Progressive Muslim: nothing contradictory about it

with Yazmin, August 2008
Feisty Muslim females: with Yazmin, August 2008

I met Yazmin Khan on the set of Shariah TV this summer, when she turned to me and made a truly poignant commentary about something I had said. Following the taping, we skipped out to spend the afternoon discussing our experiences and the issues discussed on the show. We’ve kept in close contact since then, which has been a wonderful experience for me. She recently published an especially thoughtful blog post about how the term “progressive Muslim” often feels like an oxymoron.

I actually think her post helps to illustrate how this simply doesn’t have to be so. In fact, being “progressive” and being a Muslim are quite compatible. I’d also assert that Islam itself takes on human rights issues some vehemently anti-religious progressives shy away from. I’d further argue that when Muslims live up to the best of our faith, “progressive Muslim” almost becomes redundant.

An excerpt from Yazmin’s post:

“Being a woman within the framework of speaking about Islam and being Muslim is an incendiary position to be in. I find that speaking to other Muslims, my Islamic authenticity is challenged and questioned, as if believing in equal rights for all people, not supporting injustice of any kind and being pro-social justice makes my shahada (declaration of faith) less valid. People, including a coworker last week, will literally quiz me on the pillars of Islam or details regarding the proper way to pray or verses from the Quran that all Muslims must memorize in order to be able to pray. I find these interactions incredibly insulting and frustrating- I self identify as a Muslim, therefore I am.

… None of this faithful belief infringes on my ability to think that women should have control over their bodies always and under all conditions and that women deserve nothing short of reproductive justice and freedom- all the time, no matter what. That includes everything from access to abortion, birth control, family planning, right to marry or not marry as one chooses, the right to an education, the right to move freely where and with whomever and wherever a woman pleases, the right to work, the right to pursue any occupation, career or life path a woman might ever want, the right to love whomever she wants, and the right to protection against all forms of rape, genital mutilation, assault, harrasment, domestic violence, molestation, and any type of intimidation or coercion that puts any girls or women in any kind of danger.”

Read the rest here.

55 thoughts on “Progressive Muslim: nothing contradictory about it

  1. The good thing about beliefs is that, since they are made up, they can be adjusted to fit whatever goals you have!

  2. The thing about self-righteous disbelief is that its proponents get to conveniently and lazily side-step relevant issues affecting both the faithful and the faithless.

  3. I’m not so sure that’s a matter of faith or not. I’ve certainly had plenty made up about me by my fellow faithful, despite supposedly believing in – agreeing about, in other words – the same fundamental things. I find self-righteous disbelief and the oppression of those who choose not to believe to be equally dangerous. There’s something utterly spiritless about the attacks some “believers” wage against one another, that’s for sure.

  4. Once a person becomes convinced that God is going to murder anyone who disagrees with them, it is a small step to becoming abusive.

  5. I was going to leave a comment on how great the post was, but after reading the other comments, I have only one thing to say; manupmen, you need to get your facts straight!

  6. Basbousa: don’t be like the people I mention in my first comment here – those who side-step the relevant information! Yazmin deserves some feedback on her post:)

    The fact is that once any person believes that God will kill those who disagree with them, they’re not just a small step to abusive but ear-deep in lunacy. How that’s relevant to the post, I’m not sure. The point of the message here is that to be human-rights oriented and a Muslim is not an oxymoron.

  7. Okay, back to the point of whether human rights and Islam are compatible, we must examine whether Islam is moral. We get stuck immediately in one of the basic tenets–that people are rewarded or punished according to their beliefs. This is immoral at its foundation. Therefore, to claim “human” rights for anyone is contradictory to the conditional nature of Islam (and Christianity). If people are punished for their beliefs, there can be no “rights.” Only obedience.

  8. 1- Let’s get to one of the basic tenets of being a realistic citizen of this planet: religion isn’t going anywhere. Neither is Islam. What makes sense, then, is to support people who work for human rights from all faiths and none.

    2- If we’re talking “obedience”, there’s plenty within Islam to say that human beings should not maim, slay, assault or even slander one another. Take a stab (seriously, no pun intended) at supporting those of us who obey these precepts. In so doing, we are up against heat from those who don’t respect the more peaceful aspects of our faith.

  9. There are peaceful aspects of Christianity too. Unfortunately, Christianity is founded on the terrorism of John 3-16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life.”

    In other words, all who do not believe in Jesus are sentenced to death. This is terrorism. To seek out “peaceful” aspects of such a dark message is futile.

  10. I bring us back to the point above: to be a realistic citizen of the planet, one has to acknowlege that people will always believe and disbelieve. “Imagine there’s no religion” is the essence of futility.

    What, then, do those who choose not to believe propose? I confess that as a person of faith whose neck is on the line, my patience for this type of exchange – which often feels like a waste of time when I know someone is being stoned as we speak – is waning.

    I wonder what the nonreligious are willing to do to exude more than anti-faith hot air. There is no reason, no reason at all (save for some incomprehensible self-interest, fear, or laziness) – why people of all faiths and none can’t get our collective acts together to protect basic human rights.

    I’ve met atheists who are willing to work alongside people of faith. That’s useful, considering that both kinds of people will exist into perpetuity. It’s useless for either party to try and prove the other wrong. If it were possible, one or the other would have dissolved by now and bought into the other camp. That simple acknowledgement is a necessary one.

  11. First of all, manupmen, I have a problem understanding just what you mean about punishment according to believes…

    I asked you to get your fact straight when you said “Once a person becomes convinced that God is going to murder anyone who disagrees with them, it is a small step to becoming abusive.”

    Where do you get that from? It doesn’t come from facts, this is only what YOU personally have a misconception about, and therefor you need to get your facts straight! I don’t believe that, none of the people I know believe that, that’s something taken out from thin air.

    How can you judge religions like that; the religions are immoral because the followers believe that they will be rewarded or punished according to their beliefs (in a heaven that only the followers of such religions believe in)?

    Heaven is heaven and earth is earth (and human rights are for this life, right?). But your logic makes the religions immoral because the followers believe that the God they believe in reward them or punish them according to their good deeds, bad deeds and wether they believe or not. First of all, tell me why this is immoral? I don’t have a complete answer, or solution, because I didn’t understand or see the problem in it all.

    We are discussing basic human rights, something that is for this life, with good deeds affecting the afterlife (if you believe in this).

    For God, every man and woman is born equal. The only thing that separates them from each other are their actions, good and bad.

    And your first comment about adjusting the faith to your goals, have you got something from the Quraan that contradicts Yazmin’s thoughts? Anything at all? No you don’t. She doesn’t have to adjust – Islam, the way it should be, right from the source, is a guide to all human beings on how to live life the best way possible, human rights included.

  12. Raquel Evita, good comments. I guess you have to speak for us both as my brain isn’t functioning today:)

  13. Basbousa, perhaps a little more practice before you try to play among the adults.

    Raq, over 20,000 children will die tonight of starvation. And the next night. And the next. Let’s pretend the obvious: God is not helping them. Now, let us become moral and act as if there is no God. 3,000 died on 9-11. 20,000 die every day. Children. Unacceptable.

  14. In another vein – realism helps us to recognize that any system – faith based or secular, has its share of literalists, peaceniks and violent wingnuts. Religion, however, is the one thing that seems to get people to a place where it is acceptable, even trendy, to become either radically “pro” or “anti”. Being something based in the intangible, it does in some ways lend itself to that.

    But if we explore more intently, we realize that we are confronted with parallels elsewhere. In political and and economic systems, there are harsh, even bloodthirsty realities. Capitalism is theoretically fair, democracy theoretically “for the people.” Of course, capitalism is regularly unfair, and democracy regularly misrepresentative. However, realism demands many (including myself) to recognize that both are the options that make the most sense. So, we engage within the system. We take what we can of democracy into our own hands. This blog is an example: it is my right to publish it, even as I encounter economic and other injustices within a capitalism and a democracy.

    What are the alternatives? What would I embrace in order to reject democracy because it’s not always fair? What could I take on to make a statement that capitalism’s inequities are just too much?

    Theocracy, communism, anarchy, socialism, are things some choose to embrace. In my context – the US – how on earth would any of these be effective? Is it realistic, really, to think that anarchy will override democracy? Is it realistic to think that the United States will become a communist state? No. So, I’d argue that while one could certainly find something “logical” in each of these ideologies, it would be utterly futile – even nonsensical and destructive – to champion any of them in the name of destroying the unfair aspects of a democracy or capitalist state.

    Maybe this doesn’t feel at all analogous to you. However, organized religion (rather than faith) really is here to stay. As is atheism. Both have adherents who embrace inhumane ideologies. Both propogate injustice at one turn or another. But to seek the destruction of either is simply unrealistic, counterproductive, and an enormous waste of time.

    Much smarter – and much more productive – is what happens when the faithful and those who choose no religion acknowledge that both sides have worthwhile traditions and beliefs among them. These are the things worth nurturing, promoting and embracing to counter the rampant injustice both are capable of and have indeed demonstrated.

  15. Woot woot, raise da rooooof! Thank you for mentioning Yazmin’s essay; I agree that “progressive Muslim” is redundant, not oxymoronic.

    Surah 5: Al-Ma’idah: 8

    O you who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity; and never let hatred of any one lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is the closest to being God-conscious.

    Surah 17: Al-Isra’:70:

    Now, indeed, We have conferred dignity on the children of Adam.

    And for those haters who find Yamin’s argument irrelevant, I say: there’s no better way to turn your back on billions of suffering people than to dismiss their problems entirely. Bah!

  16. Well, manupmen, the Qur’an says something quite straightforward that you might actually appreciate:

    God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves (13:11). That’s why my neck must be on the line for the dead of 9/11 and the starving children alike. For those who don’t embrace a faith, may their sense of personal responsibility drive them to take initiative as well.

  17. I am an atheist however; I wouldn’t describe myself as “a person of no faith.” I do have faith in something…my faith is in Humanity. That faith grows stronger because of people like Raquel and Yazmin. Keep up the good work and Keep the Faith!

  18. The good news is that modern science and psychology are developing ways to treat the emotional disorder known as faith. If we eliminated the faith-based conflicts on the planet today, there would be 90 plus percent peace! America owes the world an apology for electing a “man of God” as president.

  19. As predicted: anti-faith hot air with no human-rights oriented immediate action to speak of. Typical. Unless you’ve failed to mention how you, personally, are taking immediate tangible initiative for human rights. Citing some miracle scientific “cure” for faith is profoundly passive.

  20. raq get offline and go stop a stoning. You are full of hot air, and have failed to mention how you personally are taking immediate tangible initiative for human rights. Citing the Quran is profoundly passive.

  21. Manupmen: If your only cure for the troubles of the world is to wish for the (unrealistic) demise of religion, then you have no cure, and should either find something active to do to help, or stop talking.

  22. Also, manupmen: Writing this blog would appear to be one of the many human rights oriented activities that Raquel does. If you read more about her, you would see that she is personally involved with many progressive organizations, and has even risked her personal welfare by being outspoken about women’s rights both publicly and on television!!!!! She volunteers, writes letters, and is involved in as active a way as a person can reasonably be. You clearly have NO idea who you’re accusing of being passive.

    I pose to you the question that Ms. Saraswati has posed to her critics before: what can YOU personally do to protect women, and others being persecuted?

    I mean, besides writing highly flawed responses to blogs? Think about it.

  23. umpazum, I did not realize you were in charge of whether I should speak or not. You do not seem to have a cure, so you should either find something active to do to help, or stop telling others whether they may speak.

  24. Umpa, words are not actions. Calling my responses flawed does not make them so. Citing Raq’s activities does not make yo uactive.

  25. Alright – flame wars waste everyone’s time. On the right hand side of this page, you’ll see my blogroll – one of the links is to the International Campaign Against Honor Killings. They *JUST* broke a story about women being buried alive in Pakistan. If any of us here is going to be more than “hot air”, myself included – we’ve got to take some action. Here’s the story, now let’s make ourselves useful:

  26. No you’re welcome to speak until your head falls off; it was merely a helpful suggestion.

    I propose the same cure that most progressive Muslims propose: education, compassion, giving to the poor, helping charities, and speaking out LOUDLY against injustices.

    I am active, and while I’m sure it’s very easy for you to sit at your laptop and assume that all any of us religious people do is sit around and quote the Quran at each other, you’re just plain wrong.

    Ok, I’m done with the haters for the day. Flame war extinguished. 😉

  27. Raquel, the emails I sent a few hours ago all bounced back. Just giving you the heads up. I’m going to wait a day for the ministry to clean out their mailbox and try again.

    I wonder if this even got press coverage in Pakistan? I’m going to ask my DH.

  28. Great post!! I agree that to embrace human rights is to be a true daughter of God and that this is not “progressive” but common sense for anyone that loves and serves God! But I *toally* don’t agree with abortion. “Thou shalt not kill…” It causes me endless pain when I see a truly strong, powerful women that stand up for justice for their fellow human beings… and then turn around and advocate the killing of unborn babies. Not cool. Not only that, but how hypocritical can you get? Seriously. I’m not saying that to be catty. I’m stating a serious question! How can *any* woman fight for justice and human rights and then support abortion?!

    “…None of this faithful belief infringes on my ability to think that women should have control over their bodies always and under all conditions and that women deserve nothing short of reproductive justice and freedom- all the time, no matter what. That includes everything from access to abortion…”

    This portion of the post begs several questions: How does the killing of unborn babies square with Islam? Is God not the creator of all human beings? As the Creator of all, is He not the *only* one that can give or take life, inside and outside of the womb?

    Please, I don’t want to hear about how the baby in the womb is “not human” or “not alive.” The de-humanizing of human beings has been used for eons to justify the killing of said humans ~ including Muslim peoples that were considered “Primitive” and “less then human” by colonizing white folk from the West…

    Please, also, I don’t want to hear the argument that, “It’s a woman’s body and she has the right to choose what to do with it…” Is not a woman’s body the same body crated by God and therefore *not* her own? And the baby within, are they are not GOD’S creation as well? How can any woman be so arrogant as to claim that her body, and her baby, belongs to her alone and she somehow has the right to kill that child that was created by almighty God?? Rape is a crime against the woman that was created by God and thus “reproductive justice” makes sense in this context. Murder of the baby in the womb by any means is a crime against the baby created by God and in this case “reproductive freedom” is a lie… There is no possible way that abortion is “reproductive freedom” for the daughters of God.

    I also don’t wish to hear the, “But what if the woman is raped?” argument. A baby, created by God, should never be punished for the crime of the father. Killing an unborn baby because the woman was raped?! How does this square with Islam?? How incredibly barbaric…

    What I’m seeking is not a political Feminist argument filled with the usual “it’s a woman’s right to choose what to do with *her* body” tripe but an answer regarding the killing of an unborn *human being* and how this squares with Islam? Let’s strip the pre-packaged buzz-phrase Feminist responses and look at this question through the lense of faith as daughters of God.

    I have to say, I’m totally shocked to see that there are Muslims that support abortion!! To me, an outsider looking in, being pro-abortion goes totally contrary to the Islamic faith, just as it goes against my own Catholic faith. (By the way, I’m just as shocked by pro-abortion Catholics.)

    However, although I believe 100% that abortion is murder and that anyone commiting this crime will have to face judgement before God Himself, I do not hate those who are pro-abortion or those who have had abortions. I pity pro-choice people and pray for them because what is going to happen to them when they stand before God on the day of judgement?!?! What a horrible thought. Not only that… but what of all the helpless, innocent, unborn babies that have been killed in the name of “reproductive freedom” ?? Freedom for whom? Obviously there’s no freedom for the *baby* in the pro-choice mind.

    I write this in calm, sisterly love, not in anger or hatred. But sometimes cold words on a screen can come across as hot and angry.

  29. Coffee Catholic,
    I can’t tell you how to reconcile abortion with Islam or Christianity. What I can give you is MY perspective as an atheist.
    Abortion is a choice a woman (notice: I said “Woman,” not “Child”) must face on her own. It is between each INDIVIDUAL woman and her conscience or creator. NO ONE (not organized religion or government – not individual mullahs, Reverends/Priests, rabbi or Politician etc.) has the right to interfere uninvited.
    I have no children, I’ve known for years that I’m far too self-absorbed to make an effective parent. Despite my resolve never to have children, I’ve had my share of “pregnancy scares” (due entirely to carelessness) in my teens, twenties and early thirties. Each time, I thought I might be pregnant; I searched my conscience as I considered my options. Each time, I disregarded abortion as an option. I just don’t think I could do it. One time (in my LATE twenties) I had a “scare” that lasted for four months. At some point, I called my brother’s wife and asked if she would be willing to help me talk my brother into adopting a child if “I ever made a mistake.” She told me she would love to have another baby in her house and would do anything for me if I felt I couldn’t take care of a child by myself. Not everyone has a sister-in-law like mine. She is a devout Catholic and a religious educator. She values family and is steadfastly against abortion. That’s ultimately the choice I’d have made, to have the child and arrange for my brother and his wife to raise it.
    All of that being said, just because my conscience doesn’t allow for it personally doesn’t mean I have the right to tell someone else that the option is wrong for them.

  30. A woman does not have to face abortion on her own. She has God to turn to ~ she can pray to God for help in choosing not to kill the baby in her womb. The idea that women are “on their own” is cruelty to women! It leaves them with no solid guidence as to how to deal with a situation. This is a sad reality of modern secular culture ~ women and men are told, “Sorry, but you’re on your own.” Today, in our modern world, there’s far too much abandonment of women as they navigate life! This is cruelty against women.
    Also, the idea that”no one has the right to interfere uninvited” when a woman contemplates abortion is also false. God gave us other human beings for a reason! He gave us Elders and religious leaders so that they can help us and guide us and not leave us abandoned and alone like the secular world does. Religious leaders have a *duty* to speak out against evil and to tell us that it is wrong and we should not engage in evil.
    God gave us families, friends, communities… He did not create us to be isolated little islands unto ourselves. If He did, we’d all live as far apart from one another as we could and we’d never have friends and we’d never remain close to our families. God did not intend for any of us to abandon a woman when she faces a choice that could possibly condemn her very soul to damnation! The secular idea that a woman is “on her own” is a selfish idea, an idea that says, “Leave me alone! I don’t have time to help you! I’m too busy focusing on me and MY needs!”
    We have a God-given duty to speak up when we see another person walking towards damnation. We are not supposed to seal our lips and look the other way! We have a duty to each other, as fellow creations of God, to reach out and help one another navigate life. To ignore our duty is to be selfish and self-centered. It is to be downright lazy as well!

  31. The key word in the quote “no one has the right to interfere uninvited” is: UNINVITED. I never said a women should sit in a row boat in the middle of a giant lake cut off form everyone she know and loves to wrestle with her conscience until she reaches a decision she can live with. I’ve never consulted a religious leader on whether or not I should get an abortion. Every time the issue has come up, (REMEMBER: I’ve never gotten one) with my conscience as my guide, I sought out other options.
    And, YES I am self-centered, and Extremely So…otherwise, I probably never would have had to worry about what to do with an “accidental pregnancy” five or six times between the ages of 14 and 34.

  32. Interesting. What does anyone here think of “Honor killing”? Especially Muslims? (I’m trying to understand your faith… hence these questions…) Do you think that it is wrong for people to interfere uninvited when a man is making the decision to kill his child via honor killing? How does this differ from people interfering uninvited when a woman is making the decision to kill her child via abortion? This question has been nagging at me all day as I ponder the raised awareness of the atrocity of honor killing. How can anyone, especially those of faith, protest honor killing but support abortion? Does Islam offer a waiver for abortion while condemning other kinds of killing?

    Does anyone know what the Koran says about the sanctity of human life? I’ve been trying to read the Koran but it’s not set up like the Bible so I’m a bit lost. I did find this in a booklet about Islam: “In every one of you, all components of your creation are collected together in your mother’s womb by forty days…” Hadeeth #2643 (Sounds to me like a baby in the womb is a created human being…)

    Also: “The first cases to be adjuncated between people on the Day of Judgement will be those of bloodshed.” The footnote says, “This means killing and injuring.” How does this verse square with abortion?

    On a side note: “Accidental pregnancy” is such an interesting phrase. I’ve heard it a lot. How does one have an accidental pregnancy when sexual intercourse is 100% designed to create a baby? How can anyone be surprised by the outcome? I suppose when the sacred life-giving is divorced from sex and it becomes a recreational amusement then maybe folk can think in terms of “accidental pregnancy.” Unwanted pregnancies wouldn’t happen though if girls kept their legs crossed until they were in a stable relationship wherein they could raise children. Women don’t have to be self-centered to avoid “accidental pregnancy” ~ they just have use common sense: If you don’t have what it takes to raise a child then keep those knees together and spare yourself the trial of an unwanted pregnancy.

    (Notice I don’t say “forced marriage”…I totally don’t agree with forced marriage or the marriage of children but even then I wouldn’t support abortion.)

  33. As a pro-choice muslim, let me take a moment to answer you, Coffee Catholic. I am against abortions on a personal level. I would never, ever get one, nor would I encourage my friends or family to get one. It is also my understanding of Islam that it heavily frowns on abortion; it is not an action that God loves, and its consequences are dire.

    However, as a rape victim, I can empathize with women in “crisis pregnancies” who feel as though they have no options. I wonder what choice I might have made 5 years ago, had my rape turned to pregnancy. Would I have been supported by friends and family? Would I have been made to feel like a criminal myself for even considering an abortion? Could I have scraped myself off of the bathroom floor long enough to even be rational? I don’t know.

    Now, what if abortions were illegal? Women in crisis pregnancies *could* feel like they had absolutely no options, could feel panicked and desperate enough to do…what? Suicide? Unsafe, at-home abortions? What if it was a woman in an abusive marriage, or a young victim of incest?

    If backed against a wall, a person will do just about anything. Creating these situations is unacceptable for civilized societies.

    Also, I hate to think of a situation where the pregnancy could kill the mother. What if the baby could not survive anyway, or developed in a falopian tube? How would a doctor make the choice, if he had the law breathing down his neck, and making an unjustified abortion could cost him his license and set him up for a malpractice suit? DO we really want to have these situations?

    Yes, I think that the choice must ultimately be between a woman and her creator, and it is up to us (esp. those of faith) to support our loved ones and give them everything they need to coast through crisis pregnancies with a living baby and mentally/emotionally well mother on the other side.

  34. I disagree with all points. First of all, in the case of rape, why should the baby be killed for the crime of the father? How barbaric is that? Seriously! We look at “honor killing” as barbaric… why does abortion somehow get treated with kid gloves? Even if the raped woman is *not* supported by friends, family, etc the baby should not be killed in reply to this abandonment! Regardless of who abandons us here on Earth, GOD is always with us. GOD never abandons us. Instead of turning away from God and killing the baby because “No one is supporting me”… why don’t women turn to God and depend upon *Him* for everything as they deal with being pregnant after having been raped? (Or being pregnant for whatever reason.)

    In all of the cases you mentioned above, why should *any* baby be killed because of the actions or moods of the parents? If mom is in an abusive relationship why can’t she leave that relationship instead of killing her child? If she can’t leave the relationship because she’ll get herself honor killed, let’s not forget about God! She can turn to God even in the midst of her horrible sufferings.

    Trust me, I know what I’m talking about when it comes to desparately clinging to God while suffering dreadfully. Like the majortiy of the world’s population, I haven’t exactly had an easy life. I practice what I preach! And let me tell you, while friends and family, government and society, and even my own church has failed me ~ God has NEVER failed me.

    If the pregnant woman is in a “crisis pregnancy” then instead of killing the baby, why not ask what exactly got her into this mess in the first place? We women should be taught to be responsible about sex rather then being told it’s not much more then recreation and hey, if we get pregnant we can go down to the local abortion clinic and have the baby removed. (Hence my previous comment about, “If you don’t have what it takes to handle raising a baby, keep your knees crossed.”) It’s pretty sad taht today’s answer to women is: Hump all ya want and kill your babies if you “can’t deal with them.”

    Abortion is an irrisponsible response to responsiblity. (“I don’t want to deal with this! So I’ll kill it!”) We modern “liberated” women want to have our cake with extra frosting and we want to eat it too ~ we want all the fun of sex without any of the serious, adult responsibilities that come as a part of the package ~ in other words, pregnancy and motherhood. We are trained to be selfish and self-centered and to resort to baby-murder in order to get what we want in life. God didn’t create sex as a form of entertainment ~ He created sex so that we could create life. Abortion is our convenient escape from this responsibility. But how much of an escape will it be when we stand before God on judgement day? This is the harsh reality that women are never told about.

    Abortion is 100% selfish and there’s no excuse for it. It is murder commited by a mother for her own selfish reasons. If a woman can’t handle pregnancy or motherhood then she shouldn’t be having sex, end of story. Murdering a baby because mom was raped, mom’s in an abusive relationship or just because “I can’t deal with having a baby!” is wrong.

    Anyhoo, I still wonder what Islam teaches about abortion?? I keep hoping someone can answer? I’m trying to find the answers myself but there seems to be a lot of silence on the internet and in written materials with regards to abortion and Islam. Why is this?

  35. “God didn’t create sex as a form of entertainment ~ He created sex so that we could create life.” – Coffee Catholic

    Hmmmm, if it’s only meant to serve one purpose (to create life) WHY IS IT SO MUCH FUN? Sorry, I don’t agree on this point. The old, “keep your knees and teeth together…” doesn’t work anymore. It may be how you want it in you world, but the rest of us have moved on.
    You’re entitled to your opinion and I will defend until my dying day, your right to express it. However, I was never meant to have children, consequenly, I never have. So am I supposed to live a sulibet life? An I as an adult (I’m almost 40) supposed to ingnore my husbands when he initiates sex because he’s had a vesectomy? I’m I supped to ignore the sexual attraction I feel toward him because we’ll never become parents? Are we as leagally married consenting adults supposed to keep our knees and teeth together?

  36. I tend to think that these dialogues go a bit further when I don’t chime in, but given some of the back and forth here, I thought I’d add a few words.

    1- Procreation is not the sole purpose of sex in Islam (nor in Judaism). It is also meant as a source of pleasure and enjoyment for both husband and wife. (Yes, equally so). Please see this article:

    2- Regarding family planning:

    * Birth control is permissible, since intimacy is not solely for the purpose of procreation.
    * Abortion is forbidden after the fourth month of gestation, when it is generally believed that the soul enters the embryo. Other scholars disagree, saying that abortion is forbidden as soon as the embryo affixes to the uterine lining.
    * According to scholars who are not in support of the above argument, the “morning-after” pill/Plan B would be permitted, or RU-486 in the case of a pre-implanted embryo.
    * Abortion is reserved for cases in which the mother’s life would be compromised. It’s not a lightly handled matter. Please do some of your own research, too – there’s a lot out there about family planning and Islam.

    A good commentary on the subject:

    3- Finally, Coffee Catholic: you say that you are having a hard time tackling the Qur’an because it isn’t set up “like the Bible”. I don’t quite understand the argument, because I’m sure you read other books – and they’re not set up like the Bible either. However, above all – please don’t be intimidated! While there is a lot to take in and understand, you have a world of resources at your fingertips when you have a question or concern. Further — you aren’t reading it to understand every last detail perfectly. Most Muslims don’t!

    I recommend you start with the N.J. Dawood translation printed by Penguin Classics. It uses very straightforward language. I have 11 translations of the Qur’an, yet this is the one I most frequently share with non-Muslims who are interested in reading the scripture.

  37. Coffee Cathoilc,

    I am not talking about what women *should* do. I think that every person on this earth has a different opinion on what women should be doing with their lives.

    What I was saying was what women WILL do. To have a merciless attitude towards women who are in crisis pregnancies will only propogate unsafe, illegal abortions and suicide.

    I know a few people who have had abortions, and none of them approached it as a cosmetic procedure. It was an act of desperation, because they felt they had no other choice.

    We women of faith should support our sisters and not condemn them IF we want to see the abortion rate go down.

  38. The subject of abortion is so vastly oppositional that further discussion will quickly cause this blog to focus on nothing other then one issue. Many of us who value this forum for enlightenment into cultural issues and to seek open minds to exchange thoughts, views and opinions. I suggest that we move forward and not focus soley upon this one topic.

  39. sjr5150 – I agree. However, I do think the abortion debate has been handled respectfully. People’s questions and concerns are sincere. Coffee Catholic clearly said she doesn’t hate those who are pro-choice. It sounds more to me that she legitimately, honestly, and deeply concerned about the issues she’s raising with the rest of us.

    The truly oppositional conversation that’s been going on is the one about whether or not God is “fiction”. That’s simply a no-win argument, and I have never once seen it happen respectfully.

    Anyway, Yazmin raises a number of important things in her post. One of the things I find significant is her mention of fellow Muslims who question her legitimacy because she is progressive. They question if she knows the basics or is a “real Muslim” because she is so passionate about human rights. In so doing, they send the message that Islam is not compatible with human rights – exactly the message we’re fighting at every turn.

    The WMD – weapon of mass distraction – is easy to find here. Questioning the legitimacy of someone’s faith is expressly forbidden in the religion, yet plenty of people would rather do so than have a sincere conversation with someone about where they stand. It’s become common place: you disagree with me, I call you a “fake Muslim”. I attended mosque last Friday and heard a khutbah I’ll be writing about here soon – the central message was about how Muslims need to treat other Muslims. The imam illuminated for us that when Muhammad (pbuh) received the message, he was instructed to be humble in relaying it. That we must “have the courage to hear different opinions” and indeed not theorize that someone is a non-Muslim or out to “destroy the ummah”.

    Above all, when exchanges like the ones Yazmin experienced happen, the human rights issues in question are conveniently sidestepped in order to play “religious police”. How thoroughly un-Islamic. And what an enormous waste of time.

  40. Ameen, sister!

    I was thinking today how sad it is that we’ve forgetten our love of Allah and only remembered our hatred of our fellow man. Certain unnamed blogs certainly drive that point home, huh?

  41. “We women should be taught to be responsible about sex rather then being told it’s not much more then recreation and hey, if we get pregnant we can go down to the local abortion clinic and have the baby removed. (Hence my previous comment about, “If you don’t have what it takes to handle raising a baby, keep your knees crossed.” 😉 It’s pretty sad that today’s answer to women is: Hump all ya want and kill your babies if you “can’t deal with them.”

    Abortion is an irresponsible response to responsibility. (”I don’t want to deal with this! So I’ll kill it!” 😉 We modern “liberated” women want to have our cake with extra frosting and we want to eat it too ~ we want all the fun of sex without any of the serious, adult responsibilities that come as a part of the package ~ in other words, pregnancy and motherhood. We are trained to be selfish and self-centered and to resort to baby-murder in order to get what we want in life.”

    Coffee Catholic, I’m not sure where you were raised or where you received your sex education, if any, but I have never EVER heard of abortion being offered as an easy way out to women and an excuse why women should feel entitled to have care-free, unprotected sex. Women who are even perceived to “hump around” in your words, are ostracized and given cruel names that vilify their behavior and make it very clear that they are in fact NO WAY encouraged to just have sex whenever and with whomever they wish. Abortion is highly taboo in our society, even though it is the most commonly performed surgery in young women of child bearing age in America and 40% of women of child bearing age in America have had one.

    It is very difficult to get an abortion if you live in the midwest, the south, the north west and anywhere rural. Abortion providers are violently threatened by anti-abortion extremists and doctors, hospitals and clinics that offer abortion services do not receive much, if any, government funding to enable them to stay open to serve women in need- namely poor women ,women of color and young women.

    Simply saying keep your knees closed does nothing to help, support or comfort the nearly 1 in 3 women who by the age of 21 has been sexually assaulted or abused in our country. while a baby might not be guilty of the sins of the father, an embryo is not a baby. it cannot survive outside the womb and is not any where close to being a 9 month old, can live outside the womb fetus or a baby that has already been born. More importantly than that, after a girl or woman has been raped, what right does anyone have to tell her she must live through her trauma/victimization every day for 9 months in order to please the anti-abortion pro-God set? She might not believe in God. You might not agree with that, but it is easily a possibility, so telling her to rely on something she does not believe in, when over 19% of this nation’s children are below the poverty line and a large portion of that percentage go hungry every day is unsupportive, inaccurate and ineffective.

    Many states have laws making access to abortion very limited, especially for underage girls. They must get parental consent, or go before a judge and request court permission to access an abortion. Imagine if they have been raped by a family member, or a clergy member? Or a teacher? They don’t have anonymity or support- they have to go in front of a presumably old, white, male judge and tell their story, whatever it is, in public, in front of other people, in order to beg for access to an abortion. How does that help any one at all?

    You have made no mention of men or boys in your indictment of our collective selfish female sexuality, Coffee Catholic. Men are the ones fathering the unplanned pregnancies and raping women all over the world, no? So why no attempt to indict their behavior? The male latex condom is cheaper and available much more widely than the female condom, so is totally within the male partner’s ability to procure and utilize. What about these sinning rapists? Why do they get the opportunity to rape and father children with impunity (according to your argument) but it’s women and girls who need to keep their knees closed? If women are all raised to be selfish and self centered, how are the men, with whom the sex is being had, being raised and why isn’t their responsibility an equal part of this discussion? Men should have nothing to do with reproductive justice and freedom that all women and girls have access to (beyond supporting it), but it really strikes me that you haven’t mentioned male behavior in these long scenarios or indictments of “liberated” modern behavior.
    Apparently we all believe that in order to get what we want in life, we must have irresponsible, unprotected sex, get pregnant, and abort our fetuses in order to be successful. It sounds ridiculous when i put it like that, doesn’t it? I just re-worded your response within an appropriate, informed context.

    You comment that women aren’t told about the potential of a Judgment day meeting with a damning God. I disagree. Considering a great majority of Americans grow up in homes where a monotheistic religion is followed and practiced, odds are that most women are told that people believe if they have an abortion they will be judged harshly, probably damned, by God on judgment day. That being said, again you assume that all faiths, including all Christian denominations, agree with the Catholic stance of no abortion, no matter what.

    Umpazumparoo is right- if you want to reduce the rate of abortions had, the way to do that is not to restrict access, it is to pass social policy that supports mothers in all the ways they need: universal healthcare, subsidized or free childcare, subsidized or free preschool, laws that guarantee equal pay for equal work for all women, laws that guarantee job protection and security to mothers that all other working adults already enjoy. This is vital to enable women to have children whenever they so choose. It is also necessary to provide birth control and family planning along with comprehensive sex education so that every man and woman knows their rights, their responsibilities and choices. So that they know where to get support, access resources (like testing for STDs, pregnancy, where to get birth control) and especially know where to go for help in case of unplanned pregnancy, sexual assualt/abuse, rape of any kind or any combination of these terrible factors.

    Raquel is right about sex in Islam- it is not a puritanical understanding of procreation-only sex; it is meant to be a joyful, pleasurable experience for husband and wife alike.

    Thank you for all reading my post and commenting so passionately here! This thread has been quite interesting for the most part, and I love reading everyone’s different perspectives.

  42. “It is well to remember that the entire population of the universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others.” – Andrew J. Holmes, from ‘Wisdom in Small Doses’

  43. Raquel, As always you’re adorable (I am mesmerized by the shiny-ness of your blue hijab) and how is it tied? Hmmmm.

    I always come here, read posts and want to respond to the haters.. especially those with first grade logic. “I know you are but what am I?” blah blah. Then it just seems a waste of the 15 calories it would take to write a response. Also… I’d get irked and possibly spoil my fast from being angry. I have so many other things to be mad at like FGM (female genital mutilation) or acid attacks, or starving children.

    I adore what you do, and your willingness to speak out.
    Sad that this makes one a “progressive” or “modern”. It’s kinda like organic food.. You mean I have to pay extra for someone NOT to spray my food with pesticides and use genetically modified organisms? Shouldn’t that be the standard? Sheesh.

  44. Sorry,but i have only one question.where u bought ur beautyful blue/green shiny Hijab on this picture?? I want to have it too 😦

    i´msorry for my bad english-i am german 🙂


  45. Cupcake (awesome username, btw!),

    No apologies necessary! A light comment is sometimes refreshing. I actually purchased that hijab several years ago now in a mall, at a kiosk. But someone else asked about this same hijab when they saw my photo on a fashion blog, and another person commented with a link to where they found it online. Unfortunately, that link no longer works, but she did say it was called a “silk layer scarf.” So, a quick Google led me to this:

    Looks like they have it for $19.95!

    Your English is just fine sis!


  46. Thank you so much for your ´google work´ 🙂
    i want to order it,but they can not ship it to my it possible to get this scarf in another way? i need someone who order it for me :-(( i dont have luck

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