Wednesday, January 9, 2013 a Muslim Feminist?

THAT is the title of Raheel Raza's upcoming book, to be released in February of 2012. It is a follow up to her first book Their Jihad... Not My Jihad: Revised 2nd Edition.
How Can You Possibly be a Muslim Feminist? will also include writings from Islamic scholar, Margot Badran, PhD., of George Mason University.

Now, here are a couple of ways to get a taste of what to expect from this book and Raheel Raza in general. First, here is Raheel's own Preface to the book.

While it is short, as Prefaces go, I must warn you... it is FUN to read!


Many years ago when I first came to Canada, a journalist cynically asked me if there was such a thing as a “Muslim feminist”? I certainly felt empowered by my religion. More than that, I felt particularly empowered as a Muslim woman.
 I called the journalist back and reported, in more or less these words: 
I am proud to stand up and say that I am blessed to be a Muslim woman. If being a feminist means burning your bra then it’s not for me. However, if being a feminist means liberation of the mind and soul, then I am a feminist along with many others in the Muslim world.
This did not quite convince the journalist but it set me on a path a learn more about Muslim women who are involved in the “gender jihad”.
This was a pivotal moment for me, in two ways. First, this was when I realized that I wanted to stand up and speak publically about Muslim women. Secondly, I realized that, in order to do so, I needed to better under-stand myself, to take an honest look at understanding my own spiritual and intellectual journey.
This was important twenty years ago and it is even more important today as we see Muslim women take an important role in the uprisings against dictatorships and tyrants in many parts of the Muslim world. However, I feel that western media is still a bit befuddled about who we are. They tend to judge us more through our outer coverings than what is in our minds and hearts.
I grew up in a culture where women were sup-osed to be seen and not heard. In fact, my mother would turn in her grave if she knew that I am now invited to ‘speak’ at events! But I was always a bit of a rebel. I was also relentless in asking “why?”. I found many answers in the works of eminent scholars and academics like Dr. Amina Wadud and Margot Badran (among others). Their work fascinated me and I thank them for setting the ground-work in which grass roots women like me found our identity and strength.
I look upon the early women of Islam as my role models Khadija, Fatima, Ayesha and Zainab–all knew Mohammed personally–were not shrinking violets but women who stood up and were counted. It’s sad that their histories are buried under an avalanche of misinformation and ignorance. But their deeds are known and their stature cannot be denied. This is something no one can take away from me.
My path has not been without its challenges. I am able to proudly call myself a feminist because I have the support of men in my family–my father, my husband, my two sons and now my grandson. It is of paramount importance that this movement be supported by a few good men because patriarchal cultures have been the reason many women have not been able to speak out or reclaim their rights. My sons have stood as body-guards when I am addressing a controversial challenging issue. These men have to also take some flack.
My husband is sometimes pulled aside and asked by orthodox Muslim men why he gives me so much freedom. He would smile his calm smile, take them aside and confidentially whisper to them “no worries–she also beats me everyday”. After this, they stopped bugging him.
If it were not for his sense of humor and quick thinking, I would not be where I am.
The concept of Islamic feminism has many perspectives and since Muslim women are not a monolith, they understand this concept in different ways. My understanding of Islam and feminism has come from a lifetime of actions, reactions and interactions with people of all faiths.
What you will find in these pages is a mere glimpse of my own personal journey. And as a personal journey, my opinions, experiences and conclusions should not be viewed as representing any kind of a general trend.
This book contains interviews with women whom I consider to be the movers and shakers of Islamic feminism. Yet, what you will read is a mere sampling of what is truly out there. These women represent a mere fraction of those whom I have come to know in my lifetime: “a drop in the bucket,” as they say. And were I to include every interaction with every Muslim feminist that ever crossed my path, it would fill several volumes. And yet, while my experiences “fill the bucket” so to speak, the story of “gender jihad” is an ocean of happenings when compared to my mere bucket, full and varied as it may be.
The world of Islam is not monolithic. And neither is the world of gender jihad, within Islam or outside it. It is my hope that the experiences and ponderings found within these pages will help the reader get a small but potent glimpse of that world.


Raheel's Media Appearances

Secondly, you can observe Raheel in action, by watching the following clips of seveal of Raheel's most recent media appearances, starting with her appearance on The O'Reilly Factor, back in 2010.

Ah, how refreshing she is, isn't she?