Responding to the Goatmilk Debates on Islam and Feminism: Part One

Recently, the “Goatmilk” blog hosted a debate, with the resolution: Islam is Incompatible with Feminism.  Speaking for the motion was Mohamad Tabbaa, and opposing it was Katrina Daly Thompson.

Not surprisingly, several MMW writers had something to say in response.  The reactions of Syma, Nicole, and Eren are shared here in two parts.

Syma: I took the liberty of mapping out Tabbaa’s argument as to why Islam and feminism are incompatible, and it certainly seems like a straw-man argument when you strip it down; it is based upon a fallacious understanding of the concepts being discussed:

Feminism = Post-modern thinking

Post-modern thinking = denial of accessible objective truth

Denial of accessible objective truth = Goal of killing God

Goal of killing God = Feminism

Tabbaa’s argument is problematic because it equates the death of God with the concept of feminism. It is rhetoric at its finest: present the reader with a flawed understanding of the initial concept, and continue to hyperbolize concepts and ideas to extreme endpoints, which leads to a “logical” conclusion that is completely off the map.  Here is an example of a similar set of arguments that many Muslims as a whole have been subjected to:

Terrorists = people who blow up buildings

People who blow up buildings = people who were responsible for 9/11

People who were responsible for 9/11 = Muslims

Muslims = Terrorists

It seems evident after comparing those two arguments that Tabbaa is doing something very similar to the sort of people who espouse the “truths” of Islam: he is reducing feminism to a single and somewhat extreme mindset.

Eren: Mohamad Tabbaa makes a good point in saying that nowadays people often try to reconcile Islam with all sorts of things. However, unlike Tabbaa, I do not think that Islamic or Muslim feminism is about “modernizing” Islam. One of the main arguments against Islamic feminism, as Tabbaa himself discusses, is that it is a Western construct that is attempting to enter Islam. This is an assumption that continues to perpetrate a value judgement about the West being “modern,” and Islam being unable to get there.

Although Tabbaa goes on to say that if feminism is valid, bin Laden’s interpretations are too, the problem with this is that again he makes a value judgement, implying that feminism, like bin Laden’s actions, is violent, extreme and irrational. One of the things he does not seem to understand is that Islamic or Muslim feminism is about conversations, exegetical discussions, challenges, activism and exegetical work. It is not about irrational and violent impositions or “modernization.” Conversely, Thompson’s argument falls somehow in the other side of the spectrum by not acknowledging that Islamic and Muslim feminism face similar challenges to “traditional” scholarship: Feminist exegeses rely, to some degree, in their “own correctness”  [A Contextual Approach to Women’s Rights in the Qur’an: Readings 4:34].

Nicole: Mr. Tabbaa lost me with his academia-speak; I stopped reading somewhere around Roland Barthes.  No seriously, if I got him right, feminism isn’t part of Islam because feminism is a construct in the response to the Patriarchy or something?  Or that reconciling God with western feminism is somehow taking away from tawheed? Whatever his intentions, let’s get to the heart of the matter: why is a man pulling the “real Islam” card when it comes to feminism? In other words, why is he reappropriating the religion to justify anti-feminism, while explaining his position as “putting feminism in its proper frame”?  Am I the only one to be offended by this pseudo-intellectual and ultimately male Muslim –yes, let’s call it Hislam – point of view?

As a female convert, I’m used to being called not Muslim enough, or being told that some of my views on gender equality are clouded by my bad white girl way of thinking.  But Mr. Tabbaa’s post brings Hislam to a new level when he says “So, where to from here? Well, Muslim feminists must now make the choice between the Islamic paradigm, which is centred around God, or the secularised modern theology, which is based almost exclusively around (white) men.”  In his logic, any notions of feminism are exclusively flawed by modernity, which is a pretty narrow reading of feminism.

I also think he clouds the issue of race and gender in the paragraph he says “And so, naturally, the white middle-class enlightened objective free western woman must now come to the rescue of the imperilled and unable female Muslim victim.” While in another context, this is a justifiable comment, I don’t see him talking about the point of view Muslim women either. Oh yeah, because he is a Muslim man, and that’s enough.

Check back tomorrow for part two of the conversation!  (Please note also that I am traveling this week and will not be able to moderate comments as quickly as usual; I apologise in advance for the delays.)

  • onigirifb

    Funny. I agree with the statement that Islam and feminism are incompatible but not for the reason the man said. I cannot see how people think that women are equal in Islam when inequalities between the sexes are institutionalized in the religion. Women are worth less then a man in testimony and inheritance according to Islam. Men are allowed 4 wives and are able to divorce a wife simply by uttering a phrase three times but women must beg a judge (who are men) for the right to divorce. Women are relegated to “women’s” roles and supposedly equal but look at any country that has a Muslim majority and you will the rampant human right violations against women. It is laughable that Muslims in Western countries try to convince non-Muslims that people are equal in Islam is a peaceful religion and people are equal when all you have to do is look at Muslims killing each other and the subjugation of women that happens when the rights of man and women aren’t protected by secular West laws.

    • tig

      I won’t address the other points as I haven’t done the legwork on them, but I have researched the divorce inequality allegations extensively.

      If Quranic law (without regards to culture, hadith, etc.) be consulted, the requirements are functionally the same for divorce be it for men or for women.
      Not to mention the fact that it was the first religion tied to modern civilization that allowed women to divorce in the first place (some of those rights have been rolled back in very recent history).

  • forsoothsayer

    surprised he had to go that far…the fact that polgyny, but not polyandry, is permissible in Islam kind of ends the argument for me.

  • http://www.muslimmouse.blogspot.com BintYounus

    Nicole, I definitely agree with you on your summary.
    Feminism has so many different facets and aspects that believing in God/ not believing in God has very little effect on it, I would say, unless we’re discussing something very faith-centric (such as hijab or Islamic-regulated gender interactions, etc.).

    But to say that Muslim women cannot be feminists – cannot be proud of their femininity, cannot stand up for women’s rights, cannot demand an end to gender-biased injustice – is a broad, generalizing statement that incorrectly defines both feminism and Islam.

    • http://www.nicolecunningham.ch Nicole

      Thank you! I agree with you- the scariest point of the discourse for me is how being a Muslim feminist is discounted from an “intellectual” point of view. Like because we don’t understand postmodernism we can have equal space in a mosque? Or something? :)

  • Muadh

    Seriousy, this was an embarrassingly bad response. THe first article built an entirely straw-man based argument while accusing him of the same. Mohammed said that feminism IS BUILT UPON postmodern thinking that reduces truth to subjectivism, he did not say postmodernism=feminism, and certainly not that feminism amongst Muslims has the goal of killing God.

    The third article was an emo trip. Honestly, any academic response that begins with he “lost me with his academia speak” is best to be left ignored.

  • Yassir

    I think it is Syma who does not quite understand the nuances in Tabbaa’s argument. The only straw man present is her mapping out of his argument, or perhaps her problem is more due to a hasty assumption by what Tabbaa meant by postmodernism. She only invited harsh critics, when she rattled off that Tabbaa was motived by rhetoric.

    I read his post differently. Tabbaa was suggesting that today, commonly, feminism suffers from borrowing a postmodern way of thinking. More exact, the average-pseduo-feminist borrows today’s distrust regarding objective truths. They commonly argue traditional patriarchal powers construct oppressive gender relations. The question then is how to combat this male power.

    Tabbaa was not saying feminism=postmodernism, then. He was saying we must combat oppressive relations by avoiding postmodern tendencies to make truths subjective.

    His point is that we readily, in this liberal age, reduce truth to subjective truths, (kill God) and hence identities such as feminine are SECONDARY qualities that come after the PRIMARY quality: The “individual-human-subject” who constructs their own truths.

    In this view, all identities, race, gender, sexuality, religion, are contingent qualities that come AFTER the fixed quality: “individual-human-subject”.

    The problem is when we follow this thinking then the label “human” itself is also a product of language, and is no more neutral than Jew, Christian or Muslim. Here, is where Tabbaa, as a religious writer, offers a way out, he is suggesting, that feminists find a way out of this cyclical subjectivism, through Islam; for Muslims, the way out is a return to Islam as an objective and liberating truth.

    On a side note, Tabbaa also makes assumptions, one, is that we cannot expect Muslims to think like Kafirs and believe that Mohammad (p) made Islam up, or like reformists, that all the Muslim scholars since were Men who could not escape their patriarchy and bias. His assumption is that we as Muslims believe Islam is divine, liberating, and just, hence, the next step: how to benefit from the divine …

    Hence, for Tabbaa, we have an alternative ontology to the postmodern ontology, in Islam, one that challenges the postmodern “individual subject”, with an alternative view, which is, the “MUSLIM” who submits to Divine Truth.

    Here, the Muslim is genderless, timeless, and a universal subject, its sole quality is that the Muslim submits to God’s objective truth, law, and universe. The Muslim tries to overcome their own subjective biases, and listen to an indepdent truth. That is why Tabbaa is suggesting feminists need Islam.

    Hence, why he continues, we will run into problems by adding the “feminist” to Muslim. We will open Islam to multiple interpretations, because now we are gendering the genderless. We might as well give the Muslim a skin colour, an eye color, or a location, because we are particularising the Muslim, when the aim is to universalise truth.

    That was the point (as I understood it).

    p.s. The parrots mouthing off about shariah’s oppressive nature in the comments section really should understand the debate, before typically parroting what other parrots have already parroted before. The debate is not even about the rubbish you’re dribbling. I do not get it, any opportunity to say the two sentences you’ve “learnt” … I mean “heard”.

    I admit I do not appreciate the fake congratulatory feeling that surges through your limbless xenophobic bodies when you repeat what haters repeated before you were born. Try adding … or subtracting, or dividing, or multiplying, (hell, try reading) instead of just copying.

  • Sobia

    @Yassir:

    “Hence, why he continues, we will run into problems by adding the “feminist” to Muslim. We will open Islam to multiple interpretations, because now we are gendering the genderless.”

    Um…there are already, and have always been, multiple interpretations of Islam. That is something that is vital to Islam, something progressive and necessary. The author’s argument that THAT is somehow wrong, is hugely problematic.

    And to be honest, men should REALLY refrain from telling women what they should and shouldn’t be. For a man to critique feminism is very patronizing and just comes across as a bitter man angry that he is losing his power and that women are starting to challenge his oppression of women.

  • http://www.nicolecunningham.ch Nicole

    I was reading Foucault’s 1981 essay on “Muslimah Media Watch and the Postmodern Islamic Paradigm (sorry it is only in French, I’m so smart) the other day and he was all, “It’s too easy read the comments from the men on this article…and those from the women, draw your conclusions from there!”

    Muadh, when you say “best to be left ignored”, you’re missing two key points of usage in of written discourse:

    1. sarcasm
    2. the point behind my sarcasm, which is that using 50 cent words were used mislead, confuse or mask the fact that we are dealing with reasoning built on straw.

    I think it is also too easy on your end to “dismiss” based on my apparent lack of erudition when the reality is we are providing valid arguments from a female point of view on what parts of dude’s article are best left “dismissed.”

    Yassir, I’m liking how you back stuff up and don’t just say “best left ignored” like your brother over there, but your reasoning is that of a laboratory experiment, it’s too clean and doesn’t hold weight in reality. I would love a Disneyworld Islam where everyone, including men, were accountable and tried to overcome their subjective selves, but we don’t live in a vacuum and I’m not sure if you are saying gender inequality doesn’t exist or if it only exists because of our flawed gender reasoning. Despite this, I was cool with your point of view until you had to end off what was a reasonably debatable and mildly justifiable point of view by again copping out and calling us stupid, like your brother over there, but with the added twist of “xenophobic.”

  • Rochelle

    As somebody who is getting a PhD studying feminism and postmodernism, I found the line “feminism, in all its variations, depends very heavily on postmodern theories of knowledge” to induce down-right, unstoppable laughter. I can’t even begin to explain all the levels in which this line is so very, very, very, very wrong. It must suffice for now to point out that the feminists Tabbaa cited were in fact *critiquing* earlier feminist scholars for their fundamentally *modern*, or positivist epistemology. It’s like saying all subatomic particles are protons.

    From an intellectual perspective, Tabbaa’s article (and Yasir’s comment) are so laden with logical flaws, historical inaccuracies, and downright misreadings of feminism and Western philosophy that I found it more amusing than problematic. There is no doubt in my mind that Tabbaa (and Yasir?) read a few wiki articles on Judith Butler and Derrida and proclaimed themselves to be experts on feminist epistemology and postmodern ontology.

    It is also extremely ironic that Tabbaa’s argument (at least the part of his argument that is at all coherent) is in fact supported by the ‘postmodern feminists’ that he is dismissing! Butler, Joan Scott, Spivak, Wendy Brown – those are voices in the American academy that are arguing the view that feminism is not compatible with Islam because feminism has too much Western Enlightenment baggage and Islam has a fundamentally different ontology of the subject that defies the ‘modernity’ construct. Tabbaa, if you actually read these authors, you would see that they agree with you!!!

    As for Yasir, who would revel is calling us us xenophobic broken records or some other mixed metaphor, I suggest that you get your own head straight before you call us intellectually lazy. I almost want to distribute your comment out to my undergraduate students to show them what intellectually lazy critique really is.

  • Muadh

    Nicole I’m pretty sure Yassir was referring to someone else trolling the blog with antishariah comments which appear to have been deleted…not to you guys.

  • Yassir

    @ Sobia



    Sorry, I don’t get it. With due respect, you’re not making an argument, you are just asserting the opposite of Tabba’s view and then calling his view problematic. Again, I’m neither charmed or convinced by the word “progressive”. What I do know is that the word “progress” holds capital today as something liberating and mobilising for all those charmed by the enlightened’s rhetoric about plurality. All you’re doing is spending from that capital. When you’re dealing with people like Tabaa who believe in essential truths, unfortunately, that capital runs no currency: You cannot say “there are multiple versions of islam” to someone who’s argument is that a divine revelation grounds a singular and absolute meaning about human existence.

    I mean you can say, thats the point, if you make an argument, which I will enjoy reading. But, you can’t just say it as THE argument.

    As for you saying men should not tell women what they should do. Seriously? Come on, stop playing “I escaped from the kitchen” You’re asserting borders and then claim to heroically bring those borders down. You’re being sexiest. I’m not telling anyone what to do, I’m just elaborating on Tabba’s post. Somehow you turned that into an act of oppression, and brought up my gender. How do you know I’m not transgender, postgender or multigender or pluralgender or progressivegender? How do you know I’m masculine? Don’t you know there are multiple interpretations of gender, lol?

    @ Nicole/Rochelle
    I wasn’t calling you stupid or Xenophobic. Settle down. I premised my anger at those yapping on through a series of cliches about the shariah being oppressive and Islam being innately misogynist. That wasn’t your post was it? Was it?

    @ Rochelle

    

“From an intellectual perspective, Tabbaa’s article (and Yasir’s comment) are so laden with logical flaws, historical inaccuracies, and downright misreadings of feminism and Western philosophy that I found it more amusing than problematic. There is no doubt in my mind that Tabbaa (and Yasir?) read a few wiki articles on Judith Butler and Derrida and proclaimed themselves to be experts on feminist epistemology and postmodern ontology.”

    

Rochelle even in Kindergarten they tell the little kiddies the difference between “showing” and “telling”. Saying “intellectually lazy” or “logical flaw” or “historical inaccuracy” is different to showing where and how; I’d much appreciate it. Really, “show” us your PhD qualities, rather than “tell” us about it. 


    But then again, how can you? I didn’t make an argument (lol), I elaborated on Tabba’s. So, I can’t respond to you, nor can you to me, because apart from you inflating your own substitute phallic to try and overcome the obvious envy ;), ms-I’m-gonna-tell-my-undergrads, you haven’t made a point other than the curious “spivak and brown” agree with Tabaa after the rant that Tabaa hasn’t read anything on postmodernism or feminism. Weird. Why make that assumption, did he miraculously get postmodernism right? Just a fluke yeah? 



    He mustn’t have a phd, therefore he doesn’t know.

    Btw, please stop rattling out names. You must be a candidate if you take that institutional-self-love to be synonymous with knowledge.

    I look forward to an outline of the historical errors in the account of postmodernism or feminism

    Salams

  • Rochelle

    Dear Yasir,

    I admit its hard to show you where you’re wrong because your entire post was incoherent. How do you demonstrate to a 3 year old where he went wrong? Quite challenging indeed.

    When you say things like “postmodern ‘individual subject’”, you expose your lack of basic literacy about postmodernism. Postmodernism is a very heterogenous body of thought but one of its more shared foci was on subjectification, the process by which discourse and micropower shapes, defines, and constructs subjects that may or may not be described as ‘individual’. In fact, one of the most influential insights of postmodern thinkers was that the enlightenment and modern liberal discourse assumes a universal ‘individual subject’ but, in fact, this subject is a construction of that discourse itself, and thus a construction of history and space.

    So when you say ‘postmodern individual subject’, you are speaking in oxy morons. You seem to think the opposite of ‘individual’ is ‘universal’ but this is not the way these words have been used in either Modern thought or Postmodern thought. Indeed, many of our hegemonic discourses today assume an ‘individual’ subject that is also ‘universal’. Do you mean ‘specific’? Or ‘contingent’?

    You also confuse ‘liberal’ with ‘postmodern’ in a way that is dumbfounding. You say ‘in this liberal age…’ in the context of talking about postmodernism. Because liberalism has in fact been the object of postmodern critique, this move is totally incoherent. To confuse the two makes me at a loss at what you’re trying to say. No Liberal thinker – Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Rawls, etc – thought humanness is a product of language. The enlightenment certainly did not rest on a subjectivist ontology (I think you mean ‘epistemology’ actually) and it certainly did not assume race and gender were ‘secondary’ qualities. I don’t even know what you mean by ‘secondary’. This entire train of thought makes absolutely no sense!

    Another thing that bugged the hell out of me was that you switched between discussing postmodernism’s interpretation of Truth and its interpretation of Identity. They’re not the same thing. One has to do with the subject and the other has to do with the object. Identity can be socially constructed and still be very, very real. (Money is also socially constructed btw). As for your characterization of postmodernism’s ontology of Truth – that its completely subjective, reducible to language, unfixed, contingent, blah blah blah – I think you’re confusing postmodernism with anti-foundationalism and/or anti-humanism. Postmodernism is understood vis-a-vis modernism just like poststructuralism is understood vis-a-vis structuralism. As you don’t seem to understand modernism very well (see above on your misreading of Liberalism), I highly doubt you understand postmodernism.

    As for feminism, your claim that the ‘average’ feminist thinker assumes subjective truths is completely unfounded. Do you have evidence? Certainly second wave feminism ascribed to an objective theory of justice wherein equality was valued regardless of context. Some feminists think gender is socially constructed and some don’t. The ones that do see gender as socially constructed differ on its ontology – its level of realness, malleability, and salience on epistemology or the study of the object. There are many – I would almost venture to say most – feminists who do not call themselves postmodern or subscribe to the postmodern research program. What else can I say? It’s simply wrong.

    I dropped those ‘names’ because those were the names that Tabbaa cited in his original article. And I found it ironic because some of those thinkers share Tabbaa’s (and your) and critique on ‘savior’ or ‘human rights’ discourse whereby the Western woman feels entitled to protect the brown woman from the brown man. And yet Tabbaa’s polemic is against postmodern feminists. He didn’t get postmodern ‘right’; he got it very very wrong. His enemies are in fact his friends. The ones he should be quibbling with are not postmoderns. They’re the MODERNS – the liberals, enlightenment thinkers, humanists and positivists who think that they are RIGHT and Islam is unjust.

    By the way – Islam is genderless? That must be quite easy for you say as a man, eh? Everything is neutral to you I guess. Try explaining to me why polygyny is legal, or why my inheritance is lower, or why I cannot unilaterally obtain a divorce without mention to gender.

    On a more personal level, I find it incredibly insulting and unfair that you place responsibility on me to educate you. I have shit to do, man. This is like me shouting from the rooftops that the sun revolves around the earth and placing responsibility on all the physicists to prove me wrong.

    Its not my job to convince you that you’re a condescending jerk. just to point it out.

  • Yassir

    Thanks Rochelle for your detailed response. We have something to work with. I’ll ignore your insults and remarks about me being a jerk, a 3 year old, and what not, since its irrelevant, and a just a notch above, in the scale of oh-so-obvious-insecurity, you starting off by telling us all about your Phd Candidature; btw, congratulations on nearly completing your PhD, hope it leads to an articulation of a knowledge we can all share, as opposed to a declaration that you are knowledgable.

    You said:
    “When you say things like “postmodern ‘individual subject’”, you expose your lack of basic literacy about postmodernism. Postmodernism is a very heterogenous body of thought but one of its more shared foci was on subjectification, the process by which discourse and micropower shapes, defines, and constructs subjects that may or may not be described as ‘individual’. In fact, one of the most influential insights of postmodern thinkers was that the enlightenment and modern liberal discourse assumes a universal ‘individual subject’ but, in fact, this subject is a construction of that discourse itself, and thus a construction of history and space.”



    My Response:
    First of all, your haste to insist that Tabba and I are not qualified to read postmodernism might be overcome if you re-read my post in its sequence, you’ve completely misread it. Nowhere, I believe, did I suggest that post-modern = the individual subject = liberalism (and again, I was outlining Tabaa’s argument, its not my own). I reworded an argument about the liberal age’s appeal to the relativity of identities coming after the fixed concept of the liberal individual. Is that me saying, by definition, that this relationship is postmodernism and liberalism the same? No, it is not. In the light of feminism influenced by “postmodern thinking” I defined it, like Tabaa suggested, as a distrust for patriarchal language and oppressive gender relations they produce. There is no “oxy moron”.

    

Now, about my alleged confusion between liberalism and postmodernism. Even though it wasn’t my argument, I’ll entertain it, because I think you undermine their relationship; besides, it makes for a somewhat good discussion were I can introduce my own position

    
I could easily make an argument that liberalism was doomed to take the postmodern path and collapse into its solipsistic self-indulgence with its appeal to the pre-social and abstract individual; let me ask you, does liberalism not unhinge man from tradition, in an Nietzschean vein, does it not ask us to secularise redeeming myths within tradition, and make a separation between public and private selves? Unlike you, I do not have a loyalty to repeat a fidelity to the likes of Locke and Rousseau, I can depart from their readings. I don’t have to take them on their word, or give a damn about what they thought they were doing with humanism. I think otherwise, that tacit in their description of the social contract individual, that exists in law as something prior to the social whole, or prior to tradition, or is alone in its capacity to have a conscious that reasons, or creates schemes, or be subject to general wills, or turn simple ideas into complex one, is the ontological fountain from which a major theme of postmodern thinking springs

    … its you who are somewhat lacking in reading if you can not draw both a historical, and epistemological, link between liberalism and postmodernity as Tabba describes


    Moving on, your later paragraph is far more interesting:

    “Another thing that bugged the hell out of me was that you switched between discussing postmodernism’s interpretation of Truth and its interpretation of Identity. They’re not the same thing. One has to do with the subject and the other has to do with the object. Identity can be socially constructed and still be very, very real. (Money is also socially constructed btw)”

    I like that! However, I’ve always assumed “identities”, or more accurately “subjectivity”, is directly related to the way we understand truth; maybe it is my Muslim bias, I can’t distinguish between the way I understand myself as different from the way I understand the world, since I collapse both subject and object into tawheed, while you seemingly, following the modern/postmodern vein, is still fiddling around with their correct relationship between the pair; still talking about them in dialectic terms. But to be honest, I’m somewhat confused by what you are saying.

    Seriously, what do you mean here: identities are “objects”? I’m really curious, I think I know what you mean, but I don’t. You threw me off with your example of Money?

    Is an object an object because its “very very real”? What does real mean here? Does real equal materialisation? I can’t escape Marx: Money is just a direct representation of wealth, which in turn, by your definition, unless grounded in commodities, is subjective. However, for Marx, It is in reality just an embodiment, a condensation, a materialisation of a network of social relations. That is, its subjective to objective relations.

    But, seriously, please do tell me, what is an objective identity? Do you mean intersubjective?
    


    You Said:

    “His enemies are in fact his friends. The ones he should be quibbling with are not postmoderns. They’re the MODERNS – the liberals, enlightenment thinkers, humanists and positivists who think that they are RIGHT and Islam is unjust.”

    My Response:
    Seriously, Rochelle, again, you’re acting like, we are somehow supposed to take thinkers on their word. Can I ask you if you are aware of Hegel’s concept of “rubble”, you get the notion of excesses, and antithesis, right? You familiar with any psychoanalytical theories, the cunning of unreason, the libidinal drives, the death drive, and so on?

    Let me put my position in a somewhat lame self-glorifying way; I as a Muslim do not make a distinction between the modern and the postmodern in the same way you do! Because, I believe both projects as an excesses of imbalance between either subject or object that are grounded in an expressive “id” (nafs). I don’t have to read intellectual history like western academic books tell me too. Tabaa, and I are critiquing the whole cartesian conversation, not following it.
    


    You also wrote:
    “By the way – Islam is genderless? That must be quite easy for you say as a man, eh? Everything is neutral to you I guess. Try explaining to me why polygyny is legal, or why my inheritance is lower, or why I cannot unilaterally obtain a divorce without mention to gender.”

    I can explain all the above to you about the shariah, very easily, honestly; but lets not confuse two debates. That discussion is for another day, if you survive this one.

    Now, of course to you who is somewhat charmed by Western ontologies nothing is neutral! Especially, when you remove God from the equation; so what was I thinking saying that Tabaa believes Islam is genderless? Of course, the Quran is a male, God is a guy, and Tawheed is his mate. Istgerfullah!.

    Please, do not confuse community with Event and confuse them with law, and collapse all with the Divine. Islam does not mean Muslims, or a catalogue of their hidden desires; nor does it mean their social relations or worldly fiqh removed from divine shariah. Honestly, lose, the orientalist questioning, Islamic law is far more complex than “polygamy = Men’s desires” or prove otherwise. There is an alternative way of thinking to what you are used to, believe me.

    & please spare me the line about me being male, please; you, and I, both everyday witness a bunch of spoilt little third generation Muslim girls living in the West ranting on about their pseudo wars against males, in some fake feminism; because the only thing they share with women in Afghanistan are similar sounding names and exotic eye shapes they dress up $50 eye-liner. But, worst, they can’t stand the fact that the Western gazes sees them as oppressed. Am I attacking genuine efforts to liberate oppression, no, I’m just saying acknowledge the groupies as a problem

    In the world we live in people starve to death in the third world, right? children die from thirst, or unpaid workers work to death; real oppression occurs in material manner before it does in a symbolic manner. So, lets not pretend here, that between you and I, between two privileged westerners squabbling over a forum is somehow a battle of genders where my male bias is the problem. It is not, it is a battle of full stomachs, good internet connection, and time to waste.

    You concluded
    “On a more personal level, I find it incredibly insulting and unfair that you place responsibility on me to educate you. I have shit to do, man. This is like me shouting from the rooftops that the sun revolves around the earth and placing responsibility on all the physicists to prove me wrong.”

    lol

    
Dude, you’re not educating me; please lose the I’m-an-authority-tone, it makes you look conceited. You’re completing a PhD, I read postmodernism wikipedia, lol, so what? I’ve never met someone hide behind their qualifications so much. I swear its a touch sad, since I know what you know; professors can be dumb asses, and? Your teacher-tone is meaningless to me, I’ve been in “academia” long enough to know its full of self-promoting tossers … well done on fulfilling the stereotype that I’m trying to escape.

  • Lara A

    Salaam Alaikum,

    Folks, could we play the ball, not the player. With so much discussion of intellect, I’m sure this discussion can continue without resort to personal insults.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/mmw/ Krista

    Echoing what Lara said. Please stick to the issues at hand, instead of attacking each other.

  • Yassir

    Krista could you please delete all insults and attacks from my posts, or delete all and let the forum flourish without the unnecessary interruption.

    I’m a little too bias to self police, and I believe Rochelle wanted to bully Tabaa, with her recitation of the obvious academic induced dribble and some exaggerated love affair she has with her own titles. From the start Tabbaa, almost universally, on this discussion was accused of being ignorant, unaware of feminism, short sighted, circular, building a strawman, illogical, and reduced to a “Man” who doesn’t get it; and there was the predictable touch of Islamophobia: “how can Islam be anything but abusive to women, look at “divorce laws?” (With very little academic quality to these attacks)

    Walaykum Salam

    This comment has been edited according to MMW’s Comment Moderation Policy.

  • Rochelle

    Apologies to the editors and readers of MMW. While I vehemently disagree with Yassir on both his analysis and his outlook on feminism/Islam, resorting to personal attacks if not very Muslim or feminist of us. So I apologize if I contributed to it. (FYI: Looking up ‘tosser’ on urbandictionary.com = unpleasant experience).

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/mmw/ Krista

    @ Yassir: I apologise if my previous comment appeared as if it was only you I was criticising for attacking other commenters. That comment was definitely meant to apply to this whole conversation. (And for that matter, Lara’s comment was actually written before yours was published, so she was definitely not responding to your comment specifically.)

    As you noted, I should have done a better job of moderating this conversation. I take responsibility for that, and I apologise to all involved for letting it go out of hand as it did. Comments will remain open for now if people want to continue the conversation in a more appropriate way, but I will be editing them more closely, and deleting future comments as necessary.

  • Mohamad Tabbaa

    Thanks for the feedback (and especially the insults – they’re always welcome!)

    I’ve written a follow-up article responding to some of the comments/questions I’ve recieved in response to the original article; just waiting for the brother to put it up.

    While I don’t plan on getting into this debate here, especially as Yassir is already well-engaged in it, I was just curious at one particluar comment.

    @Rochelle. You mentioned,

    “It is also extremely ironic that Tabbaa’s argument (at least the part of his argument that is at all coherent) is in fact supported by the ‘postmodern feminists’ that he is dismissing! Butler, Joan Scott, Spivak, Wendy Brown – those are voices in the American academy that are arguing the view that feminism is not compatible with Islam because feminism has too much Western Enlightenment baggage and Islam has a fundamentally different ontology of the subject that defies the ‘modernity’ construct. Tabbaa, if you actually read these authors, you would see that they agree with you!!!”

    I know very well that they agree with me, but I don’t see how this does anything other than strengthen my argument. Instead, I would argue that such scholars are more honest with themselves (and the rest of us) as they do not pretend to be able to reconcile the irreconcilable (I also don’t recall exactly where I ‘dimissed’ them?).

    You see, rather than appealing to my qualifications, I prefer to rely on scholars themselves and their scholarly work. It’s strange, I know. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned..

  • Yassir

    Rochelle, I didn’t give a reading of Islam or feminism. lol So I’m happy for you to disagree. I did however draw a link between liberalism and postmodernism, which lays the foundation, I think for Tabba’s point about postmodernism and feminism, where you saw no relationship, or foundation, care to respond?

  • Rochelle

    I’m not sure what the problem is exactly with referring (once by the way) to my background in academia. Islamic scholars do it all. the. time. We’ve all heard the non-ulama get shut down simply on the grounds that s/he did not have the proper qualifications for ijtihad. (Although maybe its my shi’a bias coming out).

    If someone were to write about physics, would mentioned that one has an advanced degree in physics be totally irrelevant? Would the physicist be slammed and libeled as a ‘self-indulgent tosser’? I was not ‘hiding’ behind my qualifications. I mentioned it ONCE in order to ground the fact that I’ve spent many, many years thinking, reading, and research on these topics. I’m sorry, but that does mean something. You don’t have to have a degree to be knowledgable, but you do have to have actually read the authors of which you speak.

    I never mentioned my qualifications again after that one instance, and I went on to illuminate where Yassir and Tabbaa went wrong.

    Tabbaa – I do not appreciate your snide. You still have not dealt with the fundamental errors in your article, which is exemplified by the claim “feminism, in all its variations, depends very heavily on postmodern theories of knowledge”.

    That statement is the basis for your argument and is also completely, utterly, and unequivocally wrong. The lines between postmodernism and feminism have not been seamless. In fact they have been quite treacherous. Interpretivist theories such as stand-point are not necessary ‘postmodern’, nor are those that claim gender is socially constructed. Feminists that critique Enlightenment epistemology are also ambivalent when it comes to postmodernism.

    The second major flaw in your work is the characterization of postmodernism itself, especially that postmodernism negates the possibility for universal and knowable truths, or that postmodernism is fundamentally nihilistic. This is also a misreading, and does heavy damage to the postmodern corpus.

    I quote Butler: “Is the effort to colonize and domesticate these theories under the sign of the same, to group them synthetically and masterfully under a single rubric, a simple refusal to grant the specificity of these positions, an excuse not to read, and not to read closely?”

    Tell me: What exactly is the relationship between Deridda and Lacan that warrants their common labeling? Where does it say in Foucault that there are no objective Truths?

    And just so I don’t appear to be ‘hiding’ behind my credentials, allow me to offer some further reading that elucidates my claims in more detail:

    1. Judith Butler “Contingent foundations: Feminism and the question of “postmodernism”” (you can find it here: http://cleandraws.com/butler_contingentfoundations.pdf

    2. Catherine MacKinnon “Points against postmodernism” (http://www.cflr.org/points.pdf)

    3. Whelehan: Modern feminist thought: from the second wave to” post-feminism”(Book)

    Feminists who do NOT depend on postmodernism epistemology:

    1. Betty Friedan
    2. Gloria Steinam
    3. Catherine MacKinnon
    4. Andrea Dworkin
    5. Susan Okin
    6. (Almost) All Marxist feminists
    7. Alice Walker
    8. bell hooks
    9. Practically the entire first and second waves.
    10. Chandra Mohanty
    11. Fatima Mernissi
    12. Leila Ahmed
    13. Combahee River Collective
    14. Angela Davis
    15. Patricia Hill Collins
    16. And it goes on
    17. and on
    18. and on.

    • Yassir

      Rochelle: a PhD candidature is not the same as Muslim scholars, who when giving fatwas (religious rulings) have to legitimise their position within the tradition. Since, there exits Muslims listeners who may take instructions from that scholar about religious obligation; no one is taking instructions from you about how to gain Heavenly reward. I think.

      You wrote:

      “The second major flaw in your work is the characterization of postmodernism itself, especially that postmodernism negates the possibility for universal and knowable truths, or that postmodernism is fundamentally nihilistic. This is also a misreading, and does heavy damage to the postmodern corpus.”

      Response:

      Here, I can only assume, that you will argue postmodernism is an umbrella term that incorporates all forms of criticisms against the modern within humanities, ranging from postcolonialism, structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstruction, critical race theory, gender studies, etc — all are under the description of postmodern. Within these disciplines’ array of thinkers, there are many that ground a universal truth, either in the corporal, the phemenological, or the “crushing objectivehood” of race, or in the unconscious. But, since you did not give an example, I’m left with my assumptions.

      We can agree that postmodernism is an umbrella term, but we also know it has a dominant and common meaning, that resonates with the concept of undermining objectivity and positivism, and logo centric views; a postion that incorpartes, in its most basic, a distrust for “grand narratives” and universal truths, that transcend all forms of temporal identities.

      So, when someone says postmodern thinking, we as members of a language know quite clearly, I think, that they mean by it a distrust for a singular point of reference that is accessible to all readers, and that it makes problem a truth that is independent from subject’s cultural or linguistic localities.

      The Nihilistic part, you refer too, is in large a criticism, and a Niezscehan theme, in much the same way, that many see dada or absurdist arts and performances as criticism of teleological outcome and linear genealogies that posit human movement from point A to point B.

      Again, this is an attack on grand narratives. They don’t all have to be saying the same thing, but they are defined by what they are attacking. I really don’t know why you have a problem with someone saying feminism is influenced by postmodern thinking, and that it is attempting to decanter the white-heterosexual-middle class-male’s “natural” view of the world, as nothing more than his constructed truths? Why is it problematic?

      Here is, unless otherwise stated, I think the basic contradiction in your argument.

      1) Postmodernism equals a range of disciplines that attack the modern assumption.
      2) Bell Hooks is not a postmodernist

      Really, how? You can’t have it both ways.

      ************

      Answers to your questions:

      1. What exactly is the relationship between Deridda and Lacan that warrants their common labeling?

      In Lacan’s Real-Symbolic-Imaginary, he defines the symbolic by the relationship between ABSENCE-PRESENCE. The symbolic dimension of language is that of the signifier, in which elements have no positive existence, but are constituted by virtue of their “mutual differences”. This dimension is also the determinant of subjectivity; Lacan characerises the symbolic by the absence of any fixed relations between signifier and signified. It leads to his Mirror Stage.

      For Derrida, there was a deferral, a continual and indefinite postponement as the Signified can never be achieved. He marks the formation of the linguistic sign by its movement, and argues it is not static.

      It is why for many they see both Derrida and Lacan as “postmodern” , both see the absence of any fixed relations between signifier and signified, and both, are attacking the modern assumption that there exists a unmediated line between observer and observed. They subject Truth to either institutional, linguistics, or psychological fields that mould such relations between signifier and signified. Also, subjectivity is formed, and identities are made, in relation to a dialectic between self-other, absence-presence.

      2. Where does it say in Foucault that there are no objective Truths?

      In short, for Foucault, an episteme is the product of certain organising principles which relate things to one another, by classifying things, and by allocating them meanings and values, and which, as a result, determines how we make sense of things, what we can know, and what we say. They are the grounds on which we base everything.

      Foucault’s notions of epistemes, and the way the order things (hint) constitute a new way of looking at what modernist referred to as ‘the history of ideas’. Knowledge and truth are not essential and ahistorical, but are produced by epistemes and, at the same time, hold that episteme together. What this means is Power ties knowledge to truth. Truth is subject to power, not an falsifyable objective and empirical signified object.

      Your questions are quite strange, unless, they are a trick of sorts. I don’t think a PhD would dare say Foucault, Derrida and Lacan don’t fall under the category of “postmodern”, would they?

      I would also appreciate a response to my questions, that might help you out with Tabaa’s article?

      Is there a relationship between liberalism and postmodernism?
      What is an “objective” identity?


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