As a veiled Muslim feminist activist, I thank Maria Kareva for her Feb. 17 letter. However, her approach can be alienating to the women she is supposedly trying to help. The Quranic verses, which Kareva called "theoretical", are often the greatest weapon against injustices done to women. Ideally, the message of the Quran is to be applied and practiced by Muslims. Based on the Quranic verses and prophetic traditions, I believe that those who murder in the name of "honor" are not standing up for morality, rather they are acting on the basis of purely misogynistic motives to dominate women. I have personally seen the empowering effect of telling a Muslim survivor of domestic violence how Quranic verses, prophetic sayings and juristic interpretation condemn the horrific crime done to her. Frankly, I'm tired of fundamentalists and those trying to save me from Muslim men telling me that a Muslim woman is half of a man. Those who push me to lift my "veil," calling it suppressive, are doing as much harm as men who forcefully enforce it. Both are trying to control the supposedly passive and silent Muslim woman.
The fact is that Muslim women are creating voices as they recapture their spirituality from extremists on both sides. Female religious scholars like the Egyptian Souad Salah and Saudi Fatima Naseef are gaining credibility not just with women but also with Muslim men. Organizations such as the Muslim Women's League and Karamah here in the U.S. and other international organizations have done great work in calling for social justice for women without attacking their religious identity. I recommend that Kareva read Windows of Faith (ed. Gisela Webb), a collection by Muslim women scholar-activists. Most importantly, the reason why I feel confident in standing against those who misuse Islam to oppress women is because I apply the Quranic verse: "O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: For God can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you swerve, and if you distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily God is well-acquainted with all that you do" (4:135).