In the spirit of B. Deutsch’s The Male Privilege Checklist and Peggy McIntosh’s White: Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, I decided to create a Muslim Male Privilege Checklist. I realize these kinds of lists usually come from benefactor of privilege and not those who are disadvantaged by it. But I had to do it. Insha’allah I will keep adding to the list as I think about things.
Keep in mind I have written it from a perspective of a Muslim man…
As a Muslim man:
1. I can set foot in any masjid I like. No one will stop me at the door and tell me that I am not allowed in the masjid.
2. When I attend Jumah prayer I know that I will have full access to the main prayer hall. I can enter through the front door and I am not required to sit behind a partition, one-way mirror or placed in a separate room. Also, I can see and hear the Imam when he is giving the kutbah (sermon). I do not have to worry about a speaker or closed-circuit system malfunctioning thereby preventing me from hearing the kutbah or seeing the Imam.
3. My voice is not interpreted as being a part of my awrah (parts of the body that are not meant to be exposed in public.) I can stand up and speak freely in an Islamic gathering. I can ask questions or challenge statements made by the imam or visiting speaker without worrying that my actions will be viewed as inappropriate. I am not told that I must write any questions I have onto a piece of paper.
4. I can use my position as a sheikh, scholar or imam to perpetuate my own sexist, misogynistic beliefs as long as I incorporate those beliefs into my interpretation of the Quran and the Sunnah. When others challenge me about my beliefs I can use my Islamic education, command of the Arabic language and position in the community to effectively silence them. If the dissenters are women, I can always make them seem crazy, emotional or neurotic. I can also accuse them of being influenced by the West, Western secularism, Feminism or “the Kufaar.”
5. If I do not dress in accordance with Islamic guidelines, for the most part, I am left alone by Muslims of both genders. Few people will approach me and inquire about the way in which I am dressed. I will not be written off as a “bad Muslim” nor will my dress code be used as an excuse to prevent me from attending the masjid or other Islamic functions.
6. Interpretations of Quran and Ahadith, fatwas, kutbahs, and Islamic books are often biased in favor of my gender. The body of scholarship produced by members of my gender is available and accessible to all. Their texts, legal opinions and names have not been ignored or virtually erased from Islamic history.
7. When I read a book about marriage, my rights and responsibilities or gender dynamics in Islam, the author is almost always the same gender as me. It is the same when I wish to contact a scholar in regards to any questions I might have.
8. If I have problems in my marriage I can go to an Imam for counseling services and I don’t have to be concerned about sexism or his “traditional” views of women.
9. If I become visibly upset during a marriage counseling session, I am not told that I am too emotional and therefore incapable of thinking logically or making major decisions about my marriage. On the contrary, any decisions I make are presumed to be well thought-out.
10. If I wish to end my marriage, my decision is not scrutinized by an imam or other members of the Muslim community. It is respected as the final one. I am not denied a divorce or told to make tremendous personal sacrifices in order to remain in the marriage.
11. When I convert to Islam, if I have the means (or the financial support of others), I can travel aboard to predominately Muslim countries in order to seek Islamic knowledge. I can be sure that my gender will not be a hindrance any way. At the same time, no one will ever tell me that I must wait until I am married in order to begin my travels.
12. I can stand up for the rights Allah has given me or challenge interpretations of those rights without people associating me with secularist Muslim movements.
13. If I cannot have children or suffer from a condition that interferes with my ability to have sexual intercourse I do not have to worry about my wife taking a second husband. Even if/when she decides to divorce me I can be sure that an imam or other community members will ask her to reconsider her decision.
14. If I am struggling with the temptation to fornicate, I know that I can discuss my predicament with an Imam or other Muslim men without fear that they will think I’m lewd or promiscuous.
15. I am not a visible representative of Islam. When I interact with non-Muslim colleagues, co-workers and members of the general public they may not necessarily know that I am a Muslim. Unless I make my religion/ethnicity known, I am not subjected to a barrage of questions about Islam, Muslims and my gender’s status in the religion. (The exception here would be Muslim men who don a thobe, turban, and wear a lengthy beard. Also, brothers who clearly appear to be Indian/Pakistani or Arab in the eyes of the public).
16. When a visiting scholar/imam comes to the masjid, by virtue of the seating arrangements (men in the front, no partition between the speaker and the men), I am able to speak with him face-to-face. I do not have to worry about crossing into “the women’s space” in order to ask a question or to make a comment.