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Week 10: Reform and Revival

Filed under: Uncategorized — fatimashahbaz at 9:48 am on Tuesday, December 10, 2019

This week, we moved our discussion away from the historic and general intersection of culture, art, and Islam, to its interpretation and impact in contemporary Islam—with a specific focus on the role of women and the impacts of colonialism in Islamic practice. We learned about how the latest wave of legalistic Islam was hypothesized to come as a reaction to colonialism and the perceived “secularization”. Moreover, we learned how women have become an ideological battleground between Salafi/Wahhabi interpretations and more lenient, Sufi-based interpretations, for many women were typically limited to practice forms of Islam that Salafi reactionaries found to be bidah (ie attending Durgahs and taking part in birthday celebrations of the Prophet). Ultimately, it seemed that no matter what a woman does–it will always be bad. Secular countries like Turkey worked to deny women their agency in practicing their faith by refusing to allow them to wear the hijab, because it serves as an overt aesthetic representation of their faith, and is considered “backwards”. In the same light, “modernity” is directly tied to how a woman dresses. Often times, people lament how “modern” the Muslim world used to be and point to photos of women in miniskirts as their evidence. On the flip side, women are also constantly berated for not following “proper Islamic dress codes”, and can be forced to cover by the men of their family. A woman’s piety is tied directly to her appearance, and it ends there. No matter how pious, righteous, or godly she is–all of that is swept away the appearance of her bare legs. In order to depict this catch-22 situation, I drew the following picture:


I was inspired by the woman marching at Pakistan’s Aurat March (Women’s March) in this photo. I was further inspired by this week’s reading by Charlotte Weber. Often times, Western feminists seek to “liberate” Muslim women, but in the process, they are denying Muslim women their own self autonomy. Weber outlines how Western feminists made the veil into a “quintessential symbol of a women’s subordinate status”, and misunderstood the level of social capital Muslim women yielded within the home (132). She outlines the “responsibility” that Western feminists felt towards their Eastern sisters, and the inherent superiority they felt in their elevated status as more “progressive” (Weber, 40). They continued to treat Muslim women as a monolith, and assumed that they all had a singular perception of the veil–which could not have been further from the truth. I drew this drawing in order to further showcase that these ideas of aesthetic liberation further trap women, and can be considered seldom different from shaming a woman for not covering to begin with.



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