- By Charlotte Rachael Proudman
- Notebook – A selection of Independent views –, Opinion
- Wednesday, 18 January 2012 at 11:59 am
An increasing number of Muslim women activists are receiving death threats, fatwas and even hate-mail from extremist male and female Muslims. Their crime: Rescuing fellow Muslim women from violent and life threatening situations.
With heightened media sensitivity surrounding forced marriage, honour based violence and domestic violence we are all too aware of the suffering experienced by vulnerable and marginalised Muslim women. But we know little about the Muslim women activists who risk their lives to fight for the rights of oppressed Muslim women. These women are the New Muslim Suffragettes (NMS) of The United Kingdom.
As wives and mothers themselves, they stand alone in their communities and apart from other prominent Muslim organisations, in offering sanctuary and support for vulnerable and marginalised women. The NMS provide refuge, advocacy and access to the British legal and welfare system for women whose daily lives consist of beatings, imprisonment, torture and even marital rape, as well as the mental health ramifications that unfold over time.
In fact there has been an exponential growth in Muslim women activists in the form of charitable women rights organisations. These organisations have emerged post 9/11 as a response to misogynist and extremist views which are contaminating the Muslim community. Like the suffragette movement in the late 19th and early 20th century, Muslim women activists are collectively gaining momentum in fighting for women’s rights in oppressive and patriarchal contexts. But facing fierce patriarchal resistance – akin to that experienced by the early Suffragettes – sympathy for the NMS does not always convert to action.
In seeking justice for Muslim women whose human rights have been eroded through hyper-conservative interpretations of Islam, the NMS turn to British Law. But in affording marginalised Muslim women their rights the NMS are perceived by extremist Muslims as “feminists”, a term loaded in the Muslim world with connotations of modernity, resistance and westernisation, and perhaps more importantly a term which challenges the patriarchal underpinning of Islam dictated by extremist Muslims.