The Muslim American Women’s Policy Forum (MAWPF) is a collective of Muslim women of color and allies, who organize due to the legacies of colonialism at the intersection of state violence, anti-Muslim racism, and gender-based violence with a focus on the DC area. As women, we experience gendered forms of violence from the state, our communities, our families, and within intimate relationships; thus, we center our work on gender-based violence because too often we have been told it isn’t the right time to center gender. However, we also recognize that we hold multiple identities and aim to take an intersectional approach to understanding the various ways that Muslim women are subjected to multiple forms of institutionalized violence. And so it is based on this principle that we are in solidarity with oppressed communities, while also respecting the unique struggles of various communities, and refraining from cultivating hierarchies of oppression.
Framework for Collective
As a collective, we firmly believe in the importance of sharing our values, which shape the scope, direction, and goals of our work. It is also a frame built to hold ourselves accountable.
The Muslim American Women’s Policy Forum is an anti-war, anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal, and anti-racist collective. We believe that all these forms of violence, such as capitalism, colonialism, poverty, racism, patriarchy, ableism, caste-based violence, Islamophobia, homophobia, and transphobia, create a world where the status-quo dehumanizes us as Muslim women.
We recognize that the United States is built upon anti-blackness, settler colonial violence against indigenous communities, capitalism, and imperialism. We as a collective are committed to self-awareness and examination of our own complicity with global systems of violence, both within the US and globally. We stand in solidarity with the global resistance and liberation efforts of oppressed peoples around the world.
We also believe in utilizing the state to claim our rights, but also recognize that the state is not our liberation. We strive towards building non-hierarchical community spaces based on the values of dignity, justice, equity, self-determination, empathy, and love.
As Muslim women, we are inspired by Islamic values, especially those that demand we work for justice, speak truth to power, and act against oppression in all of its forms. Our commitment to these values does not mean we speak on behalf of Islam or all Muslim women. Rather we are a space where Muslim women can come as they are, heal, and be with others dedicated to the liberation of our communities and the liberation of all peoples.
Why A Muslim Women’s Collective
Muslim women, as all other women, face gendered forms of violence such as sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and family violence. Simultaneously, women experience gender-based violence from the state in the form of gender discrimination, criminalization, poverty, profiling, and surveillance . Other forms of state violence that specifically target Muslim women for being Muslim include imperialism and the War on Terror. Given Muslim American women are a diverse group, different subgroups of Muslim women experience multiple forms of state violence due to anti-Black racism, anti-immigration policies, and are also marginalized due to ethnic, racial, tribal, class, caste, and religious identities.
Post 9/11, with the launch of the War on Terror, Muslim women face unique set of structural barriers. Given that Muslim communities are directly targeted by the state in the United States and abroad, Muslim women are directly targeted as victims of war, incarceration, policing, and state surveillance.
Muslim American groups have overall failed to call out the state as a perpetrator of violence against Muslims, and failed to center the ways patriarchy and state violence impact Muslim women. Instead they have mostly focused on the symptoms of anti-Muslim policies and structural Islamophobia. We seek to fill a gap in Muslim American organizing spaces by centering state violence and gender-based violence in our work to dismantle the systems of oppression impacting Muslims. We are also rejecting internalized Islamophobia that accepts a paradigm of “good Muslim”- the one who refuses to call out state violence and even serves the state in its interests- against the “bad Muslim.”
We also recognize the lack of investment in Muslim women’s leadership within mainstream Muslim American spaces, including the marginalization that many of us have felt within mainstream Muslim spaces. We strive to build our own opportunities for Muslim women to empower one another in our work. We will center the leadership, experiences, and voices of Muslim women. Even within many social justice spaces, including feminist spaces, and women of color spaces, Muslim women are oftentimes marginalized as people seek to save us versus being in solidarity with our struggles and taking direction from us about how to be allies.