Are Islamic Thinking and Ecofeminism Possible?

Prof. Nawal Ammar

In her presentation about Are Islamic Thinking and Ecofeminism Possible, Prof. Ammar explained that it is not difficult to understand the ecological crisis in its apparent manifestations as polluted air, radiation, contamination of water, and the eradication of entire species of animals and plants.

However, as Foucault (1978) argued we do not live in an ecology but we live in a culture that influences ecology. A number of new episteme have been introduced regarding the relationship between culture and the environment in the past quarter of a century, Ecofeminism is one of those episteme that examines such a relationship.

Eco-feminism is a movement that is still evolving. According to King (1988) the French theorist Francoise d’Eaubonne coined the term ecofeminism in 1974. Ecofeminism parallels an ecological critique with gender role critique. Ecofeminism is a social and political movement that unites environmentalism and feminism, with some currents linking deep ecology and feminism. Ecofeminists argue that a relationship exists between the oppression of women and the degradation of nature, and explore the intersectional between sexism, the domination of nature, racism, speciesism, and other characteristics of social inequality.

Rosemary Radford Reuther defines ecofeminism as: representing the union of the radical ecological movement, or what has been called ‘deep ecology’, and feminism. A critique of modern Western science with its dualistic, technological domination, synthesized with gender domination. The ecofeminists view the domination of earth as directly connected to a set of cultural, psychological, and economic factors that create hierarchies, which in turn oppress women, and other vulnerable segments of society. For ecofeminists, the characteristics of masculine-centered ideologies, violence, discrimination, ethnocentric views together with Western technology and science, have contributed greatly to the depletion of the biological environment, and pose a threat to the continuation of life on earth (King 1998:207, 1997; Plumwood 1993). The earth crisis to the ecofeminists is, hence, not a biological problem or a variable connected solely to fertility rates or education. It is a process that needs to be perceived in a holistic manner with a focus on issues of justice, equity, accessibility to resource and recognition of human rights for women and other vulnerable animate and inanimate components of society. Can Islam be compatible with such a theory that looks at feminism, deep ecology, and oppression?

Islam and Feminism.

Half a billion Muslim women inhabit some 40-45 Muslim-majority countries, and another 30 or more countries have significant Muslim minorities. Monolithic stereotypes of Muslim women have long prevailed in the media, and scholarship (especially in the west). Women in Muslim societies and communities (Both Muslim and non-Muslim women, from Asia to North Africa) face gender-based inequalities associated with the so-called patriarchal gender system.

The system, regardless of religion, features kin-based extended families, male domination, early marriage (and consequent high fertility), restrictive codes of female behavior, the linkage of family honor with female virtue, and occasionally, polygamous family structure.

Women in Muslim societies and communities (Both Muslim and non-Muslim women, from Asia to North Africa) face gender-based inequalities associated with the so-called ???patriarchal gender system.

The system, regardless of religion, features kin-based extended families, male domination, early marriage (and consequent high fertility), restrictive codes of female behavior, the linkage of family honor with female virtue, and occasionally, polygamous family structure.

Most current scholarship rejects the idea that the Islamic religion is the primary determinant of the status and conditions of Muslim women. Variation in Muslim women’s status and conditions, researchers typically explore factors that vary across nations and regions. For example, variations in the economic structures, or variations in the preexisting cultural value patterns of a given nation. The conclusion from textual analysis is generally either that the Qur’an’s revelation is inherently ethical and egalitarian in spirit (Ahmed, Badran, Barlas, Keddie,Mernissi, Stowasser, and Wadud).

It is patriarchal readings of the Qur’an and the fiqh (rules of jurisprudence), as well as the structure of religious and sexual power in Muslim societies, rather than Islam,that discriminate against women. While the texts embody egalitarian principles whereby women and men have moral equality Islam’s sacred texts are bound up with their time and place. They, therefore, require ongoing reinterpretation to disentangle outmoded cultural ideas and practices from the authentic Qur’anic norms and message of revelation.

Islam is the only monotheistic religious doctrine to deny the concept of woman as evil seductress, responsible for the original sin and fall of humankind .

Equality between men and women in their creation:

O humankind! Verily We have created your from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other…. (Qur’an, 49:13; cf. 4:1).

The Creator of heavens and earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves …(Qur’an 42:11)

And Allah has given you mates of your own nature, and has given you from your mates, children and grandchildren, and has made provision of good things for you. Is it then in vanity that they believe and in the grace of God that they disbelieve?

Qur’an (16:72)

Equality in responsibility

And their Lord has accepted (their prayers) and answered them (saying): ‘Never will I cause to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female; you are members, one of another…??

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