Monday, March 21, 2011


Cross-posted on the NOW National blog

The recent news story about a man who attacked three separate groups -- a Planned Parenthood office, a mosque, and a church he deemed supporting the LGBTQ community -- is another example of something true feminists have known all along: You cannot advocate for the rights of one oppressed group without acknowledging the interconnectedness of the struggles of all oppressed people in society.

The story touches a personal nerve, as a Muslim feminist who has been asked, "How can you be Muslim and feminist at the same time?" The question came after a biased attack following 9/11, when I was almost run over because a white man decided the way I looked meant I loved America less than him. More recently, I had a frustrating conversation with a well-known feminist who said Islam was the biggest threat the world faces -- more dangerous than the threats to the environment.
In fact, Islam gave women the right to own property centuries before the Western world. And while the U.S. has yet to elect a female president, certain Muslim nations, like Pakistan and Bangladesh, have already done so. Virtually every religion has been twisted to serve misogyny -- like the Catholic Church, which admitted to forcing nuns who were raped by priests to have abortions -- so why single out Islam as an anti-woman institution? My secular husband and I have been visiting the Islamic Cultural Center of New York, whose Imam has argued for women's rights using verses of the Quran -- noting that Islam does NOT give husbands the right to hit their wives, and allows wives just as many rights as their husbands.
Fortunately, my husband is not the only non-Muslim standing up for Muslim Americans. He recently attended the"Today, I am Muslim, too" rally along with people of all faiths, including celebrities like Russell Simmons. On April 9, he and I plan to join other members of the NOW-New York State Young Feminist Task Force for the "Rally to Oppose war, Condemn terrorism, & Fight Islamophobia."
As feminists, we must always be vigilant to ensure that our personal prejudices do not get in the way of the movement. Remember, the most effective strategy of the other side has always been to divide and conquer.
In Solidarity,
N. Jerin Arifa
National NOW Board of Directors
National NOW Young Feminist Task Force, Chair
NOW – NYS Young Feminist Task Force, Chair
National Organization for Women (NOW)

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