Interview: Sania Habib, Islam and Feminism

Feminist or Muslim ?

Feminist or Muslim ?

I’ve always wanted to interview a Feminist who has been a practicing Muslim in past and get her insights about how does a Woman feel about the way Islam describe what she is and how she is supposed to live in this world and hereafter …

I caught Sania Habib, an educated, confident woman -, I wanted to know if she was too intelligent for Islam ? Hope you’ll enjoy my conversation with her …

Q1. Sania, can you please introduce yourself to our readers ?

I am Sania Habib, an ex Muslim living in New Zealand with my family. I was born in Pakistan and raised in an Arab country. Currently  living in New Zealand for 9 years.

Q2. Interesting.  How was it to be raised in an Arab country while being a Pakistani ?

Well, overall it was not that difficult for me but being a Pakistani I observed a lot of racism.. Everywhere Arabs treated us as inferior. As a society I would say that they were racist, sexist and rash.

They treated women like objects. Each man would have more than a couple of wives and dozens of kids. Sometimes the father wouldn’t know much about their kids and their progress. Women had their friends and families to be with. The thing that was interesting was the women didn’t mind their men having more wives and would consider it as a sense of pride that their husbands are rich enough to afford many wives.

Q3. What is your Religious Position at the moment ?

At the moment I don’t believe in any religion and I describe myself as an agnostic.

Q4. Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe you were born into a Muslim family and raised as a Muslim. What happened then and how did you turn into an Ex Muslim Agnostic Person?

Well I was born in a Muslim family and raised as a Muslim. My father is a religious person and he started forcing religion on us. I started praying when I was 18 and then I got used to praying and fasting in Ramadan. In other words I was a practicing Muslim.

I stopped going to religious gathering as I couldn’t find them helpful.

As a woman I could’nt leave my self respect, my dignity, my integrity and myself. Hence, I decided to leave Islam

I never believed in Ahadith because we were told not to. I just believed in Qur’an but never gave enough time to read its translation. I started reading Qur’an after a couple of deaths occurred in my family and I wanted to know where my loved ones are now and how they are doing. Very sincerely I started reading Qur’an from the first chapter but didn’t understand many things. I thought it’s better to start with bible as it was descended before Qur’an but couldn’t get my answers.

Auckland city, Westhaven Marina and harbour view, Auckland, New Zealand

After coming back to Quranic translations and tried to understand it in detail I got more and more confused. Nothing made sense to me. Finally, I realized that the  religion cannot give me the answers I were searching for. I decided to leave it finally because in my opinion a divine book could not be so incomplete and confusing.

Q5. I take it you are a Feminist, I’ve always wondered how do Feminists look at Islam and Quran, can you tell us your experience of being a Feminist and Muslim at the same time ?

Well, I was never comfortable with the inferiority of women in Islam. I always used to think why we are inferior and why we have to submit to our husbands. It is against the nature of human beings to be inferior to another person.

Everything in Islam is misogynist. Women in Islam are nothing more than sex slaves.

As soon as they are born they are treated as an inferior.  From birth to education to marriage, everywhere a woman is expected to make compromises. Her brothers get better education and better life. She is expected to comply with her parents’ choice in finding a spouse for her. She is treated badly and accused of rebelling if she doesn’t agree with her parents’ choice.

After getting married, she has to comply with her husband’s decisions, from her work to her kids. She has to nod her head in affirmation with whatever her husband wants her to do. She has no right over her life.

Muslim Women Rights

Muslim Women Rights

Everyone gets one life and everyone regardless of their gender should have a right to spend it the way they want to. Why waste a life on a religion that makes her feel inferior and spoils her whole life. I could never accept it as a woman but as a Muslim woman I had to because this is what Islam teaches. After my awareness of Islam and my decision to leave it, I feel very confident and it feels as if I wasted my life on something that was never true. I am a happier person now.

Q6. A lot of Muslims Apologists now claim that women are equal to men in Islam and whatever you read in Quran is a metaphor. What’s your take on this?

Well apologists have their way of supporting their religion. Metaphoric has been often a term used by the apologists. The problem is that anything that can’t be explained or practiced is assumed to be metaphoric by the Muslim apologists. Islam has clearly degraded women. Women have been compared to dogs and donkeys in several Hadith. This cannot be metaphoric. In all aspects of life she is treated unfairly.

Q7. If Islam is misogynist then how come Muslim Women are its biggest defenders?

Muslim girls are raised in such a way that they grow up as dependent women. They always need someone or something to depend upon

Be it a man or the God, they feel secure and protected this way.

Everything in Islam is misogynist

Women find it hard to leave their religion because this is the way they are raised. They feel protected by the males. With years of considering themselves as an inferior they don’t think that they are capable of rejecting their faith or go against their faith.

Q8. What do you think about the recent wave of Criticism of Islam on internet? Do you think its damaging Islam or is it actually creating more hatred in Muslim Circles?

Criticizing Islam or any other religion increases the awareness amongst the masses.  There is a fine line between criticizing a religion and insulting a religion.  Blasphemy creates anger and more hatred.  It should be avoided.  The more gentle and mature the criticism is, the more impact it will have on the masses.

Q9. You know the famous book PRINCESS, did that show the realistic picture of Saudi Society and the way woman suffers in that society or was it a mere exaggeration at its best ?

It claims to be a true story, detailing gender inequalities experienced by Saudi Arabian women. A true Story of Life behind the Veil in Saudi Arab. While you can always take anything with a grain of salt, the book does point to a lot of Realities of the core traditions of Saudi Society.

Sultana is a Saudi Arabian princess. But in reality she lives in a golden cage. She has no freedom and no control over her own life. Sultana is a member of the Saudi royal family. Sultana tells of her own life, from her difficult childhood to her arranged marriage and of the lives of her sisters, her friends and her servants. She writes about shocking human rights violations. By telling her story ,Sultana has allowed us to see beyond the veils of this secret society, to the heart of a nation where sex, money, and power reign supreme.

Q10. What message would you like to leave for our readers?

As an ex Muslim feminist, I would give a message primarily to the Muslim women. Self-worth and Self Esteem is always more important than abiding by the laws of religion and society. No matter where you are and what your circumstances are, never lose your self-respect, dignity, integrity and yourself.


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