Muslim women not happy


by Sunny
8th December, 2006 at 1:59 am    

Muslim women in Britain feel their views are being ignored because community leaders and male-dominated national Muslim organisations are failing to represent them, according to a government report published today.

They also accuse the government of consulting the community only through groups such as the Muslim Council of Britain, in which women’s voices are “either absent or extremely marginalised”. [The Guardian.]

I wonder who else made the same point recently. Look forward to Inayat Bunglawala, Madeleine Bunting and Salma Yaqoob’s reactions. How dare these women challenge “community leaders”, right?


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  1. Desi Italiana — on 8th December, 2006 at 8:34 am  

    Sunny:

    Can you please define the group “Muslim women”? I’m asking because I’m curious how one can lump women of various linguistic, regional, cultural, social, and even religious (since Islam is not one monolithic entity, but varies from region to region) backgrounds into one huge category as if it were homogenous and cohesive.

    I’m saying this because I rarely hear one comfortably speak of “Christian women,” “Hindu women,” “Jewish women,” etc.

  2. Greg — on 8th December, 2006 at 9:01 am  

    Have you got nothing better to complain about Desi?

  3. Desi Italiana — on 8th December, 2006 at 9:05 am  

    Greg:

    “Have you got nothing better to complain about Desi?”

    Have you got nothing better to say back, Greg?

  4. Douglas Clark — on 8th December, 2006 at 9:24 am  

    Desi,

    I think Sunny is quoting the Guardian. You should really ask them how they define it. Or, if you’re just up for a chat, I have heard of the groups you mention, like Christian women, etc. They have usually been subverted by folk with agendas. The idea that, because you are, say, a Christian woman, that this gives you the right to speak for all Christian women is obvious nonsense. Same, I would have thought, for Muslims too. And Jews, etc, etc.

  5. Chairwoman — on 8th December, 2006 at 9:53 am  

    Desi – People don’t say ‘Jewish women’ in the same way, because we’re not even recognised as a sub-group.

  6. bananabrain — on 8th December, 2006 at 10:07 am  

    that’s right. we’re too factional for even all the jewish women to get together as a group. G!D help us jewish men (and everyone else) if they did!

    hehehehe

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  7. soru — on 8th December, 2006 at 10:21 am  

    ‘Can you please define the group “Muslim women”?’

    Defining whether someone is a woman is generally pretty easy, apart from the odd biological edge case such as certain East German athletes.

    Defining whether someone is a Muslim is not much harder, there is the odd case of religious transvestisism, but unless you want to get into the equivalent of ‘she’s a real woman, but her younger sister is one of the lads, and the elder one is a lesbian, so Mrs Brown only has one daughter’, then it’s not going to affect the result of a survey much.

    The real question is whether the group surveyed is the right one for the question asked. ’95% of doctors think the MMR vaccine is safe’ is one thing, ’55% of doctors back the Baker plan in Iraq’ is pretty meaningless.

    In this case, as it is talking about personal exprerience and opinion of explicitly pan-Muslim groups, the group seems to match the issue pretty well.

    That doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be interesting to find out if, say, middle aged shi’a women felt one way, recent white converts another, and so on.

  8. sabinaahmed — on 8th December, 2006 at 10:31 am  

    While I agree that Muslim women cant be classed as one group,but there is absence of women in general in all things ethnic. I think i raised this point some months ago in an article i wrote for AIM. Saying that all the spokepersons seems to be men,and where are the Asian women?
    Women are the archetects of the future,they have a great influence as mothers in shaping a childs personality,and lay the foundations for how they turn out.
    May be that is why the Jewish community is so succesfull and gets on with life.
    A lot of first generation Muslim women dont even speak the language and themselves have not understood the culture and life in Britain. Dare I say this could be the reason for lots of disaffected,confused and aggresive young men?
    I have not come accross a single Jew man/woman who has complained about the country they live in or the competetion they have to face.And though they follow their religion too,they are not constantly asking for concessions.So it is possible to integrate, be succesfull and retain your identity/ religion.
    There is a lot Muslims can learn from this.

  9. Chairwoman — on 8th December, 2006 at 10:31 am  

    bananabrain – our day will come and the denizens of the US shall cower in their corner of North Finchley :-)

  10. Chairwoman — on 8th December, 2006 at 10:38 am  

    Sabina – I think that language and education are they. But the ethos of multiculturism is preventing women getting a fair crack of the whip.

    I’ve often told the story how my mother’s headmaster took a school full of immigrant’s children, and made them ‘English’ (my mother never agreed that she was ‘British’). He taught them the language and the culture, while respecting and encouraging them to simultaneously keep their own. These days it would be at the very least, frowned upon.

    Hence an unrepresented group, bundled together under a title that only represents part of who they are.

  11. Leon — on 8th December, 2006 at 10:51 am  

    Interesting stuff, very interesting. Any idea on the numbers that attended these roadshows?

  12. Kismet Hardy — on 8th December, 2006 at 11:20 am  

    Can’t we just narrow it down?

    Women aren’t happy.

  13. ZinZin — on 8th December, 2006 at 2:55 pm  

    Chairwoman #10
    Ray Honeyford tried to do the same thing and was vilified for it.
    Sabina good points well made.

    Desi Italiania the rise of muslim identity politics started in the 1980s in Bradford (Ray Honeyford) the Rushdie affair was when the MCB cabal got galvanised and later formed this cabal with government assistance. What amazes me is the speed with which muslim identity politics have risen and a muslim identity has been accepted by the media. The Bosnian war was when muslim identity came to the fore as all Bosnians were called muslims by all major news outlets even though not all Bosnians are muslims and they were not grateful for the support given by the mujahadeen in defence of the “Ummah”.

    In short because the fundis shout loudest all we hear about is Muslims. Alternatively you can blame Rushdie.

  14. thortz — on 8th December, 2006 at 3:10 pm  

    Don’t want to derail the thread but PP’ers will probably be interested in new Blair U turn on community group funding etc
    http://politics.guardian.co.uk/homeaffairs/story/0,,1967747,00.html

  15. Leon — on 8th December, 2006 at 3:28 pm  

    Well not exactly new, Ruth Kelly effectively said as much a few weeks back after Jack Straw had helpfully created the right climate with his veil remarks…

  16. sonia — on 8th December, 2006 at 3:56 pm  

    Oi Greg – Desi’s got a very valid point. it’s this lumping together of people that precisely is the problem in the first place.

    in any case this is a double-edged sword. if individuals must be content to either speak out for themselves on their own platform – ie. hanging out on speakers corner, organising their own group, or through the internet or some other medium of communication – what’s that got to do with the MCB. they aren’t there to ‘represent’ are they? ( that’s supposed to be the MP’s job – ha ha) The question is perhaps rather one of who when they do speak out – gets more media and institutional attention. I feel that’s really the crux of the matter here.

    Of course if someone really wanted to – at this stage -given the media interest in ‘muslims’ and ‘muslim women in veils’ etc. if anyone – being Muslim and female- wanted o wished to exploit that advantage – in media terms – for their own gain – they probably could do so. they could say – hey look at me! im muslim im female and this is what i think – and no doubt lots of attention would come their way. So actually say if i felt like capitalizing on the box ‘muslim women’ i could easily do so – if i were the publicity seeking type i could really go for it. If i were a white male – i’d find it much harder.

  17. sonia — on 8th December, 2006 at 3:57 pm  

    typo – wanted to exploit that advantage

  18. sonia — on 8th December, 2006 at 4:04 pm  

    so it’s not all straightforward and easy and simple.
    there’s quite a lot to unpack here. the business about the MCB i feel is that if you are going to identify ‘groups’ or ‘interest groups’ by religion – well then yeah ‘muslim women’ are likely to be ignored. is that the MCB’s fault? perhaps. what’s it got to do with the government then? encouraging ‘interest groups’? paying attention to some and not others? is that just the governments’ fault or a wider societal-institutional one? I’d say it’s the latter – ( naturally compounded by the fact that government and strong institutions seem to go hand in hand in our current crappy understanding of governance) hence my point about we can’t just ask simplistic questions about it.

    and the business about how ‘interest groups’ are defined – or just ‘groups’ full stop – well that’s another plank of the complexity – and why Desi Italiana ‘s first comment was so valid.


    a french friend of mine i saw this summer mentioned something about the french fiasco about the hijab ban which i found interesting. apparently some girls got fed up with the whole hoo-ha in terms of the government and the whole being lumped in as part of some random ‘muslim community’ or ‘muslim women’ thing. so a small group of them have got themselves an organisation and a blog and what have you and some media attention ( naturally – given the context not hard for them to get) and basically said ‘ – we dont want any shit from any one else telling us what to do or what we should be thinking..this is what we’re thinking..’ kind of thing. Good for them i thought.

  19. sonia — on 8th December, 2006 at 4:09 pm  

    “Dare I say this could be the reason for lots of disaffected,confused and aggresive young men?”

    yeah well maybe Sabina – but there are a hell of a lot of ” disaffected,confused and aggresive young men?” in the indian sub-continent whose mothers didn’t/don’t have the language issue – so …

    and in any case – yeah – what are muslim/asian women doing largely? telling their younger sisters/daughters how to behave like ‘good asian girls’ that’s what. see the problem with the whole notion of ‘feminism’ – like – ethnocentrism – for example – is this whole ‘group-o-centrism’ thing ( ok so i coined that term) its the us vs them problem. not understanding how victims themselves can become aggressors etc. and perpetuate the trouble. feminism spent too much time blaming ‘men’ as the ‘Other’ and the ‘Oppressor’ – that was the crisis with feminism. That’s why i don’t actually identify myself as a feminist. Equality is the only way forward. if feminism and all the other ‘isms dont embrace that – there’s nothing else but for it to fall by the wayside.

  20. sonia — on 8th December, 2006 at 4:10 pm  

    oh yes – excuse my ‘generalization’ in the post above – obviously that’s what it is – but if we’re going to have threads on ‘Muslim Women’ then i thought..what the heck..

  21. Ravi Naik — on 8th December, 2006 at 4:13 pm  

    Lots of angry people who do not celebrate multicultural society.

  22. sonia — on 8th December, 2006 at 4:16 pm  

    And at the risk of railing on and on ( but then I am a Muslim Woman and i Must be Kept Happy and get my views out ;-) ) if people want to get out of monolithic boxes i really can’t see how falling back on some ethnic or religious grouping is going to help.

  23. sonia — on 8th December, 2006 at 4:21 pm  

    it’s one thing about individual women challenging leaders. im all for challening leaders ( whether you’re male or female) – but you cant go around challenging ‘leaders’ of some group very easily without challening perhaps the ‘group’ itself and the dynamics. i.e. who said it was a group in the first place, who ascribed membership within that group, who then ascribed leadership within that group, etc. etc.

  24. Sunny — on 8th December, 2006 at 4:35 pm  

    Um, getting fixated on the term ‘Muslim women’ is not really conducive here. I flicked through the report and it does taking into account different ethnicities, class differences and other nuances. The report can make general points though, especially around forced marriages and other grievances (such as leadership) because of the overwhelming times those issues came up.

  25. Leon — on 8th December, 2006 at 4:43 pm  

    Sunny, have you read the study? I’ve emailed the group that did it to try and get a copy (had a quick look around and didn’t find it online)…always good to read the data rather than media reports methinks.

  26. Sid — on 8th December, 2006 at 5:03 pm  

    I wonder who else made the same point recently. Look forward to Inayat Bunglawala, Madeleine Bunting and Salma Yaqoob’s reactions. How dare these women challenge “community leaders”, right?

    Yes of course, or perhaps along the lines of:
    Its not Muslim patriarchalism that opresses women, its Western hegemony oppressing Muslim men who have no choice but to oppress women. Or some such guff that emanates from a mindset of “‘t’s their culture, they can’t help it”.

  27. sonia — on 8th December, 2006 at 5:16 pm  

    in any case. a ‘muslim’ organization is a silly thing to want be represented through still.

  28. ZinZin — on 8th December, 2006 at 5:16 pm  

    Thanks Sid you have saved a few minutes of my life that i would have wasted reading their predictable outrage.

  29. sonia — on 8th December, 2006 at 5:20 pm  

    the point about ‘community consultation’ is generally a valid one and it would be useful to talk about in that context. if we are referring to say – for example – statutory obligations ‘the Government’ does have to ‘consult’ the ‘community’ – as anyone who works in regeneration knows – that is full of its own set of associated problems. ( regardless of whether one is muslim or a goth or a man or a woman or whatever)

  30. sonia — on 8th December, 2006 at 5:29 pm  

    but i guess what i am saying in a very long winded way is that we might want to ask ourselves why governments or whomever think that it is acceptable to seek a ‘community’s’ views through a religious organization ( representative or not) clearly that’s bollocks and is going to leave out a whole host of people and given the context of such organizations – in this scenario – tis the women feeling left out. different scenario – could be some other people – who knows) My point is the more ‘groupist’ we allow ourselves to become – and the more boxy labels we end up falling into – the easier it becomes for governments to say ah well we’ll consult ‘that lot over there’ through thatorganization . see what i mean? the more you box people in – the easier it becomes for someone to come along and say aha! im lord and leader of this box – speak to me if you want to know the opinion of ‘this lot’.

  31. Greg — on 8th December, 2006 at 6:20 pm  

    Femenists are so passe.

  32. Sunny — on 8th December, 2006 at 6:26 pm  

    Sonia – From what I was told, the people doing the research weren’t entirely a religious organisation. Or at least there was a bunch of them. Secondly, they had major trouble getting funding for this because, apparently, not many people were interested in doing this exercise.

  33. vt Das — on 8th December, 2006 at 6:46 pm  

    n.b.
    Unaiza Malik is Treasurer of Muslim Council of Britain. Prior to that, she had been Assistant General Secretary of MCB.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unaiza_Malik

  34. Desi Italiana — on 8th December, 2006 at 8:00 pm  

    “Desi – People don’t say ‘Jewish women’ in the same way, because we’re not even recognised as a sub-group.”

    Eaxctly. So why are Muslim women considered a “sub group”? Because of political events?

    Sonia says it best:

    “it’s this lumping together of people that precisely is the problem in the first place.”

    Spot on (oh god, I’m picking up British English….I’ve never heard an American say “spot on”… :) )

    “What amazes me is the speed with which muslim identity politics have risen and a muslim identity has been accepted by the media. The Bosnian war was when muslim identity came to the fore as all Bosnians were called muslims by all major news outlets even though not all Bosnians are muslims”

    Yes. I’ve seen people here in the US capitalize on this type of identity politics centered on religion as well, as Sonia points out in her post #16. Take for instance the “Hindu Americans” who use their religious identity as THE identity and purportedly “speak for the Hindu American community.” Give me an effing break. First of all, if I am to talk about political mobilization, I’m not going to do it as a “Hindu”, but as a citizen and individual. Second of all, why even bother with consulting with the “Hindu American community leaders”? Doing so would be to play into the way they set the stage for any kind of discussion (ie, as in “Hindu American) which as I’ve stated is problematic for me.

    *********************

    Sunny:

    “Um, getting fixated on the term ‘Muslim women’ is not really conducive here. I flicked through the report and it does taking into account different ethnicities, class differences and other nuances.”

    OK, if the report takes into consideration the differences, that’s cool. I was sincerely asking a question, so thanks for answering.

    But I respectfully and vehemently disagree with “it’s not conducive” to question the term “Muslim women”, even though some commentators think that by asking a question, I’m complaining or am up for a “chit chat”. How many countless articles are there on “Muslims,” “Westerners,” and so on? I think it’s important, especially right now, that one thinks about these things.

    Also, I’m just saying that lumping people into homogenous groups doesn’t really say anything. I would equally protest the label “Jewish women,”, “Hindu women.”

    Why let the media and geopolitical policies define who we are? Generally, we get labeled as the other, and so should be start talking like the ‘other’?

  35. Desi Italiana — on 8th December, 2006 at 8:45 pm  

    Another thing:

    It’s exactly this type of thinking (“the ulemma”, the “Sikhi community,” the “Hindu samaj’) that gets under my skin. It’s like when I read what’s her face Soumaya something or other and I cry out, “For God’s sake, will you think a little bit beyond!!” EVERYTHING is religion this and religion that. Sympathizing with the miseries of Palestinians, Chechnens or Afghans becomes a “Muslim” cause, even though there are plenty of people that are not Muslim that support these causes. Be quiet please, is what I want to say. But unfortunately they get a lot of play from the media.

    “The report can make general points though, especially around forced marriages and other grievances (such as leadership) because of the overwhelming times those issues came up.”

    Forced marriages are not a thing unique to Muslims, and so I don’t look at this as a “Muslim” problem. It happens to Hindu folks, for example. Wouldn’t it be great if you could get people who aren’t Muslim to back up what you are saying and what you want? But then again, the media wouldn’t give a rat’s ass. Like how several women’s organizations in the US protested against the oppression that Afghan women face way before 9/11 but that problem didn’t get any coverage until AFTER 9/11.

  36. Desi Italiana — on 8th December, 2006 at 10:07 pm  

    And then where there are “internal divisions,” and internal bickering, people get suprised and all hot and bothered. Well, duh– any group is going to have differences and variations within it, even in geographically and regionally based “communities” (ie “Arabs,” “Indians” “Paksitanis,” “Punjabis” “Gujaratis” and so on). That’s when people then start crying out, “Guys, guys! We need to be unified! We need put aside divisions!” Then people start trying to manufacture and impose a homogeneous version of community over everybody, as in “Sikhism is like this, this is how Sikhs are supposed to be” and “Islam is like this, and if you’re not like this then you’re not really a Muslim…” And don’t get me started on Hinduism (and how the VHP, BJP and RSS generally privelege a north Indian, Vishnuvaite version).

  37. sonia — on 11th December, 2006 at 12:17 am  

    34 – Desi! Yah well said girl ‘spot on’ :-)

  38. sonia — on 11th December, 2006 at 12:19 am  

    and no. 36 – yep – exactly. PRECISELY !!

    these labels and imposing of homogeneity is TH

  39. sonia — on 11th December, 2006 at 12:21 am  

    oops…i hit post b4 i could finish.

    ..is THE problem. after all – why should everyone have the same opinion? they won’t – pretending one group of people think the same, behave the same ( it’s all this ‘culture’ shit) is what is fundamentally not aligned with the ideals of democracy and ‘dissent’.

  40. Desi Italiana for Sunny — on 11th December, 2006 at 6:52 am  

    Sonia–
    YES! Exactly!

    *******************

    What I find so messed up in “multicultural societies” like the UK and the US is how we’re given two options that are polar extremes: either “assimilate” all the way, or be ghetto-ized and be treated as a monolithic group. So either I am an American and bas- that’s it, or I’m considered totally “Indian” by white Americans, where I’m “REALLY” from (India), though I was born and raised here. And this goes politically, as well.

    Not that I’m saying “let’s chuck multiculturalism”; just that the pitfalls of multiculturalism as they are today are really deep, the predominant flaws being 1)the creation of a homogenous group and 2)set and defined by politics, media, and the unfortunate vociferous few in the “community” and 3) political mobilization within the boundaries of special interests groups mentality.

  41. Desi Italiana — on 11th December, 2006 at 6:54 am  

    Sorry, NOT for Sunny; forgot to erase that bit :)

  42. Desi Italiana — on 8th November, 2009 at 6:24 pm  

    Sunny:

    Can you please define the group “Muslim women”? I'm asking because I'm curious how one can lump women of various linguistic, regional, cultural, social, and even religious (since Islam is not one monolithic entity, but varies from region to region) backgrounds into one huge category as if it were homogenous and cohesive.

    I'm saying this because I rarely hear one comfortably speak of “Christian women,” “Hindu women,” “Jewish women,” etc.

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