Deedra Abboud: A Feminist Muslim?

Now This has a new video up today about Deedra Abboud. Abboud is a Democratic candidate for the US Senate in Arizona. If successful, she will be their first Muslim senator, and that would be great. A wider diversity of viewpoints is nearly always better when it comes to government. Much as I have an issue with the finer points of intersectionality, more women, and more philosophies is a good thing.

There’s a better chance for a Democratic candidate in Arizona next election too. The state has been trending more towards the Democrats for some time. It seems to me that it’s largely incumbency that keeps it Red. Also, Senator John McCain is popular.

Their other senator, Jeff Flake, is losing popularity. He said recently he won’t be seeking re-election. Famously, he used the opportunity to tell the world what he really thought of Donald Trump. (For Flake’s full speech, go here.)

Trump won Arizona at the 2016 election, but it was fairly close. Thus, Flake’s seat opens up for a new candidate, and a new party.  It’s possible it could flip in 2020.

Abboud was brought up Christian and became a lawyer. Her conversion to Islam was as an adult.

Abboud says her decision to run for office was because of the divisions that politics are currently creating in society. That’s a clear dig at Donald Trump. She also has a strong interest in social justice issues, and has a strong track record in that area as a lawyer.

She appears to have two main platforms – separation of Church and State, and women’s rights.

Her policy positions, outlined on her website, are very vague but there aren’t any I would argue against, at least without knowing more specifics. Issues that are controversial amongst the religious are even less specific than others. Abortion doesn’t even rate a mention. Contraception and same-sex marriage have the following statement added at the end:

Highly personal decisions should be made by individuals with a minimum of interference from the government and our elected leaders should never base their representation on religious interpretation.

I agree with the statement. However, I think it’s more about not scaring off those voters who find Islam a threat than anything else. There are always those that see every Muslim as trying to introduce Sharia by stealth. Fear of anything different is strong, and there’s a constant association of all Muslims with terrorism.

When it comes to health, she advocates for fixing Obamacare. She gives the alternative as repeal and replace in the way Republicans would like to. Of course, there are other options such as a single-payer system. This would perhaps be too scary an option to advocate in a state that traditionally elects GOP senators.

Now, in general, Abboud sounds good to me. More women in politics, greater cooperation, a strong delineation between Church and State, and women as the equals of men in our society are all great goals.

Yes, there’s going to be a “but,” or rather a “however.” First though, watch the video in the tweet from Now This:

I’m not going to question Ms Abboud’s sincerity when it comes to separation of Church and State. Although the US already has this enshrined in their constitution, it’s clear that they’re not always separate at all. I would say though that the religious seem to care most about the separation of Church and State when their religion isn’t the one in charge.

My “however” comes in relation to Abboud’s words when speaking up for women’s rights. She says,

Once you take away women’s sexual freedom – our ability to make choices on our own without our fathers and brothers and husbands telling us what kind of sexuality experience we can have – we lose everything. We lose out ability to prosper in the workplace, to have equal rights in the workplace …

And here comes the “however.”

However, Abboud’s words lose a certain amount of credibility due to her conversion to Islam. It appears her marriage in 1999 to Ali Abboud was the precipitating reason for her interest in Islam. I would suggest that her conversion would never have taken place if it wasn’t for her marriage. To me, that suggests a certain amount of coercion.

Now Abboud’s conversion to a religion where the requirement for women to be under the control of a male relative is part of scripture was her choice. You can argue male domination is the same in the other Abrahamic religions too. However (again), it is only the most conservative in Christianity and Judaism that still have strict such requirements for women.

There are plenty of Muslim women that don’t submit themselves to the control of men, but by the wearing of not just a hijab but loose, enveloping clothing that covers everything except her hands, Abboud is proclaiming herself an adherent of a more conservative branch of Islam. That is, one that believes, among other things, that a woman’s body, including its shape, should be completely hidden from all but her husband i.e. the man who owns her.

In particular, she is doing just what she says she is against. She’s allowing a man to make the choice about what she wears. I’m sure she would say it’s her choice to dress the way she does. She probably relates that choice to her religion rather than men. However, the fact remains it is a man who’s the main influence in the way she dresses. It is a man who is telling her “what kind of sexuality experience [she] can have …”.

I don’t know about you, but that makes it difficult for me to believe she will be all that liberal when it comes to women’s issues.

If I lived in Arizona, I’d still vote for her ahead of anyone the GOP put up for office though.



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11 Responses to “Deedra Abboud: A Feminist Muslim?”

  1. nicky says:

    A Hijab wearing convert to the Islamic Faith and a previous activist in CAIR (with Hamas and Moslim Brotherhood affinities)? I’m somewhat sceptical.
    Where does she stand on, say, LBGT rights, apostacy or the forced wearing of the hijab in Islamic countries?
    The antecedents of another hijab wearing member of the Islamic Faith, posturing as a ‘progressive’, but being an odious bigot herself, Ms Sarsour, gives us some reason to be suspicious.
    (Note, she was featured on the Friendly Atheist last July, where I expressed similar concerns).

    • All she says about LGBT rights on her website is that same-sex marriage is the law, plus that sentence I quoted above. Not exactly a ringing endorsement! There are Republicans who can do better than that!

  2. Linda Calhoun says:

    Somebody needs to ask her how she would treat a daughter. Would she compel the kid to wear religious garb?

    I always have the same question for members of Abrahamic religions. I have read the Bible from cover to cover. I have read as much of the Qu’ran as I could stomach. They are repulsive, disgusting documents. I always want to look at, particularly women, but all proponents, and ask, “What’s with you that you DON’T find that stuff repulsive and disgusting?”

    Also, I have had so many horrible experiences with religious people, especially the ones that wear it on their sleeves, that my first reaction, admittedly visceral rather than reasoned, is always mistrust. What they say and what they do are usually so disconnected that I just want to avoid them. I can’t see feeling like one of them “represents” me.


    • I have a similar visceral response. Due to experience, my automatic reaction to someone who wears their religion on their sleeve is that they’re a hypocrite who’s prepared to lie for their religion.

      • nicky says:

        And we all know that lying to promote the Faith is -if not encouraged- at least condoned in Islam. Although Taqiyya is mostly associated with Shia, it is also condoned in Sunni Islam, as long as it is to infidels.
        However, I’m not sure how much a convert would be conversant with that. On the other hand, an activist for CAIR would in all probability, of course.

  3. Claudia Baker says:

    I would find it very difficult to vote for her if I lived in Arizona. Claiming to be for equal rights for women, while wearing an hijab, a symbol of the subjugation of women, seems just a tad hypocritical.

  4. Lee Knuth says:

    Still feel that if you can’t dress without an hijab you are proclaiming your adherence to a particular religion, a religion that seems to place women in a subservient role. Still waiting for the day when an atheist gains office.

    • Come to NZ. We have lots. We had atheist PMs continuously from 1999-2016, then one year of a Catholic, and with the latest election we’ve got an agnostic former-Mormon. I suspect she’s still developing (she’s only 37) and in a few years she’ll be declaring herself a full atheist. Apparently the main reason she left the Mormon Church was their stance on LBGT rights.

  5. nicky says:

    Unless we get more clarity (eg about her involvement in CAIR), if I lived in Arizona, I’d most certainly not vote for her . I’d even rather vote for a (more or less) honourable GOP candidate, such as Mr Flake or Ms Rice. I agree that ‘honourable GOP’ candidates are almost as rare as hen’s teeth nowadays.
    If I were to vote for a ‘Muslim’ , I’d rather vote for Ms Namazie, Ms Haider or above all Ms Hirshi Ali. The latter may not be a Muslim anymore, but she has some political experience as member of parliament in the Netherlands. That should count, immo.

    • I’d agree there. Flake even wrote a book opposing Trump. It seems that is why he’s having trouble getting re-elected. I might vote for him in preference to someone I don’t know I can trust too. But the way things are, you can almost guarantee his suggested replacement will be a Trump acolyte.

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