“THE GOATMILK DEBATES” will be an ongoing series featuring two debaters tackling an interesting or controversial question in a unique, intellectually stimulating manner.
Each debater makes their opening argument, followed by an optional rebuttal.
The winner will be decided by the online audience and judged according to the strength of the respective arguments.
The motion: “Islam is Incompatible with Feminism”
For the motion: Mohamad Tabbaa
Against the motion: Katrina Daly Thompson
“God is not dead; and neither is He a feminist” by Mohamad Tabbaa
God has not died, just yet. But there is a real push to kill Him. And it’s gaining popular support. I’m sure we’ve all noticed the modern tendency to ‘reconcile’ Islam with almost everything; democracy; liberalism; homosexuality; heck, even Christianity. And now feminism. So what’s the problem, exactly? Surely any right-minded individual would openly embrace the move to bring Islam into modernity, while only a backward Wahhabist regressive fundamentalist caveman would resist, right?
Well, not exactly.
You see, there are a number of fundamental flaws inherent in many of the arguments put forward to ‘modernise’ Islam. I will highlight some of these flaws — especially as they relate to feminism — and argue that not only are Islam and feminism not compatible, but that our actual attempts at reconciling Islam with modern ideologies is futile and misguided.
Rather than launch into definitions of what Islam and feminism mean, I believe it’s important that we first take a step back. This debate, after all, is not really about Islam and feminism per se; this debate is more to do with epistemology. Epistemology, otherwise known as “the theory of knowledge”, is the study of the creation and basis of knowledge itself.[i] Epistemology concerns itself with questions such as: What are the structures and conditions of knowledge? How is knowledge constructed and justified? Does knowledge lead to truth? What are the limits of knowledge? And does God play a role in this process?[ii]
The question being debated here, namely is Islam compatible with feminism, is one which can only be answered by first exploring the epistemological and methodological assumptions underpinning the call for Islamic reformation, and what these mean in the greater scheme of things.
Feminism, in all its variations, depends very heavily on postmodern theories of knowledge; namely that there is no ‘objective’ or transcendental truth; that all realities are merely constructed, contextual and relative, and therefore subject to change; and that all knowledge is intrinsically biased.[iii] Utilising poststructural methods of deconstruction, postmodernists argue that all knowledge is influenced by power, personal interest and especially language, and that therefore no knowledge can claim to be impartial.[iv] It is upon this basis that feminists (rightfully) critique the dominant liberal discourse as being male-oriented and oppressive towards women.
So, while the core concern of feminism might be women’s equality, rights or humanity, postmodernism (and hence, feminism) itself teaches us that one cannot judge an idea based solely on its ‘abstract’ theory, but must instead deconstruct its underlying assumptions in order to ascertain what that idea is really advocating or producing. For example, renowned feminist scholar Margaret Thornton argues that, despite its proclaimed concern of ensuring equality between males and females, liberalism is inherently biased against women; not because of its ‘abstract’ theory, which is neutral, but purely because of its underlying assumptions – its epistemology – which are male-oriented.[v] Likewise, in order to properly assess both the nature and impact of feminism, one must necessarily look past its purported aims and concerns, and instead investigate its philosophical basis. Continue reading