By Abdal-Hakim Murad
I have been asked to offer some comments on gender identity issues as these impact on Muslims living in post-traditional contexts in the West, and particularly as they affect people who have traded up to the Great Covenant of Islam after an upbringing in Judaism or Christianity. The usual way of doing this is by examining issues in the classical fiqh, and explaining how Islam’s discourse of equality functions globally, not on the micro-level of each fiqh ruling. That method is legitimate enough (although as we shall see the concept of ‘equality’ may raise considerable problems), but in general my experience of Muslim talk on gender is that there is too much apologetic abroad, apologetic, that is, in the sense not only of polemical defence, but also of pleas entered in mitigation. What I want to do today is to bypass this recurrent and often tiresome approach, which reveals so much about the low serotonin levels of its advocates, and suggest how as Western Muslims we can construct a language of gender which offers not a defence or mitigation of current Muslim attitudes and establishments, but a credible strategy for resolving dilemmas which the Western thinkers and commentators around us are now meticulously examining.