Sub Rosa Episode 2: Muslim women and the War on Terror, with Shakira Hussein

The second episode of the Sub Rosa Podcast is now online ūüôā


Sub Rosa

Shakira HusseinIn this episode, Kate spoke with Shakira Hussein, a researcher at the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute and author of the recently released book From Victims to Suspects: Muslim Women Since 9/11.

We discussed her new book‚Äôs main theme ‚Äď the transformation of Muslim women in the public eye since 9/11, from being helpless victims awaiting rescue, to becoming potential threats to be monitored and kept under control.

The episode covers her research on Muslim women in Pakistan, and how the War on Terror has effected the lives of women there. We then discuss how counter terrorism (CT) and countering violent extremism (CVE) has changed the aid landscape in Pakistan, before discussing recent developments in the Australian government approaches to CVE, including the dilemmas of funding community programs with CT money and the potential that CVE policy-initiatives targeting the Muslim community have for securitising them and further alienating some…

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Imaji Cinta Halima

Published May 3, 2014
A chat with¬†Indonesian academic, writer & activist Novriantoni Kahar about his book ‚ÄėThe Imagined Romance of Halima: Five Acts of Love in Religious Struggle‚Äô ‚Äď a¬†collection¬†of poetic essays which seeks to highlight the spiritual and emotional effects¬†of discriminatory practices against Muslim Women

Novriantoni Kahar : Cinta Dalam Lima Tangkai Sastra AdvokasiNovri, author of Imaji Cinta Halima ‚Äď image¬†

Within Indonesia there are a number number of people, both male and female, working hard to reform misogynous discourse to make Islamic practices more woman-friendly. With many voices also in contradiction to such trends, never has the issue of women in Islam been so widely debated in Indonesian public life. Contradictions within the movements of contemporary Indonesian Islam indeed reflect the ferment of democratic transformations occurring in Indonesia.  From movements calling for the reinstatement of the Khilifa to genuine progressive reflections on problems within doctrinal approaches to Islam, these movements reflect the diversity that has unfolded since the collapse of since the New Order regime.

Novriantoni Kahar is¬†writer and activist who explores problems of discrimination. In his book¬†‚ÄúThe Imagined Romance of Halima:¬†Five Acts of Love in Religious Struggle‚ÄĚ (Imaji Cinta Halima: Lima Kisah Kasih dalam Pergumulan Agama), he hopes to highlight the spiritual and emotional effect of discriminatory practices against women in the Muslim world.

Novri is a¬†santri¬†Muslim who gained his primary Islamic education at Pondok Modern Gontor Ponorogo (one of the most well-respected Islamic boarding schools in Indonesia). He is also a graduate of al-Azhar University in Egypt. His‚Äô academic approach to Islam is one of co-mingling Islamic knowledge with social sciences like sociology and political science. In this way, Novri ‚Äúdoes not accept Islam as a¬†das solen¬†as such, but tries to study it as as a¬†das sein, as a factual phenomenon‚ÄĚ.

Novri was inspired to write The Imagined Romance of Halima by his work in anti-discrimination campaigning in Indonesia as well as by his experiences gained whilst living abroad in the Middle-East and Europe.. The stories are set in Indonesia as well as other Muslim-majority countries. All express different facets of the impact of religion on the major life choices of women.

The book‚Äôs title story, ‚ÄúImaji¬†Cinta¬†Halima‚ÄĚ tells of a love affair between an Indonesian driver and a Saudi woman. Their illicit engagement ironically being facilitated by the policy of gender segregation practiced in the Holy Land of Saudi Arabia. Another tale also set outside Indonesia tells of a love story between a Coptic Christian and a Muslim. Set in Egypt, the story comes to a sad end, with traditions and bigotries within the two communities deciding the young couple‚Äôs fate.

As a Muslim, Novri wonders how people can be ‚Äúso incredibly sensitive in protecting ‚ÄėIslam‚Äôs reputation‚ÄĚ, yet so completely desensitised to some of the discriminatory acts committed in the name of religion. In the post September 11 political landscape, we have become accustomed to seeing the image of ¬†a middle-class Muslim woman, dressed in fashionable Islamic attire talking adamantly about how Islam has ‚Äúliberated‚ÄĚ her and how acts of violence and bigotry towards women could never happen in Islam‚Äôs true name, putting the causes down to being a product of ‚Äúculture‚ÄĚ. Simultaneously, there are Muslim women who are experiencing acts of abuse at the hands of men acting within their own religious rights through interpretations of particular Islamic discourses. The experience of both women is real.

Islam can indeed ¬†‚Äėliberate‚Äô a woman if she is empowered to interpret the practice of Islamic teachings through the works of progressive scholars. On the other hand, doctrinal interpretations within Islam can justify acts which destroy, even end, a woman‚Äôs life. This is the reason Muslim‚Äôs like Novri call for a ‚Äúgenuine recognition of the problems within Islam‚ÄĚ when it comes to discrimination against women and other minorities.

As Novri explains, ‚Äúif we really pay close attention to the issue of discrimination toward women in Islamic or Muslim-dominated countries, the fact is, it is happening.¬†We must not be frightened to hold issues within the Muslim community to the light where they can be examined and aired. Denial only compounds these problems‚ÄĚ.

Novri sees some of the reasons for such hypersensitivity at criticism in Muslim communities as being driven by certain political and psychological factors: ‚ÄúPolitically, Islamic ideology affects many aspects of Muslim thoughts and practices, in every aspect of life, whilst psychologically, Muslim-majority societies find it difficult to accept the gulf between their imaginary ideal Islam and the actual manifestation of it in their daily life. Perhaps if we began to see the effects of the harsh treatment of women for how they are, we can begin to address some of the problems within our communities‚ÄĚ.

Through the stories in Imaji Cinta¬†Halima, Novri hopes to help promote an awareness of the ways in which religion and tradition is used to discriminate against women in both subtle and overt ways, and the ways in which this affects their daily lives. ‚ÄúDenial is a common defence mechanism in Muslim societies everywhere however we Muslims need genuine recognition that many of the problems rampant in our societies are coming from within. There are real problems within Muslim societies and we need to stop attributing our them to some outside force or conspiracy. Islam should not be exempt from being be examined and criticised honestly from within. It is as simple as that‚ÄĚ.

‚ÄėImaji¬†Cinta Halima‚Äô¬†is published by¬†Renebook, Novri tweets at @novri75