Importance of March 8, International Women's Day, for religious Muslim women

The women who take to the streets are not speaking against religion, they are objecting to patriarchy. The women who object to the amendment of the Civil Code with their religious identity are not taking a stance against religion. They are fighting to break the patriarchal tradition that establishes male domination. I think that religious women should at least remember the first four verses of Surah Al-Mujadila and become stakeholders in the struggle for women's equality.

Tradition changes. Tradition and all cultural elements change naturally. Its ability to change, to adapt to new conditions determines its survival, and its ability to grow stronger. Because what lives change. Making it immutable should make everyone think that they are on a journey towards extinction. In short, when it comes to culture and tradition, it is necessary to say that the one who can change will have the chance to develop and reach a high level of culture. Resistance to change leads to frustration. The graveyard of history consists of societies that resist natural cultural change and try to keep their traditions under strict protection through repressive policies.

March 8, International Women's Day is one of the universal values in the women's struggle, as it is called. Still, there will be those who wonder, do not understand, and criticize why I have dedicated my March 8 article to religious women, especially religious Muslim women. Looking at the issue from a certain perspective may be seen as narrowing the feminist struggle in the context of the world at large. However, it would not be possible to turn to the universal without reminding the fate of the strict, frozen, and fixed tradition and without opening a discussion on the fact that the frozen rules are nothing but the provisions of fiqh specific to women. As a matter of fact, it has not happened for many years.

It will be one of the important achievements of the struggle for women's equality for Muslim women, whether they are religious or not, and whether they practice piety at different levels, to make peace with March 8, to meet, to become one with it. In the meantime, of course, throughout the history of the struggle for women's equality, many Muslim intellectual women, both from our country and different countries, have joined the feminist struggle. I am one of those who are grateful to these women who used all their knowledge to spread awareness of women's rights. However, based on my observations, testimonies, and experiences, I must say that even though there are more and more of them in the younger generations, the majority of religious Muslim women are still far from understanding the importance of March 8, especially the value of March 8 night marches in our country.

Thanks to the experience of a secular, democratic, and legal state in our recent history, even though not fully, and of course the reaction and resistance caused by the February 28th repression, religious women have also gained a voice in the public sphere. For the majority of religious women, this seems to be enough. However, overlooking the weak points in women's rights legislation and practice would be a big mistake. Because women's rights in our country are still very fragile and under threat. When we take into account that the threats are especially based on the pretext of the Islamic tradition, we see that if these threats reach their goal, religious women will be the first to lose their existing rights. Once religious women are sent back to their homes, secular women will be next. Therefore, it is essential to establish the relationship between religious women and March 8th. Before coming to this issue, it is useful to remember the position of women in the Islamic tradition.

When we talk about an Islamic tradition that is fixed at a certain point, it is important to note that this fixation is limited to women, women's rights, and the duties and responsibilities imposed on women. We know that everything related to the state, the army, the economy, and the daily life practices of men is easily experienced by adapting to the age and the times. But when it comes to women, the defenders of the Islamic tradition want to prevent change. This is the underlying truth behind the fact that today, everyone from the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), from politicians to preachers and imams who speak in the name of religion only talk about the issue of women. Especially during the AKP rule, the only thing left in the name of religion is Women.

In the 1400 years of Islamic history, the number of rulings given by the people of fiqh has exceeded, I say tens of thousands, you say hundreds of thousands. A systematic system of the book, sunnah, ijma, and qiyas was established so that all the rulings were based on revelation. Thus, the people of jurisprudence, who had Allah behind them, made Allah speak through their own mouths and made women's rights immutable while making changes to suit the needs of the political authority. The history of the patriarchy's opposition to women is now presented to us as Islamic tradition. However, the Book (Qur’an) limits its rulings on women to five or ten verses, most of which contain metaphors, which I think is how the owner of the Book made it possible for it to be understood as basic principles that are open to change. But literalist ways of understanding have led to literalist interpretations of religion. Because the metaphorical interpretations were ignored, the majority did not pay attention to the fact that the provisions on the social position of women have improved enormously compared to the past and that the Qur'an itself has changed the old provisions. Moreover, this majority is seen as the "owners" of the dominant tradition, and these owners are seen as decisive in society's understanding of religion. The ulema, who act together with the politics, who do not mix religious affairs with their trade, state administration, and military needs, have made it their business to impose limits only on women.

How will religious women protect the freedoms they have gained through resistance these days when the circle surrounding women, which has been established with the cooperation of religion and politics throughout the thousand-odd years of history, is gradually narrowing? Religious women had resisted the coup plotters with the support and solidarity of Islamist politics, even though it was motivated by piety, and admittedly remained shallow. Now, with the motive of womanhood, and with a genuine women's solidarity that is not at all shallow, they need to move to the stage of resistance against the religious-looking government that is inclined to traditionalist interpretations of religion. This is necessary because the Civil Code is really in danger. The planned amendments to the family law section of the Civil Code will open the door to a religiousized family law order influenced by traditionalist religious interpretations. Many religious women who trust the ruling party or, if not the party, then Erdoğan's "person" may consider this sentence as an extreme interpretation. Or they may call it "AKP enmity", like the reactions to my criticism of the government in the past. But if they listen to their inner voices, they will accept that I am right. Because everyone is aware that there is a visible village that does not want a guide [a Turkish proverb meaning everything is obvious and there is no need for explanation].

Workshops were held. For years, there have been attacks on family law, especially alimony. The government planned those workshops in line with these attacks. They have the draft ready. There is no doubt that they keep it on the table, not even in the drawer. They are trying to get the timing right to send it to the parliament. The right timing they were looking for was to make it profitable for them to stay in power. After winning the May elections, the local elections are now under observation. As of April 1 (after the local elections), they have four years to put the drafts into effect, although where it will evolve is a mystery for now. Based on the analogy "If a gun is seen on the stage, it will surely explode in the last act," we have to think that it can be brought before us at any moment.

That’s why it is possible to reduce this high probability on March 8, International Women's Day, especially when religious women join the solidarity networks of all women in night marches. Because only a loud, festive, and decisive expression of the public voice in the fields, on the streets, and at night can stop the government. We have seen that the way to show that the losses will be greater than the gains is not through whispered persuasion efforts behind doors and in lobbies. We saw it with the Istanbul Convention, didn't we? Even though many religious women were in favor of the Convention, they tried to resist silently instead of raising their voices. What happened?

What will happen if the Family Law is changed by a law passed by the parliament in the middle of the night? Such a possibility is not unlike the Istanbul Convention. The transformation of all our rights from cradle to grave in favor of men and against women will touch all our lives. From inheritance, divorce, custody, the right to work, equality of spouses, alimony and compensation rights, joint division of acquired property, the age of marriage, and the rule of monogamy, so many of our rights will be affected that our lives will be fundamentally changed. It is known how such regulations, which have been planned since 2016, have been blocked so far. It was achieved through the struggle of the women's movement. The fact that it was postponed until the May elections and then postponed until after the local elections was also the success of women.

The participation of religious women in this movement, and their demonstration of their participation by taking to the streets on March 8 in resistance and solidarity actions, may force the government to abandon its regulations based on traditional interpretations of religion. It should be noted that those traditional interpretations of religion are not really the tradition of religion, but the tradition of the patriarchal order. The women who take to the streets are not speaking against religion, they are objecting to patriarchy. The women who object to the amendment of the Civil Code with their religious identity are not taking a stance against religion. They are fighting to break the patriarchal tradition that establishes male domination. I think that religious women should at least remember the first four verses of Surah Al-Mujadila and become stakeholders in the struggle for women's equality.