that they didn’t have to curtail their time with their kids. I sat in the middle: I physically worked at home — and therefore was available to my daughter whenever she needed me — but as an instructor in the Women’s Studies Program, I performed work that involved my own intellectual passions and was ultimately performed outside my house. I could see the recriminations and blame and envy that passed back and forth between these two groups and realized that it was actually based in the structure of our societal divisions of labor and that it wouldn’t be changed at all by this discussion and the misunderstandings that seemed to occur.

    In a similar way (not exactly the same obviously, and with some pretty big bigoted exceptions), the discussion here is based on an either-or situation. There are wonderful reasons of history, legacy, and familial ties that keep some of us in our birth (or chosen) religions that are difficult for come-outers to accept because they have foregone them, and maybe miss them (I know I do sometimes as a former Christian now practicing Wicca). There are wonderful opportunities to start anew without all of those entanglements, including patriarchal entanglements, in the religions or non-religions that some of us practice. In each of these cases, it’s important to remember that every one of us has made a choice, and that we are empowering ourselves as seems appropriate to us, and coming from our own viewpoint — with all of its built-in recriminations, envy, and misunderstandings — will never do justice to the other viewpoint. We need to give each other some slack.

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  14. Thanks for your comment.

    First of all I explicitly counter the either/or location. (see comment above.. about freedom AND Islam)

    Second the focus of the blog is on actual WORK to reform the practices, customs and traditions that inhibit Muslim women or even perpetuate violence against them. My assertion is that some work for that and AHA works for her own benefit. I do not see that as a parallel to work at home versus work in a public institutions away from home. I see that as no work, period.

    I further propose, that for all the accolades and funding support given for Ms. Ali to promote hate against a religion that women overwhelming wish to remain in and to work through are detrimental to those very women.

    Again I don’t see the parallel you are making

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    • Great point. There is a fallacy at play here, which is that AHA speaks for Islam, or as A voice of Islam. Perhaps it is a sign of the times, but that same fallacy is the undercurrent of every public social, political and now religious discourse, namely the false equivalency that we allow to frame everything, which results in the status quo that every point of view is equally valid, only different.

      We must acknowledge a couple of facts here:

      1- While Amina and the other women who work from the inside are risking life and limbs in order to reform this religion they know not to be in its essence patriarchal and extremist, AHA is seeking to destroy Islam. She is not saying that some within Islam are corrupting the original message, nor that were we to do this and that, we could make Islam “better”. Rather, she is claiming that there is no need for this religion, which she says poses a real and present danger to humanity. She said that Islam should reform by becoming Christianity, and that the West should seek to destroy Islam altogether. Where is room for debate in that? Where is reform in that? Where are the ideals, the suggestions for change in that?

      2- As an atheist, or a non-Muslim, AHA has as much right/standing to speak about reforming Islam (if indeed she was pushing for reform instead of destruction) as i have to speak about reforming Mormonism. Sure, I may voice my opinion on Mormon issues, but no one would give me either the platform, or the right to speak on it as an authority or A voice of it, especially if I keep calling for the destruction of Mormonism. My voice is not equivalent to the voice of the many who are fighting from the inside to make Mormonism (just an example) a more relevant, gentler religion to them. Why then the double standard? Why then the suspension of ethical and logical rules for the benefit of this one person, whose voice as a non-Muslim is weighted more heavily against the voice of the 1.5 billion Muslims, most of whom have a stake in “reforming” their faith and many of whom work diligently in that process?
      So the fact that the media keeps going to her for her views of, no, not women issues, but of Islamic issues, especially as they relate to women, is hard to make sense of, and the wish for Brandeis to honor her for her work, which amounts to no more than relentlessly demonizing one religion based on personal tales that have been discredited, is even harder to make sense of.

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    • Amina —

      My comment had less to do with your post, which as you say is about your work to change Islam from the inside versus Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s intolerant attacks on Islam and Muslim women, and more to do with the last back-and-forth between you and Saba. Perhaps it was a false parallel, but what I was sensing was the difficulty of a come-outer to understand someone who has stayed or chosen her religion vs. the difficulty of someone within that religion — probably rightfully so, in this case, since you’re working to make the changes that feminists like Saba would like — to hear criticism from an outsider. I have similar conversations with my atheist husband quite often.

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  15. In ay humble opinion, the answer to “who defines Islam” is “I do.”

    I do because Islam is a way of life. I do because my choices and my practices affect my relationship with Allah. I do because I walk the “straight path” alone and at the end of my life I will be in the grave alone. In other words, I define Islam for me. My example may influence how others define Islam but that is up to them, not me.

    In my humble opinion Islam does not need re-form…Islam needs individuals to give it a positive form through positive actions, positive attitude, causing more good than harm etc.

    The sad failing of Muslims came (and continues to repeat itself) when individual Muslims stopped defining Islam for themselves and let others do it for them…and when they let those people take a negative and hateful and controlling definition of Islam and spread that out as “true Islam” to the people they wanted to influence and control.

    We see these sad stories repeatedly….Muslims who abuse “Islam” to abuse others…those poor people do not speak up because they fear that they are not allowed to “define Islam” because they are not wise enough or because they are not “good enough” as Muslims.

    It’s bullying writ large….and it will continue as long as Muslims abdicate their responsibility to define Islam…and let themselves be bullied by their fellow Muslims.

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  16. Thank you for this eloquent input, Dr. Wadud.

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  17. Hi amina wadud

    A Muslim copied and pasted portion of your text to a site I read fairly often.
    He copies many sites without giving the proper sources, which is fine with me.

    As a former Roman Catholic, I’d like to say this.

    ALL religious concepts about any deity are PURELY man-made. Not ONE of these “concepts” are able to provide proof that the CONCEPT describes a REAL ENTITY. Yes you speak about “faith” may I add “blind” to it as well? They (believers of all sorts) point to the Universe and assert, see, this must have been created, and it MUST have been allah!

    You mention the “beauty” of Islam, well lady, ALL major religions have this “beautiful” aspect in them, not just Islam. After all ALL humans share the same traits, so the religions they come up with can be quiet “beautiful”.

    If one accepts that theologian (of ALL religions) offer only “men-made” concepts this includes Islam too, will it be possible to toss out all the “ugliness” an ALL religions. If one accepts the notion that the religion is men-made, this will allow also the opportunity to a accept another men-made concept, if this appears to be better! I’d like to mention that the ideas of HELL, as expounded in both Islam and Christianity makes it impossible for me to embrace either of them. No matter how much “beauty” one may see in the “religion”. allah is not a deity who can forgive the ENEMY, only those who embraced Islam.

    You traveled a lot, well maybe you can help here. In Sura 18 “the cave” verses 96 to 99 a barrier made out of IRON and another metal is being mention, this wall/barrier shall remain until dooms-day. Can you tell me WHERE this wall/barrier stands?

    Thanks :-)

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  18. Why does AHA not move on, you asked?

    Well, maybe its because some of the things whiche happened to her and girls of her Generation are still happening TODAY, and will happen tomorrow? FGM which maybe very well could have been a pagan practice (hints (¹) for that can be found in Isaq “The Life of Muhammad”). Muhammad “traced” the origin of it to Sarai, Hagar & Abraham, people who may or may NOT have lived.
    On top of this the “explanations” of “learned Islamic Scholars, which maybe you might be familiar.

    Young girls given into marriage and then die when they were to give birth to the first child?
    Woman beaten into submission, happened in her time, TODAY and it will happen in the future!
    Even you, Amiana Dawud admit that for 40 years you tried to REFORM Islam from within, your efforts don’t show much results. Maybe just maybe it’s because Islam CAN NOT be reformed? Not in the past, not TODAY even much less in the future? And this “fact” AHA recognizes?

    “hate”?
    As long as allah “hates” shirk, why should one feel too ashamed of a “emotion” since allah (as can be seen in the Old Testament, the “first” section of his eternal quran) displays this very same “emotion”. Trouble arises when this “hate” turns into some action, and here I fail to see any evidence that AHA calls for people to ACT ON their hate. BTW how can people even know that this emotion is what DRIVES her? Do Muslims have some innate ability to pick up “emotions” other have miles away?

    “destroy the religion of Islam”

    “Love your enemy” prophet Isa (better Jesus) came with the “message” from his deity to love ones enemy. Yet one finds no such behavior in the Islamic deity. Allah will punish people simply for the lack of faith in it! He/it is a “hands on torturer” the Lord of hell who will torture special cases of the unbelievers! The “pagans” of his time who were according to the quran the worst of creatures, (as long as they didn’t believe) became the BEST OF creatures, simply not because they changed their “behavior” but found “faith” in allah.

    One can have faith in the existence of a eternal source of the universe, why shall one hold on to outdated men-made concepts, which poorly explain this deity?

    “quran only crowd”

    I know this has little to do with AHA, but nevertheless I’d like to mention it.
    Maybe you know of this development in the Islamic world to get rid of the “Hadith” and other Islamic sources, simply because they paint just a too nasty and ugly picture of Muhammad.
    But why stop at the “traditions” why not go a step further and get rid off of the Sharia and all other books of Islamic jurisprudence? Why clothe these men-made in the mantle of “divine revelation” when it is simply not the case?

    (¹) Ishaq: Page 375 “I saw Hamzah cutting down men with his sword, sparing no one. He yelled out to us, ‘Come here, you son of a cutter-off of clitorises.’ He hit Siba so swiftly, his sword could not be seen striking his head.

    (²) Tabari VII:133 “When Muhammad saw Hamzah he said, ‘If Allah gives me victory over the
    Quraysh at any time, I shall mutilate thirty of their men!’ When the Muslims saw the rage
    of the Prophet they said, ‘By Allah, if we are victorious over them, we shall mutilate them
    in a way which no Arab has ever mutilated anybody.”

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  19. “She is fond of supporting her views even at the cost of denigrating the half of the 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide who happen to be women and who wish to remain Muslim.”

    Ayaan has admiration for the enlightenment movement and for democratic laws and values. She, as do Wafa Sultan and Nonie Darwish, compares this Western beliefsystems to Islam, with it’s shariah laws, and prefers them over Islam when the two contradict. And while this Western beliefsystem clearly believes freedom of religion and peaceful co-existence, Ayaan perceives a threat, or at the very least a competition for her own favorite beliefsystems, which she admires.

    She does not denigrate the 750 million Muslima’s, she considers them ordinary human beings. She just thinks freedom and democracy and believing is scientific proof would be a better choice for them to make. And have a better result and give mankind a better future. But humans are so much more than their choice of religion/ lifestyle.

    You have twisted her opinion of Muslima’s. And you cannot find any quote from Ayaan that justifies your conclusion of her denigrating Muslima’s. She only denigrates their religion of choice; Islam So you should confine yourself with defending Islam, which is what she challenges. You should challenge only her low opinion of Islam.

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  20. “1) how can someone make a lifetime career of hate? If she is so against Islam, enough to leave of her own volition, why does she continue to talk about it so much? And why do people support her in that hates-mongering?”

    Ayaan does not talk just because of hate. She is of the opinion that people can make better choices in religion, lifestyle, beliefs THAN Islam. For themselves, for society. Islam is a competitor to HER beliefs, if not a threat, and a blockade.

    You should realise that hating or disliking something that is bad in your opinion or something that threathens, competes with what you love is normal. And that under freedom of speech both sides of the argument should be heard. And that robust discussion is very beneficial for mankind, on all sorts of issues.

    You should realise that robust discussions are going on all the time in politics, on all sorts of issues. And it is recognized as useful. Indeed, it takes courage to participate actively in a fully functioning democracy and it’s necessary robust discussions.

    What is important is that people never incite to violence, and Ayaan never does, except perhaps in self-defense. Her voicing dislike of Islam is not against ANY DEMOCRATIC LAW. And for good reason. One being that precisely because people can speak their mind violence DIMINISHES, because violence often is the result of not being allowed to speak against oppression.

    You emphasizing that Ayaan just hates and that that is somehow reprehensible, makes you, albeit mildly, seem intent on stifling discouraging, ignoring very useful free speech instead of answering it.

    Again, you should concentrate to defend that which she challenges; Islam, and why it is, in your opinion, NOT SO BAD, NOT threathening or competing with Democratic laws and values and human rights, as Ayaan tells us. Focus on the message, not so much on the messenger (it is a logical fallacy

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  21. “How does the living experience of Islam, so critical in women’s struggles of identity, get relegated to the side lines so US audiences can listen intently to one woman who does little in application to where women on the ground are working and experiencing the struggle against patriarchy or even cruelty?”

    So Ayaan does little in application to where women on the ground are working and experiencing the struggle against patriarchy or even cruelty? I disagree, but more importantly, how does that lack of “application” in any way disqualify her words? Words that surely inspires many to struggle against patriarchy and cruelty! Or at least pay attention to it!

    It seems you found yet another excuse to disqualify the messenger, in order to ignore the message!

    And you paint a picture as if “the living experience of Islam” is relegated to the sidelines. But I really don’t see how. If anything Muslims and Non-Muslims are challenged to look consciously at this experience. And it should be discussed and judged on it’s own merits AND demerits, not only on it’s merits. Or perhaps you like people to see Islam as being totally neutral, so irrelevant to patriarchy and cruelty.

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    • D: Because when people bring up Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s scary statements in her Reason magazine interview, or the fraud in her refugee case, or the holes in her story of hiding from her family, they always say “well she did lots of work to combat FGM, so who cares if she lied or is so angry she wants to nuke muslims!”

      Well she didn’t. She didn’t do squat. And yet we treat her like a queen.

      While woman who do real work are poor, and under appreciated.

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  22. Thanks for your many responses which either ignore what I actually wrote, accuse me of something I do not do or make counter chains without substantiating. I have provided several links to support what work I have been engaged in for more than 40 years across the globe which is on-going as I type (from India finishing a capacity building workshop with Afghan Women Network).

    I have done my research on AHA and found no work that is engaged WITH Muslim women over our choices, only continual “consultation” among people who are not even themselves engaged with the women. If you have an example of actual work, please do provide the reference.

    I have actually very little interest in this “messenger” who is in every way completely free as a human being to hold any opinion she chooses. I have serious concern with a hate campaign against a religion that is the personal, cultural, spiritual chosen location for 1.5 billion people, including at least half of them women. Can she be against “Islam” without impacting Muslims?

    Therefore I also have no interest in your statements against my religion of choice since you also have made no indication of any contribution you have made for women in Islam. If I had in anyway required you or AHA to be a member of my religion against your choice then maybe you have a point. But the idea that I or any one should be denied our choice because you are against it, is not merely arrogant and selfish but also counter productive against actual changes we wish to effect within our choice of Islam.

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    • This article was needed.

      I wonder if it’s time for Muslims to do our own film making to document the work of real muslim feminists/advocates against FGM and child marriage etc.

      She did less work, but had a better P.R. machine behind her.

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  23. RE: “the half of the 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide who happen to be women and who wish to remain Muslim”. Talk about cultural imperialism! How can anyone possibly know what more than 700 million people (i.e., women) “wish”, particularly when countless numbers of them live either in states, or coummnities, or both, where their “wishes” count for very little, and could indeed find them killed, raped, or brutalised? Has someone asked them what they “wish”, under situations in which they can respond freely and safely? Under such circumstances, it seems culturally “imperial” indeed simply to presume those women’s acceptance of their circumstances, let alone of the “beliefs” that are so confidently and complacently attributed to them. Such a sweeping statement seems more to deny those women’s agency, and seems peremptorily to speak in their place — to co-opt them — as opposed to recognising their claims either to spritiual or to material autonomy.

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  24. Perhaps it is UNCLEAR but I categorically deny the idea that 700 million Muslim women are simply victims of rape brutalisation and murder. The agency demonstrated by Muslim women is what precisely is missing in this sort of imperialist perspective that PRESUMES we are only waiting for some one ELSE to define our agency.

    This is because YES, some one HAS asked them what they wish in circumstances where they can answer freely–because they ask of each other. Why you imply some out there questioner would gain a more free answer is another indication that you have not been in contact with any of them substantially to know, but instead (again) presume there is one monolith question and thus only one possible answer which could not possibly be worthy unless asked by some one(s) other than the women themselves.

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