Is There Such a Thing As a Moderate Muslim Woman?

Moderate Muslim Women in the Muslim Society have it hard.

Last Eid got me thinking about the state of Moderate Muslim families / non practicing Muslims  particularly women.

We have an Arab mosque close to our house. We drove by it on our way to the traditional Eid lunch with the family. In the mosque courtyard there was some kind of bazaar/activities to celebrate Eid and it was busy with people and children.

Here in Canada Eid is viewed more as a religious affair. Most of the celebrations revolve around mosques and such things. So it makes it really hard for moderate people to participate in such activities.

I would have loved to participate in such events so my kids can feel the sense of community, to soak in the Eid experience that is full of joy for them.

But I was disheartened because even  if she was to go, I can be no part of that experience.  The combination if  woman, no hijab and mosque don’t go together.

Men are allowed to go in mosques anytime and they don’t have to change themselves or hide anything, but I as a woman have to change, my clothes , my demeanor , almost everything to be able to participate. And I am not only talking about going into the mosque itself,  I am talking about any activities organized by a religious entity.

Moderate Muslim women can be no part of  such activities.

It’s hard for me to understand or define what is it to be an accepted moderate muslim woman. Does it mean you have to wear the hijab but not practice? Does it mean you do not wear the hijab but you practice. Or is it to be aware of the teachings but not practice or wear the hijab?

It’s harder for a woman to be moderate because while a man can hide his religion inside him, in his heart,  the  woman has to have it on public display.

What are your thoughts?



21 Responses

  1. Organize Eid events with other women who share your views. I am sure you can find at least a few who are not veiled and feel the same way about the mosque community.

  2. Very interesting post! Unfortunately I don’t have the time to formulate a deserving reply but I just wanted to add some of the initial thoughts that came to mind here.

    There’s a difference between moderate muslim and non-practicing muslim No matter what your criteria or individual definitions are, those 2 things are different. If you choose to be non-practicing then how are you moderate? You’ret non-practicing! so which part is moderate then? and I don’t mean that in a judgemental tone, I’m more asking out of a genuine curiosity.

    Also the other thing I noticed is that you put a lot of emphasis on the veil. The veil and modesty in general in Islam is one aspect of practice, it’s definitely not the most important aspect or what defines a muslim. It’s not one of 5 pillars of Islam. It’s not even a black and white issue, there’s a lot of gray. In Islam there are modesty guidelines for guys and girls in and if you’re genuinely interested in the logic/purpose behind all of that there are plenty of great resources out there for knowledge and information.

    My roomate who doesn’t wear hijab spends an hour easily on her hair and makeup before going out. She wears the cutest baby doll dresses and is quite the fashionista. She also prayed more nights in the masjid this past Ramadan than I did (and the Ramadan before that). I’d say there are equal number of non-hijabi and hijabi girls that end my campus jum3a. My point is they want to go. They choose to go.

    I’m sure there are probably some ignorant folks who frequent mosques who may look down upon or discriminate against those that don’t do things the same way they do them, but you know what 7aki I can claim the same things about the social environment of my class, my campus, my hangout spots, my neighborhood, my jobs (or ex job)…that’s just life! In the end you make your own decisions and decide what’s important to you and what’s not important to you.

    So basically the second point that I’m getting to here is that many times we focus on the smaller details for whatever individual reasons we have such as we don’t understand something, we don’t feel comfortable with something, because it stands out more, because we don’t like, because we think it’s weird or unfair, etc……… much so that we end up getting lost in those details and actually losing sight of the big picture-or never grasping it in the first place.

    So that’s my 2 cents. I hope I was able to portray a different perspective for you to think about.

  3. Quite the dilemma here, not quite sure how you will be able to divorce the ritual and teachings from the community and festivities in islam since they tend to be pretty closely knit.
    But you can seperate them for yourself. practically what you want is for your children to experience Eid in all its “glory”, and part of eid is the prayer.
    You can go and experience that, as for the consideration of having to change your demeanor and put on a veil it doesn’t have to be such a life changing situation, it is just the dress code for the party.
    From my experience with mosques in the state the situation was as follows. There was the inner circle of devotees, and there was a periphery of people who were loosily attached to the mosques that popped in for events for various reasons of their own. Some didn’t have the time, others didn’t have the devotion for the religion and wanted the experience. Things tend to function well and people tried to not be as judgmental. especially at the dinner or lunch parties after the prayer (though one has to note that they tend to get nosey and into your business asking all sorts of questions because they just cant help it)
    I don’t know hope that helps
    ps: just noticed that arabs definition of moderate religious person is entirely different than that in the west. very interesting how different they are

  4. Hmm, I always thought moderate meant in keeping with the middle groundness that is Islam i.e. balancing between the dunya and aakhira requirements. Not wearing a headscarf or not practicing does not a moderate make.

    But when it comes to the Mosque I do not see why you would be kept away because you dont wear a headscarf? Events at most mosques in the UK are attended by all, muhajjabas and not, why are you stereotyping Mosque goers as people who would ‘reject a non-muhajjabah?’. Give it a proper chance, and if it turns out that they are proper judgemental weirdos who like to keep people away from the Mosque, then you find alternative Eid arrangements, no?

    Good Luck!

  5. Wow. tough stuff. Thanks for the glimpse into the dilemma. I like Tololy’s idea.

    I was pretty shocked when a friend posted something on FB that said a Muslim who greeted a Christian at Christmas was wrong, ‘helping them in their unbelief’. And that a Muslim who sells products to a help a non-Muslim in the holidays was Kaffir/ Kufr.

    Whoa. Is that not a serious, serious accusation?

    If that kind of stuff gets out in the West, it is going to be a PR nightmare for Muslims. As if there wasn’t enough to deal with.

  6. Tololy: It’s a very very VERY small group. can count them on 2 fingers.

    Asoom: The levels of moderation vary Asoom, by not practicing the rituals it does not mean you reject the religion as a whole. The cultural aspect of being a Muslim is entrenched with the religious aspect of it. So by not practicing it does not mean you are not a Muslim. So regardless of what I consider my level of moderation is. There is no place for it if it varies from the norm.

    As for putting emphasis on the veil, I am not questioning the idea of veil in general, I am saying that in most religious events a woman who does not wear the hijab is not treated the same. And I am not talking about outward hostility, I am talking about those subtle looks and glances and judgment.

    The point I was trying to make in this post, and Bambam got it, is that I want to be part of the Muslim CULTURAL experience. Because I am a moderate/non practicing Muslim does not mean I am not a Muslim.
    I feel that I am missing out.
    So trust me, I do get the big picture. It’s just, I don’t like it 

  7. Bam: You got my dilemma here Bam. HOW can I separate them because I am greedy and I want both. I want the community and festivities but I don’t want some of the teachings and rituals.

    “dress code for the party” That made me chuckle. I see your point but it is still hard.

    The thing is about being in Canada that there is not a big variety of Muslims you can choose from when it comes to mingling and stuff like that. So most of the people who attend the mosques are pretty religious.

    As for the nosiness part. This is what I dislike the most. They want to get into your business. I think we can’t help it.

    PS to your PS: OMG Bam I was thinking the exact same thing!

  8. Loolt: I don’t want to throw all people in the “judgemental” hat and it’s not really about outright rejection; it’s about how a person is made to feel. I always feel a judgy vibe that is very subtle but is there . I just don’t feel comfortable.

    As people say in relationships, It’s me not you 🙂

    Kinzi: What amazes me in regards to this FB message is the fact that they publish it so publicly forgetting that they have christian friends.

  9. 7aki reading your post a second time I think I better understood your point…..and I really like bambam’s reply I think he makes a good point. Girl I would never imply that you are not a muslim because of your level or practice/beliefs. That’s something that’s not for me to jude. My argument was more of non-practicing vs. moderate which I feel are distinctly different and I felt like you were putting too much emphasis on the veil. Anyway I think that was beyond the main point of the post.

    However I still think some of the points I stated are valid. I definitely understand what you’re saying about subtle looks, judgement, and glances. Trust me I’ve observed it, I’ve seen it, and it’s really not cool that some people want to make others feel not welcome or uncomfortable in mosques because they do things differently. That’s an issue that I’ve had with the environments of some mosques.

    Like I said though I feel the same dilemma as a practicing muslima who wears hijab when it comes to many of the experiences that I choose to participate in. I can influence and I can try,but I can’t change everything that I don’t like and sometimes I decide the risk of putting up with an undesirable situation is worth it. In the end I decide what’s important to me and what’s not important to me and then I have no choice but to work around the rest of it.

    So with that said I understand your dilemma and the desire to want your family and little girls to have that communal Eid experience, whatever it means to you, but it’s not a perfect situation. In the end you decide what’s really important and what’s really not that important.

    I’m basically relating what you would have to go through with some of what I go through (different situations, but similar feelings and choices and make). How big of a deal is it for you to work around the aspects that you don’t like? Is the end result worth it? Is it worth it to just try it out? Whatever you end up doing, it was ultimately your decision that you made. Basically my point.

    Well I really hope that one day you can find that happy medium for you living in Canada where you would be able to experience the festivities of Eid with your children and family!

  10. Asoom: Trust me Asoom I did not think you implied I am not a Muslim. I was just trying to make the point that regardless what anybody thinks of what a Muslim is there is a different version of it.

    You said: “How big of a deal is it for you to work around the aspects that you don’t like? Is the end result worth it? Is it worth it to just try it out? Whatever you end up doing, it was ultimately your decision that you made”

    And that is exactly my dilemma.

  11. 7aki fadi… if you don’t practise religion you’re not Muslim , not a moderate Muslim either (that’s my understanding of religion, if you don’t practise it). I understand that you are adhering to the cultural part and that’s very important, but I think you started by asking the wrong question that’s why you will not get a good answer.

  12. Hareega: There are a million level’s of not practicing. It’s not black and white.

  13. It’s rather amusing how an essentially inclusive term “moderate” can be used in such exclusivity as if the mere notion of practicing one’s instinctual beliefs & adhering to them immediately oust him/her from the “moderate” & “normal” circles without fundamentally examining one’s practices up close & personal, more and more labels to keep us within our bubble/comfort zone!

    Though i fully empathize with you on the dilemma that puts you between wanting to belong to the culture that is part of Islam yet rightfully not seeing the necessarily of having to practice it, even if for a momentary period such as an Eid gathering at a local mosque.

    Yet in the same way you describe the absurdity of mens exclusivity over mosques (which i agree is extremely absurd and non-islamic in essence) I also think it is outrageously absurd and critically flawed for you or anyone to find in them the capacity to define the outlines of moderation and outcast those not like-minded… you will be no better than those who sort of outcast you from such gathering even by means of perceptual preemptive intimidation of not accepting non-hijab women at a mosque!

  14. Hey 7aki,

    Is there such a thing as a moderate muslim woman? Yes. Will she fit with the other groups? No.

    I know I am making a pretty bold statement here- but my from observations, a moderate person faces a hard time trying to find a group where they can fit in.

    The challenge with being a moderate muslim woman is :
    1) Based on solely your appearance, you are immediately labelled as a non practicing muslim.

    2) Sometimes, some people can ignore the appearance and give you credit based on your intentions for wanting to participate. So you could get invitations to other events (which you do not necessarily want to be a part of) and once you become selective about which events to attend, you are identified as the shallow participant.

    3)You find a really hard time explaining to different groups what religion means to you, and how much you practice/ dont practice makes a difference.

    4)The difficulty in separting religion from traditional/ cultural activities. Generally, those are a big mishmash..Ramadhan iftars and Eid feasts are usually preceeded by the prayer, followed by a lecture etc…

    I can not even begin to imagine how hard it is to explain all that and much more as a parent.

    I definitely think there is a bias there against women(Esp with the hijab), there is always that comment that pisses me off “bitkameli deenek” when you wear the hijab. But no hijabi gets a comment about “tkammel deenha”. Why? The assumption is, if you are a hijabi, you practice everything else (which sometimes, i find just laughable). A non hijabi can be a true practitioner and yet get that comment because she chose not to cover her hair. That whatever she is practicing is incomplete.

    In all cases, After going through a similar dilemma myself. I decided to go with whatever it is that I want to do.
    There is no escape from judgement ,and there will never be a comfort zone- so why go through the hassle of wanting something unattainable? The optimal solution is : as long as you are comfortable with your own choices, go for it- be it that you want to participate in the religious activities on your own terms for the sake of your kids, or just sitting at home and celebrating your way.

  15. C.I.: Your statement may be bold but it is absolutely true.
    Thanks for your reply, I really agree.

  16. Wow!!! What an inferiority complex you have!! Why are you ashamed of being a Muslim and passing that on to your daughter??!! It’s so sad that you are not satisfies with being a Muslim. If you are so unhappy, why not leave Islam? You would be doing us practicing, covered and satisfied women a great service to leave.

    I’m so happy you don’t go to the Masjid, because women who dress ( or rather not dress) like you are a disgrace and disgrace any Masjid they attend.

    Eid is based on the RELIGION, and you cannot expect any activity to be secular. It you truly understood Islam, you would realize the beautiful meanings behind our way of life, including Eid. If this religion doesn’t ‘fit’ your small view of the world, then join the religion that claims their god died, so a pagan rabbit can lay eggs for children to collect.

  17. What do u actually mean a moderate? I really dont like this word to describe Muslims. Did the Prophet (saw)divide the sahaba as moderates and extremists? So why are you? Dividing Muslims into ‘moderate’ or ‘extremist’ is an innovatation in Islam. It was never professed by the early generation of Muslim scholars, and has been only recently introduced into the Islamic discourse.

    Dividing along superficial lines is actually haram. Allah swt says: “And hold fast, all together, by the rope of Allah and be not divided among yourselves” [TMQ 3:103].

    So i just wanted to say that this word ‘moderate’ is alien to Islam and is actually an import of the West. To the West, a “moderate” Muslim is one that is willing to implement part of Islam and give up a part of it. However, a Muslim who simply abides by the commandments of Allah (swt) is deemed an extremist.

    Dont see everything sister from a western feminist perspective.

  18. AM: I think you made my point for me. Thanks for your reply.

    Dear Um Ibrahim: By me calling myself a moderate I by no means criticized practicing Muslims or implied that if people practice then they are extremists.

    Moderation comes in many degrees. You could be a fully practicing Muslima and STILL be a moderate.

    I understand some of the commentators have an issue with me using the moderate label but I don’t see how I can get my point across if I am not to use any labels.

    The whole point of this post is to say that sometimes as a partially practicing Muslima (Would that be a better way of labeling my self ?) I find it hard to be fully accepted.

    Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate constructive dialogue..

  19. I am not sure I understand your point totally. Either you are a non-practicing Muslim or you are just a practicing Muslim who doesn’t wear hijab.

    If you just don’t cover, I know that in the Middle East, there are many women who attend the mosque wearing prayer clothing which they immediately remove in the parking lot. What stops you from doing that? You would then benefit from the mosque and its activities and you would stay in your uncovered state the rest of the time.

    Maybe the bigger question is why don’t you practice your religion? Perhaps you need to spend more time in reflection on that question. What are you passing on to your children about Islam? Are you fulfilling your responsibilities as a parent which God gave to you? In the West you are freer to experiment and learn about Islam without any cultural or familial ties or obligations. You have a great opportunity, inshAllah you will use it and benefit. May Allah guide you.

  20. Ooops, 7aki, I am afraid these two commenters came from my blog, although with this quote:

    “If this religion doesn’t ‘fit’ your small view of the world, then join the religion that claims their god died, so a pagan rabbit can lay eggs for children to collect.”

    …I’m not sure why the one would read mine!

  21. Confused: “Either you are a non-practicing Muslim or you are just a practicing Muslim who doesn’t wear hijab.”

    It’s not that black and white which makes me confused as well 🙂 .

    “In the West you are freer to experiment and learn about Islam without any cultural or familial ties or obligations. You have a great opportunity”

    And that is exactly what I am doing.

    Kinzi: Some people think that by attacking and leaving hate speech they can win people over. Or actually I don’t know why they do it. Well, Such is life, what to do.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: