In this video, Shaikh Abdool Hamid, a resident scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, uses the rolling out, throughout the world, of woman-only buses as evidence of the truth of Islamic teachings about the segregation of the sexes and subordination of women. The gist of his teaching is one I am very familiar with. In my old world, we often heard teachings such as this, couched in biblical terms, i.e., that sometimes those who “do not have the Word” nevertheless have the “Word written on their hearts,” in other words, people often act according to biblical principles they have never been taught because “all truth is God’s truth”. Hamid says basically the same thing, that non-Muslims worldwide are recognizing the truth of Islamic teachings even though they may not realize it. And of course the reasoning in these teachings is the same whether the teacher is a Christian or Muslim: their teachings, they believe, were handed down by God himself, so even when the teachings don’t make sense or seem restrictive or difficult or painful, people should trust in the truth of the teachings because they originated, as Hamid says, with the “Creator of the Universe.” And then events like the debuting of woman-only buses become the evidence that the teachings are “true.”
It’s this close up view of the circular reasoning of patriarchy that gives those of us exited from patriarchal religions the insights we often have as to the mechanics, the nuts and bolts of patriarchy. The abuses of women by men become the justifications for subjugating women to men, with women who resist subjugation blamed for the abuses they experience. Islam, and some fundamentalist Christians, separate the sexes because men are expected to sexually harass and assault women. Women who resist this separation are then blamed when they are sexually harassed. It’s an airtight system. The question that is never asked is, why aren’t men expected and required to stop abusing women?
Our interest, as feminists, is in building a world that is safe, that we can inhabit in comfort, where we can move about in freedom. Our interest in woman-only buses is centered in reasons which would be viewed as apostasy and heresy by fundamentalists, of whatever stripe. The irony is that it is in large part because of the teachings of fundamentalism that women need woman-only facilities and buses!