Why the idea of religious feminism is myth
Although the idea of Islamic Feminism or Christian Feminism is advocated as promoting gender equality within a religious paradigm, the idea of religious feminism is a myth. The claim that feminism can be compatible with any major religion is not only false, but detrimental to the realization of feminism to its full ideal.
Any major religion in human history-Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity was at one time used, or still being used in many countries to justify oppression of women and hold them at place where they cannot demand equality. Although the use of religion to justify oppression doesn’t directly make it identical to oppression, one cannot overlook the fact because of very soil the religion has grown, its practice and application became contaminated with patriarchy imposition. We cannot insist that Christianity is compatible with feminism because one way to interpret its text is that God loves men and women equal. For centuries, the application of its doctrine resulted in women being relegated to housewife and mother. Life style of women in Saudi Arabia is very different from that of women living in secular societies where Islam plays no role in legal system or education.
What differentiate religion from mere idea or doctrine is its application and impact aided by institution and written or implicit rules. Religion is more than an idea, or interpretation of written text. It is a system, institution which exerts influence over lives of people and community. Religion includes ideas and doctrine, but ideas or doctrines alone does not qualify as religion. Idea or written text reflecting the idea is a requirement, not a sufficient condition to make something religion. This is why compatibility of religious doctrine with gender equality is not sufficient to make religion compatible with feminism. Because religion consists of more than just ideas, one needs to consider all of its major components including its institution, set of rules and laws stemming from its text, interpretation of doctrine embraced by majority and practical application.
To justify compatibility of religion with feminism just based on its doctrine or particular interpretation of its text is not much different from reaching to a conclusion that the forest must be healthy and sustainable because its soil is in good condition or judging the building is safe because its foundation is solid. Other factors must be taken into consideration.
In order to reach to a conclusion that religion is compatible with feminism, not only the evaluation of its central doctrine and text, but its application, set of laws and rules, and legal system based on religious teaching is required. When these components are taken into full consideration, it becomes apparent that any major religion so far adhered in human history is not only incompatible, but is in direct contradiction to feminism.
Human being is a multi-faceted creature whose multi-dimensional identity does not prevent its owner from fully embracing one identity. Therefore, it is perfectly acceptable for an individual to identify oneself as Muslim and Feminist or Christian and Feminist. There’s no contradiction in term such as Christian Feminist or Muslim Feminist. In other word, Muslim Feminist or Christina Feminist as an individual or collective identity is perfectly compatible with feminism.
However, it is a different matter for a group of people declaring Muslim Feminism or Christian Feminism as the ultimate direction to be pursued within a society or to be a legitimate branch of feminism. Religious feminism becomes problematic when it is mistaken to a criteria to be used to judge whether certain actions are to be taken by feminists.
To reiterate the earlier point, insisting that religion is compatible with feminism and religious feminism is a legitimate branch of feminism is only possible if one overlooks the obvious difference in rights and freedom granted to women in secular societies and societies heavily influenced by religious authorities. This is not to say secularism guarantees women with rights and freedom equal to men. Women in secular societies also face oppression and pressure. However, women face less risk in criticizing these practices compared to women where religion plays role in silencing women. Secularism does not warranty gender equality and realization of feminism, but is a necessary condition for feminism to achieve its ideal, breaking the status quo.