Thursday, December 8, 2022

Hijab: The Peaceful Revolution That Changed The World

By Grace Mubashir, New Age Islam 8 December 2022 The 'Feminist' Approaches Emerging Today Have Certain Characteristics. The Most Important Thing Is That Devout Muslims Are Ready To Re-Read Islamic Scriptures-------- A Quiet Revolution: The Veil's Resurgence, from the Middle East to America Leila Ahmed Yale University Press (2011) ------- A flood of books on Islam is evident after 9/11. In, ‘Welcome to the Desert of the Real: Five Essays on September 11’, Slavoj Zizek observes that when he suddenly sees copies of the Qur'an in Euro-American airports, he is reminded of the white man's astonishment and curiosity as part of the colonial tradition. There are few books that have deviated from the general flow of books published in the last ten years, in favour of, or against, reforming and condemning Islam. The point is that those who oppose and support Islam through Euro-liberal perspectives, as Zizek observes, do not fundamentally differ in their ways of seeing the Islamic world or in their conceptions. Saba Mahmood and Charles Hiskind have overcome the theoretical and analytical weaknesses of these dual narrative methods. Especially Mahmood's ‘Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject’. Saba Mahmood is instrumental in questioning traditional secular-feminist ways of looking at the Muslim woman. Saba Mahmood wrote about Muslim women in Egypt. Of course, hugely liberal Islamic feminist narratives exist about Egypt. Huda Shaarawi to Laila Ahmad are in that tradition. Islam must be freed from the hands of practicing Muslims. Moreover, the hijab is only a political dilemma for Muslim men. Laila Ahmad has said in many ways that hijab is the imposition of religious priesthood on women. They also held the position that traditional Islamic movements are dangerous and inimical to women. However, the book released in April 2011 shows a change in Laila Ahmad's thinking. The book is titled ‘A Quiet Revolution: The Veil's Resurgence from the Middle East to America’. Laila Ahmad says that the hijab, as the name suggests, does not represent violence, but a transition to calmness and peace. Critics consider the book to be a self-critical take on the 1992 work ‘Women and Gender in Islam’. Born into an ultra-liberal family in Cairo, Laila Ahmed remembers urban life without the presence of the hijab. They say that her mother never wore hijab. From the 1920s to the 1970s, the hijab—in many forms—was not in the mainstream of Egyptian life. Laila Ahmad traces the spread of the hijab through the history of Egypt. Viewing Egypt's own history in three parts: pre-colonial Egypt, colonized Egypt, and post-colonial Egypt, Ahmad examines how the hijab was represented within broader Islamic considerations of life in these three historical phases and in their specific political contexts. The first half of the book is description of this internal process. In the second half suddenly Laila Ahmad leaves for America. There she examines the influence of Islamic movements on immigrant and African American Muslims in the United States and the representational nature of the hijab through the formative history of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Strengthened by two thousand members, they see new advances and policy developments under the leadership of Ingrid Matson - the first woman in history to lead a modern Islamic movement. She is excited to see Islamic movements evolve to include women like herself. Laila Ahmad left Egypt in the 1960s. At that time the Islamists were oppressed by Nasser's henchmen. Like the first decades of decolonization in all Third World countries, Nasser had dreams of National Socialism. Nasser also dreamed of the same dams that Nehruvian nationalism dreamed of in the form of the Aswan Dam. The peculiarity of the third world countries is that the anti-colonial struggle and the struggle of the backward peoples have been overthrown by the nationalist elites. Such countries—in India and Egypt—were transferred to the hands of nationalist elites after decolonization. The religious contexts that actually involved the struggling masses were forgotten and new nation-states in the image of the invaders came into existence with grand claims of secularism. In India, the state of emergency invited the collapse of the national elite, while in Egypt, the defeat of the war against Israel consumed the story of the national elite. The '70s saw the return of the Islamic movement Ikhwanul Muslimoon. Later, the Ikhwan conquered Egypt in a gradual process. Laila Ahmad says that long-term persecution has not upset the balance of the Ikhwan. Laila Ahmad says that the Ikhwan has been ready to reject Ayman al-Zawahiri's extremism since the 1960s. Laila Ahmad studies Qutb and Zainbul Ghazzali in detail. Laila Ahmad says that the adventurous life of Zainbul Ghazali, who started her political activities as a feminist at the age of sixteen, still needs to be studied. Laila Ahmad argues that the Ikhwan did not give due consideration to Zainbul Ghazzali, who influenced the lives of Muslim women around the world. It is estimated that Zainbul Ghazzali has not received the social recognition that Ingrid Matson has received in America. The book also examines the attitudes of Islamic movements towards young people and women. It has also been observed that movements such as the Ikhwan have been slow to adopt the open methods of self-criticism that have led to the exodus of a large Islamic group of young men and women from the Ikhwan in Egypt. The reader will, of course, be surprised to know that Laila Ahmad, who criticized the Ikhwan in the first place, is the one who is doing this well-intentioned criticism. Laila Ahmad cheerfully undertakes the dialogical relationship that Islamic movements have with all the diversity of the world. Laila Ahmad greatly appreciates the organic nature of the Islamic movement, which adapts and interacts with all kinds of Islamic movements and ways of thinking. She realizes that movements like ISNA have become a learning and teaching platform for a liberal like her. Moreover, Laila Ahmad recognizes that conventional discourses about Islam and gender also enabled the Iraq-Afghan war that cost of lives in the first half of this decade. 'Why is everyone concerned only about the Muslim woman?' the question is very relevant. The fact that Muslim women have concerns that do not apply to other women in the world is certainly worthy of scrutiny. Laila Abu Lughd and Saba Mahmud, who raised such questions, discuss them at length and understand the relevance of these studies that problematize the imperial anxiety and the white male gaze about the Muslim woman. As mentioned earlier, this book tries to see the hijab through the politics of the time. However, Laila Ahmad shares some commonly shared historical conclusions about the hijab. Thus: "The meaning of hijab is not something common in society and history. The hijab seen after the 1970s is not the hijab seen in the pre-colonial era. Hijab in the pre-colonial era confined and divided women into gendered hierarchies. Later in the colonial period, the hijab became a taboo subject to be suppressed within the European worldview. As the hijab came under European control, it came to symbolize the civilized decline of Islam and the oppression of women. In the anti-colonial struggle and post-colonial conditions, the Islamic movement Ikhwan Hijab was regarded as a formidable defence armour. The hijab became a symbol of the anti-colonial struggle'' (p. 212). So what do these women—whether in Egypt or America—accomplish through the hijab? Are women re-oppressed by the hijab? Being caught by a Muslim radical patriarchy? Laila Ahmad faces such doubts with optimism. "Initially, I was afraid of the presence of Muslim women. But I got to see these women's activism up close. I am amazed that the most authoritative voice among those talking about gender and justice is now that of Islamist women. Their struggles need to be appreciated. The conclusions I reached are more optimistic than I thought. "Happier things are happening than I thought I could achieve" (p. 303). Laila Ahmad continues: "The 'feminist' approaches emerging today have certain characteristics. The most important thing is that devout Muslims are ready to re-read Islamic scriptures. Certainly, secular women like Nawal Saadawi have done this. But another important point is that women who have fundamental faith are involved in such initiatives. This is also helped by the situation of women's interventions for equal rights in religious institutions and leadership. This reveals the new presence and potential of Islam in the Western world” (p. 306). The structure of the book has already been mentioned. The two-part book has eleven chapters excluding the introduction. The first chapter brings us to Egypt in the 1950s. People generally do not wear hijab. Discussions about hijab and secularism come into play here. It contains accounts of Qasim Amin's life. The statement that ‘Liberation of Women was written by Mohammad Abdu along with Qasim Amin’ is quite surprising. Later it is said that the book was published under the name of Qasim Amin only. The book reveals Abdu's fascination with colonialism. Subsequent chapters analyse Egypt's history from the 1920s to the 1970s. Life of Hasanul Banna, Dialogue with Banna and Zainbul Ghazzali, Leadership of Hasanul Hudaibi have also been discussed. The first eight chapters deal with the Islamic movement in Egypt. Later, the first generation of Islamists arrived in America from the Indian subcontinent and countries including Egypt. They were activists of Jamaat-e-Islami and Ikhwanul Muslimoon. Most of the early Muslim immigrants to the United States were not Islamists or Islamist sympathizers. But a systematic, step-by-step program of action nurtured the Islamists. After 2000 there was a massive participation of youth and women in movements like ISNA. An important point that Laila Ahmad observes is that she sees two types of hijab in such movements in the first stage. One is those who wear hijab only when they come to ISNA events. Two, that ISNA’s events were attended only by hijab-wearers. The ISNA then resolves such contradictions with an open approach. Such movements are taking up new discussions of gender justice and pluralism after 2000. After 9/11, young men and women in America began speaking out about justice and politics at Islamist events. They demanded justice not only in politics but also in the world across. On the contrary, they demanded equal participation of women in various organizations of Islamists. They invited not only Muslim scholars of different views but also anti-imperialist activists to the events. She kept a very critical approach towards everyone and maintained a dialogical relationship. This is what gives Laila Ahmad new beliefs outside of mainstream liberal life. Moreover, Laila Ahmad has an ethical analysis that one does not generally have when studying Islam. In fact, the main lesson Laila Ahmad gives is this: Islamists must look at themselves in their own mirrors and criticize themselves. ----- A regular columnist for, Mubashir V.P is a PhD scholar in Islamic Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia and freelance journalist. URL: New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism

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