Past Is Prologue

Why I’m No Longer Talking to Muslim Men About Equality

Agency is not men’s to give, it’s women’s to have

Wardah Abbas
Human Parts
Published in
11 min readJul 7, 2020

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A woman wearing a red head wrap looks at the camera.
Photo: Delmaine Donson/Getty Images

I was distracted by the beep from my phone as I settled down to nap. I stretched forward to turn off the ringer but ended up sneaking a peek: two direct messages and four mentions. A sister on Twitter called my attention to an article written in response to one of my essays on the mutual inclusivity of feminism and Islam. I read it and wasn’t surprised.

The writer tactfully excommunicated me from my faith, arguing that Muslim women need to be extricated from the religion entirely before anything close to equality can be achieved. He alluded to a “promised land” that Muslim feminists rely on “secular counterparts” to reach, a land that either does not exist or exists outside the faith.

Such laughable ignorance and religious blackmail always seem to come from men — the ones who can only feel big when they make women feel small. They tell me who I am, and what I should or shouldn’t say or do. I am an unrighteous woman who should know her place, an ingrate trying to sneak liberalism into Islam.

Nothing injures the pride of a man with exaggerated self-importance like the joy of a free-spirited woman who knows her worth.

For years now, I have been vocal about issues relating to Islam, Muslims, and gender on various media platforms. In one sense, I choose to do this work, but in another, this work chose me. It’s framed by the way others attempt to represent and control me, more or less obliging me to respond. Sometimes I do feel uneasy. But I grow stronger every time, wielding a weapon of humor rather than anger. Nothing injures the pride of a man with exaggerated self-importance like the joy of a free-spirited woman who knows her worth.

I forwarded the article to a friend, who suggested I engage the writer in conversation. That’s the last thing I would do: waste my time talking to men ignorant to the oppression of women. It’s stunting, exhausting, and counterproductive. Agency is not men’s to give. It’s women’s to have. And all my activism from now on will be tailored toward helping Muslim women…

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Wardah Abbas
Human Parts

Founding Editor, The Muslim Women Times. I write about Gender, Culture, Equality and Islam | Visit our Website at https://www.themuslimwomentimes.com