A few weeks ago I was drawn to the launch of a new project by the group Maslaha on the topic of Islam and Feminism. Maslaha, which means ‘for the common good’ in Arabic, is a social enterprise that strives to bridge the gulf of misunderstanding that exists between non-Muslims and Muslims so that, instead of current negative stereotypes, Islam ‘becomes synonymous with social justice, compassion, and creativity’. To coincide with International Women’s Day and World History Month this March, they launched a new website www.islamandfeminism.org to explore the relationship between these two, supposedly conflicting, identities, creating a wonderful archive of Muslim women’s contributions to female emancipation in the Middle East and around the world. The website makes for fascinating reading, telling the stories of diverse women’s activists from Egyptian founder of the Muslim Women’s Association Zaynab al-Ghazali born in 1917, to British artist Hannah Habibi Hopkin exhibiting in London almost a hundred years later.

Whilst I think this work by Maslaha is incredibly positive, stimulating and engaging, I can’t, however, say the same for the public response. Ordinarily I am all for a big debate, as a healthy and enjoyable expression of democratic ideals. Of course I’m a feminist, so I love a big argument, right? So I was confused by my unwillingness to get involved in the debate that ensued following the launch of this online resource – perhaps I am getting old, losing my youthful, strident flare that characterised many a drunk night and almost ruined many a friendship of my uni days. Or perhaps it’s because the debate that ensued, about whether or not you can even be a feminist if you are Muslim, fits into an increasingly large category of feminist debates that are becoming, quite simply, tedious. These are the ‘Can you be a feminist IF…’ dialogues, and every week a new one will be unfolding across my Twitter feed…IF you are a man, IF you shave your pubes, IF you love Beyonce, and now, not for the first time, IF you are a Muslim.

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Yes we should debate, but also celebrate, Islamic feminism