Center for Global Policy Senior Fellow Kamran Bokhari talks with Mariam Durrani, Post-Doctoral Fellow at Harvard University, about American Muslims, patriarchy and violent extremism.
Durrani says that when people discuss the American Muslim community, the focus tends to be on cultural differences rather than on the major role patriarchy plays in Muslim society. Many issues get sidelined or ignored in part because the focus is on prejudice against Muslims overall and in part because women do not speak out as much, lest they be seen as troublemakers. Durrani talks about the view that outsiders have of Muslims, which is often through a gendered lens; men are seen as threatening, while women — especially those who wear hijabs — are seen as docile, oppressed and sometimes in need of rescue. In reality, gender within the Muslim community is more complex, just as it is in any other group.
Patriarchy — structural inequality between the genders — is difficult to discuss, Durrani says, because those whom it harms do not have much of a voice and those who feel they benefit do not want to examine it. For instance, women are told that their situations are better than they used to be, as if that is sufficient, but Durrani says it is not good enough. She also mentions that patriarchy harms men, because it prevents men from talking about and coping with emotions. Those pent-up feelings can emerge as toxic masculinity, which can take the form of violent attacks.
Durrani points out that many people who have committed terrorist attacks have had some sort of history of crime and/or domestic violence. Most attackers have been male — and this occurs even among white extremists. Durrani asks what it is about being male that perpetuates or facilitates this kind of violence. A discussion of gender and patriarchy, she says, could bring a kind of nuance to the discussion of countering violent extremism that the conversation has lacked thus far.
Note from Mariam Durrani:
“In this podcast, Kamran and I discussed several themes regarding patriarchy, American Muslims, and gendered social relations. During the discussion, I made reference to the “Muslim World,” a problematic term that perpetuates a faulty logic regarding Muslims and non-Muslims. To clarify, my reference to the “Muslim world” should have been more specific; I should have used the term “Muslim-majority countries.” For more on this, please see CGP Senior Fellow, Dr. Zareena Grewal’s discussion in The Atlantic.