I recently came across a publication by Cordaid, a Dutch development organisation, called “Looking for That Other Face: Women Muslim Leaders and Violent Extremism in Indonesia” (available here). This publication recounts the stories of six quadragenarian Muslim feminists from three islands of Indonesia (Aceh, Java and Lombok): Ibu Umi Hanisah (Meulaboh), Badriyah Fayumi (Kota Bekasi), Enung Nursaidah Ilyas (Tasik Malaya), Inayah Rohmaniyah (Jogjakarta), Nyi Ruqqoyah (Bondowoso), and Aini Masruri (Lombok).
Their life histories, focusing on how they oppose patriarchal dominance and other oppressions, and fight for social change and justice within their own communities, are told in individual chapters. For example, the first chapter is dedicated to the story of Ibu Umi Hanisah, 44, the head of a pesantren (Islamic boarding school) for girls. She recounts how her pesantren grew to be the go-to centre during the Acehnese struggle for self-determination and later on, the tsunami disaster in December 2004.
The authority she earned during these two events gives her credibility as a female community leader, which she uses to mediate cases of rape, domestic violence, and other social and interpersonal conflicts — always following up on criminal cases. One of the ways she guards against future abuse is by ensuring that for example in the case of domestic violence, the man will sign a written contract to not abuse his wife, in the presence of representatives from their families, police, village, government, and social organisations.
These six chapters are amazing examples of how to portray Muslim feminists: let them say what they want to say. Apart from a few introductory paragraphs that summarise the life history of the featured woman, most of the chapter’s text is in the form of quotes, which allow us to hear their story first hand (albeit translated from Bahasa Indonesia into English).