Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Indian Feminism and Shaheen Bagh: Articulation of Muslim Feminism as A Resistance To Both Patriarchy And Hindu Majoritarianism

By Aishani Khurana December 21, 2022 The Hyper-Visible Use Of Indian Flags And The Centrality Of The Indian Preamble, Especially The Phrase “We The People Of India” Reinforced The Idea That The Protest Was Not Only About “Muslim” Oppression But Vocalised The Attack On The Constitutional Values Of The Country ------ Photo: Indian Express ----- To remember Shaheen Bagh today is to remember a political moment of invaluable feminist import that marked a historical shift in the trajectory of Indian feminism. The hypervisible presence of ordinary Muslim women at various protest sites articulated a new language to re-conceptualise the negotiations between gender, religion, and the nation-state. Reflecting on the anti-CAA protests three years later, the Shaheen Bagh protests (December 2019-March 2020) stand out as an inflection point for Indian feminism on two fundamental grounds. Firstly, the Muslim women of Shaheen Bagh reconciled the dichotomous identities of religion, feminism, and secularism. By advocating for their rights as citizens, the Muslim women primed their identities as members of the nation-state and established that Indian feminism could respond to issues beyond gender. In priming their identities as citizens, they transcended the discursive predicament of Indian feminism that had been preoccupied with proving Islam as secular and non-patriarchal. Although the Hindu feminists in the 1960 and 1970s indigenised feminism by assimilating Hindu religious scriptures as expressions of Indian feminism, Muslim feminists had to extricate themselves from any forms of religiosity to qualify as feminists. The centring of Muslim women’s experiences in the mainstream feminist discourse has qualitatively changed the relationship of Indian feminism with religion wherein Indian feminists either reclaimed religious tenets or disengaged with religion altogether. File Photos ----- However, at numerous Shaheen Baghs that emerged across the country, the political expression of religion through one’s clothing and carrying out daily prayers at protests sites not only articulated the political agency of Muslim women but also disrupted the secular-liberal sensibility that sees religion in public sphere as antithetical to the idea of a “modern-nation state”. By the strategic priming of their identity as Indian citizens to advocate for constitutional rights while not dismissing the registers of religion and gender, Muslim women re-articulated the meaning of secularism. At Shaheen Bagh, Muslim women did not have to transcend religion to acquire membership into a secular-feminist discourse. Instead, by carrying out their religiosity publicly, Muslim women untethered themselves from the political burden of re-interpreting the tenets of Islam as a non-patriarchal, secularist religion. The Shaheen Bagh protests ruptured the binary of religion and feminism which has been a historical particularity for Indian feminism. Simultaneously, it elevated the stance of Indian feminism to advocate for a collective emancipation of social groups marginalised not only on account of gendered oppression, but also by the state. The hyper-visible use of Indian flags and the centrality of the Indian preamble, especially the phrase “We the People of India” reinforced the idea that the protest was not only about “Muslim” oppression but vocalised the attack on the constitutional values of the country. Articulating their marginalisation and exclusion through a language of “an attack on the constitutional rights”, the protesting Muslim women valorised their identities as Indian citizens as a mode of resistance and thereby, adopted an intersectional approach to underscore the multiple matrices of power, where the nation-state is one of the registers of oppression besides gender, religion, class, and caste. Secondly, as the face of a leaderless movement, Muslim women chartered out a space for themselves and transcended the politics of the two groups that have historically represented their interests: Non-Muslim feminists and Muslim men. The Shah Bano controversy is an important case in point that explicates how the interests of Muslim women have been represented either by a patriarchal vantage point or through a non-Muslim feminist discourse. File Photos ----- However, in Shaheen Bagh, Muslim women occupied the centre-stage, both in the spatial optics of protest sites and in the political discourse to advocate for their rights as citizens. These protests emphatically articulated Muslim feminism as a resistance to both patriarchy and Hindu majoritarianism. From Shah Bano to Shaheen Bagh, Indian feminism has seen a tremendous shift in the centring of experiences of Muslim women within the mainstream feminist discourse wherein Muslim women represent themselves and are not represented by either Hindu women or Muslim men. The Shaheen Bagh protests centred the experiences of Muslim women and the multiple axes of their political and social subordination which had been marginalised in the mainstream feminist discourse — a space historically dominated by mostly upper-caste Hindu women. Shaheen Bagh registers a new moment for Indian feminism that points to the reconciliation of religious identity, gender concerns and rights of being an equal citizen in the interest of Muslim women — something that both the Indian women’s movement and the Muslim Personal Law Board failed to address during the Shah Bano case. File Photo: Dadis of Shaheen Bagh ---- Instead, this leaderless movement with Muslim women at its vanguards, upheld and celebrated the foundational tenets of feminism — building a collective that questions oppression, forging solidarities across social positionings and fostering a community that is inclusive and just. ----- Aishani Khurana is pursuing a PhD in the department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago Source: Three Years After Shaheen Bagh: Why the Anti-CAA Protests Were an Inflection Point in Indian Feminism 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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