I am grateful to the Interfaith Group of Feminist Theologians and Women of Faith for remembering my spiritual affiliation and giving me the opportunity to lead this service in this fully of blessings month of Ramadan and share with you a reflection in the form of a sermon or khutba. Perhaps you know that in orthodox Islam, tradition, without any theological basis, still forbids women to speak or lead rituals. So, this is a joyful occasion for me and I want to start with my usual invocation:
I thank God for this day. I praise Allah for the paths I had to walk that led me to its light and the present day. I ask the protection of the Divine that lives in the essence of everything. and I invite my female ancestors to walk with me in this journey.
A Call to Radical and Angry Women of Faith
My dear sisters, I want to invite you this evening to reflect on what it means to be a radical woman of faith, in a context of extreme upsurge of violence against women and minoritized groups we live in. What does mean being a radical woman? As we know, radical women are feared even by their activist and feminists peers. For the mainstream of society, a radical woman is a little crazy, a little witch, a little ugly, and especially, a very angry woman.
Well, they are right about anger. To be radical is to be as outraged enough to, fearlessly and tirelessly, claim and work for the total end of all kinds of oppression. You heard it right, the total end of all kinds of oppression. For women of faith, like us, who believe in social justice as the prior duty and principle of living in the creation, the current status of abuse, violence and exploitation to which a part of humankind is subjected must provoke us to rage, anger and outrage.
Aren`t you upset? Because I am. Religious patriarchy has historically exercised and endorsed, until today, violence against women and those group defined as “minority.” This religious patriarchy, composed for priests, imams, lamas and rabbis legitimize multiple forms of exclusion of women, sexism, control of our bodies, misogyny and rape culture.
This week we mourn the death of about 50 of our Latino siblings in Orlando. We have to add to this list the hate crimes against queer people in Veracruz, México, as well the slaughtering of women in thousands of gendercides that have become the standard cover of newspapers every day, and the violence against lesbians and trans women, crimes that fail to capture the visibility and solidarity of a homophobic and androcentric society.
Without denying the misogyny and homophobia existing in my community, I want to say that the specific religion of those criminals doesn´t matter, you know why? The pernicious influence of religious patriarchy extends beyond the limits of our assemblies. People blame misogyny and LGTBQphobia on religions as if this is something external to their lives. But each day, at the school, workplace and media our society reproduces all that hetero-sexist, colonial, racist, elitist violence. Heterosexuality as a political regime, validated by hegemonic religious narratives, present in all belief systems, is a source of violence and a form of terrorism itself.
There is a verse or ayat in the Quran, in the chapter or sura called An-Nisa ,”The Women” that talks about this radical commitment to justice for people of faith in 4:135
O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah , even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.
Stand firmly for justice even if it be against yourselves. That’s a radical call. Against all oppressors and on behalf of all oppressed. In times where injustice is our daily breakfast, a firm stand in behalf of justice, a stand above everything including our own comfort, is a must for people of faith. I personally think is not a coincidence that this verse is in the chapter that Allah dedicates to women. There’s wisdom in this and social sciences have confirmed what God already knows: Women are very important actors in building communities based in social justice and wellbeing for everyone, so this call of the Quran is there, in a chapter that talk about us and TO US.
We have to be brave to admit that although we believe in the compassionate message of our revelations, there are other passages that can be used also to justify unmerciful actions and the violation of our human rights. We can´t be blind about this: Religions have an actual impact in the lives of people, and it is our duty to promote an impact rooted in human dignity and equality, and challenge those discourses and stances that are contrary to them.
Many feminists left religious spaces in the hands of patriarchy, saying there’s nothing they can do and from the outside, they criticize us for staying. Patriarchy and its narratives of exclusion and death won`t stop if we leave. One of its strategies of domination has been precisely keeping us out and silenced, with endless idiotic arguments like “menstruation brings impurity” or that our “bodies are tempting” ...
What fragile faith, what fragile masculinity, what great fear of those men.
My call is to organize our rage, because there is nothing more radical than stay and fight.
I won´t leave to patriarchy a space which also belongs to me; even if I have to rip my rights from their hands. Where there are women, there should be feminism; where there is patriarchy, there must be strategic resistance against it.
There is nothing more radical than women fighting where no one dares to fight.
Our anger is as sacred as the command to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
We have enough faith to:
- Demand loudly the end of this misogynist complacency and arrogance of God-Male Ego
- Challenge the narratives and practices that are an expression of male domination and heterosexual political regime
- Advocate tirelessly for the establishment of inclusive and compassionate hermeneutics and leadership of women
- Claim the right of everyone to develop our spiritualities in safe spaces, free from abuse, free from hierarchies and free of unmerciful gods found in the dominant religious culture
- Build movement of people on fair horizontal relationships and practices rooted in inclusivity, gender justice, and authenticity.
- Talking openly about spirituality, weaving our stories as women with the mystery of the divine.
Patriarchy has already brought so much death.
Let follow the core message of our revelations as we are believers and, as the Quran says: “Stand firmly for justice.” Let’s be warriors for life.
We carry within us the chaos that will give birth to a new hope.
Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente is a Writer, Mentor and Community Educator in Capacity Building for Grass Roots Female Leaders and Advocates. A Feminist who is an Independent Researcher of Gender and Islam on Feminist Hermeneutics, Muslim Women Representations, Queer Identities and Movement Building. She blogs in Spanish at Mezquita de Mujeres, a site dedicated to explore the links between Gender, Religion and Feminism as well to Women from the Global South as Change Makers in their communities.