February 26, 2014
Two words: Oppression and Feminism. The dictionary defines oppression as: “prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control” and feminism as: “The doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.” Both of these words have been so misused and misconstrued in the past decade that they have lost their actual meanings. It seems lately that anything which doesn’t fit the Western ideologies of “freedom” are automatically thrown under the category of “oppression” and/or not being “feminists”. I truly believe that it is quite dangerous to do that. Doing that results in indoctrination of the masses to believe that a certain type of people or a way of life is deemed as now “harmful,” or “oppressed” in the true form.
The feminist movement is such a beautiful thing to witness in North America, as we had First Wave, Second Wave, and are currently still in Third Wave feminism. Feminism really allows a woman to express herself as she pleases, with equal rights to her male counterparts without being penalized for it. In today’s society the term “feminism” is being used to criticize women who are not following a certain ideology; it seems as though if you are not a certain way you aren’t “feminist” enough. Just because you choose to dress a certain way or practice a certain religion doesn’t mean you are less feminist than someone who choose to dress or practice faith differently. This also leads people to think these types of women are oppressed, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I constantly read on different social media threads about how the Hijab, Islam, and being a Muslim woman in general is seen as being oppressed. I once read of a woman saying: “Muslim women are oppressed because they are not allowed to show their body, party, and consume alcohol,” she continued to say “[she] is a feminist.” I would argue with the above statement, in my eyes, her definition of a feminist is seen as oppressive.
The right to vote for women in Canada, other than Quebec, came in 1917. Quebec finally adopted this in 1940. However, Islam has been at the forefronts when it comes to granting equal rights to women. Muslim women received the right to vote during the Prophet Muhammad’s time (PBUH). When we look at women’s rights in the Islamic context we are provided with a beautiful example; the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) first wife, Khadija, was a thriving business woman, and also 15 years older than the Prophet (PBUH). When you think about it, it is quite fascinating to know that suffrage is a new phenomenon for Canadian women; this was established in the First Wave. The Second wave Feminism, which was roughly from the 1960’s- to the early 1980’s was when women fought for the right to own their own property. While women in Second Wave feminism struggled to contain their own identity while being married, such as keeping their maiden name, Muslim women did not have to take their husbands last name. Islam has given an immense amount of rights and gratitude towards women from the beginning of time. A woman’s right in the West is a new phenomenon, as rights in the Muslim world for women have always been part of life.
Undoubtedly there are women being oppressed in countries all around the world, whether it’s in a Muslim country or otherwise but that isn’t a correct depiction of Islam or humanity. That is a minority of extreme individuals who feel they gain power by oppressing a people. There are extremists in every religion, culture and every school of thought so before condemning a woman for her beliefs and walk of life and using words such as “oppressed” or not a “feminist” re-educate yourself about what it truly means.