Waging a Worldwide Feminist Jihad

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.

Read more Ms. coverage on global women’s rights here


Melody Moezzi is a writer, activist, attorney and award-winning author. Her latest book, the critically acclaimed memoir Haldol and Hyacinths: A Bipolar Life, was recently released in paperback.