Islamic feminism: taking back instruments of Sharia law, after centuries of male domination?

from “Muslim Grrrls”
by Rafia Zakaria

Photo Shadi Ghadirian

“Four or five years ago, the term Sharia, which for Muslims denotes Islamic law, meant scant little to Americans. As I write this in the fall of 2010, America’s perceptions of Islam and Muslims have changed markedly.

A few months from now, when Oklahoma voters march to the polls, they will face “question 755” on their ballots. Born out of the “Save Our State” constitutional amendment passed by the Oklahoma legislature earlier this year, question 755 will implore voters to forbid courts from using international law or Sharia law in their decisions.

In state legislatures in Tennessee and Louisiana, similar bills await consideration. And in New York, Tennessee, Florida, and California, Americans are fiercely protesting the construction of mosques.

These local cataclysms have been fueled by a steady stream of Taliban executions and floggings, all carried out under the supposed imprimatur of Sharia.

It is in this landscape, constructed of faraway images of women whose burqas flap about in the dust, as well as of avenging state senators in the American heartland, that I am often asked about the possibility of Islamic feminism.”

Zainab’s Story

“I picked up Zainab from the motel where she had been abandoned by her husband, Said. Married only a year earlier in Amman, Jordan, she could not drive and spoke little English.

Things had unraveled fast after her arrival in the United States. During a hurried “honeymoon” in Chicago, Said appeared preoccupied, a marked and drastic change from the attentive groom of a bare week earlier. Several times during the night, he had stolen outside to talk on his cell phone in rapid English, which Zainab did not understand. It was after one of these conversations, when Zainab insisted on knowing who he was speaking to, that Said struck her across the face for the first time.

It was not long after arriving at their suburban condominium that she discovered that Said had an American mistress. He made no effort to hide either his phone calls, his visits to her or the fact that he had no intention of leaving her.

Why had he married her and told her he loved her when he was in love with someone else? She had many questions for him that night, but in exchange she received only blows. Later that night, he raped her. This became a pattern.

Sitting in the brand-new Nissan Altima that Said had bought with the wedding money they had received in Jordan, he looked at Zainab calmly and in Arabic pronounced the words “I divorce you” three times.

Then he had gotten out of the car and unloaded her things on the sidewalk. Before driving off, he had handed her a stack of legal papers.”

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