Islamophobia and feminism

I have been called islamophobic before.

It was years ago, in the course of my NYSC. I was part of a small group of writers and news-minded people who were in OBS, orientation broadcasting service, which meant that we had to come to press and public relations unit of the nysc secretariat every now and then to do what we could to keep the office running.

On this very fine day, I was the only one in the office, and corpers were trooping in to collect their nysc identity cards. This lady walked in, wearing the Niqab. She came to collect her identity card. I politely told her I was sorry, but that I couldn’t give her any card, because I had no way of authenticating who she was, and I had no intention of issuing any card to her just because she gave a name. what was funny was that she wasn’t alone. she came with her friends who were in varying stages of undress as regards their face, neck, and hair.

Her friends all collected theirs, even those who wore the hijab, but because the Niqab exposes only the eyes, I couldn’t see her face to know who she was so as to issue the card to her.

I told her to wait until a female nysc staff came around to check that it was she before giving her the card. That was where the wahala started. She ranted, raved, called me Islamophobic, among others, that I was wasting her time and making her late for where next she wanted to go.

My hands were tied. My boss at the PPRU does not joke with stuff like that.  I told her she would have to wait, and she could either do it peaceably or do it in anger, but that she wasn’t going to get that card from me if a female nysc staff from the office didn’t check her face.

She called me islamophobic again. I think the word had a ring in her ear as she said it. I said giving her the card was a security risk. She said this was a classic example of religious intolerance, and after, when they kill Christians in the north, we would begin to complain. That we couldn’t respect their laws, bla bla bla.

I had already decided in my mind I wasn’t going to engage, seeing that it only made her angrier and I wasn’t going to give her the card for any reason.  Long story short, a female staff came in and saved the day, but I walked away from that office that day with a lot of questions on my mind. I knew she made the comment about Christians getting killed in the north to goad me into making a response, but I had realized something long ago.

You see, religion is not just the opium of the masses, it is also their blind spot. There is no single factor more guaranteed to make a bunch of rational and right-thinking individuals to collectively throw away their sense of logic than religion.

I haven’t seen Muslims come out en masse to rail against Boko Haram, the Islamic state, or any of the other groups that perpetrate acts of wanton terror and mayhem. But a simple matter of a girl who refused to obey the tenets of a society she was not coerced into joining, and they crawl out of the woodwork, like bugs from a fumigated house, to complain about Islamophobia. I am hard pressed to find anything more ridiculous.

It is in equal parts amusing and very disconcerting that with all the consciousness and “wokeness” that is pervading the digital universe, hardly any of the feminists have seen the insistence on a hijab as what it really is: thinly disguised patriarchy masquerading as religion. My mind rates “cover your head all the time, it is a must!” as two steps behind “hide your head, keep your head down, be undercover”, and three steps away from “be unseen, and be unheard, you have no voice”.

It is no secret that of all the world’s religions and creeds, Islam is the one that has resisted evolution the most. This explains why prayers are said only in Arabic, as though other languages were less suitable for addressing a divine personage. Christianity went through its own phase with this language barrier, in Luther and the Revolution, and yet we have a belief system whose main concession to technology is to make changes that facilitate divorce by text message, ending a phase of a person’s life with as little as four naira.

The cost of one message.

I know some networks give free text messages. Yet, no provision is made for the divorced women. Islam is basically a system that seeks to concentrate power in the hands of men, as evidenced by the furore over whether women would be allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. We have many feminists, some who have principles, and some who just bear the tag and crave the notoriety.

Yet, all the feminists choose to steer clear of this religion, perhaps for fear of being labelled Islamophobic. Despite the fact that the misguided zeal of some fanatics and fundamentalists has given us more than enough reason to fear Islam, Islam is essentially a religion of peace. So my more enlightened friends tell me.

A glance at the Bible, that religious book of Jewish history, shows us that in the new testament, God was less inclined to strike with thunder and lightning, and more inclined to have a relationship, as opposed to the Old Testament, which has leadership as a dominant theme.

The world is waking up to the rights of women. Their voices are beginning to be heard. It has begun, and you can bet it will not end anytime soon. Whatever religion chooses to treat any as subhuman or beneath recognition should evolve, or be swept away. Thank you.

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