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Voices of Resistence: Muslim Women on War, Faith and Sexuality

By: 
Ibrahim Abdul-Matin
Date Published: 
January 01, 2007

Review of VOICES OF RESISTANCE: MUSLIM WOMEN ON WAR, FAITH & SEXUALITY
EDITED BY SARAH HUSAIN
Seal Press, 2006

“…The category ‘Muslim’ is rendered anew through our own politics and cultural practices across gender, sexuality, race, and nation”, says Sarah Husain.

Aisha Sattar comments in her essay, “The Politics of Hajj”, “Perhaps it is my education at UC Berkeley that has drilled in my head the mantra of ‘race, class, and gender’, so that no experience can be reflected on without these lenses.”

Lefty Husain in her foreword to Voices of Resistance uses religious terms that have taken on cultural significance, like Muslim and Islam, and places them in quotations. The foreword collects more lefty pretense by placing quotations around every “loaded” term. For example, American, haram (which means Unlawful or impermissible) and us gets quotes. Confusing the reader as to what definition she is actually using, Husain forgets us in a barrage of over-complex, academic jargon that speaks less to ideas and more to a need not to be held accountable—tsk, tsk, so “American”!

This tactic allows the reader to package the terms to fit what they want to hear. Contributor Halimah Abdullah says, “Islam is my Mother and I am ever her child … Culturally, I will always consider myself a Muslim.”

Linguistically, Muslim means one who submits to Allah (God) and Islam means submission to Allah. The heavy use of quotations exposes the zeitgeist of the Left as synonymous with the far Right—a zealous attempt to color everything with their lenses.

Thankfully, the power of this anthology is not in its framing. An Islamic critique of capitalism and communism is that it places humanity only within the context of material and capital. In an Islamic system the soul is at the center of our relationship to the world. However, in Islamic societies men, in their patriarchal excess, have downgraded women’s importance, like Western thought has limited humanity. By curtailing feminine access to spiritual life via the institutions, women’s bodies have been regulated, sanctified, and federalized by men. And if Muslim women have no access to the spiritual, then the body politic arises in response.

Individual silence

One 3rd wave feminist perspective is to generate an alternative space or create space within the institutions, like instituting a reform, which has some calling for a Muslim Reformation. However Husain refutes this stance and thus forges a new path with the Muslim feminist voice. “This anthology is not engaged in a fight with ‘Islam’ so as to create another ‘Islam’”, says Husain, cleverly stamping her foot down at critics from both sides of the political and religious aisles and offending them both with words and imagery.

Samia Saleem’s untitled cultural jam art piece has the outlines of hijab and is made up of Arabic words: Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem (In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful) and English text: The literal Word of God is the Antithesis of my Being.

Overall, the anthology shows that people and education systems can be reformed and oppressive governments supported by imperial democracies can be transformed. Change has to happen from within and throughout. It calls for boundaries to be pushed and mores to be slashed and burned in order to counteract what happens when patriarchy goes unchecked without the balance of a real dialogue and a genuine collective effort to establish a faith that is egalitarian, humanist, and environmentalist in scope and purpose.

What Husain has done is to string together a seemingly unconnected collage of voices and ask them to go into their hearts, where their individual silence lurks. She challenges Muslim women to be silent no more and calls for the world of oppressive men to shut up and listen. We all have a lot to learn. As the famous independent journalist Amy Goodman once said, "the truth is often where the silence is."