Muslim women reinterpret Islam

By Anwar Iqbal ,Dawn/Asia News Network

Muslim women in the West do not disown Islam. Like other Muslims, they too love it. They also are not afraid of the anti-Muslim sentiments that emerged after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. When confronted, they defend their faith with as much fervor and clarity as men and women in the Islamic world do. This helps them learn more about their faith, and in the process, develop a new understanding of Islam. This understanding encourages some of them to interpret their faith from a woman’s perspective. Nimat Hafez Barazangi, who has a Ph.D. in Islamic and Arabic Studies, says it’s time for Muslim women to have a peaceful, silent revolution, firmly grounded in the Holy Quran. Asma Barlas, director of the Center for the Study of Culture at Ithaca College, New York, says that for her as a Muslim, ��the starting premise is that the Holy Quran, ontologically, is the speech of God. The problem thus lies not in the divine discourse of the sacred text, but in its interpretation.�� Another Muslim woman scholar, Laleh Bakhtiar, has translated the holy book and her translation attempts to take a female perspective of her faith. While working for an American news agency, UPI, I met two women who went beyond interpretations and tried to practice Islam as they considered it right. The two �X one a veteran campaigner and the other a novice �X prayed beside men one Friday in Washington’s Islamic Center, the hub of America’s Muslim community. ��It felt so beautiful,�� said Rahat Khan, a tax accountant from Maryland. ��I was really proud and pleased to see all these Muslim men, creating space for us.�� Khan, new in this campaign for demanding equal rights for women inside the mosque, almost turned away from the door of the Islamic Center in Washington’s diplomatic enclave. ��I told Asra I may not go in but I did,�� she said, referring to Asra Nomani, the woman who started the campaign many years ago from a mosque in Morgantown, West Virginia.

��The night before we prayed, I was afraid. After the prayers it felt very nice,�� said Khan who was not willing to go to the mosque with Asra when she first asked her but later changed her mind.