I am young.
I am a Muslim.
I am a feminist.
These beliefs have become second nature to me. However, many will question my feminism, and many will further state that my faith is incompatible with gender equality. This reality provides many young Muslims with fear of openly displaying and discussing faith in academic circles and in the workplace.
We should strive towards eradicating the narratives that have been handed to us. We are told that we cannot practice the Islamic faith and be feminist, that we are oppressed just for the simple fact that we are Muslim. There is a constant attempt to band together every Muslim under the same experiences and to create an overarching definition of what it is to be a young, Muslim woman. Is that not oppressive in itself?
There is no simple or universal definition of what it means to be a young, Muslim feminist.
To be young in the 21st Century is, unfortunately, to be growing up in difficult times. Generation M is to face the highest levels of debt, fewer opportunities than generations before us and we are witnessing the worldwide political chaos. That being said, I’m still proud to belong to this generation. In the wake of political unrest, and the rise of hate crime, the sense of unification has been overwhelming. Many young people are now beginning to engage in politics, and are becoming aware of the impact that policy has on their lives. In London, the mass majority of youth will not stand for hate and bigotry.
My definition of what it means to be Muslim, may coincide with some but differs to many. Every single person has an individual relationship with their faith. It is something which is deeply personal and private. Every declaration of faith is valid.
To be able to call oneself a feminist, one must simply believe categorically in gender equality. It means believing in gender equality and recognising that it currently does not exist. Whether you choose to shave your legs or wear a burka or not should have no impact on the way in which you are a feminist. To be feminist means being unapologetically female, in which ever way you deem suitable, while demanding equal rights and respect.
As a young, Muslim feminist, I feel oppressed. But the only oppressor I face is the society which tells me I cannot possess egalitarian ideals while still holding on to my faith.
Rihana Osman is a postgraduate in Global Ethics and Human Values and a bachelors in Law. Rihana is an advocate for gender equality and social justice.