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Interview: A Secret Mermaid
Nahida, the Fatal Feminist
By Gypsy Mack
I was intrigued by Nahida's blog just by the title, the Fatal Feminist. I knew I had found something that I would love when I read the sub header: Islam. Feminism. Mermaids.
Nahida describes herself as a Muslim, a feminist, and an Islamic feminist. Her writing is sharp, intelligent and thoughtful, and she addresses the problems of a patriarchal society with a fresh and original voice. Through her writing, she brings awareness to the fact that the violent "Islamic" extremists never show the true message of Islam, that Islam is an inherently peaceful faith. The Fatal Feminist brings people back to the root of feminism and the root of Islam itself.
So, without further ado, here is the interview I did with Nahida in the summer. And by the way, she is also a Californian mermaid.
Do you find many differences between yourself and non-Muslim feminists and between yourself and non-feminist Muslims?
This is an interesting question; I think the differences here are more personal than ideological. In other words, it would depend on who "represents" each category. I don’t tend to find many differences between myself and non-Muslim feminists, particularly if the non-Muslim feminists in question are feminists of faith or otherwise feminists who have an understanding that not only are feminism and faith compatible, but that for many feminists of faith, religion is what enables (that particular kind of) feminism, and to strip any woman of something so inherent to her identity is anti-feminist. The differences would arise, rather, with feminists who maintain the position that a “true” (!) feminist cannot be a religious one because religious and feminist principles are fundamentally opposed. Ironically, I’ve found the same feminists who maintain this perspective have an inclination to be transphobic, xenophobic, and anti-black. Obviously this is not causation—it’s not even correlation; it may just be that I am likely to find things “wrong” with those who threaten or belittle my religious identity more quickly than those who don’t. Certainly it is possible for feminists of faith to be those things. In my personal experience, the former has more a tendency for transphobia, xenophobia, and anti-blackness.
All the same, I’ve met “feminists” of faith who grapple with their homophobia, and on the rare occasion a couple who are outright and unapologetically homophobic. Unsurprisingly, I’ve found these feminists cut the application of their feminism short in other religious areas as well: they’re the feminists who make things sound empowering (“men are the heads of the household because women are so valued”) rather than actually working to afford women more power. (By the way, isn’t it funny that the same women who believe their sex should restrict themselves to the domestic sphere assign men as the leaders of the household?)
So it really depends on the individual ideological construction of the feminist in question. I would tentatively conclude that the same applies to differences between myself and non-feminist Muslims. Although, I wouldn’t say there’s much difference between the feminist I just described and the non-feminist Muslim, in which case I would even argue I’m more likely to find similarities between myself and non-Muslim feminists than myself and non-feminist Muslims. Feminism is a form of jihad, or struggling to free the oppressed, and is therefore as intrinsic and inextricable a part of Islam as charity or prayer. I therefore can see myself as having more of a religious difference with non-feminist Muslims than I do with non-Muslim feminists!
Do you think that religious acceptance could be a major step towards world peace?
Well, it depends on whether “religious acceptance” means acceptance of religion or the acceptance of the religions of everyone else. Compared to atheism, I think religion is pretty widely accepted (not within its own sphere i.e. among different religions, of course, but that would be covered by the latter definition “religious acceptance.”) I don’t know if this is a “major” step toward world peace—I would say most conflict in the world is caused by very basic, root issues, like people not having what they need to survive because other people (namely those of high-powered foreign nations that have invaded countries for resources) are usurping their supplies, capitals, and properties. That may be arguably something that happens in the name of religion (the Christian settler colonialism of the “New World”-that-wasn’t-really-new-because-indigenous-peoples-discovered-it-first comes to mind) but when religion is employed as cultural weaponry to enforce a perceived cultural superiority over another people in order to justify confiscating their land and resources, the greed is going to play that role no matter what.
I think the major step towards world peace is the acceptance that one is not entitled to the belongings of others (and Others), and the ability to identify when those belongings actually belong to others—and are not free game for any Columbus who comes along.
What do you find inspiration in?
I always have difficulty with this question. Love.
What are your views on polytheistic religions?
Speaking of Love, I wonder sometimes how polytheistic some polytheistic religions really are. I may not be the best person to ask this question for that very reason; I have a hard time not chalking polytheistic religions up to “Basically, it’s fragmented monotheism.” Of course this is really obnoxious of me. I don’t want to impose this worldview on anyone, certainly not on polytheists.
While most Muslims translate the shahadah (or declaration of faith) as to mean “There is one God and Muhammad is God’s Messenger” I take it to mean “There is Only God, and Muhammad is God’s Messenger.” (The literal translation is, of course, “There is no God but God,” so you can see how that can be taken both ways.) Since I believe there is Only God, and that we harbor degrees of closeness to God, to Love, that make us inclined toward good or evil, monotheism to me means that anyone who finds inherent differences in the human soul (i.e. believes themselves to be superior and others to be inferior) is not practicing monotheism but committing an act of shirk (association with God) in placing themselves in an opposite competing role to God in equal power, of which there is none.
Naturally, I guess the unspoken attitude I have toward polytheism then is that if you’re not bigoted you’re not really polytheist (because contrarily polytheism,shirk, to me would mean believing there are multiple gods [like oneself in the example] and that creates a belief in Others?) Obviously that can’t be right. It’s certainly wrong in the sense I’ve got no business telling polytheists they’re not really polytheists. I don’t really hold that view, and yet I hold the former I just described that would logically render it. So that’s something I need to reconcile. I do believe that upholding the ego as God (believing for example that men/white people/heterosexuals/etc. are superior) is a form of shirk that many Muslims fail to recognize.
If you could change one thing about modern Western society, what would it be?
Only one? I wish Western society would stop trying to “fix” things in all the wrong ways. Of course, if Western society were really trying to fix things, it would return everything it ever stole instead of continuing its cultural theft and appropriation of resources via massive corporations that defy national (and therefore escape prosecution via international) laws.
What music do you listen to?
I have this habit of listening to really heavy, depressing, painful songs (think Evanescence) and then following it up with country music (think “I Hope You Dance,” LeAnn Womack.) I’m also one of those people who listens to the same song seven times (Enya’s “Only Time” would be an example) and I like Leonard Cohen and Yuna (“Mermaid”) and Vanessa Mae (“Night Flight.”) I prefer Beethoven to Mozart. Everyone should listen to the first four minutes of Violin Sonata no. 1 op. 105 by Robert Schumann. Also Ennio Morricone makes me cry. So whatever the hell kind of genre I just described in this paragraph.
And one random thing: If you like tea, what’s your favorite kind?
I prefer black tea to green tea—black tea with lots of sugar, but still black tea. Which surprises me, because I always thought I’d be a green tea type of person. But green tea is just gross. I mean, it’s just like flavored water, right? Upon discovering my preference for black tea I was compelled to reevaluate everything I believed about myself.
#Real #Interviews #Muslims #Feminists #Feminism #RealMermaid #BloggerInterview #PoliticalBeliefs #ControversialBeliefs
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6/19/2015 08:50:09 pm
What a lovely interview! I'm a big fan of Nahidas blog, so keep it coming. :-)
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