The Women’s and Gender Studies department held a program Wednesday, Feb 3, to discuss women in Islam.
Fatima Sidiqi presented “Jihadism and Escalation of Violence Against Women and Girls: Polices Combating Gender-Based Violence in the Middle East and North Africa.”
Sidiqi is considered an expert in women’s and gender studies and is a senior professor of linguistics and gender studies at Sidi Mohamed ben Abdella Univeristy in Morocco.
She talked about the term jihad, which has origins in the Quran and the Haddith. Jihad in Arabic means “struggle.” This can be interpreted as a fight or peaceful exertion of effort. Her argument is ISIS has turned the term into a political ideology – jihaddism.
Jihaddism means “every Muslim must fight against unbelievers because they are a threat to Muslims.” Not all Muslims believe this, Sidiqi said. This ideology is rooted in Wahhabism, a strict and literal interpretation of Islam. This is also Saudi Arabia’s dominant belief.
The West isn’t blameless in the continuation of Wahhabism and the rise of ISIS, according to Sadiqi. In the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt told Saudi Arabia that Wahhabism is fine in exchange for access to oil. Then, in 1943, Roosevelt declared Saudi Arabia as a vital interest of the United States. Wahhabi Saudis also allied with the United States against secular Soviet communism.
According to Sadiqi, 21st century Islam has turned into Islamism, which is male dominated. The four architects claim a hierarchical agenda and have non-egalitarian and oppressive tendencies. Furthermore, they see women’s rights and a Western phenomenon and irrelevant to Islam.
“Women, according the Islamists, have no authority in religious matters, and according to them, should have none in greater society, politics, or economics,” said Sadiqi in an EMU press release
The West has played a role in the violence of Islam, Sadiqi said. Male Islamists use Western women as suicide bombers to symbolically “rape the West” because the West is seen as promoting women’s rights.
She also argued humans are fascinated by violence and ISIS is tapping into this fascination to gain publicity while also appealing to youth with a vision of hope and a social service in times of need.
Contemporary Islamic feminists are fighting against this violent, extreme and oppressive view of Islam. They argue male clerics have misinterpreted the Quran with oppressive male biases. To counter this, the Islamic feminists want a female reinterpretation to provide balance and return to justice through equality, which they believe existed during the time of the prophet.
Sadiqi speaks on this and similar topics as an international speaker and United Nations gender expert.