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Importance Of The Issue Of Women And The Family To Islamic Fundamentalists

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Islam as a religion finds it basis on long standing traditions dating back to the 7th century. Therefore a lot of their traditions started in a completely different society, leaving our society now wondering what the point of all their traditions are, as well as wondering if change will ever come to Islam’s culture. In order to truly understand the importance of women and family in specifically the Islamic fundamentalist tradition, we have to look at a majority of factors. I will have to begin with the background knowledge around fundamentalism, like where it started and where it is now. Next we will have to discuss the traditions that come with Islam, and more specifically the fundamentalists, their morals and values and how the society affects and is affected by it. Then we have to highlight the difference between Islamic modernists and Islamic fundamentalists, their differences and similarities between the two. Next I we have to discuss the family roles, in society, in Islam, and within the fundamentalism tradition. Finally I will specifically look at details around women’s roles, their dress and way of worship in comparison to men, and in comparison to that of society. All these things are necessary when addressing the importance of family and women in a fundamentalist Islamic tradition. Women and family are often viewed as oppressed by our outside culture, but the truth of the matter is that these traditions keep Islam alive, and the fundamentalists are holding on to the words of Muhammad himself. After looking at these things, my paper concludes that above all research, fundamentalists believe that women and the family should be always in the home and therefore are considered to be oppressed through our Western lens.

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Fundamentalist History

Islam as a religion has lots of varying ideologies within their faith. Fundamentalism started within the Islamic tradition in the late 19th century and has been gaining momentum ever since. They believe that the Quran as the book of the word of God himself, and that it should be the basis for all rules within the religion and the state, and must be followed all the time. Dr. Usama Hasan who is a part-time imam, and a senior researcher at the Quilliam Foundation says “By fundamentalism, I mean the reading of scripture out of context with no reference to history or a holistic view of the world”. The problem with the early Islamic writings is that they approved of slavery, discrimination amongst non-Muslims and women, and abuse, and most importantly they were interpreted by men. These problems proving to be an issue in the current Islamic culture, and supply Fundamentalism with ample reasons to bring oppression to women. Fundamentalists’ ultimate goal is for Islam to return to the Golden Age of Islam and in order to do so they believe that they have to go back to the basics, the fundamentals, hence the name and the oppression of women.

The desire to return to the original Islamic state, which is why veiling is so heavily enforced in this tradition, as well as other traditions that will be discussed later. They believe the way to achieve an original Islamic state is through Jihad, translated as a holy war, which is supposed to serve as a protection of the state, but they also use it to justify the expansion of the state as well. As fundamentalists, they also believe that those who aren’t with them, like outside religions or even within their own religion, are against them, and so that justifies their violent tendency towards outsiders to protect their religion and their right to an Islamic state. This violence leads to media coverage, which leads to the Western view of Muslims being so negative. The only thing that’s been in the public eyes that relates to Muslims are fundamentalists and Islamists, which are both things that are considered to be minorities in the Muslim tradition. Although fundamentalism is a minority group, and most Muslims do not approve of the fundamentalists, they gain majority of the western media’s attention because of our Western desire of sensationalism within the news industry. In other words, people in the Western culture like bad news better because they want to know that they are above others.

With an Islamic perspective coming from Asaf Hussain, author of many Islamic based books, he states that, “The dominating civilisation of the present day is Western and its models control the Third World, including the Muslim world”. And the Western negative connotations that come with Islam lead the Western perspective to want to change or ‘help’ their problems because they believe they are above Muslims and nothing could be fixed unless the Western people step in to fix it, for the most part that being the United States. Not only that, the U. S. believes that fundamentalists are rooted in the oppression of women and so they are stuck in the past, and the only way to have a good stable government is through modernizing and giving Muslim women the rights that they want, though they don’t even know what Muslim women want.

Values of Fundamentalism compared to Western values

The values set before Islamic fundamentalists compared to that of Western culture’s Christianity is actually quite interesting, seeing as they come through especially well in the dress and prayer routines. Knowing that what someone wears helps to define who that person is to the world, their gender, their religion, and their sexuality can usually all be told by the things she might wear, but this can also cause a fuss amongst people with strong opposing views. In fundamentalism, it is important to see that the veil is worn, covering head to toe with the exception of her face and hands, because it stands for their identity, their rebellion, and it helps to focus on the inward self to grow closer to God, and brings less of a focus on the outward materialistic views or ideas that can take you away from God. Another reason why a veil is worn is because of pre-Islamic Byzantine customs that portrayed women who had scarves to be upper class people, giving them power over those who didn’t have one. The oppression comes in play from looking at the modesty through the eyes of men, to prevent them from becoming distracted and to control men’s temptation, though this is supposed to be seen as a power of comfort for women. Then the power of identity comes in, another man-made suggestion for women, the idea of getting to know the woman for who she is, and not what she looks like, this also gives her respect without much effort, and because outward beauty is supposed to be saved for your significant other, she is given that power as well. The veil is also supposed to provide a spiritual protection for the spiritual provider, or the body also known as the wife. The husband on the other hand is seen to be the soul, and therefore the body and soul are always connected, always dependent on each other, if one does good, the other will do good. So if one, the wife, is protected, covered up and modest, focusing on her inner self and relationship with God rather than her outer self, then the man will be certain to follow and not be enticed by human temptations usually caused by the distraction of women.

Most Muslim women think that modesty and veiling liberates them from sexualization and objectification that comes from the modern society, though the truth of the matter is that it oppresses the woman. In Islamic fundamentalist prayer, we see a separation of genders, either when women are all behind the men or in an entirely different room. In another space entirely helps her to make lasting female friendships, gives her confidence, and if she is breastfeeding or needs to be there for her children she can do so without being disruptive, to the men. They also aren’t required to go to a mosque five times a day, they get to pray in their homes, in fact it’s better if they do, because traveling can be unsafe, but if she were to go with her husband, as he is supposed to go to a mosque five times a day to pray as well, wouldn’t she have the physical protection she needed to be safe enough to travel. All these things aiming to give women comfort and safety because they are viewed as providing spiritual nourishment for the family, which is why all women are to be housewives, and not needed to provide financially for the family. Their spiritual nourishment is so important to the family that she ought to focus on that, because this important contribution gives her a so called power in the family and therefore in need of physical protection from her husband. The comfort coming from not having to worry about men watching you as you bow and go through all the prayer’s action, as well as not being tempting or distracting for the men. Safety comes from the idea that early and late prayer happen at a time of day that would be unsafe traveling alone and could cause harm to the ‘most important’ part of the family providing the spiritual nourishment.

All of these traditions come the Quran, interpreted by men, having roots in giving women rights, these rights providing comfort and protection, or as I take it, comfort for men, which I would take as a slap in the face as a woman. Never once considering them to actually be rights, and not one bit empowering. You can see how this how this is controversial within the Western culture. Christianity too practices modesty, but there isn’t any rule on what you can or cannot wear, except for when you are performing a holy sacrament. Christianity also would love for people to pray five times a day, but in all reality it’s up to you to decide how strong you want your relationship with God to be, and you need not to go to a church to pray because prayer can happen anywhere at any time. The Western culture see the Muslim ways of dressing and prayer as subordination for women and girls, and a symbol of oppression that shows that they would follow without question. The veil especially stands for the political idea behind fundamentalism, it shows your faith publically giving you little privacy, some Muslims use it to distinguish between being good or bad, a believer or a nonbeliever, giving them a sense of belonging and identity that they feel is important. Though there isn’t much knowledge of anything about the veil of Islam in Christianity, it seems that there could also not be as much knowledge to Muslims about the meaning of their veil. This lack of knowledge in Christianity is rooted in the confusion of having a religious-political power over dress code.

Fundamentalist views on Women/Family Roles

Another thing that is important to Islamic fundamentalist is the idea of family. A divine creation with marriage at the center, family is the basis of a healthy and happy society. And if it is needed for society, then marriage is very strongly encouraged and almost required in the Islamic faith. Families are to not only expand the religion, but to bring happiness to everyone supporting the marriage of the man and his wife. In Muslim families we see a very extended structure, having three or so generations, always there to support one another when in need. Without it, the society itself would crumble because without family how would one be able to grow spiritually with the help of the wife, and how would one grow in wealth without the help of the husband. In Islam respect and authority come with age, it is a blessing from God to be able to take care of you parents when they are old because that means they got to experience all of your life with you and support you through all of it. Respect also comes from being the wife, you are again, the spiritual nourishment of the family and therefore have authority, but obviously not as much authority as your husband, because women are housewives, and have high roles in the family, but never higher than the man because that wouldn’t make him head of his family. He offers financial stability and physical protection that women simply can’t provide, so he has to be in charge, it just makes sense. Although the Quran says that women have the right to reject a marriage and call for a divorce, arranged marriages are normal, both families have to be on board, including the bride and groom, though the parents’ relationships are considered to be most important. Another thing that is quite normal is young marriages, but that is slowly going out of style just like in the Western culture, which can be seen as a lesser strict rule showing that the West has had an effect on Islamic culture. This also leads to the fact that intermarriage is common, because if you’re already well acquainted to your family, it’s easier to just marry a cousin because not only do you not have to get used to new people in the family, you can keep the wealth you have within the same smaller unit readily available to you. After marriage the wife moves into husband’s home, and starts to do housework and such with her new family, and begin her own. Marriage is supposed to be for comfort, warmth, beauty and for protection, especially for women, but all I can see is another way to oppress these women.

For the protection and comfort of women, she must refrain from forming opposite sex friendships, as it could lead to illicit relationships down the road. As well as no touching of the opposite sex other than blood related relative, because that could lead to more illicit relationships down the road. Women are given so many rights straight from the male interpreted Quran. No female infanticide, equal education chances, equal inheritance, choice of whether or not to marry a man and divorce a man, and the right to inherit the same amount of money or land as any male relatives she may have, and she can own her own land as well. She is also entitled to a job and not required to share her money with her husband, giving her even more power. All of these things given to women long before women of other religions had any rights, so by no means does that make Islam an oppressive religion. In all reality though, these women were viewed as property, they were controlled in so many more ways than they were given freedom, and all of this comes down to the fact that the Quran was only interpreted by men for the longest time, to this day even.

Modernism vs. Fundamentalism views on women

Islamic modernism started in the mid to late 19th century, just as fundamentalism started, the difference being how much cultural context was used in the religion and how much was avoided, all about finding a balance in between their culture from Islam, and integration into the state around them. Reject polygamy, women’s rights and involvement in social affairs, criticize men’s attitudes and behavior towards women, question women’s restrictions, pluralistic cultural context, looking at many religions colonization. Seclusion isn’t needed. Veil is tradition, not law. “A true marriage. . . must be based on both physical attraction and a harmony of spirit”. Western influence used to prevent full taking over of their culture by adapting to certain bits of it. “Muslims could overcome European dominance only by embracing science and modern learning in conjunction with modernized religious education and a gradual reformation of society. ”

Cover bodies, no social affairs, inferior to men, accept polygamy. Monolithic cultural context, following the state’s required culture. Veil to protect indigenous culture, not for the religion.

Both Rooted in Islamic belief, obviously not based on one single belief or ideology-not monolithic from the start Sunni Shia. Different ideologies compete for the most followers like in a consumer market. One ideology is less complex and easily followed. Religious ideologies are formed by context of the time and arguments between different makers of the religion.

15 Jun 2020

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