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Khushboo Sharma

IWB Blogger

Islamic Feminist Mariya Salim On The Complicated Conjugation Between Religion, Patriarchy And Feminism

  • IWB Post
  •  June 28, 2019

Historians and anthropologists have long drawn a strong corollary between culture and religion. Given the same premises to discourse, one can draw a pattern here. If culture is something that has been imprinted on religion then so must have prejudices pertaining to the culture.

Now, if we take into consideration South Asian cultures (Indian cultures to be more specific) and observe the way religion is approached here, what I just said will make absolute sense to you. Since its very inception, culture has had a very strong hold on religion.

Patriarchy, prejudices, and repressive mindsets, all find their way from culture to the religion, thus consequently dictating the precepts of the latter. Naturally, owing to the stronghold of patriarchy in South Indian cultures, women are impacted way more than men by the dangerous conjugation of culture and religion where the repressive attitudes from the former are transported to the later.

Muslim women in South Asian communities stand exactly at this intersection of religion and culture, where they are confined by the double bind of patriarchy and religion. To fully comprehend the underlying politics of this conjugation, IWB recently reached out to Mariya Salim, researcher, writer, Islamic feminist, and member of the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan.

In an expansive Twitter dialogue with her, we tried to ascertain how religion mixed with culture, impacts the lives of Muslim women, plays a big role in their subjugation, and bars/empowers them from/to standing up for themselves.

During the conversation, she explained how “Muslim women in India are triply disadvantaged, first as members of a minority that is being repeatedly targeted, then as women, and poor women.”

Mariya further talked about how she balances religion along with her feminism, how Islamic texts are hugely misinterpreted, the social roadblocks that Muslim women face in India, Triple Talaaq Bill, and more.

Here are highlights from the conversation:

On the conjugation between religion, patriarchy, and feminism

Mariya Salim on Twitter

@indianwomenblog There are a number of times women such as myself have been told by people from within our communities that we can either follow Islam or be feminists, almost implying that the two are incompatible. 1/2 #FaithAndFeminism

Mariya Salim on Twitter

@indianwomenblog Such statements stem from deeply rooted patriarchy. Our stand is that Islam is a Gender just Religion and that the two are most compatible. :)


Mariya Salim on Twitter

@indianwomenblog D 1st women-led mosque in Scandinavia ws started in Copenhagen 2 yrs ago n it has 2 female imams leading prayers.Amina Wadud lead prayers few yrs ago had 2 face lot of backlash.But it is these acts that r helping change the largely patriarchal narratives around women n Islam.1/2

On barring women from religious institutions and its implications


Mariya Salim on Twitter

@indianwomenblog These restrictions mostly r unique to India and our south Asian neighbours. By Barring women’s entry to into religious spaces, women’s ability to interact, and be involved in the community’s social life, beyond the four walls of their homes is also restricted. #FaithAndFeminism


Mariya Salim on Twitter

@indianwomenblog But I am glad we as women are struggling to change this reality, and are slowly succeeding. Haji Ali entry victory is a case in point :)

On the misinterpretation of Islamic texts

Mariya Salim on Twitter

@indianwomenblog For years now Islamic texts have been interpreted by men. If you look at some of the websites in India run by so called Islamic schools and the kind of Fatwas they give or the regressive interpretations by these men in the media, all help build this narrative.


Mariya Salim on Twitter

@indianwomenblog An example is polygamy.While men use Quranic texts to say they have the right to marry four times, Islamic feminists use the same text and the context around it to prove their point that polygamy is actually forbidden in Islam. 2/2

Mariya Salim on Twitter

@indianwomenblog Example- in accordance with the Quran, polygamy is permissible but conditional upon the man being fair in all ways to his wives. Since humanly it is not possible to treat all with equality, it is said that a man should not marry more than one woman. #FaithAndFeminism


On the social/faith barriers faced by the Muslim women in India

Mariya Salim on Twitter

@indianwomenblog Indian Muslim Women find themselves often trapped between being loyal to their religious identity and a desire for freedom and equal rights within those communities as well.2/2 #FaithAndFeminism

Mariya Salim on Twitter

@indianwomenblog One must ask the state for accountability. Women are standing up to challenge the status Quo and are finding support form women’s groups yes. Legal/social/economic support, all are imperative to change the present status quo.

Mariya Salim on Twitter

@indianwomenblog Muslim women in India are triply disadvantaged, first as members of a minority that is being repeatedly targeted, then as women, and poor women.1/2 #FaithAndFeminism


On Triple Talaaq Bill and her message to its critics

Mariya Salim on Twitter

@indianwomenblog Ive said this earlier. The Bill did not come about in a vacuum. Years of struggle and the failure of community leaders in addressing the issue and demands from ordinary Muslim women, leading up to the SC verdict, have led to it.we need to recognise this.3/3

Mariya Salim on Twitter

@indianwomenblog In my limited opinion, it would be ideal for the law to lay down a procedure of divorce that is based on the talaq-e-ehsan method. Infact, what is needed is a codified Muslim Law which looks at all aspects of marriage and Family. 1/2

Mariya Salim on Twitter

@indianwomenblog Choosing an Islamic discourse could be ‘both genuine- an expression of . . . religious convictions-and a strategic attempt to acquire legitimacy that also serves to broaden the base of support for women’s rights’ says Valentine M . Moghadam. 1/3

Mariya Salim on Twitter

@indianwomenblog 4 those saying that post the SC judgment, triple talaq bill is not needed as Instant TT is not an issue,need 2 introspect . BMMA has received 50 cases of women still being divorced using Triple Talaq in the last one year.N these r only those that are able to come fwd.

On the repercussions of delayed justice in Muzaffarnagar Riot Case

Mariya Salim on Twitter

@indianwomenblog It has bn 5 yrs since riots broke in Muzaffarnagar.The riots n the delayed justice has pushed the Muslim community behind, socially n economically.The communal undertones and tensions between communities is also evident,caused largely by d denial of justice.Ppl have lost faith.

Mariya Salim on Twitter

@indianwomenblog Women who were gang raped have only received a one time support. It is the responsibility of the state to look into the travesty of justice in all these cases. 2/2


On the image of Muslim women in India


Mariya Salim on Twitter

@indianwomenblog We are diverse, even within our communities. We do not need to be represented by the Clerics of our community on news channels. We have a voice of our own and know how to voice it! 2/2

Mariya Salim on Twitter

@indianwomenblog There is no 1 image really. But yes, it is a shame that the only projection of Muslim women in media has been that of women who are vulnerable. We, Indian Muslim women are as ordinary and as extra ordinary as any other woman in the country. 1/2


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