Yaqeen Institute Feminism topic has given us information and ideas to understand better how to balance faith, human rights, and feminism. “Feminism, a woman-centered discourse that calls for social, economic, and political equality regardless of gender, has a long and rich history in the United States.” (Josephine Donovan, Feminist Theory: The Intellectual Traditions (New York: Continuum, 2000).
The main goal of Yaqeen Institute was to give American Muslims perspectives on feminism, human rights, and post-secularism that are intelligent, compassionate, and authentic to our faith.
Yaqeen Institute on Explaining Feminism Background
Feminism, born from the harsh realities of gender-based discrimination, has evolved into a powerful force marked by sophisticated theories and impactful activism. Over the past century and a half, it has shifted from the fringes of society to the very heart of sociopolitical norms. In liberal circles, identifying with feminist goals has become politically correct and socially expected. Contemporary liberal feminism emphasizes several vital principles, including the pursuit of social, economic, and political equality for all genders, recognition of more than two genders with fluid identities, condemnation of violence against women and sexually non-conforming individuals, and the assertion of complete sexual freedom based on consent, including same-sex relationships.
This feminist perspective aligns with the discourse of universal human rights, which asserts that all individuals deserve certain dignities and protections simply by being human. While rooted in Christian theology, post-Christian natural rights dissociated these rights from religious foundations. They paved the way for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, uniting the world in a commitment to universal human dignity regardless of religious or philosophical background.
In social theory, secularization and modernization theories once dominated Western thought, predicting that societies would become more rational and less religious over time. However, these predictions have not entirely materialized, as religion continues to thrive in many parts of the world despite modernization. The emergence of postsecularism as a theoretical framework acknowledges the persistence of religion and seeks to reconcile secular liberalism with religious commitments. It offers the promise of liberal values while respecting the importance of religious beliefs, providing a nuanced perspective in an increasingly complex and diverse global landscape.
Balancing Feminism Human Rights and Faith
Secularism has a significant impact on both religion and society. It challenges the political role of religion by promoting the idea that public spaces should be neutral. This concept extends to the modern state, where laws govern all social interactions. In the past, social relations were intertwined with religion, but today, the state legislates nearly everything, making all aspects of life political and subject to legal consent. This separation of law and morality prevents religion from influencing political decisions or the state’s control over law and force.
Furthermore, secularism often presents itself as neutral, but it has its own metaphysical underpinnings that can diminish the role of religion. The modern state is seen as the ultimate authority, which limits the potential influence of religion. There is a solid drive to democratize religion and knowledge in contemporary society. This shift challenges traditional authoritative processes of passing down knowledge and is critical of concepts like “gatekeepers,” “patriarchy,” and “orthodoxy.” However, there are some challenges with this emphasis on democracy. Democracy includes the modern state’s control over law and violence, a strict separation of law and morality, and a specific Western distinction between public and private spheres. Some advocates for postsecularism, feminism, and human rights support democracy because they believe it provides a neutral space for fair deliberation in the public sphere.
American Muslims can wisely and compassionately create some distance from the tendency to universally adopt feminist, human rights-centered, and so-called ‘post-secular norms by recognizing and acknowledging them as just one historical tradition among many. It’s essential to understand that liberal discourse is not inherently universal, neutral, rational, or immune to power dynamics or the influence of specific historical values. It aligns with secularism and actively promotes secularization, constantly striving to make secularism a universal standard.
Embracing Faith and Having a Thoughtful Approach to Feminism
Caution is warranted against over-reliance on secularism, as it tends to propagate its values. American Muslims are advised to step back from the secular narratives currently shaping our values and instead seek a coherent worldview rooted in the Qur’an and Sunnah relevant to our cultural context and the current era. There is no need to force our religious beliefs into the confines of identity politics. Instead, confidence in our commitment to Islam and a deep understanding of popular discourses will enable engagement in neighborly relations, the use of human rights language while recognizing humanity’s role as Allah’s servants, identification of common ground, the establishment of meaningful networks of support, and contribution to meaningful discussions for our nation and the global community.
Muslims must acknowledge the positive aspects of feminism, human rights, and post-secular thinking, such as justice and freedom, while critically evaluating the underlying secular assumptions about humanity, religion, and God. Staying true to our faith without fear of societal consequences can lead us to find the moral clarity necessary to collaborate with individuals of diverse beliefs and address shared challenges. This approach allows for engagement with feminists without compromising religious values or succumbing to secularism. Ultimately, Allah possesses the most profound knowledge.