islam
Type
Polemic

‘Disguising Islamophobia’ revisited: a response to Yassir Morsi

Without questioning the real and pervasive presence of Islamophobia in the West, including Australia, I would like to have a more careful look at Yassir Morsi’s arguments in his ‘Disguising Islamophobia’ (co-written with Mohammad Tabbaa) and, to a lesser extent, ‘Saving the Muslim Woman, Yet Again’ (co written with Sahar Ghumkor).

The articles make many good points about the presence of covert racism in contemporary western liberal democracies, the stigmatisation of minorities (especially those of non-white, Muslim background), and the practice of using such minorities as scapegoats. Its attempt to define Islamphobia  more specifically as an ‘over-determining and inappropriate heaping of suspicion on all things Islamic’  is praiseworthy, as is its warning about the dangers associated with Western governments’ attempts to redefine Islam for Muslims on their (that is, the West’s) own terms (something known in the academic literature as the ‘ ontological securitisation’ of Islam).

Nonetheless, there are many points on which the articles needs to be critiqued.

‘Disguising Islamophobia’ concludes with this statement, which can be taken as its main argument: ‘Disguising Islamophobia under the cloak of gender equality only harms the plight of both Muslims and women.’ Let us examine this in more detail.

The authors characterise Professor Sheila Jeffreys (who specialises in gender studies at the University of Melbourne) as a ‘radical feminist’ (used pejoratively, of course). The reason given is that Jeffreys expressed concern that University of Melbourne did not condemn the ‘imposed’ gender segregation at an event. Professor Jeffreys’ concerns must be understood in the framework of the clear link (amply documented in gender studies literature, including that on gender and Islam) between gender segregation and patriarchy. This is what the authors have overlooked in their criticism of Jeffreys.

Another dimension not problematised by the authors is that gender segregation in the traditional interpretation of Islam cannot be viewed in isolation from other patriarchal practices, such as the husband or father’s complete control of his female kin’s sexuality and mobility, as well as their lack of decision-making power on many important issues, which are defended on certain philosophical, theological and jurisprudential assumptions of normative ‘Muslim masculinity’. These are artificially constructed on the basis of concepts such as men’s sexual jealousy as an over-determining source of ‘family honour’, as well as patriarchal exegetical,theological and jurisprudential interpretations of the Qur’anic concepts of qiwama and wilaya (husband’s authority over his female kin) which I have deconstructed in my book Constructing a Religiously Ideal ‘Believer’ and ‘Woman’ in Islam: Neo-traditional Salafi and Progressive Muslims’ Methods of Interpretation, as well as in other articles. They also rest on particular notions of ‘Muslim femininity’ artificially constructed on the basis of concepts such as haya (that is, modesty and shyness) and the idea of women as sources of socio-moral chaos whose presence in the public sphere is a threat and constant source of irresistible temptation for Muslim men who can’t control their limitless sexual urges.

It is important to emphasize that these views are not limited to the ‘salafis’ (or more correctly neo-ahl hadith (as I explain in my book) but also include all dogmatic or uncritical adherents of classical interpretations of Islamic theology, law, ethics and politics (known as madhhabists). Therefore, the authors’ analogy between gender segregation practices associated with traditional Islam and gender-segregated practices in the West (gymnasiums, private schools and public toilets, for instance) are simply wrong, as they are based on very different cultural and philosophical assumptions pertaining to what it means to be male and female.

Let me also add that the lowest common denominator of feminism is about extending the same legal rights and opportunities to both sexes/genders, as well as valuing their respective contributions in order to engender a gender-just society in which all humans can flourish and reach their full potential. This is something to which we all should aspire, since there is no ‘moderation in justice’.

The authors’ description of Catholic conservative Tony Abbott’s remarks that gender segregation is ‘un-Australian’ as simple political opportunism and an attempt to boost his ‘feminist’ credentials should also be questioned. It is simply a fact that the vast majority of Australians, including many Muslims, do consider gender segregation to be against their core values. Can we automatically describe the statements of Abbott and Jeffries as disguised Islamophobia, given what I said above? Or are they to be understood as genuine expressions of concern that Australian Muslims might be adopting practices that contrast with the values of the broader Australian society and which, given the organic link between gender segregation and other patriarchal mechanisms, are harmful to (Muslim) women? As an example, I know of instances of secret polygamous marriages that some Australian Muslim men engage in with the blessings of some Muslim clerics (though in the absence of actual case studies it is impossible to know how prevalent the practice is).

While I certainly find the views of Abbott and Jeffries to be overreactions, I can at least sympathise with some of the anxieties surrounding Western non-Muslims’ views of Muslims. That is why, with some of my non Muslim friends, I co-founded an inter-faith group, Abrahamic Alliance, in Perth back in 2005 to help promote dialogue, understanding and alleviate community tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims, with some success. Unfortunately, the group no longer exists but I cannot overstate how important these and similar initiative are.

The authors’ criticism of Professor Abdullah Saeed should also be scrutinised. Professor Saeed’s claim that gender segregation does not rest on strong historical precedents is based on sound arguments. His argument that many Muslims who have studied overseas (for example, at the Islamic University of Medina and similar institutions) go back to their home countries to preach gender segregation views of Islam, including advocating gender asymmetrical rights in the context of marriage, is true. These statements do not mean that Professor Saeed is blind to covert forms of racism in the West or that he is somehow enabling Islamophobes. Indeed, in his article, it is clearly evident that Professor Saeed is well aware that events such as the one at University of Melbourne can be interpreted by Islamophobes as instances of Muslims representing backwardness, extremism and a threat to the Australian society. That is why he writes:

For those fearful of Islam and Muslims, this is yet another example of out-dated Muslim views being stealthily imposed on Australian society; or even the sign of an imminent take-over of our higher education institutions by ‘extremist’ Muslims.

The argument espoused by the authors that the political Left in the West, or in Australia for that matter, has uncritical and willingly cooperated with the political Right in excluding western Muslims is also questionable. On the contrary, the Left (in the context of Australia, represented by organisations such as the Socialist Alliance, the Friends of Palestine and others, for I do not consider the ALP to belong to the political Left in any meaningful sense of the term) has been the main supporter of the ‘Muslim cause’ in relation to issues such as Palestine, the so-called ‘War on Terror’ and the defence of Muslims against human rights abuses by western governments. Anyone who has attended political rallies organised by Muslim organisations in the West  (for example, against the war on Iraq in 2003) can attest to this fact.

The authors also claim that Muslim women out of their own volition chose to sit at the back and that this is a ‘common thing among Australian Muslims’. For over ten years, I have been heavily involved with the Muslim community in Perth in various capacities as a member, vice-president and president of Muslim Student Association ( MSA) at the University of Western Australia, as a co-founder of Abrahamic Alliance, and by attending various academic and non academic events involving issues relating to Islam. Most Muslim organised events were not gender segregated. They were only so when organised by the neo-ahl hadith type of Muslims (commonly referred to as salafis).

In the article ‘Saving the Muslim Women, Yet Again’ the authors repeat the same old narrative of why Muslim women do not need saving from white non-Muslim men. But this narrative is constructed in such a manner to stifle any criticism of traditional patriarchal Muslim practices that have been proven to cause incalculable suffering to Muslim families (especially Muslim women and children). Instead, this criticism is equated with ‘Islamophobia’, ’political liberalism’ or ‘Orientalism’.

Without going into detail, I refer to the numerous sociological and anthropological studies of Muslim women (documented on websites such as www.wluml.org or www.musawah.org), both in Muslim majority and minority contexts, which describe in detail the experiences of Muslim women as victims of patriarchal practices such as honour crimes, religiously-sanctioned forced marriages and the repudiation of wives at their husbands’ whim, religiously-sanctioned domestic violence, religiously-sanctioned lack of autonomy in matters pertaining to their sexuality, mobility and even everyday decision making, to name but a few. It is easy for Muslim women (and men) who are living in western liberal democracies to underestimate the very real and highly harmful effects of practices associated with traditional Muslim family laws because they are not affected by them (or not to the same extent), and because they can pick and choose which elements of traditional Islam they want to retain and which to discard. That is why I refer to these types of Muslims as neo-traditionalists, as they do not question the many worldview assumptions and the patriarchal values on which traditional Muslim family laws stand.

In the same article, the authors argue that non-Muslim Australians seek to dictates the terms of Muslim women’s identity rather than allowing the Muslim woman to do so herself. Even if that is true, the very same thing can be said about those who defend practices associated with traditional Muslim family laws. The authors seem to point (approvingly) to the work of Saba Mahmood on culturally-specific forms of agency and female subjectivity not based on a secular-liberal framework or assumptions. Mamood wrote a book on a movement of pious mosque-attending women in Egypt back in 2005 but her work has been criticised by many in academia for opening the door for cultural relativism (an excellent overview of responses to the work of Mahmood is available). Regardless whether this assessment of Mahmood’s work is correct, one could ask the question as to what are the ultimate sources of the types of female agency and subjectivity she discusses. Mahmood argues that the embodied ethical practices give rise to subjectivity and agency by means of creating positive affective experiences. My answer would be that even if we agreed with Mahmood’s analysis of subjectivity and agency as arising from embodied ethical practices, their origins are to be found in the patriarchal interpretations of normative religious sources and the broader socio-cultural values, practices and historical traditions that sustain them. Were these forces not present, in my view, these types of female agency and subjectivity would not have been there in the first place.

There are many examples of internalisation of patriarchal norms by women of many different traditions, including Muslim women: the famous modern example is that of the religious scholar and activist Zainab Al Ghazali. This also explains why there are alternative, faith-based, women affirming or emancipatory forms of Muslim female agency and subjectivity (which are not predicated on the secular/liberal framework Mahmood criticises) that are based on progressive interpretations of normative religious teachings and non-patriarchal values compatible with contemporary human rights and the assumptions that underpin them (which are not considered as inherently contradictory but rather in accordance with the ultimate higher intents or the spirit of these very same teachings) exist.

It is further claimed that Al Qaradawi is not a salafi, a term that authors never define. I have dealt with the definition of Salafism in my book (and more information is available here). The concept of salafism in the Islamic tradition has several dimensions. One pertains to what is considered to be an ‘authentic’ methodology of interpreting the Islamic tradition. The second element pertains to a Sunni political doctrine regarding the role of the Companions of the Prophet in the midst of socio-political chaos that characterised early Islam, taking them as ‘authentic’ sources of knowledge for Islamic sciences that were developed later. The third dimension pertains to the manner in which the Islamic tradition is conceptualised based on a particular view of the nature of history and time, according to which history and time are regressive in nature. One of the most characteristic traits of Salafism seen from this perspective is the idea that one’s authentic Muslim identity can only be established by returning to a fixed point in historical time: that of the Prophet and the early Muslim community viewed ahistorically and in a socio-cultural vacuum. This Salafi-oriented vision of history imposes the idea a priori that this early Muslim community ideal was followed by a period of relaxation of standards, of deviation and, finally, of division. Furthermore, time is not conceived as in itself the medium and instrument of change but rather as reappearance and re-enactment, after a period of abeyance and degradation. In other words both history and time are conceptualised to be regressive in nature. Both ahl-hadith and madhhab based approaches to Islam share this concept of history and time. Qaradawi, although reform minded in a ‘modernist sense’, belongs to the latter approach. Ibn Taymiyya is closer to the ahl-hadith and was reform-oriented in a puritanical sense (although admittedly his views are being hijacked by neo-ahl hadith to some extent). In that sense, Fiona Hill, whom the authors criticise for labeling Qaradawi as a salafi, is correct in her assertion that Qaradawi is indeed a salafi in the sense of modern scholars such as M. Aduh or M. Al Ghazali, who were his intellectual forerunners. Both Abduh and Al Ghazali have criticised many aspects of traditional Sufi practices, and Qaradawi shares their views on this, too. Thus, contrary to what the authors claim, Qaradawi is definitely not a Sufi in the traditional sense of the term, although he might appreciate some aspects of Sufi thought.

In conclusion, for any critique to be truly called a critique, it cannot be one dimensional and blind to all of its sources and manifestations. There must be space for sensitive, intelligent and relentless criticism of both Islamophobia as well as patriarchal practices associated with traditional Islam. Engaging in this ‘multiple critiques’ is exactly what progressive Muslims should do.

Dr Adis Duderija is a senior lecturer in the Gender and Islam Studies department at the University of Malaya.

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  1. The original two articles that Duderija criticizes clearly hinted that we should broaden our fight against patriarchy. We should combat visible and less visible forms, rather than act on a typical tendency to locate patriarchy in the easier target of the disliked and stigmatized Oriental Man.

    The original two articles’ shared point was that we must avoid displacing social ills onto stereotypical ‘cultural’ minorities. The irony is that Duderija himself willingly does this displacement. In our challenging of the changing face of Islamophobia, Duderija saw fit to bring attention, once again, back to the Muslim’s religion/culture as the principle scene of inquiry.

    Doesn’t this typical move potentially allow for ideological indulgences that a liberal modernity has somehow escaped, or progressed, from producing harmful masculinities?

    With Duderija dutifully running through the typical Oriental signifiers – Honor, Muslim, Male, Law, tradition – there is another point to make.

    In the last, and quite strange sentence, Duderija suggests that any scene of investigation should have multiple critiques – ignoring that Duderija’s piece did not criticize Abbot or Jeffery and fails by its own ‘multiple’ standard. Despite then his faux congratulating, in the opening paragraph, of our original points, there is a worrying trend that marks the progressive Muslims: their obsession with combating traditional Islam to win back an identity.

    This is seen in their indulgence in quickly describing themselves as pluralistic and multiple. It hints best at the fantasy of the progressive that they transcend the boundaries of parochialism and are privileged with a Muslimness that self-reflects.

    Where else did Duderija get the assumption that the authors lack an ability to be self-critical? Where else other than a progressive celebration of self? Or, is it dependent on pre-existing assumptions that Muslims who question the west are lacking in self-reflection? Isn’t this the most typical way Islamophobes ‘refute’ Islamophobia – suggesting the Muslim is the real issue?

    This assumed ‘lack’ on our part is further articulated in Duderija’s somewhat overstated – tragically misplaced – assertion that we neglected a proper and critical analysis of Muslim masculinity. The two pieces had precisely the opposite aim. It was an assertion of racism and how Muslim women are silent objects in the imagination of those who rescue her (noting that Duderija, the male feminist, did not acknowledge the female author of the piece, Sahar Ghumkhor, by simply addressing myself). But, what is at the crux of Duderija’s article is that he simply does not understand racism.

    Consider his fleeting description of a ‘concerned’ Jeffery. Somehow her concern is natural, justified, and subsequently trumps any claim that a concerned feminist could commit Islamophobia.

    But, is it not precisely these concerned anxieties towards non-European practices that eventually turn immigrants into ‘objects’ that white Australia must ultimately worry about and control? Isn’t the very kernel of racism a ‘concern’ that immigrants and their cultural influence will corrupt what lays between Australia’s borders?

    One really shouldn’t advertise their assumed knowledge of Islam – or social theory generally – at the precise moment they neglect the power relations in which knowledge of the Other is so typically stated in regressive ways.

  2. I find it very strange that the author is responding to two articles written by three authors but directly titles it as an address to only one of those authors. It suggests there is a personal dimension to this particular response.

    In saying this, I cannot possibly take a response seriously that renders Muslim women who do not subscribe to a particular consciousness as mere products of patriarchy and lacking any agency of their own. This is further illustrated by how I was excluded from the conversation – is this because I am merely a mouthpiece of patriarchy? The author’s critique reads like an Islamophobic liberal narrative of the third world/Muslim woman who must be ‘corrected’ on what it means to be truly free; it’s not controversial that feminist knowledge production has been a conduit of these racist and imperial ideas. ‘Other’ women simply do not recognise their own oppression, and must be guided away from it.

    In the effort to highlight the gender dimension to this discussion, the author undermines the importance of the racial dimension that has historically established a particular discourse on freedom, modernity, equality, etc., which Western feminism (and even Muslim feminist approaches) end up reproducing as part of a rescue narrative that alone tells the story of the Muslim woman. This discourse has ensured that a history of violence – material and epistemic – is made invisible by an ‘apolitical’ approach that locates the problem with culture. Neo-liberalism, war, poverty, racism, are not to be the focus of the conversation but the problem ‘really’ lies with the Muslim man and His practices. This particular history permeates this conversation and to speak of it as an obfuscation or stifling of the ‘real’ issues shows the author’s limited understanding of how the conversation is already racialised. The racist logic here positions the author as the critical universal subject who assumes we possess the same ‘innate’ desires, and that the Muslim –always polluted by tradition – lacks the capacity for thought and engagement.

    The author reduces the Muslim into ideological compartments such as “madhabhists”, everything that the Muslim does is a manifestation of an ideology: the west segregates on sexual difference but Muslims segregates on ideological differences which have no fundamental root to any everyday human practice. There is always an imposition, violence and trauma at work. This is not new as orientalists have historically compartmentalised Muslims as perversions of ideology and using Islamic terminology to establish a façade of an ‘informed’ informer who can present their case against Islam from a position of knowing their ‘secret desires’. The Muslim that is represented in this article is the Muslim of the War on Terror.

  3. In addition to my reply to Yassir (the same arguments apply to Sahar too as expressed in the Saving the Muslim woman article and given her comments she seems to approve of the contents and views expressed in other article too ) I turn now to Sahar’s criticism of my article .
    Sahar writes: I find it very strange that the author is responding to two articles written by three authors but directly titles it as an address to only one of those authors. It suggests there is a personal dimension to this particular response.
    I did not choose the title – the original was “ Disguised Islamophobia and Saving the Muslim Woman Again REVISITED. Also Yassir was the only common author of the articles and I have had exchanges with him before and do not know any other author. Hope this clarifies
    Sahar write: In saying this, I cannot possibly take a response seriously that renders Muslim women who do not subscribe to a particular consciousness as mere products of patriarchy and lacking any agency of their own.
    I never made such a claim. On contrary, I clearly stated in my article otherwise “ that there exist authentic Muslim forms of consciousness and subjectivity that are neither patriarchal in traditional sense nor embedded in secular-liberal narrative” – I deal with this issue at length in my book. What I did say in the context of Mahmood’s work is that patriarchal interpretations of Islam , the broader socio-cultural values and historical traditions that sustain it can result in many Muslim woman internalizing these patriarchal values ( by engendering particular subjectivities) and have given the example of Z. Al Ghazali.

    Sahar writes: This is further illustrated by how I was excluded from the conversation – is this because I am merely a mouthpiece of patriarchy?
    I have explained this before in the above points.
    The author’s critique reads like an Islamophobic liberal narrative of the third world/Muslim woman who must be ‘corrected’ on what it means to be truly free; it’s not controversial that feminist knowledge production has been a conduit of these racist and imperial ideas. ‘ – I have also discussed this in my writings . Other’ women simply do not recognise their own oppression, and must be guided away from it.

    Again, this is a mischaracterization of my position as evident from the above. I have drawn attention to the idea that the existence of disgused Islamphobia should not prevent us from being sensitive to and speaking out against patriarchy among Muslim communities.

    Sahar writes: In the effort to highlight the gender dimension to this discussion, the author undermines the importance of the racial dimension that has historically established a particular discourse on freedom, modernity, equality, etc., which Western feminism (and even Muslim feminist approaches) end up reproducing as part of a rescue narrative that alone tells the story of the Muslim woman. This particular history permeates this conversation and to speak of it as an obfuscation or stifling of the ‘real’ issues shows the author’s limited understanding of how the conversation is already racialised. but the problem ‘really’ lies with the Muslim man and His practices. – no I never suggested that I only said that one should be more intelligent anfd balanced when dealing with Islamophobia. The racist logic here positions the author as the critical universal subject who assumes we possess the same ‘innate’ desires, and that the Muslim –always polluted by tradition – lacks the capacity for thought and engagement
    Well I can say the reverse about you that you are not only undermining the gender dimension but given what I stated about how you approached the entire gender segregation incident you are complicit in upholding the normative nature of gender segregation in Islam. However, unlike you, I consciously locate my critique as being ‘multiple’ and have a clear record (please refer to my comments directed at Yasser for evidence) on this .
    Sahar writes: The author reduces the Muslim into ideological compartments such as “madhabhists”, everything that the Muslim does is a manifestation of an ideology: the west segregates on sexual difference but Muslims segregates on ideological differences which have no fundamental root to any everyday human practice. –
    Why is madhhabism an ideological compartamanalisation ?- It is how Muslims refer to themselves . Indeed, those who subscribe uncritically to classical Muslim madhhabism worldview subscribe to its patriarchal values, ethics and laws including those pertaining to Muslim family law. Read any classical fiqh manual and you’ll find out.

  4. I shall address both Yassir and Sahar‘s comments separately. Before I turn to their specific comments ( in two separate responses) let me first point out that neither one of them has specifically rebutted many of my specific points I made in relation to their claims made regarding the role of the political Left in Australia in the War on Terror, the issue of Salafism , the issue of Muslim women choosing to sit at the back by themselves as being ‘common’ , my quote from Prof Saeed’s article , the existence of empirical studies on damaging effects of patriarchal interpretations of Islam on Muslim woman and the absurdity of comparing gender segregation practices as demanded by classical Islamic law with those of gender segregation contexts in modern societies including the West, the work of Saba Mahmood. These are just but the most readily evident ones.

    As I clearly stated at the outset the purpose of my article was not to deny or underplay the pervasiveness of covert forms of Islamophobia in the West but to call Muslims to be more sensitive to and critical of injustices done to Muslim women often in the name of religion in addition to fighting disguised Islamophobia. This insensitivity is clearly evident in the way in which the authors of the articles do not problematise at all the action of the Muslim group who organized the event and who, not so covertly, demanded gender segregation by putting up signs directing the audience where to sit . Not only do the authors not problematise this act , they defend it ( on erroneous grounds as I have clearly shown in my article) on the basis of the argument that is it a ‘common’ practice among Muslims and that this act of gender segregation should be viewed as just another ‘innocent’ example of otherwise ,even by western standard (promiscuous/ morally declined ? ) acceptable practices such as gender segregated gyms or toilets , bereft of any boarder connotations this act of insisting on gender segregation has and the boarder religious-legal narrative it is embedded in which I have outlined in some detail. The same insensitivity on behalf of the authors can be deduced from the manner in which the words such as ‘radical feminism’ / ‘feminism’ , Orientalism, political liberalism and Islamophobia were employed as if to suggest that any critique of the incident ( as voiced by Jeffreys , Hill and Saeed) is automatically conflated with ‘disguised Islamophobia’ or ‘Orientalism’ or enabling the same . There can be no other alternative explanation in the minds of these authors although I have offered some reasonable explanations ( and let the reader judge ).

    In one of his comments Yassir states: “The original two articles that Duderija criticizes clearly hinted that we should broaden our fight against patriarchy”

    My response would be how can we broaden our fight against patriarchy if we do not even recognize ( or are unwilling to acknowledge or are not sensitive to ) the strong patriarchal overtones and dynamics surrounding the gender segregation incident itself and its underlying premises and the entire weltanschauung it exemplifies.

    Next Yassir states as follows: “The original two articles’ shared point was that we must avoid displacing social ills onto stereotypical ‘cultural’ minorities. The irony is that Duderija himself willingly does this displacement.”

    Yassir does not explain how I do that unless he suggests that by asking for a more balanced approach to Islamophobia that is not blind to injustices within own religious tradition I automatically become guilty of disguised Islamphobia or that I somehow enable Islamophobes or that I ‘do not understand racism”.

    I have neither claimed nor implied that in Yassir’s words” liberal modernity has somehow escaped, or progressed, from producing harmful masculinities.” As I mentioned above my aim was to draw attention to the need to be engaged in a ‘multiple critique’ .

    Yassir also accuses me of employing “typical Oriental signifiers – Honor, Muslim, Male, Law, tradition “ but he misses the point that the very same signifiers are very much a crucial part of traditional and neo-traditional Muslim weltanschauung that are central to oppressive, patriarchal practices embedded in traditional Muslim family laws as exemplified by numerous scholarly studies, including my own, that I referred to in my article.

    Next Yassir states : “there is a worrying trend that marks the progressive Muslims: their obsession with combating traditional Islam to win back an identity. this is seen in their indulgence in quickly describing themselves as pluralistic and multiple. It hints best at the fantasy of the progressive that they transcend the boundaries of parochialism and are privileged with a Muslimness that self-reflects.”

    At no point whatsoever does Yassir ever (bother to) define progressive Muslims. In our exchanges elsewhere I have repeatedly referred him to my writings and offered him to write a review of my book and that I would help him in finding a publisher ( since he expressed interest to me in writing on progressive Muslims) which I thought was a kind gesture on my behalf especially given the difference between us in terms of academic seniority and ranking . I especially pointed him to my book on several occasions in which I have offered a very lengthy definition of progressive Muslims ( which is one of very few if not the only book that systematically does so) yet he has refused to do so stubbornly . So Yassir’s progressive Islam , as I told him before in our exchange elsewhere, is something that he has constructed himself and does not correspond to my definition of it.

    Yassir writes: Where else did Duderija get the assumption that the authors lack an ability to be self-critical? Where else other than a progressive celebration of self? Or, is it dependent on pre-existing assumptions that Muslims who question the west are lacking in self-reflection? Isn’t this the most typical way Islamophobes ‘refute’ Islamophobia – suggesting the Muslim is the real issue?

    I have answered this already in relation to the point about how the authors have approached the entire incident of gender segregation by not only not being sensitive or probelmatising this practice but also by defending it on grounds that are completely absurd and invalid for reasons I started in my article.

    Finally Yassir states: “Consider his fleeting description of a ‘concerned’ Jeffery. Somehow her concern is natural, justified, and subsequently trumps any claim that a concerned feminist could commit Islamophobia.”

    I have clearly stated that I consider her view as an overreaction but I also explained that one possible or likely reason (given the Professor Jeffreys specializes in Gender Studies) is that she is keenly aware of the link between gender segregation and patriarchy. I suggested in my article that the authors have overlooked this dimension and have too readily painted it with the ‘disguised Islamophobia’ brush.

    Yassir also states : This assumed ‘lack’ on our part is further articulated in Duderija’s somewhat overstated – tragically misplaced – assertion that we neglected a proper and critical analysis of Muslim masculinity. The two pieces had precisely the opposite aim.”

    I would like the authors to point to me where in their articles they have problematised or criticized Muslim masculinity because I cannot find it.

    Next, Yassir writes : “But, is it not precisely these concerned anxieties towards non-European practices that eventually turn immigrants into ‘objects’ that white Australia must ultimately worry about and control? Isn’t the very kernel of racism a ‘concern’ that immigrants and their cultural influence will corrupt what lays between Australia’s borders?”

    In my article I have tried to offer a more ‘sympathetic’ explanation as to why some non Muslims might be fearful of Muslims by suggesting that when Muslims adopt practices that are so alien to those of the broader society ( in addition to what non-Muslims get to see about Muslims on mainstream media) these Muslims become viewed with ‘suspicion’ and become subject to increasing ‘public scrutiny’ ( including myself and my brother who still has a government minder observing and watch all he does) . But this reaction, as I suggested, can be viewed in terms of the defense of widely accepted citizenship values not just through the lens of racism. As an analogy , if a group of ultra-orthodox Jewish men and women organized a conference at university of Melbourne and demanded segregation and there was no condemnation or an outcry similar to that of the case of the Muslim conservative group than we could be sure in describing the behavior of Abbott, Hill and Jeffrey’s as racist.

    Finally, Yassir states: “One really shouldn’t advertise their assumed knowledge of Islam – or social theory generally – at the precise moment they neglect the power relations in which knowledge of the Other is so typically stated in regressive ways.”

    I shall not comment on the issue of ‘assumed knowledge of Islam’ apart from referring the reader to my academic record which can be accessed here (http://malaya.academia.edu/AdisDuderija/Papers?s=nav#add) . Again , I want to reiterate that in at least three of my academic articles ( titled “Defining progressive Muslims’ , “The political Dimension” and ‘Historical Influences’ ,) in my book I very much discuss the issue of asymmetry in power relations between the ‘the west’ and the Muslim ‘other’ in which Muslims are described in grossly Orientalist ways, so I cannot be labeled as neglecting this dimension.

    Other statements by Yassir are raised by Sahar as well and I will deal with them in a separate response addressing her criticism of my article.

  5. Thank you, Adis, for your searing and important contribution. The justification for segregation presented in the original piece is essentialist and completely acontextual.

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