Image courtesy of http://journalism.nyu.edu/about-us/news-post/2015/03/05/new-distinguished-writer-in-residence-salman-rushdie/
A) Who is Salman Rushdie? What is the significance of his novel, The Satanic Verses, with respect to Muslims in the U.K?
Salman Rushdie is a British Kashmiri novelist and essayist, whose novel The Satanic Verses, sparked outrage among much of the Muslim community. The novel was seen to denounce and blaspheme elements of Islam, and many Muslim communities across the world had the novel banned. The controversy escalated when the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a “fatwa,” or called for Rushdie’s death, and that Muslims should kill him. Rushdie had to live under constant police protection for the next nine years of his life, following the publication of the novel. Muslims held many protests in the U.K., and the controversy led to a falling out with the Iranian and British governments. Rushdie’s novel sparked the conversation concerning freedom of expression, and the conflicting ideals between the Western world and Islam. I think for Muslims in the U.K., it was a major conflict of interests, and there was a struggle of wondering whether or not to support the critically acclaimed writer, or the strict order of the Ayatollah.
B) What limitations to Muslim assimilation in the U.K. exist? Do all British Muslims want to assimilate?
There is a greatly diverse and large Muslim population present in the United Kingdom, and the various Muslim communities present in the nation often hail from different ethnic backgrounds. This large scale of diversity makes it difficult to categorize the Muslim population in the U.K. as “one” sect of its citizens. According to Chapter 3 of Islam, Europe’s Second Religion, there are various theological and political differences that exist within the Muslim communities. The chapter goes on to say, “these divisions exist along the following lines: (1) traditional versus militant or activist Islam, whose followers are often referred to as Islamists; and (2) traditionalist versus modernist” (p. 59). There are clear differences between Muslim groups in the U.K., and followers of Islamic modernism are more aligned with the ideals of Western culture, and these intellectuals are often more accepted by British natives. Islamic modernists seek to gain the respect of the British elite, both in the intellectual and political realm (p. 60). However, not all British Muslims follow this ideology. More extremist groups within the British Muslim population exist, and are concerned with converting more people to Islam, and following the more traditional rules of Islam.
C) What is the musawah organization about? What does musawah mean? What are some of their key messages? What is your assessment of this association?
The Musawah organization is concerned with advocating for equality for Muslim women, along with equality in the family. According to Musawah.org, it is:
“a knowledge building movement. It facilitates access to existing knowledge and creates new knowledge about women’s rights in Islam. We seek to apply feminist and rights-based lenses in understanding and searching for equality and justice with Muslim legal traditions”
The word “musawah” itself is the Arabic word for equality, and that is the ultimate goal for this association. They seek to empower and educate women and support female leaders, to establish a greater sense of justice and equality for Muslim women. The organization’s website lists their key messages, values and principles. Here are some of the ones that stood out the most to me as I was reading through:
- Equality in the family is the foundation for equality in the society. Families in all their multiple forms should be safe and happy spaces, equally empowering for all.
- We use a holistic framework that integrates Islamic teachings, universal human rights, national constitutional guarantees of equality, and the lived realities of women and men.
- A global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family, which advances human rights for women in Muslim contexts, in both their public and private lives.
- To build and share knowledge that supports equality and justice in the Muslim family using a holistic approach that combines Islamic principles and jurisprudence, internationational human rights standards, national laws and constitutional guarantees of equality and non-discrimination, and the lived realities of women and men.
I think that this association is working to dispel the norms of traditional family life in Islam, and is a holistic approach to creating a more equal society. I really liked how their website explicitly listed their major values and ideas, as well as what the organization is working on, and how others can get involved and support the movement. I think that the initiative is worthwhile, and how it’s an all-encompassing movement that strives to improve the lives of all citizens and improve the quality of family life. Musawah’s Framework of Action demonstrates the thoughtfulness behind this movement, as well as their willingness to work with other organizations and leaders on all levels, in order to achieve social justice and equality.