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Sexuality, Sex & Gender; Islam and Muslim Women

Lamisse Hamouda on engagement between the Muslim Wom*n’s Collective and Radical Sex and Consent Week.

radsex

Muslim women, while a terribly hegemonic descriptor for a diverse range of women, tend to undergo a multitude of universalising experiences. Of particular importance is how we’re persistently prevented from meaningfully expressing our self-definition and diversity of voice. Essentialised to a veil, consulted only when needed as some sort of cultural curiosity, erased as individuals by homogenising narratives that split us into either ‘liberated’ or ‘oppressed’ women, we’re in a constant struggle to define ourselves in the wider public space. Movements like ‘Hijabi Fashionistas’, born on alternative media platforms like YouTube and Instagram, have offered the ability to facilitate self-representation. However, we need to keep opening doors.

This year, Radical Sex & Consent Week has opened up a space for discussion with Muslim women on sexual rights, ethics and practices in Islam. Without the context of something like Radical Sex & Consent Week, the impetus to create two events around this issue on campus might not have occurred. Platforms like Radical Sex & Consent week are opportunities for engagement between the public and women who identify as belonging to the Muslim community.

Interference in the private space and functionings of the Muslim community are often paternalistic and unwanted. We do not need the mansplaining of feminism to Muslim women (looking at you, Richard Dawkins), nor do we need another burqa-ban debate. All these issues continue to marginalise Muslim women and deny us our agency as full and complete adults by continually speaking for us, rather than shutting up so we can speak.

This silencing is double-bound, as not only do we need to overcome internal barriers in our own religio-cultural communities, we get into the wider community and find ourselves even more silenced. For example, the burqa-ban debate posits veiling as a symbol of sexual abnegation thus rendering Muslim women as sexually repressed and in need of liberating, a stereotype that also encompasses undertones of oriental exoticisation. While we have issues in our own community, we do not need people external to our community trying to dictate our practices, characterise our sexuality or oppress our ability to self-define.

We’ve had enough of people taking our space, rather than making space for us. Radical Sex & Consent Week organisers worked with us to make that space happen. It is a space where we can share, on our terms, the way in which we interact and understand sex, gender and sexuality through the frameworks of our experiences grounded in faith and culture. It’s a small step, but a crucial example in the practice of being allies, moving forward beyond crushing binaries and facilitating self-representation and definition.

26th August: 1pm, “Sexual Rights, Ethics & Practices in Islam and the Muslim Community part 1” Autonomous* Muslim Wom*n’s Discussion Circle.

27th August: 2pm,“Sexual Rights, Ethics & Practices in Islam and the Muslim Community part 2”  Q&A with a panel of Muslim wom*n for a wom*n only audience.

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Michael Spence

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