Single Moroccan Female: Single Mothers in Morocco

Single Muslim mothers must be the new “it” topic for the Western media. There has been a lot of coverage of Rachida Dati, the French minister of Moroccan and Algerian heritage, who just recently had a baby while still being single. Now, the BBC has done a piece on single mothers in Morocco. The story looks at the struggles that single mother face in Morocco and also looks at the efforts of a group called Feminine Solidarity Association that seeks to assist single mothers.

Honestly, I liked this story (I know in the past I have often been critical of the BBC’s coverage of Muslim women). There was no comparison of the treatment of single mothers in Morocco versus the treatment of single mothers in Britain and other Western societies. The article was pretty straight forward. There were only a couple of statements which I thought added absolutely nothing to the story. “Khadija [Noha], whose pretty face regularly breaks into a slow but frank smile, was also cast out by her family [emphasis added].” I thought this statement was particularly sexist. A lot of news stories that focus on women make comments on their looks, and articles on Muslim women always seem to have comments about how we look. A description of Ms. Noha’s looks is really unnecessary and adds nothing to the actual story.

Besides that one line, I found the article to be a welcome look at how hard life for single mothers can be not only in Morocco, but in conservative Muslim circles in many parts of the world, including the West. The double standard for men and women is discussed. Khadija Noha discusses how she went out with a man who promised to marry her but left her when he found out that she was pregnant. There is also discussion of how single mother advocates, such as Aicha Ech Chana, the head of the Feminine Solidarity Association and Jamilah Bargach, an anthropologist, are pushing to make fathers of children born outside marriage more accountable for their children.

I think this is particularly necessary because I think too often Muslims forget that it takes two to tango. We criticize and ostracize single mothers while forgetting that fathers are being let off the hook. We should help single mothers and commend them for taking care of their responsibilities. Fathers who forget their children are the ones who should be ostracized for taking the easy way out and not taking care of their children. This is a problem that hasn’t been addressed adequately by Muslims, but needs to be.

The efforts of the Feminine Solidarity Association are especially noteworthy. They teach single mothers various skills so that they can work. They also help single mothers in Morocco find housing and provide childcare services for mothers while they work. Ech Chana, who founded the organization, seems driven by the desire to empower single mothers. In the article, she speaks of the rights that single mothers have in the Qur’an and is critical of the way that single mothers are treated in Morocco. She along with with advocates like Jamilah Bargach are working to highlight the plight of single mothers, a plight that has been ignored by many Muslims for too long.

  • cycads

    This story is certainly coming in light of Rachida Dati’s single motherhood, but it’s also a step in the right direction. I also felt that mentioning Khadija’s ‘pretty face’ was quite unnecessary, but it MIGHT be necessary to invoke some sympathy from the readers. That said, there is a lot of sympathy for ‘damsels in distress’ in the media; the bias in reporting and attention on good-looking women in danger is partly behind the Missing White Woman syndrome but I am totally digressing here.

    “Fathers who forget their children are the ones who should be ostracized for taking the easy way out and not taking care of their children. This is a problem that hasn’t been addressed adequately by Muslims, but needs to be.”

    I absolutely agree with this. Personally, I think that the child should take the mother’s name as surname in this case. My concern is whether this stems from the ‘equal but different’ roles that are prescribed for men and women. Men are perceived to be the provider of the family – that creates a lot of pressure for them and seeing that Morocco’s unemployment rate is quite high, financially insecure men tend to choose running away rather than facing the shame of not fulfilling their duties.

  • http://jamericanmuslimah.wordpress.com Jamerican Muslimah

    For some reason when I was reading this story I was thinking about Asra Nomani (even though she’s Pakistani descent.) I don’t know why…I guess I was wondering what she’d have to say about this.

    Also, I wanted to mention something else. Some people in the Muslim community think solely of African-American Muslimahs when the subject of single mothers comes up. If you ask me, too often the immigrant Muslim community (in the United States hides it.) That or someone’s having a shot gun wedding…

  • Faith

    “Personally, I think that the child should take the mother’s name as surname in this case. My concern is whether this stems from the ‘equal but different’ roles that are prescribed for men and women. Men are perceived to be the provider of the family – that creates a lot of pressure for them and seeing that Morocco’s unemployment rate is quite high, financially insecure men tend to choose running away rather than facing the shame of not fulfilling their duties.”

    I kinda think it does. I took a course on the black family in undergrad and I remember reading an ethnography of black fathers as part of the required reading and it looked at this point. A lot of the fathers in the study weren’t around because of under- or unemployment. Like you said, they felt they couldn’t fulfill the “provider” role and thus, most just weren’t involved in their children’s lives at all. Which is really sad because spending time with your children is really valuable too. But the men felt pressure from the children’s mothers as well as society to fulfill the provider role and I guess for a lot of men, it’s easier to just leave. Perhaps the same thing is happening to the unmarried fathers in Morocco.

  • saliha

    I don’t think single mothers should be commended for upholding their responsibility. If you willingly place yourself at risk for pregnancy then you need to accept responsibility, period. They should be helped because we have responsibilities to one another and society will ascend or fall dependent on how well it cares for the next generation, but I’m not interested in holding these women up as heroes or role models. They are warnings of the myriad dangers of flaunting God’s law.

    Nor should the child take on the mother’s name, further letting the father off the hook. Men who refuse to care for their children should be pursued legally and shamed by their communities if they refuse to care for their children. There should also be programs in place that offer parenting classes and other incentives for fathers to actually father their children. We can take care of our responsibilities to one another without turning sin into virtue.

  • cycads

    Saliha,

    I don’t think it’s fair to say that single mothers do not deserve some credit. Dealing with the stigma of single motherhood and raising kids on a single income are hard enough. Furthermore, I don’t think there are many counseling/education programmes out there in Muslim countries designed for single and divorced mothers. Being brought up by a single parent myself, I feel very strongly about this – my mother had to deal with raising children alone with virtually zero support.

    I still believe that we should do away with naming children after their errant fathers. There are other ways to go after the father and ‘make’ him feel more responsible, like ways suggested by Saliha above – but why name after a man who doesn’t want anything to do with his kids anyway? The important question when naming a child should be: who is looking after and loves the child? If both parents are present at this point, then alhamdulillah, the patronym it is because it’s the done thing.

  • Faith

    Saliha, I don’t think any of us are talking about “turning sin into virtue.” I think what the women in the article want and what I want is for us to stop shaming women who become single mothers. It’s already tough to raise a child on a single income (btw, not all single mothers are single mothers because they had sex outside marriage. My mother was married but became a single mother by way of divorce) and in societies that offer little support. Yes, these women should be commended for taking care of their children. Any single parent, male or female, should because it is hard.

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    Cosign with Faith & Cycads! Shaming single mothers is unfair and doesn’t prevent, solve, or alleviate any of their or society’s issues.

  • Pingback: Single Moroccan Female: Single Mothers in Morocco « Muslimnista

  • saliha

    Firstly, I was raised by a single mother in a community of “angry mothers and absent fathers,” to quote the song. My community has been absolutely devastated by fornication, poor access to sex education, birth control and its effects. We now have something like a 70% out of wedlock birthrate in my community in addition to myriad problems with STDs. Our family structure is in a state of devastation. I speak as someone who has been in the trenches, through the mud with battle scars to show for this issue.

    Secondly, I spoke within the context of this article, which is centered on a woman who gave birth to a child conceived out of wedlock. It is of course, different, to be a single mother due to factors outside of one’s control. I’m not advocating that we shame single mothers, but that we don’t glorify them in any way, shape or form. It’s damned hard work to be a parent, and twice as hard to be a single parent and glorifying single-motherhood or making it seem like it’s no big deal to CHOOSE to be a single mother or take risks that would place you in that position (like fornicating or getting involved in a secret marriage or any shady situation where men have no societal pressure to stick around) is a slap in the face to the needs of children and the hard work of parenthood. Maybe it’s because of the society I come from where too many neglected little girls think a baby will fill the hole in their hearts left by absent fathers and overwhelmed mothers, but normalizing sin or commending people for taking responsibility for their mistakes no more helps the problem than scarlet letters.

  • Malaikah

    Saliha

    I’m with you. Why is that we as Muslims should applaud someone who disobeyed the commandments of Allah. There are so many steps to take in a relationship that lead up to the point of putting yourself at risk for pregnancy. Especially for Muslims. As a Muslim woman you should not be talking to a brother excessively let alone hanging around with him enough to lead to pre marital sex.

    We as a Muslim society need to do more to educate young men and women how to avoid these things rather than reward them once they have. It gets a bit old to pull out the ‘men get away with it and women don’t’ card. Instead of trying to make the Haram acceptable, we need to educate people about their deen.

    I’m also confused as to why you would want to give the child the mothers name and not follow Muslim tradition? What purpose does that serve?

    I get the impression that most of the bloggers here want to put the title Feminist before the title of Muslim… hmmmm

  • Malaikah

    Save the dawah? I’m not judging anyone… I’m stating what is true and right in Islam. So, you don’t feel comfortable saying its a sin?

    Instead of weeding out articles about Muslims who do not live by Islam, why don’t you sisters try to find some things that show us what we should be doing not what we shouldn’t.

    I still think its funny that you told me to save the Dawah… may Allah guide us all.

  • Malaikah

    And where did I brand anyone a sinner?

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    My mistake: you didn’t actually call anyone a sinner. That was kind of the tone I read, though. I’m not saying dawah is bad, but your comment seemed a little preachy and “I know more than you”. particularly the comment about putting feminism before Islam. Forgive me, but that sets me off a bit. It’s unfair to assume you know what all of MMW’s contributors think about certain subjects.

    I get the feeling that this is the first time you’ve been to MMW. I could be wrong, but if it is, I invite you to look around a little more. We highlight coverage of Muslim women in the media, good or bad, and we’ve done quite a few articles praising Muslim women’s media representation and Muslim women’s media projects themselves.

  • Malaikah

    I have read this blog before, and I actually should not come here because it usually frustrates me.

    I did not mean to sound preachy, but it seems that anyone commenting on this site that brings up traditional Islamic values gets snapped at for it. Why is it that bringing up the way we should behave is considered preachy?

    I am sorry for the feminist comment, but you have to admit that this blog is very heavy with feminist ideas.

    I’ll try to keep my distance, its probably for the best.

  • Sobia

    @ Malaikah:

    Every individual will be judged for their deeds, Islamic mores or no Islamic mores. Just because an individual commits what we have been told is a sin, does not necessarily mean it is a sin in the eyes of God. If a person murders someone it does not necessarily mean he/she committed a sin. Maybe it was done in self defense. Right and wrong are not black and white.

    Also, if we choose to put feminism before or after Muslim that is up to us. Do not try to shame us about it or look down on it. You should respect our choices.

    As far as what Muslim women *should* be doing – it is not our place nor our mandate to tell women what they should be doing. That is for every woman herself to decide. This blog critiques the images of women in media and pop culture. Additionally, there is no one way to do things. There are many, many ways to be a practicing Muslim, if that is what one chooses to do. Which way would we tell them to follow?

    The contributors at the blog understand that life is complex and making decisions about right or wrong is actually a very difficult thing to do. It is often not as simple as some would have us believe. We see the importance of supporting our fellow women and not shaming or alienating them because we understand their humanity and all the complications and craziness that comes along with being of the human race. We try our best to be accepting and non-judgmental of Muslim women. Personally, my only exception to that rule is when I am being judged or disrespected by others or when I feel someone is harming others in some way – at that point I will call them out on it.

    I will second Fatemeh in her save the dawah comment. This is not the forum for it. Also, if you are going to do dawah you have to do it properly. Do it wrong and you end up doing more harm than good. By telling us what we already know, it seems you have assumed that we don’t know these “basics.” And by assuming we don’t know these things you have made the assumption that we are bad Muslims. You may not see it this way, but you have to understand that others will. And the message that is received it ultimately *the* message regardless of what you meant. That is why I say, if you’re going to do dawah do it right or don’t do it at all.

    Islam is not about halal and haram, sin and virtue. God is not that simplistic. Life is much more complex than that and to break our actions into such rigid and simplistic categories ends up denying human nature the way God made it.

    Finally, women who have children out of wedlock are not bad or sinful people. Only God knows what happened and why. The only unforgivable sin is shirk – everything else is forgivable. If God is willing to forgive people then who are we to judge.

  • saliha

    Malaika, I really feel like that was an unfair comment. This is the only blog I visit regularly. The sisters here do a tremendous and unique service. This is the only place on the web where I feel I can come as a Muslim woman, and see my sisters shown in their full humanity, not as one group or another’s caricature. I don’t always agree with what I read here, and the comment section is open to discussion, but we should never stoop to name-calling or assuming things about one another’s faith.

    Fatemeh
    I don’t think we should go through any special efforts to shame women in this situation. I just don’t think they should get any special recognition for their hard work, that’s part of the responsibility of being a parent.

  • Krista

    @ Malaikah: Um, ouch. I know you said that your intention was not to judge, but when you say that “I get the impression that most of the bloggers here want to put the title Feminist before the title of Muslim” – well, as a blogger here, I certainly do feel judged, and kind of offended that you would assume that I (or any of us) would put anything before Islam.

    Our point on MMW has never been to talk about how Muslim women should or should not act. Our point is to talk about the way that Muslim women are represented and talked about. Muslim women are often represented in problematic ways no matter how religious/traditional/conservative/whatever they are (or aren’t), and this particular site exists to question and critique those representations, and not to make judgements on what such women do. As Fatemeh said, we have covered a lot of different women who all have very different relationships to Islam.

    Back on topic, Faith, this was a great post. I think it’s important to support single mothers regardless of the circumstances; even if we see pregnancy outside of marriage as problematic, it’s not like they can undo it, and I think there’s a lot more to be gained to respond to these situations with compassion and support (where needed) rather than judgement and ostracism (which then ends up affecting the child as well.)

  • Muffy

    Single parenthood often can lead to a host of societal and personal problems, as I’m sure people like saliha know. However, I think we should proceed with caution about universalizing experiences and being overly judgmental. In some cases, single parenting is better than the alternatives. I have a high school friend, for instance, who’s parents are divorced; her brother, by his own will, chose to spend all his time with his mother than split time between his mother and father. I also wouldn’t necessarily say premarital sex or out of wedlock births are necessarily a problem. There are many unmarried couples would do indeed stay together after having a child (without necessarily getting married) and successfully raise children. “Fornication,” even if it results in children, does not necessarily equal broken families. Likewise, there are married couples that absolutely should NOT be having children, but do anyway due to either accident or social expectations. It seems like the general problem is the unprepared and/or apathetic parent.

    As for the whole changing the last names, the whole idea that a child must automatically take the father’s name in any context is a stupid, patriarchal custom that I wouldn’t mind see abandoned. I have my father’s last name while my brother has his mother’s last name. But that’s a totally different debate =)

  • Sobia

    @ Maliakah:

    “I am sorry for the feminist comment, but you have to admit that this blog is very heavy with feminist ideas. ”

    Probably because its a Muslim feminist blog. Please see our “About Us” section.

    There is nothing wrong with being feminist. I proudly identify as a Muslim feminist. It seems you have some unfortunate misconceptions about feminism. There are so many types of feminisms that to assume that all feminists are the same (negative adjective) is like assuming all Muslims are terrorists.

  • Sobia

    @ Malaikah:
    Sorry…I misspelled your name :(

  • s.c.

    I didn’t think this article glorified or gave special status to anyone or any group of people. It was really about awareness and helping/ empowering people who’ve have it rough, with mercy and compassion (but not in a paternalistic way).

    Historically, quite a few different interpretations of Islam allowed forms of relationships between men and women that wouldn’t necessarily be called wedlock today. There’s Mut’aa (temporary marriage) which is considered legal in some forms of Shia Islam, and of course, concubinage, a once widespread practice in many Sunni and Shia sects (these days, it probably exists although it’s hard to measure the incidence of it). Theologians to this day debate over whether Maria the Copt was a wife or concubine of the Prophet.

    Newer more literal interpretations of Islam tend to gloss over or outright ban these by calling them un-Islamic but that doesn’t really explain much of anything, like how Muslim cultures have evolved to deal with progeny from unions like these. This just leads me to think that definitions of “fornication” are all very culturally relative. Context matters. In this case, we lack more information about Moroccan culture and some of the nuanced understandings of male-female relations. Sure the traditionalists will say it’s so bad b/c “Islam says so”, but there’s isn’t just one Islam in Morocco and there isn’t just one culture in Morocco. But this article was an eye, a window into that world.

    In Punjab we have our classical four love stories (Heer-Ranjha, Mirza-Sahiban, Sassi-Punun, Sohni-Mahiwal), written by Muslim holy men, super “religious” guys whose teachings formed a pretty big part of Punjabi Islam (and to a degree, Punjabi Hinduism and Sikhism). Weird thing is, all four stories absolutely *praise* the illicit love of these legendary lovers as being rightly ordained by God and unjustly hindered by an ignorant society (all lovers are eventually killed off by society). Illicit love in a way becomes this huge metaphor representing zikr-type ideals of longing for the divine. And its not just upper class elites well versed in poetry who get it. It’s everyone. If you’re not Punjabi, its going to sound really weird, but, it is what it is and a very rich and nuanced cultural language of love, human or divine, has developed out of it.

    Not to sound blase, but at the end of the day, all sins are culturally and contextually relative. I suppose that’s why they say someone bigger then you or I or all of us, will do the judging.

  • Sobia

    @s.c.
    Great points. And I really like how you bring up the four Punjabi stories. You’re totally right about how spiritual they are. Its as if their love is pure, and protected and sanctioned by God. It is the world that has placed cruel restrictions on them, eventually leading them to their young deaths.

    Traditionally our South Asian Sufi religious men have focused much more on the individual connection to God as opposed to sin and virtue. Look at Bulleh Shah. His criticism of Muslims and Islamic institutions was sharp but his devotion to and love of God was endless. Anyhow…that took me off topic a bit. :)

  • Paula

    So far, not a very constructive debate.

    I agree with Malaikah here, shame on your snappiness. ‘save the dawah’ is condescending. It is still possible to debate the ideas Saliha and Malaikah have brought up even if they are framed in religious language you are less comfortable using. I’m worried you are more comfortable critiquing the portrayal of ‘traditional’ Muslim women in
    the media than engaging with the full diversity of ideas and languages (including fire and brimstone rhetoric) Muslim women have. This could be an even more amazing blog if there was some actual dialogue between these two world views.

    So here’s my start. Sobia, at some point you write that we shouldn’t be telling women what to do. I agree wholeheartedly here, but we still have to decide what each of us ourselves will do. How will we react to single mothers? How will we seek justice (on whatever terms it means to us) in our societies? To be a critic means to have a position, and to evaluate what you see against it. This is what this blog does very well, but it does rely on some normative underpinnings that need to be acknowledged. Religious worldviews aren’t the only ones with strong commitments to how things should be.

    One strength of Saliha/Malaika argument is that it requires Muslim women to responsibility for their actions and sexuality. Yes, it places the burden for preventing pre-marital sex squarely on women and yes it judges women who do not live up to this ideal. But what does not follow from their argument (and I’m not sure that they are even making it) is to shame or fail to provide support to single mothers.

    At the heart of this debate is what the best reaction is to single motherhood. An attitude of openness and reserved judgement versus a disappointment at inappropriate behaviour. The later doesn’t rule out aiding single mothers, but will certainly fall short of commending them and guilt by proxy or association (any single mother stigmatized) is a real risk.

    On the other hand… Social/religious mores are a double edged sword for women and pregnancy. They stigmatize those who fail to live up to them, but they also provide the moral framework that makes it easier for girls to say no to unwanted sex. I tend to fall back on my cultural biases and argue for more aid/less stigmatization of single mothers, but this attitude (I think) is only obvious in a society with relatively permissive attitudes toward sex.

  • s.c.

    Right on Sobia :) I love Bulleh. (Btw, do you know many of his sayings were actually Buddhist sayings? Makes sense though, that area was primarily Buddhist and Hindu before Islam and I definitely see that influence in my day to day life). There’s also the well known fact that Bulleh (or was it Bahu or Waris?) would often flout gender conventions and dress up as a bride waiting for “Ranjha”. Can you imagine a respected religious authority dressing up in drag and be considered enlightened for it today?

    And then there’s the legendary tale about how the love of Waris’s life spurned him and refused to marry him (it was the affair of the day I hear :) ). Apparently he died of heartbreak. Yet, these guys wrote some of the most prolific books on Islam, and really brought a radically different understanding of Islam to the Punjabi people.

    Oops, I too seem to have gone off topic. :P It’s all MMW’s fault, making me think and all :)

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    @ Saliha: I really appreciate the kind words. :)

    @ Paula: I’m not against Muslims (men AND women) being responsible for their actions and sexuality. I think the term “sin” is what gets to me; there is tons of stigma and shame associated with it. And for this same shame to be placed on mothers, especially ones who need community support and resources more than two-parent households, seems unfair and alienating.

    “An attitude of openness and reserved judgment versus a disappointment at inappropriate behaviour. The later doesn’t rule out aiding single mothers, but will certainly fall short of commending them and guilt by proxy or association (any single mother stigmatized) is a real risk.” I think this is a fair statement. We may disagree on the level of “commendation” that mothers should receive (parenting is a hard job. I think both mothers and fathers who do a good job, especially despite their circumstances, deserve Allah’s rewards for caring for and loving their children), but I think we both agree that single mothers deserve the same amount of community support and access that everyone else is given.

  • http://getoutlines.wordpress.com Safiya Outlines

    Salaam Alaikum,

    This is an interesting debate, because it reveals people’s comfort with different terminology. I don’t think it is entirely fair to chastise someone for not liking the term ‘feminist’ and then admit that you don’t like the term sin.

    Feminist is a loaded term and women may or may not to want it for themselves or like it as an ideology, for a variety of reasons. That is a fair statement, as long as it is accepted that for others, it is an ideology that informs and underpins their views.

    Likewise, there seems to be a squeamishness about the term “sin”.
    Now, Islam is clear on certain behaviours being halal or haraam, so someone describing a particular act as being sinful, is using vocabulary that is common within Islamic discourse. Again, one can argue about different ways of dealing with behaviour classed as sinful, but it I don’t think someone should be criticised for their use of the terminology.

    Like Paula said, there women in Islam hold different views, including the ‘fire and brimstone’ variety and to reject that discourse here is to reject those women.

    I know you guys have a difficult job here, but you do need to ask yourselves if this site is for all Muslim women, or just those who identify in a particular way.

    If it’s the former, then comments like “save the dawah” and “Only Allah can judge” are not helpful, because it just shuts down dialogue, rather then allow it to flourish.

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    My discomfort with the term & connotation of “sin” is a personal one. It’s fair to say that terminology is pretty loaded in general, particularly when you’re dealing with Islam and women.

    This thread is waaaaaay off topic. But I’m interested in how you propose we include “fire & brimstone” women as well as “feminist” women? How do we include “fire & brimstone” women’s voices in an Islamic feminist framework without alienating our less “fire & brimstone” readers and without dismantling our framework?

    I think a generous amount of politeness and respect must be maintained from from all sides, but I want a more substantial answer and concrete ideas on this…

  • saliha

    I’m rather disturbed by the assumption that Malaika and I are “fire and brimstone” or that we even share the same view of Islam. Because she agreed with me on one issue, does not mean that we are similar or the same. Secondly, as noted, these are not grey areas in Islam. Sex outside of wedlock is haraam, it is a sin. Calling it what it is does not mean I’m interested in stoning people or damning them to hell. I don’t even think it’s a good idea to divide Muslim women into “conservative” (I’m assuming that was part of the implication of fire and brimstone) vs. feminist, as many of us are both.

    Secondly, I whole-heartedly disagree that my argument places the entire responsibility for preventing pre-marital sex on women. I suggested solutions for making men accountable. Each person, however, is responsible for their own actions and a woman who freely decides to engage in sex outside of wedlock is accountable for the consequences just as a man is. While fighting the battle against oppression, we have to acknowledge where people have choices and encourage them to make choices that are responsible.

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    @ Saliha: When I spoke of “fire & brimstone women” I was referring to Paula’s assertion, not you & Malaika. And I would agree with you that dividing women into categories is incredibly problematic. Inclusion based on two categories (“Muslim” and “women”) is what we aim for, so when Safiya calls us out on not including women of these categories, it’s a concern I want to address. I’m not sure whether you were addressing your comment to me or not, but there it is. :)

    Each person, however, is responsible for their own actions and a woman who freely decides to engage in sex outside of wedlock is accountable for the consequences just as a man is. While fighting the battle against oppression, we have to acknowledge where people have choices and encourage them to make choices that are responsible.

    This I can agree with. :)

    Now Imma shut up for awhile.

  • Aaquila

    thanks for posting this article. i visted morocco right after the new reforms of the family law that took place in 2004 and i think that one of the changes (as i understood it) was directed towards making it easier for the children of unwed mothers to get acknowledgment of paternity for their children. i think any movement to reduce stigma on mothers and children is positive and needed. one thing that strikes me about the comments is the idea of lack of personal responsibility. in particular, one sister stated that her statements were informed by the american context where children outside of wedlock are a rite of passage for teenage girls.

    however, given the culture in morocco, there is little danger of “glorifying single motherhood” and i doubt that any of these girls saw it as no big deal to be single mothers and far from an active choice (meaning no Murphy Brown type scenarios). sometimes, friends of mine mentioned that the women begging on the street with children were probably single mothers who couldn’t afford to provide for their families alone. its just my opinion that any movement to reduce stigma would not even begin to move in the direction of a lax attitude towards out-of-wedlock pregnancies. btw, i really love this blog!

  • laila

    I totally agree with Krista, “Faith, this was a great post. I think it’s important to support single mothers regardless of the circumstances; … and I think there’s a lot more to be gained to respond to these situations with compassion and support (where needed) rather than judgement and ostracism (which then ends up affecting the child as well.)”

    My mother (and other single mothers) should be commended and supported, because these women are doing TWICE the work, not only their responsibilites but the responsibilities of absent fathers. “Taking care of MORE than their responsibilities”, she could have abandon us too.

    I believe a mother’s love and value should be acknowledge and given gratitude, it’s second only to God’s love. What about the discourse that “Heavens underneath a mother’s feet”? And yet we offer little support and compassion when their vulnerable and desperate.

    I wish my mother had received some help from my community, the support would have helped when she (like other single mothers) are facing conditions of poverty and isolation.

    Great post Faith.

  • http://getoutlines.wordpress.com Safiya Outlines

    Asalaam Alaikum,

    This is a bit rambling.

    Fatemeh – A good starting point is being able to have constructive dialogue.

    So we need to look at what hinders that dialogue and what helps it and what tactics are consciously or unconsciously used to shut it down.

    Someone whose comment is “Haraam! Arrgh!”, that’s not dialogue and that’s not engaging with the piece or any subsequent discussion.

    Likewise, saying “Only Allah can judge” as a response to someone is a similar silencing tactic, because it is basically stating that, Allah judges, they can’t, therefore so they should be quiet.

    As for the feminist issue, I think you can be a feminist blog but still acknowledge that people may or may not identify as feminist. So when Malaikah stated that she felt uncomfortable with the feminist tone of this blog, telling her (as Sobia did) that she must have “unfortunate misconceptions about feminism” is very condescending.

    One of my favourite blogs Slugger O’Toole (this is a Northern Irish politics blog so you can imagine how heated it can get) has a very simple commenting rule: “Play the ball, not the man”. It means that you should engage with what the commentator has actually said rather then getting into personal attacks or making assumptions, or worse still, getting into a “My type of Islam is the best”.

    I think if you read the above comments, there has been some definite not playing of the ball going on and that is what derails discussion.

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    Safiya, that’s incredibly helpful. Thank you.

    I think that, often, what a poster/commenter says is attacked and used as a proxy for a personal attack (like the examples you stated above from both “sides”); I think there are times when I’ve definitely slipped in my role as moderator.

    Faith, sorry to derail your thread! :S

  • Sobia

    @Safiyah:

    “unfortunate misconceptions about feminism” was not meant to be condescending nor insulting. What I was basically saying was that the diversity of feminism is neglected leading to a misconception about the idea of feminism. And it *is* very unfortunate that such misconceptions exist. What many Muslim women mean to critique is White, Western feminism but instead brand all feminists as people against Islam. This *is* unfortunate and when people like myself try to change these conceptions both within and outside of feminist circles we are still met with hostility. I sensed hostility in Malaikah’s comment.

  • http://getoutlines.wordpress.com Safiya Outlines

    Asalaam Alaikum,

    Sobia – Again, you have the idea that someone could only reject feminism through ignorance. Aaminah Hernandez did a brilliant piece (sadly no longer available as her blog is now private) about her choice not to align herself with feminism, not only from the point of view of a POC, but also as a Muslim women.

    I could blather on endlessly about my own conflicted feelings about the feminist movement and that conflict hasn’t arisen because I haven’t read the right books or attended the right classes, but just through my life experiences and assessing my own priorities besides many other things.

    We have to be careful not to put feminism on a pedestal. While it comes in many forms, it is ultimately an just an ideology and one that people can choose to accept or reject.

    Malaikah did seem to view feminism as problematic, but you didn’t really ask her why at all and if we want to know why some Muslim women do not identify as feminist, we really do need to start asking that question.

    I think the issue of combining an Islamic identity with other identities and beliefs is a complex one and it’s something that Muslim women especially seem to face.

  • http://getoutlines.wordpress.com Safiya Outlines

    It’s not me, it’s the fetus! ;)

  • Sobia

    If women choose not to identify as feminist that’s fine. I don’t have a problem with that. Its their right and choice. And I’ve heard many arguments for not identifying as such that make sense to me.

    But they really should stop belittling or insulting those who choose to identify as such. Feminist is being used as a slur just as Muslim is in the US.

    People need to understand feminism before they make judgments about it and those who identify as such. Hence my initial comment of unfortunate misconceptions. I did not say, as you understood, that “someone could only reject feminism through ignorance.” What I am saying is that someone should not judge feminism or feminists without understanding what feminism is and its complexity. Once you’ve done that, judge away. For her to say that we are putting feminism before Islam and to say that this blog has a feminist slant (as a critique) to me said that it was not understood that a Muslim woman can feel Muslim and feminist equally. Or that she could feel more Muslim and a little less feminist but feminist nonetheless. Or that she could hold feminist ideals but not identify as such, and so on and so on.

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    Sobia, I think what Safiya was tackling was the assumption behind the idea that “People need to understand feminism before they make judgments about it”, which assumes that Malaikah did not understand feminism. Whether she does or not is irrelevant, but I think Safiya was pointing out that assuming she doesn’t is the fallacy here. Malaikah could very well be incredibly read in feminist literature and still hate feminism (doesn’t make sense to me, because I heart feminism, but you see where I’m going with this).

    I do agree with you about the demonization and mischaracterization of the the term ‘Feminist’, however. Since feminisms are so often misread/misunderstood, they are often demonized out of ignorance. But Safiya points out another truth: feminisms can also be hated by those incredibly familiar with them. Just because someone doesn’t dig it doesn’t mean they don’t get it. ;)

  • Sobia

    I see what you’re saying.

  • samah007

    Ladies, I have to say I’m pleased with the direction this conversation has gone in. Y’all make mama SO proud! :)

  • samah007

    Btw, that’s me Jamerican Muslimah.

  • Faith

    Wow! Sorry I haven’t been contributing. I was out of town for a few days and this is the first time I have been to back to this post all weekend. A few points. I do consider fornication a “sin” since the Qur’an is clear about it. I wasn’t saying that pre-marital sex is halaal. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t offer support for single moms who had babies outside marriage or even commend them for taking care of their children. Let’s face it. There’s other “options” they could take. While out of town, I heard a grizzly story of a man who threw his baby in a dumpster. So yeah, I commend single mothers especially who don’t go off the deep end and decide to take care of their children despite little societal support and a lot of shame. Yeah, we can say “well, so and so shouldn’t have had sex in the first place” but will that change anything? More importantly, will it be beneficial to the child?

    @Aaquilah: I almost missed your comments because there are so many but I thank you for your comment. Americentrism is definitely something to be careful of. I definitely didn’t get the sense that single motherhood is glorified in Morocco since it isn’t glorified in Arab society in general. Thanks for making that point.

    I really don’t know what to add about feminism except I identify as feminist but understand why many women do not. In fact, there have been times when I wondered if I should identify as feminist since a lot of my beliefs about family, sex, etc. are “traditional” (for lack of a better term). Still, I do believe in a creating a better life for women around the globe and I am “pro-woman” so I believe I’m a feminist. At the end of the day, I think the most important thing is that we are for bettering the lives of women whether we call ourselves feminist or not :)

  • http://bintalshamsa.blogspot.com/ bint alshamsa

    @Sobia,

    What many Muslim women mean to critique is White, Western feminism but instead brand all feminists as people against Islam. This *is* unfortunate and when people like myself try to change these conceptions both within and outside of feminist circles we are still met with hostility.

    This is not just true with many Muslim women. I can’t even count how many times I’ve interacted with non-Muslim women and men who really do believe that what they are describing is “feminism” when what they are really describing is simply “white, Western feminism”. I prefer to refer to myself as a womanist because it describes the kind of feminism that I believe in.

    With regards to the topic:

    I think that it is important to show compassion for single mothers and not condemnation. I don’t think it’s any one’s business to judge whether or not these women have sinned. To me, that is between them and God. However, the biggest reason why we should show more compassion and sympathy than condemnation is that there are children involved. These children have done nothing wrong. They also suffer when people look down on these mothers. When we create an atmosphere where those who have children outside of marriage, it also negatively affects those single mothers who are in that position despite having been married at the time of conception (i.e. divorcees, widows).

  • Jennifer

    All this talk about pre-marital sex is missing the point that many single mothers are single mothers because their husbands left them. HOw dare you judge the women who are responsible to their kids and not judge teh men who abandon them.

    [This comment has been edited to fit within comment moderation policies.]

  • Omar

    I’m 100% behind you Jennifer,

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    Malaikah, save the dawah lesson, please. We and our readers are aware of Muslim mores.

    The problem is that no matter how much prevention and education and dawah you do, there will always be men and women who fully understand Islam’s teachings and community mores but still engage in non-marital intercourse and pregnancies will sometimes result. For women who decide to have the children, shaming them and casting them out of social circles robs their children of a social network. It takes a village, right? If a woman’s village shames her, then it probably shames her child(ren), too, which isn’t fair or helpful to the child.

    This isn’t about rewarding those who’ve made choices we don’t agree with. This is about what’s best for the child. And shaming a child’s mother and depriving it of an accepting community doesn’t fit into that category.

    It also disregards the fact that perhaps a woman who has “sinned” (to quote you) has changed her outlook and worked hard to improve her faith since having a child out of wedlock, etc. It’s not right to judge others, but it seems especially unfair to brand a woman a “sinner” when she’s worked hard to improve her faith and live by it.

    Allah alone will judge a woman either way.

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    Safiya, you’re on fire. O__O

    While I agree that Malaikah’s comment did carry a certain tone, it’s a great point you bring up about assuming her reasons for not being feminist, etc. I remember that piece that Aaminah wrote. I think it’s a great thing to remember that just because someone doesn’t like “feminism” or identify as such doesn’t mean she’s automatically anti-woman (Aaminah is one of the most radically “feminist” people I know, despite her refusal to call herself a feminist) or, as Malaikah put it, “condemning anyone to hell.” In the U.S., binary thinking is so built into our way of life that despite my criticizing it up and down, I’ve absorbed it. Especially since I find categorization comforting sometimes, as humans tend to.

    I feel like I’ve been in a therapy session! ^__^