Waging a Worldwide Feminist Jihad

Iranian women protesters

Few things frustrate me more than being told that I don’t look like or can’t possibly be who I know I am. But as a loud and proud peace-loving feminist jihadist, I can’t avoid the accusations: “You don’t look like a Muslim”;  “You can’t be a Muslim and a feminist!” and worse yet, “There’s no such thing as a peaceful jihadist.” In an effort to set the record straight, I am dedicating this and blog posts to come to my sister feminist jihadists.

The term jihad has been more than mistranslated in much of the so-called Western world; it has been viciously abused and bastardized. Contrary to popular opinion, a jihad is not a “holy war.” Far from it. Pork, alcohol and adultery combined are worlds holier than war in Islam. The Qur’an permits violence only in self-defense: “Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not be aggressive, for God does not like aggressors.” To wage a jihad is to strive for peace and justice–and, thus, the relentless struggle for justice and equality all over the world by women of all races, religions and ethnicities, is in itself a model jihad.

So, my sisters, if you haven’t already, I beseech you to reconsider your impressions of Muslim women around the world and question the mainstream media’s representations of them as helpless and oppressed “philistines” baking in their burqas in the desert heat–that is, when they’re not at home tending to their husbands’ every want and whim. I hate to sound extreme, but these are the kinds of stereotypes I encounter almost daily.

Despite the fact that I’ve come across more abused and oppressed women in the American South than I ever have in my homeland of Iran, I incessantly get questions from those very same Southern women about the state of the poor and abused women in the so-called Islamic World.

The truth is there is no “Islamic World” any more than there is a “Christian World.” Muslim women are in nearly every country and of every race and nationality, and no matter where we live or how we dress or what languages we speak we are all in the market for the same things: freedom, equality, justice and respect. Fighting for and obtaining these rights isn’t just something we daydream about, it’s our obligation as Muslims, and we don’t take it lightly.

As such, it’s infuriating to see so much of the world painting a picture of us as docile, subservient, unfortunate souls, while so many of us are anything but. All over the world, we are fighting for the most basic rights to do, say, write, read and wear what we want; to befriend, date and marry whom we please, and to live, breathe and travel where we like.

From the women protesting in the streets of Tehran on the frontlines of the pro-democracy movement to the women rescuing young girls from forced prostitution in the back allies of Bangkok, feminist jihadists are changing the world we live in, and they deserve our gratitude, respect and admiration for it.


  1. Great article, Melody – count me in as one of the ” loud and proud peace-loving feminist jihadists” too! We all need to continue to define ourselves, otherwise people believe the worst stereotypes imaginable. The issues facing Muslim women are similar to the issues facing Christian women, Jewish women, atheist women etc. – equal pay for equal work, respect, justice – the list goes on & on – but change is coming!

  2. Right by your side in the global feminist jihad, Melody. Let’s wage peace to a deafening crescendo!

  3. Melody, you so poignantly demonstrate the stereotypes and hypocrisy that we continue to perpetuate today. You convey the message with just the right blend of fact, personal experience, and gumption. Thanks for a great article.

  4. “To wage a jihad is to strive for peace and justice”
    thank you for the clarification, count me in too as one of the ” loud and proud peace-loving feminist jihadists” too!

  5. JeninCanada says:

    But doesn't this: All over the world, we are fighting for the most basic rights to do, say, write, read and wear what we want; to befriend, date and marry whom we please, and to live, breathe and travel where we like." illustrate the very 'stereotypes' that you're fighting against and say most modern Muslim women don't fall under? It can't be both ways; Muslim women can't be as oppressed as you say they are then turn around and say it's just a stereotype.

  6. Misshappy says:

    The term Feminist jihad means a call to arms. Females give birth, females nurture and educate their children and men have throughout the ages fought to control and subjugate the natural empowerment of women. Look at all the great religions of the earth, who are the significant people in them? Invariably men, are men indeed significant? Only if we, women, allow them to be! Hell, they can’t even come into this life without us, ladies. They are born inferior to us and they resent this and do everything in their power to control us, starting with mind control through religion, culture and politics. One should look with suspicion on every single ideology created by a male. Oh yes, ladies have you noticed invariably all the great religions of the world refer to the highest power as a male. And have you noticed that all the people who come to this insightful conclusion are generally men. If it wasn’t so detrimental to women than this would just be plain funny! The only typical advantage men have is physical… and if physical strength was all that mattered than all our presidents, etc would be either gorillas or grizzly bears (instead of animals in cages.) Mind over matter, ladies, we are smarter.
    Feminist jihad to me means a holy war on misogynist men. But only those men who would try to see themselves as being more valuable than women just because they were born male. It is time to teach them, and ladies, as mothers we are the original teachers. A word of caution, where men have strongly entrenched their so calked rights over women, be careful, work in small increments, you are precious, always protect yourself! As for non-misogamist men, those who seek true partnership with us, they deserved to be cherished.

  7. Misshappy says:

    Yes!!! World-wide, on all disrespectful men, and all ideology whether cultural, religious, or political that does not respect or is in any way detrimental to ourselves, or our daughters, sisters, and mothers.


  1. […] Waging a worldwide feminist jihad, Ms. Magazine […]

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