I think postmodernity is really part of the reconfiguration of the idea of
unity across the planet ... meaning a greater homogeneity. Postmodernism has
allowed us to understand that unity across the planet will be much more diverse
-- and that includes Islamic diversities. So the more recent manifestations of
Islamic resurgence is very intimately tied to reconfigurations of identity, not
only among Muslims, but across others.
That's why I say that it dovetails very well with a reformation of what it
means to be [a] human being. And therefore, it relates to issues like human
rights, because now we are questioning, "Well, what does it mean to be human?
And therefore, how do we ascertain what are human rights?" Then Muslims have to
ask, "Are these human rights commensurate with our own tradition? Are they in
contradiction to our tradition, et cetera?" So the basic identity of a Muslim
now is being aligned with rethinking what it means to be a human being in
You have talked about "progressive Muslim" -- I forget exactly the term you
used. What do you mean by "progressive?"
There is a very strong articulation among a select body of Muslim intellectuals
and activists to literally progress Islam from some of the places where its
thinking and its vitality have been throttled from the dynamism that I think is
inherent in Islam. I think Islam itself is a progression. I think it
progresses, in one sense, metaphysically, before the beginning of historical
Islam, but certainly, in a radical way, with the first revelation to the
The idea of that progression being arrested by a number of disruptions, like
colonialism, has caused what we in the West have sometimes identified as a
resurgence. But actually, in a sense, it has just been a reclaiming of our own
trajectory. Our trajectory is to continue to move towards the betterment of our
own humanity, as representatives or trustees or agents of the divine.
There are times when we have lost sight of that. And as a consequence, we have
simply mimicked that which we have brought from the past or that which we have
seen so palpably around us, and have not grappled intellectually with the ways
in which our heritage has actually thwarted our possibility of moving forward
in the continued trajectory that I think is part of the dynamic of Islam.
... There are thinkers who will intentionally grapple with the complexity of
preserving the integrity of the Islamic tradition ... combining it in a dynamic
way with what it means to encounter all of these complexities of modernity or
postmodernity. I consider these people to be progressive intellectuals, and I
consider that their articulations have many common features and that their
goals are very similar, in that they are trying to preserve Islam. But they're
not trying to preserve a singular understanding of Islam that came from, say,
the Medina time of the prophet.
So how do you both sustain the integrity but allow for, and in fact promote,
dynamism? That's progressive Islamic thought.
How have women specifically contributed to this revitalized thinking?
I think the question of women's participation in the active reformation of
Islamic identity is important now, simply because there are more women who are
involved in the process. ... I think that something about the coincidences of
modernity itself have made it a mandate upon women to step up to the plate, and
recognize their responsibility for the sake of their own identity development
and for the welfare of all of humanity, that the distortion that has
... My contention is that patriarchy is one way of survival, but that its time
has ended; that it is no longer possible for us to save the planet, to sustain
our lives on the planet, to be able to have healthy relations, whether in
families or in communities at large or between nations, if we maintain our
projection on a patriarchal framework. We need one which is a lot more
cooperative. I think that this is one of the reasons why it has been palpable
that more women have been involved in many areas of progression, not just in
terms of Islam, but also coincidentally in terms of Islam.
Islam, its original articulation, is very patriarchal. There are aspects of
Quranic articulation that corroborate the patriarchy of the time. Yet I do [not
think] that patriarchy is an aspect of Islam's universality. I think it is a
functional displacement, which allowed for it to fit into the time. ...
So it has something to do really with the culture in which it finds
Yes. It is a time-space displacement. For religion to be understandable -- let
alone implementable, which is the intention of Islam, to be a living reality --
then the articulation of the religion takes a shape that is very common to its
context. The question about whether or not that context is universal, however,
I think is an important part of what we're asking in progressive Islamic
And the conclusion has been that the context of the revelation of Islam in that
its historical beginning was indeed very patriarchal. However, that context
does not encapsulate the full breadth of the potential for Islam. It is just
one manifestation, and from it we may get clues, but in it we should not be
But there are places in the world where patriarchy is indeed deeply
culturally embedded, and is using Islam as its bolster. I'm thinking about
patriarchy in Malaysia, in Nigeria, and in Egypt.
The idea that patriarchy has a grip on human development is not unique to
Islam. And certainly the way in which this grip has been abused -- that is, the
way in which it has been utilized in order to justify abuse -- I think the idea
of a link between Islam and patriarchy is not inherent in Islam itself, but
inherent in the context of Islamic origin. So it is very easy to go back in
Islamic history or tradition, or even in [Islamic] intellectual development,
and find justification for maintaining patriarchy and giving it an Islamic
The question is -- and I certainly think that the most important work that is
before us in terms of progressive Islamic thought -- is to wrestle the eternal
system away from its contextual foundation. And that foundation is a time-space
reality, that is, Islam had to come into being into the mundane world, but it
is not the universal. In order to be able to cast the universal into its many,
or say, its pluralistic guises, we have to be able to determine that patriarchy
is in fact a limitation, it's not a liberation.
With regard to women, is there a gender bias against women inherent in
Islamic law, or Sharia, as is perceived in the West?
From my perspective, Sharia is thoroughly patriarchal. ... You cannot legislate
with regard to the well-being of women without women as agents of their own
definition. And Sharia was not concerned with that construction. Sharia was
happy to legislate for women, even to define what is the proper role of women,
and to do so without women as participants. So obviously that is a major flaw.
And the only way for that aspect of Sharia to be corrected would be a radical
reform in the way in which it is thought.
So in countries like Malaysia, where there is a call to re-institutionalize
Islam and Sharia, at least for the Muslims of Malaysia, there could be dire
consequences for the women?
And there have been dire consequences wherever Sharia has been implemented,
unless the very idea of Sharia itself has also been interrogated. If Sharia is
the way in which we utilize our sources and our tradition -- that would mean
the Sharia tradition itself -- the way that we utilize these traditions in
order to come up with just and fair articulations of the divine will in our
context, has to be a part of the re-implementation of Sharia.
Unfortunately, the majority of the places that talk about re-implementing
Sharia means to literally pick up a system from before -- its decisions, its
conclusions, its codes -- and apply those in situations that are absolutely
incongruent with the original circumstance in which they were made. So it's a
little bit easier to assume that, well, let's put it this way: Islam is not
singularly a correct thought or orthodoxical system. It isn't just satisfied
with right ideas about belief. It is necessary to have orthopraxis. It is
necessary to have right actions. The idea, then, behind Sharia originally was
how do we arrive at those right actions? That idea is still good and necessary.
It is true, however, we were not always able to promote right actions for all
time and all places by our efforts in earlier centuries or in diverse
circumstances. So we need to have a dynamic notion of Sharia, which includes
past jurisprudence; obviously includes our primary sources; but includes all of
these things, with radical reformation in thought, so that they are
interrogated as to their applicability in our new circumstances.
Are you a voice in the wilderness about this?
No. In fact, this is not my strong point, because my area is really theology. As the Quran is one of the sources of Islamic law, I am advocating the need for
reinterpreting the Quran in order to help to develop more inclusive, generally
equitable laws. But the idea of law formation is a weak point for me.
However, this is one of the strongest aspects of Islamic reformist thought with
regard to progressive Islam. And there are women who have been engaged in
Islamic reform whose avenue of approach has been almost 100 percent the Sharia
reform methodology. So I am in support of that voice.
Are there men who are on that bandwagon too?
Absolutely. And there's been a very poor link between the commonality of
progressive Islamic discourse with regard to men's work on a variety of areas
and women's work, in that the two need to be articulated as simultaneous
dimensions of the same reality. One of the ways in which we are representing
reform in Islam is by our ability to be able to make it meaningful to women and
In your view, is there justification, Islamically, Quranically, for
committing what I would call criminal acts, killing innocents, and perpetuating
here in this country a notion of Muslims as terrorists?
The idea of terrorism and Islam I think has been broken apart, very clearly,
with regard to the works of many Muslims since the horrific events on Sept.
11. In fact, Muslims, I think, have stepped forward to make that articulation
loud and accurately, pinpointing the idea that its origin is anything but the
text or the heart or the spirit or the soul of Islam. That that voice has not
necessarily been as coherent, in terms of the public discourse in America,
where Islam still gets to be equated with terrorism -- I think too much -- is
But there is no lack of work that's being done to demonstrate that there are
explicit prohibitions against the actions of killing innocents in the Quran,
and there is in fact an entire Quranic ethos about the value of all human life
and the responsibility to support that life, and the responsibility to [r]age
against evil -- primarily within our own selves -- as our primary struggle or
jihad. So there is no relationship between terrorism and Islamic sources.
But are there not also statements in the Quran about fighting those who
fight you, for example? And that could be taken in a very allegorical way.
There are also, there is also the example of the prophet -- who was a warrior,
who led armies.
Certainly, the history of Islam includes periods of time where Islam, as a
minority community, was up against considerable odds. And the responsibility
for actual armed struggle in order to survive and in order to preserve itself
was legitimated and it was legitimated in the text. Again, we have the
understanding that the text has both a context and a universal objective. So my
critical ideas about textual analysis include being aware, when a passage or a
concept or an idea is an idea whose time is not eternal, but rather whose time
In other words, yes, there were commandments to fight. And these were
commandments relative only to an immediate circumstance. That circumstance has
to be understood in order to even make an application of that verse. We do not
have similar circumstances in a pluralistic world. And so it is not possible to
seek guidance from aspects of text which are not universal in their own
But are there not Muslims who would say, "That's your
Yes. Absolutely. I am advocating the need for reinterpreting the Quran in
order to help to develop more inclusive, generally equitable laws. That people
will take things out of context from the text, and that people will take
aspects of Quranic articulation or statements or passages and disregard overall
Quranic intent with regard to justice and equality, human well-being and human
dignity, is unfortunately one of the problems we are grappling with in
America is a good example of people from all over the world coming together
and suddenly facing each other and finding out that the Islam that one was
practicing has so many cultural aspects to it that are not in common with other
Muslims from Pakistan or from Chicago. Let's talk about Islam in
Certainly Islam in America represents a very significant alternative to our
understanding of Islam in the past. One, because you have the advantage of
certain civil liberties that guarantee the right to full practice of your
religion. But, two, you have an ethos which has presumed that religions, in the
sense of pluralist practice, were going to basically be Judaic and Christian.
So the idea of truly practicing plural religions -- Hinduism, Buddhism,
Jainism, Sikhism, Bahaism and Islam -- has, in some ways, been disruptive of
the very ideas of the freedom of religion that we're guaranteed. Yet Muslims
have been more free to practice here than in their own countries, in some
So again, you have in the U.S. a situation a set of complexities that means
that, in some ways, you can understand better, what is the nature of the
struggle of Islam in modernity? The nature of the struggle of Islam in
modernity is to be able to preserve its own identity and yet to parallel its
integrity as Muslims as human beings, to parallel that integrity commensurate
with all other peoples.
So you have, at one and the same time, people who are American and Muslim,
combining those two things in ways that involve their cultural backgrounds and
their spiritual motivations. The two are not always one and the same.
It is possible that Muslim cultures, in the past and in the present, have been
reflections of the Islamic worldview or Islamic spiritual objectives. But it
also possible that those cultures have had slight variations that give them
their own cultural breadth and reality and beauty, but are not necessarily
exclusive to Islam.
So the idea of bringing all of this to the American front, including a large
population of people who embrace Islam by choice -- unencumbered by a cultural
connection, but yet members of a culture themselves -- means that here in
America we grapple more with what aspect of Islam is cultural and what aspect
of Islam in fact transcends or shapes or develops culture. These are not always
one and the same, and they are also not something that everybody agrees on, in
all of its various manifestations.
What does the African-American Muslim community add in its own separate
distinctive way to this discussion?
I think the African-American Muslim situation is also complex and also diverse.
African-Americans were the single ethnic group that joined the American ranks
without choice -- in other words, we were brought to this shore by force -- in
some ways [that] stamps us with an identity as Americans in a way that we
cannot ever shed.
It doesn't mean, however, that we have always been in agreement with all
aspects of mainstream American ideology, especially American policy, and
certainly American racist perspectives. So therefore, we have been, at one and
the same time, American and at odds with the mainstream American culture.
To choose Islam -- whether it be of our parents' generation or to choose Islam
in my generation or to choose Islam as younger people are choosing -- to choose
Islam is no stranger than to be African-American for us. Because it says
identity is a question of your assertion of self with regard to the outer
world, and that the motivation for your identity is your inner world, that is,
your perspective on God and humanity.
African-Americans articulate that in their living experience of Islam, but it
is not always singularly a manifestation of culture. And that's where cultural
Islamics that combine to enhance their own identity of culture in a Muslim way
sometimes are at odd with African-American Muslims who are not binded by a
singular cultural expression or see that Islam is culture itself.
Some might say it must be hard enough to be African-American in U.S.
society; why add Islam as an additional oddity or difficulty or burden?
We have not had the expectation that the affirmation of our identity rest in
our home environment. We have always had the expectation that the affirmation
of our identity rests in the stability of our development of our own self. And
therefore Islam is the penultimate mechanism for developing ourselves with
regard to our human identity in relationship to the divine.
So in fact, Islam enhances our chances or our opportunities to survive in the
context of the West, particularly in the context of America. Islam facilitates
our struggle as African-Americans. And many people in the community have
understood this. African-Americans who will not ever enter fully into orthodox
Islam and engage in all of its practices actually support a lot of basic ideas
that are Islamic. So there is sort of a harmony between being African-American
and being Muslim, even when African-Americans don't become Muslim. There is no
incongruence between Islam [that's seen], and there's no idea that this is
something outside of their culture.
And what about African-Americans as the host Muslim community here, and the
immigrant Muslim community coming in?
I have always thought that the African-American Muslim community did not
service the post of host very well. And the reason may be because we are still
struggling for our full rights in the context of the American civil liberties.
So we were not situated.
In America, when Muslim immigration began in earnest some time at the end of
the nineteenth century, we [were] still struggling to gain our right position
as full Americans in this country. To then take the responsibility of caring
for others that have come has meant that we haven't been in the best position
to do that. And I think that the experience of host has been assumed for us,
whereas we have not been able to assume it.
I've heard that there were some tensions between these communities.
I think there are tensions between African-Americans and immigrant Muslims. But
I do not think that the sole cause of those tensions is because
African-Americans have not been host to immigrant Muslims. We have been those
people who were here before, but not necessarily in the active role of host.
I think the tensions also arise because African-Americans are very astute to
practices of racism and discrimination; it is our history. Immigrant Muslims
will come to this country aimed at mainstreaming themselves with regard to
American privilege. [This] has sometimes meant, as with other immigrants, that
they have assumed the mainstream ideology regarding rights and privileges. They
have therefore imbibed some of the prejudices or the stereotypes with regard to
oppressed peoples in this country. And instead of alleviating them, especially
with Islam as the cause of their alleviation, they have perpetuated them.
And so African-American Muslims collectively have been very sensitive to
discrimination from different ethnic groups who are Muslim. ...
Which would be un-Islamic, wouldn't it?
Which would be un-Islamic in the core. And African-American Muslims definitely
have been attracted to Islam's equality, especially racial equality, economic
equality. And, at least in new ways, we were understanding its gender equality.
But the idea that there has been inequality in treatment between various Muslim
groups means that African-Americas are less forgiving of racial prejudice among
Muslims than they might be from people who have no guidance, i.e., from people
who are not Muslim.
Could you talk about the search for identity and its consequences?
I think at any place where one feels a loss of identity, the tendency to be
able to go within one's past, one's culture and one's historical intellectual
tradition, say, in the case of Islam, offers a certain amount of solace. In
fact, you will notice that the neo-conservative Islam will often say, Islam has
given women its rights 1400 years ago. And by making that assertion, that is,
by claiming a priority in women's rights, it is no longer necessary to struggle
with new articulations of women's rights. It offers a safety net and a cushion.
So I find it quite understandable that, for many Muslims whose identity is
being challenged by all of the movements in modernity in terms of colonialism
and the end of colonialism, in terms of the globalization of economy and the
globalization of democracy and also the globalization of a single articulation
of democracy, that Muslims have gone to that which is their historical
That is a very sort of pristine articulation of Islam. And the beauty of that
pristine articulation is that it is a coherent system that claims and fulfills
its promise of completion. However, the completion, in one time, is not the
completion in all times. So what they fail to do is be able to grapple with
what in fact is a dynamic completion of Islam in our time. They simply take
advantage of the experiences of Islam, a cohesion from the past. ...
With this neo-conservatism, what does that look like in social and
In social terms, the manifestations of neo-conservative Islam are an
enhancement of Islamic symbols: external symbols of dress, and a certain
uniformity in dress has come about in the last 30 years, that is unlike any
time in Muslim history. And the idea that that uniformity in dress is in fact
Islamic through and through, as opposed to a cultural and historical specific
form of dress, is incredible, if you think about it. Because cultures are
losing their own indigenous expression of modesty and all adopting the
singular, homogenized form of dress.
But certainly, on the political arena, the idea of neo-conservative Islam has
been very problematic. Because there is where political theory has to grapple
with the reality of the nation-state. And an Islamic empire is not an Islamic
state, although now, Muslim nation-states are on-the-ground realities. So it
creates a great deal of conflict in terms of what is the political articulation
Muslims will, in a neo-conservative sense, grapple with foundational ideas
about sovereignty belongs to God, and not know how to implement them into
active systems in modernity. And so they will thwart the possibility of other
systems arriving at sort of a new, indigenous articulation, and in fact prevent
that, and implement more totalitarian political regimes, and then say, this is
one of the mechanisms for protecting or preserving pristine Islam.
So in the political sense, I think it wreaks havoc. On the social sense, I
think it sort of lends itself towards symbols -- our tendency to be able to
make those symbols seem as concrete manifestations of the full breadth and
reality of Islam.
It seems that the head scarf means something different everywhere you go.
I'm just wondering if this is about the evolution of the head scarf from some
sense of modesty now to some sense of identity and a statement of identity. Is
that what's been happening?
I think that Islamic codes of dress, particularly the most common identified
feature of Islamic dress for women, which is the head covering or the hijab, is
a strong symbol that many factions of Islamic society will revolve itself
around with many different intentions and with many different expectations. If
the overall thrust of Islam with regard to social decorum is one of modesty,
the idea that you can associate modesty with any singular item of dress is
ludicrous. Nevertheless, as symbols go, the idea of the hijab as a symbol
representing a particular kind of Islamic modesty is very much in vogue. And if
it is both Islamic and modest, then people will attach themselves to it. Both
women and men will attach themselves to it as, in fact, real.
The symbol has become justification of itself, whereas before it was supposed
to be a manifestation of modesty. And the idea that it's become uniform is also
one of the ways at which we simultaneously use it as a symbol of identity, but
at the same time are simultaneously locked into restrictions of our identity
development, with the assumption that again, that this is the right way to do
it. Therefore, it implies that any other way to do it is in fact wrong. And one
does not want to confess to being wrong.
So the idea of struggling with modesty is in fact the element that is Islamic.
And that the hijab might be one of the ways in which this modesty has manifest
itself does not mean that modesty is equal to the hijab. The hijab has no
hierarchy over the concept of modesty. So it is at one and the same time a
mixed symbol that people will identify for the sake of religion, but also for
the sake of personal identity with that religion, even though in and of itself,
has no religious meaning.
This is a paradox, because it's seen also as sometimes a symbol of
oppression, and sometimes a symbol of liberation.
The head covering as a form of oppression comes to the end of whether or not a
person or a collective of people in one cultural context has the right to
choose. And when it is taken as a manifestation of correct Islamic modesty,
there is no choice that you can have. You cannot be Islamic and modest unless
you wear this form. And so it will be enforced, not only from outside, but also
enforced from within. People will assume, women will assume, that they have to
dress this way in order to be Islamic. And from the outside, governments and/or
social groups will enforce it as a manifestation of Islam: this is the way to
present yourself as Islamic.
If we understand modesty as something that is not fixed in time, but is the
primary principle that is being promoted within the Quran, for example, then we
will recognize that there are many ways to symbolize this. And that the choice,
to be able to adopt this particular one, or to reject this particular one, is
in fact of equal merit. But the idea of attaining to the reality of modesty
cannot be fixed in any one particular item. That's very hard for Muslims to
grapple with, because again, the whole idea of identity reformation is being
contested; not only from within Islam but from without as well.
How would you analyze the changing meaning of the head scarf in Turkey over
the last 10 years?
The Turkish situation is fabulous in terms of showing the complexity. Because
some form of Islamic head covering has always been a feature of Turkish life,
even in the massive modernization movements that were part of the 1930s and
1940s and 1950s, because women in the villages still retained some form of
Islamic head covering. With the urbanization of many cultures because of new
economies, the idea of that dress became backwards and it represented the old
ways of thinking and the village ways of thinking, and not quite being modern.
Certainly, the Islamic resurgent movement in its global aspect included a
resurgence of ideas that were clustered around certain symbols; that actually
gravitated towards those symbols. The idea of Islamic head covering then became
a marked separation between those within Turkish society and government who
wanted to claim secularism as a basis of their identity as Muslims and as
moderns, and there were Muslims, women and men, who said, our identity as
Muslim is not in contestation with modernity, there is no need to become
secular; and again the head scarf or the hijab becomes a symbol of that
And how would you analyze the evolution of the head scarf in Iran over the
last 20 years?
The situation with Iran is also a different dynamic, that includes a crossroads
with some of these similar uses of symbols, because the women gravitated
towards the chador during the revolution as a way to distinguish themselves
from secularism and from Westernism, which had become embedded in some notions
So when they adopted the hijab as a form of revolution against these ideas, it
then became a feature of Iranian Islamic articulation. Whether or not the women
ever intended it to be, again, eternal, there became no choice. The new Islamic
regime decided that it was mandatory, and therefore people had to sustain it.
Women did, however, also find that it simultaneously liberated them into the
opportunities to present their ideas and their concerns in the public forum,
and to be able to address the idea of genuine reform with regard to women's
rights. So this is again one of the ways in which we see that nothing is ever
simple. Everything is very complex with regard to Islam and modernity.
What do you see as the key lessons that women like yourself in America could
send back out to the Muslim world, the key rethinkings, reappraisals, that
could take place?
We have certain religious rights in America which means that it is possible
within the context of civil society to assume responsibility as an agent before
Allah -- and not to have men, Muslims, non-Muslims, people of different ethnic
origins, determine for us what it means to be Muslim. We have the full choice
-- not only to decide for ourselves -- but also to implement it in our lives,
and to make it a part of a collective expression that we can use to promote a
universal understanding of the right to be human and the right to be able to
come to our own identity.
Malaysia. I was wondering if you could talk through the process that you
took Sisters in Islam through, from their formation in the late 1980s.
My experiences with Sisters in Islam was, I think, one of the most unique and
fortuitous opportunities of my life. It happened to come at the end of my
graduate studies, which was particularly focused on the issue of Quran and
gender. When I came to Malaysia, within one month I had met members of Sisters
In Islam and been invited to the group. And the group was grappling with what
would be our method of reform for Muslim women; not only in the context of their
own Malaysian society, but in the context of Islam and modernity.
And one of the things that I presented to them was the origins of the idea of
women's equality and liberation in our primary sources. Once armed with this
authority, it is possible then to contest a number of voices which try to
return women to lives that are very narrow and restricted, and then to define
these narrow and restricted lives as Islamic. It was no longer possible for a
whole set of external articulations of Islam to determine for us what it means
to be Muslim. And to move forward as Muslims in the search for Muslim dignity
was an aspect of Sisters In Islam, which was unique in that environment.
Before, searching for women's rights took on a very secular guise, or searching
for Islam took on a very conservative guise.
So the idea of the two things -- that is, a progressive Islamic identity as
part of what it means to be Muslim, and therefore not causing us to go outside
of our religion, but rather something we draw from our religion and that we
draw as not only our right but our obligation as Muslims, empowered us, as a
group, to be able to act in specific ways with regard to policy reforms,
domestic violence issues, the issue of equality, and international networking
on issues of law and women's integrity as Muslims.
... And what was the actual process of work?
What I encouraged them to do actively, was to reread the Quran, to do a careful
reading, and in doing that reading, to come to understand the very hermeneutics
of meaning. How do we derive a certain understanding from the Quran? And in
this case, I challenged patriarchy as only one, and not necessarily the best,
means of reading and understanding the Quran.
It was very simple after that to actually go to the Quran and interrogate its
verses. Because you see the possibilities of liberation, the ideas of women's
equality, laid down, sometimes in explicit terms, in the text. But you also see
places where these can be decontextualized, distorted, or disrupted, in order
to be able to sustain that patriarchal interpretation.
So once I encouraged them towards this kind of methodology, it sort of became
our modus operandi, that we said justice is mandatory in the Quran, and that
until and unless we are experiencing justice in our lives as Muslim women, then
we have not been following the Quranic mandate.
Were you looking for a message you wanted to find though?
I personally began my research, in terms of Quranic studies, simply to
determine whether or not the experiences of Muslim women in all parts of the
world as I had traveled were in fact the experiences of Islam towards women. In
other words, I looked for a source that would most closely point me to, what
was the divine intention towards women? If the divine intention was
backwardness, prohibitions, narrow confines and subservience, then that was
truly Islam, and I personally [did] not want to have anything to do with it.
But if the true articulation was more than that, then Islam became something
even more meaningful for me. So for me, the more I studied in the Quran, the
more liberated I became, and the more affirmed I became as a Muslim.
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