I’ve started reading “Can We All Be Feminists?”, which is an anthology of essays by women with very different backgrounds. The first two essays are about the writers’ struggles with feminism and it kind of took me back to the past.
Growing up as a teen, I was a devout Muslima, a hijabi even. This was not always easy in Germany. And it probably still isn’t. Apart from racist remarks, people question your choices all the time. The main question though was, whether Islam sees women as equals. If you are challenged on this every day, you will start scrutinising yourself.
I’ve always been a bookworm, which gave me leverage when arguing with men in my family. My opinion on this was very clear. Yes, women are equal to men in Islam. Look at the many examples of strong women in the history of Islam. There was no reason to think anything else. Apart from some verses in the Qur’an which communicate something else. Apart from the position of a woman in a typical Muslim family. Apart from the pressure and supervision young Muslim women are subjected to by their families.
But – it was still hard to identify as a feminist in Germany. Alice Schwarzer is probably the first figure you think of, when you think of feminism over there. She’s a German journalist and publisher of the German feminist journal EMMA. There were a lot of articles about the hijab, and how it should disappear from public life in Germany, how it was nothing but a political symbol. This was in response to a young Muslim woman, Fereshta Ludin, who was trying to teach in Germany with the hijab. The hijab was seen as a symbol of oppression of Muslim women, it made them “second class humans” according to Schwarzer. And it was part of a politically motivated Islam. It seemed like a crusade against hijabis had started, and I don’t really think it has found an ending to this day.
I had to discover non-white feminism or intersectional feminism, before I could identify. Feminism needs to be more inclusive. And nowadays it certainly is. I’ve left Germany, so I’m not sure how much the situation has changed over there. But what I have experienced in the UK is very different. I’d like to conclude with a quote by Mona Eltahaway, “we need to complicate the story of Muslim women… because we’re always defined, as Muslim women, by what’s on our head and what’s in between our legs.”