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Feminism and Gender Equality

Should we want gender equality? Equality is presented as an ideal we should be striving for, so in this week’s podcast I’m exploring whether gender equality in particular is a goal worth working for. Listen to the podcast here

Feminists define themselves as: An advocate for social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men. You can listen to Episode 1, Feminism Exposed here.

Equality but not for all

The United States may have been founded on the idea that all men are created equal, but during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, slaveholding was common among the statesmen who served as president. All told, at least 12 chief executives—over a quarter of all American presidents—were slave owners during their lifetimes. Of these, eight held enslaved people while in office.

Washington standing among African-American field workers harvesting grain. (Credit: Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

Washington standing among African-American field workers harvesting grain. (Credit: Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

The “peculiar institution” loomed large over the first few decades of American presidential history. Not only did slave laborers help build the White House all of the earliest presidents (except for John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams) were slave owners. George Washington kept some 300 bondsmen at his Mount Vernon plantation. Thomas Jefferson—despite once calling slavery an “assemblage of horrors”—owned at least 175 enslaved workers at one time. www.history.com


Feminism and Gender Equality Debate

The Muslim Debate Initiative (MDI) event in London, ‘Do Women Need Feminism’, with Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett and myself, was great fun. Thank you to all the attendees (and supporters from afar).

Natalie Bennett argued that feminism and gender equality are important and men and women should have the full ability to develop their full potential, regardless of gender, and mentioned different policies like a minimum female quota for management boards. I argued that feminism was inadequate as a solution for today’s problems which affect both men and women, that feminism denies the human reality, that feminism is unclear, and that feminism is not a cause for justice.

Some very interesting issues were raised, such as the problem of overlooking quality for quantity when it comes to job quotas; the extent to which human beings are affected by biology; the feminist campaign that women should not have to go to prison; how the concept of leadership in Islam is very different to what it is in the West; the idea of the ‘disposable’ male; and ultimately, the way that human beings are increasingly being valued according to the wrong yardstick, e.g. their capital worth.

How Islam views gender roles

I went on to posit Islam as an alternative remedy for the injustices against both men and women, and argued that Islam provides a clear, natural and just solution to ensuring justice for all humans, and has no need for feminism’s attempts to reinvent the wheel that Islam set in motion over 1400 years ago. I argued that instead of seeking to empower ourselves, we should empower justice. It is virtue, which all human beings, regardless of gender, career or social role, can equally strive for. Justice and self-worth come only by submission to Allah (swt) and all that He Commands.

It is not  feminism and gender equality that will bring about harmony between men and women in any society – but a clear understanding and agreement between a man and a woman as to what they expect from each other, and recourse to justice that does not disbelieve or mock at the injuries of either party, when those expectations are not fulfilled.

We also had some wonderful contributions from the audience, and you can see it all for yourself in the video, which will be up soon along with my presentation notes (uncut) and background research, inshaAllah. www.zarafaris.com



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