Iranian women continue to fight the system…

…but somehow the news article that covers it decides to completely change the subject to whether or not Islam condones/accepts polygamy. Yeah…I don’t quite understand the flow either.

Picture via BBC article.

Picture via BBC article.

I was super excited to see the headline (“Iranian women battle the system”). It was like a “Yeah! Finally, Muslim women are being portrayed as really strong revolutionaries who are fighting against injustice WITHOUT the help of ‘Western’ feminists! Woo.” sort of moment for me. Plus that sweet picture of Parvin Ardalan (right) protesting is really inspiring.

So then why take the attention away from the work that these women are doing? Well…because it is more important to figure out what the Qur’an says about polygamy (one of the main issues for Iranian feminists, according to the article) than to look at what the women are doing about it.

I think that is an issue that we at MMW find to be really unsettling sometimes as well. I mean, why can’t we get past what the Qur’an allows or doesn’t allow? When it comes to things like polygamy, sexuality, hijab, etc., it seems that everyone is going to believe what they WANT to believe. Can we instead get to the practical issues…like the fact that polygamy is negatively affecting the lives of Iranian women, whether or not it is haram (sinful according to Islamic doctrine), and that these women are doing something proactive, revolutionary, and really freaking brave to fight against it and to simply make their lives BETTER?

Women’s issues seem to be especially susceptible to this type of analysis, especially from major news sources. The world is being fed this garbage about how Muslim women are oppressed and they are trying to figure out how much of it is validated by the religion. And the fact of the matter is that in these cases, when we are talking about the work of Iranian feminists, it is irrelevant how much Islam condones or discourages certain behaviors. As long as anything that happens to a woman in Iran (or Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia, or any country that is Muslim or inhabited by mostly Muslims) is regarded as a result of the Muslim-ness of the state, the continuation of Muslim women’s belittlement by the Western world will occur. Their fights against unjust laws and sexist actions are not necessarily fights against ISLAM, and conflating the two will only result in more fear of being seen as a sinner when fighting against the system.

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Friday Links | December 26, 2014
  • jessyz

    This is usually what western media portrays. I think it is a lack of understanding more than anything. I believe they truly think Muslim women are oppressed and that Islam is an oppressive religion towards women and sometimes men too, so this kind of writing is expected. The problem is that Muslims have enough on their plate already to deal with, than to deal with western media as well.
    Great post as usual.

  • cycads

    I personally do not think that the attention on the Iranian activists was deflected by the issue of polygamy. The BBC news website is catered to a wide audience and yes, it seems like polygamy is a uniquely linked to Muslims, and there is a lot interest in it. What I find positive about the article is that it featured a male voice of reason (Ayatollah Yusef Sanai) in the midst of this – the “unexpected” opponent of polygamous marriages.

    And no, this is not another news clip about how passive Iranian women are. And they are certainly not necessarily battling against the religion either. Instead what BBC failed to do was mention further ‘how’ these women are going against the system. As far as I know, a lot muslim feminists/women’s rights activists’ main aim is dismantling male interpretation of Islam that often leave women short-changed. It’s radical but hasn’t quite achieve enough influence yet to change many gender-biased laws yet.

  • cycads

    pardon my grammatical mistakes above!

  • Nizam

    What struck me about the article was that the lone “authority” figure on the haram/halal issue was a male.

    I think that highlights the fact that Islamic law is the product of an ongoing man-made process of interpretation, and is not divine or fixed. When viewed in that proper light, it naturally leads to the question of who is doing the interpreting.

  • Sobia

    I have to agree with cyads on this one. It seemed to me that they were presenting the issue of the legislation regarding polygamy as an example of a sort of victory for the work these women are doing – not talking about polygamy only. I thought it was balanced the way they made sure to mention that polygamy is actually not common and is frowned upon in Iranian society.

    Overall, it seemed the article was talking about female activism in Iran.

  • Rochelle

    As we speak, I am writing an article/press release for Women Living Under Muslim Laws to communicate the real acheivement for the Iranian women’s rights movement. It really was quite amazing what happened. Should be published by the end of the day or tomorrow. Keep you posted.