Saturday, April 26, 2008

Much Ado about Women...

I always cringe when there is an event on about women; discussing women issues by women for women. Yet yesterday I gave such an event the benefit of the doubt, thought perhaps I could learn something from it and cure the sceptic in me, a little. The event was the Radical Middle Way Question Time for Women, titled Spiced Spare Ribs. Admittedly it took me a while to figure out what the title meant, forgive me, I'm slow...



The event started off with the criticism of the poster and the title of the event. Where I thought the title was a bit tongue and cheek (post realisation of what it meant), Humera Khan begged to differ, her stance was that we needn't go back to reducing women to be just the spare rib of Adam as that was retrogressive. Second issue was the image, it was of a Muslim girl in a jilbab epitomising what a Muslim woman should looked like. This bothered me also, symbolism is a very powerful medium, you go around claiming Muslim women are women who dress a particular way and that immediately alienates an overwhelming number of Muslim women who do not dress the same. Katherine on the other hand, had no qualms with the image claiming that it would be hard to represent all women. But I think if there were images of women in hijabs and no hijabs that would have sufficed as that was clearly the main focus and difference here - those who wear it and those who do not.

I liked how Fathima and others highlighted points on advice; that we needn't always go to an imam for verification, this is something we can do ourself - use our intellect and own understanding to justify things which was quite refreshing to hear. The rest of the debate was concentrated around women's access to the mosque (largely due to Katherine) and guy/girl stuff - Can a man and woman have a platonic relationship? The overwhelming panel agreed they could but if the relationship is within the bounds of Islam. Seriously, some of these questions could people not answer for themselves?? But, I suppose the bounds of Islam needed clarification which was not given.

Aside from that, I did have favourites on the panel; I liked Fathima Zohra and Khola Hasan. Fathima being East African threw in some interesting perspectives on issues such as the mosque and access to women. For those who visit the mosque regularly would actually see the women section is overwhelmingly East African (in some parts of London). East African women have a very strong tradition of going to the mosque unlike the South Asian womenfolk so some of the questions about access to women to mosques became more of an issue of how South Asians practice Islam and how East Africans practice Islam. Khola I liked because she was the most learned of them all and on the subject of theology and I am sure she would have given some very interesting replies but alas things did not progress that far.

Katherine on the other hand hijacked the stage to promote MPAC and the Mayoral elections in favour of Ken, which I thought was extremely cheeky! And every opportunity was used to talk about revolutionising the mosques to let women in (i.e. promoting one of the MPAC campaigns) . Whilst the aim is amiable, there is something about MPAC that is quite aggressive that ruins their objectives. Humera Khan, disagreed with Katherine on the matter of mosques and access of women. Humera was of the opinion, if you're unhappy create your own, mosques are not as central to the Muslim community as Katherine claimed. I agreed, sort of. I think it is too much to wait for the mosques to change and be more women-friendly, need a century at least! There is nothing stopping women to create a mosque of their own and become a leading exemplar of the community. Why isn't that happening??

The turn out of the event was surprising, it was pretty full and with quite a number of the male-kind in the audience too (woot!). Although it was disappointing not to see any men on the panel. I found the debate superficial and covering subjects that were in part self-answerable (sorry Fareena and Mr. Malik). There was no real debate or things did not get deep enough to become interesting. I'm thinking, there needs to be a ban on so-called "women issue", 'cos really it is not, it is a problem of the ummah....no, humanity. Says she very wisely....

3 comments:

Shak said...

Thank heavens I wasn't the only one who didn't get the title.

I liked them all but thought Humera Khan was especially notable. And although I agree that the whole thing was full of rhetoric the question of platonic relationships isn't that self-answerable.

Anonymous said...

RE: Platonic relationships.

"...so long as it's within the bounds of Islam" - sounds like a cop-out to me.

Maybe the question sought to answers as to what these bounds are.

asikha said...

That was bit of a cop out. I mean what was mentioned that when and man and woman is alone it always has a third company ie. the satan. but Khola seemed to be of the opinion in public places sure men and women can have a platonic relationship but boundaries needed to be defined.