Islam’s Fetish with Gender Segregation

Disclaimer: This post is a rant.

I was extremely outraged when I first read the news that UK universities are pandering to the Islamists’ request of implementing gender apartheid in universities. It is the 21st century where we are supposed to have equality. And yet, we have to deal with rubbish like this?

Gender apartheid has become so normal and acceptable to many Muslims that many have even implemented it in their personal spheres, such as their homes. I was exposed to gender apartheid while I was still growing up. That bigotry is still practiced by all my family members, and I know many other Muslims who do it too. Whenever we had guests over at our place, it is customary and expected of women and men to stay in different rooms. Usually, men would stay in the living room while women would convene either in the kitchen or in the bedroom. I have seen many instances where my mother would have to stand behind a wall to communicate briefly with her brother in law because it is their belief that talking face-to-face to a non-mehram is ‘unislamic’ and thus, disrespectful.

My mother would often recount stories of her childhood, especially her days of growing up in Saudi Arabia. She told me that most homes in Saudi Arabia have one entrance for men and another for women. It is a violation of family honour for strange/non-related males to enter the ‘female sections’ of the home. The Arabic word for the secluded section of the house is harim, which means ‘forbidden’ and ‘sacred’. Public space, such as the living room, is associated with men while private spaces are reserved for women. Social events are largely planned with the separation of men and women in mind; the mixing of non-kin men and women at parties or the like is extremely rare.

This is also practiced in many (if not all) Mosques. Women and girls are expected to pray behind the men and boys, or in another separate room altogether. I have been to countless sermons that were usually held in mosques and women are always expected to sit at the back of the mosque that is often accessible only by the back entrance. Women’s praying rooms are usually concealed by a curtain or partition while the men got the opportunity to gather in the main hall. They can actively participate in the discussions and debates, and have more say in the administration of the mosque while the women were often assigned very passive roles of merely taking care of their children and ensuring that they behave. It suffices to say that Hijab and gender apartheid inhibits fair and equal participation of all humans in all walks of life and proves to be a hurdle towards the achievement of an ideal and just world by endorsing the subjugation of women. The ideal Muslim woman is faceless, voiceless and invisible. (So much for ‘Islamic feminism’.)

The Muslim women I know have either accepted and internalized this oppression, or have resigned to the ‘fate’ that this is how things will always be. But I refuse to be like them. Even as a child, I knew something was terribly amiss but I couldn’t explain what it is. I wanted answers as to why women, under the disguise of moral righteousness, are treated so differently from the men. Once, I asked an Aalim (Islamic theologian) why gender segregation is endorsed by Islam. His reasoning was that the aim of gender segregation is to prevent men from getting sexually aroused when seeing women in front of them, and to ensure that they are not distracted from their prayers. He then recited this Hadith to me:

Narrated ‘Aisha: The things which annul the prayers were mentioned before me. They said, “Prayer is annulled by a Dog, a donkey and a woman (if they pass in front of the praying people).” I said, “You have made us Dogs. I saw the Prophet praying while I used to lie in my bed between him and the Qibla. Whenever I was in need of something, I would slip away for I disliked to face him.”
(Book #9, Hadith #490)

This is utterly ridiculous! Sexual segregation is implemented to ensure that the female members of the family from having contact with strange men. This stems from the extreme concern for female purity and family honour. Yet, the irony strikes when we realize the fact that hijab and gender segregation are also tools of oversexualisation of women. This ideology considers women to be a solely sexual entity that must be covered and kept out of reach. Normal body parts of women are considered to be aurah and it is often preached that women are fitnah for men. This just defeats the purpose in the end. His statement is also degrading and insulting to the men because it assumes that men are beasts with uncontrollable lusts. This is not true – men are perfectly capable of controlling their sexual desires. It shouldn’t be women’s responsibility to help men to control their lusts. Unfortunately, this burden continues to fall on women in the Islamic world.

There is absolutely no basis or any reasons that can justify apartheid, be it racial, religious or gender apartheid. It breaks my heart to see countries like England give way for Islamism. This ideology is dangerous and if we pay enough attention to what happens in the Islamic world, we can tell that Islamism can tear societies and nations apart. Islamism is the surefire way to regress back in time, into the Dark Ages. 

[Follow me on Twitter @ChistaPantea]


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Don’t Judge a Woman by her Cover: the Hijab and Unethical Judgments | Between a Veil and a Dark Place: Missives of an Ex-Muslim Woman