Continued from Part 1.
No Outsiders explicates themes around transgenderism and gender deconstruction to young children. Much of the discussion and concerns of parents have glossed over this topic under the catch all “LGBT” acronym.
Transgenderism has become prominent in recent years, rapidly becoming a battleground for the culture wars between the left and the right along with mini battles taking place between Catholics and transgenders, Anglicans and the left, and the left and the left. It is all a bit of a mess.
Muslims are being pulled into this political discussion through CVE/deform Islam discourses, and as the previous part of this article shows, No Outsiders is thoroughly embedded in this demonising framework.
It is important for Muslims to therefore forge their own understanding around this issue using the moral foundations of their faith before examining what Moffat is preaching.
The Islamic position related to females and males primarily adheres to the male-female distinction in terms of both biology and norms. Several verses in the Qur’an establish this.
This basis is fundamental in the development of juristic rulings which orient themselves around this distinction. In this understanding, the separation of gender and sex is arbitrary, with the former understood to project the latter thereby forming (loosely defined) roles. Various intersex and dysphoric states and exceptions are jurisprudentially handled through this prism.
Turning to No Outsiders, Moffat explains transgender and gender roles in his book thusly:
“‘Transgender’ is when a person feels different from the body they were born into it; we were all assigned a gender at birth and sometimes when we get a bit older we may feel differently about that. Some people say there are ‘boy things’ and some say there are ‘girl things’, but we say that this is not the case and boys and girls can do the same sorts of thing if they want. Some of us will live as a different gender from the one other people chose for us; others may like to do things that some people are ‘just for boys’ or ‘just for girls’.”
“Assigned at birth” is a problematic phrase, as we shall see below, however, it is commonly used to denote the biological sex of the child. In the context of transgenders, Moffat’s explanation transforms physically into the following set of events: a person exhibits a deep discomfort with the bodily self and identifies with a different gender; after a diagnosis of “gender dysphoria”, the person as part their treatment, undergoes “social transition” – changing clothes, name and adopting gender stereotypical behaviours; the person may move onto hormonal and surgical transitions. This approach is known as “gender-affirming” treatment.
This understanding of how gender dysphoria should be treated is premised on a particular understanding of reality and the self.
*Note: I have summarised this discussion here. For a comprehensive referenced discussion, please refer to the Addendum at the end of this piece.*
Much of the transgender/gender fluid discourse emerges from queer theory, which derives its intellectual roots from feminists such as Judith Butler, Teresa de Lauretis and Eva Kosofsky Sedgwick. They, and other queer theorists promoted the idea that gender and even the body itself is fluid, shaped by knowledge and power that is dispersed throughout society: i.e. it is a social construction. What a person does is what defines their identity and gender, not their biological reality. Rather, the body and the sex are based on what a person thinks giving rise to what Butler calls “new modes of reality”.
The above draws from postmodern thinkers. Social constructivism comes from Michel Foucault, whilst the idea that there is no objective truth, no objective reality comes from both Foucault and Jacques Derrida.
For Derrida, language constitutes – as opposed to represents – reality. Any thought-structure, any idea or opinion, thus is as valid as another, because there is no such thing as truth. There is no truth because there is no authority which can decide what the truth is.
Postmodernism is a response to, and criticism of modernity and rationalism, which has a couple of implications. The first is that it is operates on assumptions that do not hold up when confronted with the scholastic method of Islam. The second is that scientific facts around biological reality do not truly mean anything. Biology and the physical reality of humans, therefore, can be set aside for ultimately what one wants to think and believe.
This is particularly important from an Islamic perspective; at its metaphysical core then, deconstruction/social constructivism, especially when applied to the world around us, rejects a worldview in which meaning, and value are based upon transcendent, divine essence.
The above thinking directly contradicts fundamental Islamic theology. It leans towards atheism in that it “displaces” a central authority, i.e. God in its formulation of the world. The great Hanafi scholar Imam Nasafi (rahimahulla) opens his text on the fundamentals of belief with the following words:
“The people of truth said: The realities of things exist firmly and knowing them– contrary to what the Sophists say– is established. The reasons of knowledge for the creations are three the sound senses, the truthful news and the mind. The senses are the hearing, the sight, the olfaction (smell), the taste and the touch. With each of these senses one encounters that which it was created for.”
There are fundamental inconsistencies, one chiefly being that asserting there is no ultimate truth is an objective statement in of itself – which can be deconstructed: perhaps deconstruction reflects the “social construct” built on French history which has seen French society revolt against the authority of the Catholic Church, and stood complicit in the brutality of French colonialism?
The philosophy underpinning transgenderism and fluid genders is fundamentally at odds with both Islamic and, rather ironically, modern Enlightenment epistemologies.
What is the implication of this in terms of the education?
The social engineering through education taking place is not neutral, scientific, or even liberal. It is a particular worldview which starts with the philosophies of Heidegger and Nietzsche and ends with the assertions of Foucault and Derrida. In practice, it is thoroughly political.
No Outsiders and Political Indoctrination
The question then is, how does Moffat promote these ideological concepts to Muslim children?
It is worth being conscious of the difference between educating and suggesting ideas to young, impressionable children. A suggestion is influencing children to respond uncritically. There is a fundamental difference between teaching children to respect people who may be different to you, and instilling doubt through philosophy, suggesting cross-dressing and gender-norm deconstruction as normal, actively showing them mechanics of transitioning and teaching a view of gender dysphoria that aligns with postmodernism, in which the only outcome is transitioning to another gender. All the latter is indoctrination. (Note: Transitioning will be dealt with in the next part)
Through his No Outsiders book, Moffat works in a phased approach to introducing these themes.
At Year 1, Moffat encourages the idea that “boys and girls can play every game in school”, however, this is premised on the subtle signs in the book – Ten Little Pirates – which does not make obvious whether the pirates are girls or boys. Moffat in his suggested plenary emphasises this exact point.
At Year 4, children are to be exposed to philosophy by reading Red: A Crayon’s Story. It carries a learning intention “to be who you want to be” – a statement which, in the context of the book, echoes Butler’s performativity (see Addendum). The story depicts a crayon that is labelled red, but colours in blue. In short it is a metaphor for someone undergoing an identity crisis, opposing the norms of society and then transitioning to the “inner” identity and renaming oneself accordingly. Whilst not explicitly called out, the parallels to gender-affirming transitioning are obvious.
By Year 6, this parallel is manifest, with the reading of My Princess Boy. The book depicts a cross-dressing child. Moffat wants children to accept this and not “judge”.
His teaching material online in this regard is more explicit.
For 5-7 year olds, Moffat proposes Introducing Teddy, a story in which a “boy teddy” becomes a “girl teddy”. The following quote from the book is pertinent here:
“I need to be myself Errol. In my heart I have always known I am girl teddy, not a boy teddy, I wish my name was Tilly, not Thomas.”
These ideas are indoctrinated and reinforced in lessons. See for example, here, where 9 year old children have written letters to “Tilly”. Children, referring to the “boy teddy” are made to write out that “it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl” and “it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy and play with dolls” and “its ok if you are a boy or a girl”. The book encourages doubting oneself and placing feelings before reality reflecting its ideological basis, whilst proselytising to children at the same to “accept” this as normal.
The promotion of doubt and deconstruction of a child’s understanding around gender norms continues. One of Moffat’s stipulated learning outcomes for 7 year olds is to “accept myself for who and what I am”. The book to be read to children is 10,000 Dresses, and the lesson plan includes understanding LGBT, and raising the following questions to children:
“At the beginning of the story do we think Bailey is a boy or a girl? What makes us think that? Does Bailey feel like a boy? Does Bailey feel like a girl? At no point in the story does Bailey identify as a boy or a girl; does wearing a dress make a child a girl… What does transgender mean? (We are all assigned a gender at birth. Some people feel different to the gender they were assigned at birth; they live as the gender they identify with).”
The questions and assertions clearly relate to gender deconstruction, promote acceptability of cross-dressing and normalise politically-charged terminology which have the effect of subverting the religious beliefs of parents and their children.
Returning to Moffat’s own comments on what he is doing in the school, can any reasonable person agree with him that he is “not telling children what to think” and that he is not taking a moral stance?
The indoctrination is clearly having an impact; disturbingly, parents at Parkfield Community School are complaining that children as young as four are asking whether they can be the opposite sex.
[The next – and final – piece will continue deliberating on the politically one-sided ideas Moffat is promoting and expose the scope of his project as going beyond pupils]
Addendum – The Philosophy Underpinning Transgender/gender nonconforming Discourses
“And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colours. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge”. (Qur’an, 30:21)
While “gender” as a distinct category of meaning from sex can be traced to John Money in the 1950s, the ideas underpinning transgenderism, contemporarily speaking, emerge from queer theory – with “queer” referring to the idea of not being able to fit into a category, or an “inclination of an individual so to designate her – or himself”. Queer theory seeks to interrogate categorisations and the historical development of categorisations. It’s intellectual foundations rest with, among others, “the mothers of queer theory” like Judith Butler, Teresa de Lauretis and Eva Kosofsky Sedgwick.
Notably, they were all feminists. Certain strands of feminism have contributed to the development of the ideas that differences should be eradicated, and that gender is a social construct (i.e. formed by society and the dynamics within society). The extension of these logics can make for strange, dystopian reading. Shulamith Firestone for example, argues for “not just the elimination of male privilege, but of the sex distinction itself”. Genital difference between human beings would no longer matter. Reproduction would be artificial, where “children would be born to both sexes equally”; technology would raise children because pregnancy is “barbaric” and child-rearing is at the “heart of women’s oppression”. Division of labour would be eradicated altogether “through cybernetics”. In the end, “the tyranny of the biological family would be broken”. Firestone and her views were approved by Simon de Beauvoir, a feminist from whom Butler draws on.
Butler’s position is best explained through her concept of performativity, which relies on Jacques Derrida and Beauvoir. A performative is an act which, along with power, produces the “sexed body” and gender – what a person does is what determines the gender and identity at a given time. There is no essence, no orienting centre. Instead, identity is produced by action and shaped by “power” (culture/norms/laws etc) – i.e. a social construct. Early feminists were wrong, according to Butler, in asserting that women had a set of characteristics and interests they hold in common, as it reinforced the “gender binary” which is wrong because gender is socially constructed and fluid. This was similarly argued by Sedgwick in her book in which she viewed genders not as being on a spectrum between male and female but where different genders/identities are to be “taken as a given”.
Butler’s position is as follows: we are whatever our desires propel us to be shaped through actions and power.
From Gender to the Body itself as a Social Construct
Extending the deconstruction to the corporeal, gender is not only socially constructed, but so is the body. Commenting on how the “intersex” movement is displacing norms of the human body and dimorphism (i.e. biological differences in the body between men and women), she writes,
“…the intersex movement has sought to question why society maintains the ideal of gender dimorphism when a significant percentage of children are chromosomally various, and a continuum exists between male and female that suggests the arbitrariness and falsity of the gender dimorphism as a prerequisite for human development”.
One reason might be that humans reproduce, and reproduction forms the basis for understanding species and biological organisation, whilst “chromosomal variances” are in nearly all cases, structural/genetic abnormalities that cause issues for persons carrying them (referred to as disorders of sexual development). Is a “variance” enough to defenestrate the basis for how a species advances its gene pool?
In Gender Trouble, Butler erases the sex/gender distinction by deconstructing what the body is and questions whether it is “shaped by political forces with strategic interests”:
“Is this “the body” or “the sexed body” the firm foundation on which gender and systems of compulsory sexuality operate? Or is “the body” itself shaped by political forces with strategic interests in keeping that body bounded and constituted by the markers of sex?”
For Butler, “altering these norms” that “decide human morphology” gives way to a “differential “reality” to different kinds of humans:
“[Drag, butch, femme, transgender transsexual persons] make us not only question what is real and what “must” be, but they also show us how the norms that govern contemporary notions of reality can be questioned and how new modes of reality can become instituted. These practices of instituting new modes of reality take place in part through the scene of embodiment, where the body not understood as a static and accomplished fact, but as an aging process, a mode of becoming that, in becoming otherwise, exceeds the norm, reworks the norm, and makes us see how realities to which we thought we were confined to are not written in stone.”
Reality of the body is whatever one makes it to be at any given point in time, whilst our biological understanding of bodies is not fact. Of course, such an approach runs into problems when it comes to medically treating people; treatment is often dependent on knowing the “normative” sex of the individual – “deconstructing” this treatment can lead to death, a reality that cannot be skirted through sophistry.
Such an understanding of knowledge is termed “ignorance” according to the Islamic explications of belief, knowledge and reason. Imam al-Harmayn al Juwayni for example states, that “ignorance is belief attached to a doctrine which differs from what really exists but the one described as believing is convinced of it nevertheless, and that is the opposite of inquiry and investigation.”
This conception of reality, and queer theory in general, rely on Michel Foucault’s social constructivism and Jacque Derrida’s deconstruction philosophy.
For Foucault, his notion of sexuality is shaped by knowledge and power; i.e. it is “socially constructed”. The world constructs people as people construct the world: “deployments of power are directly connected to the body” and its various physiological and sensory processes and experiences. Biology does not precede sociality, in other words.
In this understanding, biological explanations of sex and sexuality grounded in scientific method are set aside and any attempt at objectivity in understanding is subverted. There is no objective truth but manipulation of knowledge through power. This conception is not surprising; the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche – who questioned the notion of objective truth and an ultimate reality – was a major influence on Foucault.
The rationale however, is self-immolating; establishing that there is no objectivity is in itself an objective position. It is itself historically dependent and formed by particular “power relations” (I elaborate this point further below).
It also provides the basis for complete amorality, a hallmark of postmodernism more generally. It is a perspective that is antithetical to Islam, which encourages reason in aid of seeking the truth through an ethical framework, and any stable society for that matter.
This tradition of non-objectivity is continued through poststructuralism, and more specifically Derrida’s deconstruction philosophy in the realm of language and meaning. It is worth deliberating on this, given its centrality in queer theory and transgenderism and therefore social, political and educational agendas that are currently affecting Muslims today.
In the context of language system and the relationship of word and meaning, Ferdinand de Saussure believed that language was a structural system based on (binary) differences (i.e. words were understood in difference to others). He excluded the object itself as part of the “sign” (made up of word – “signifier” – and the mental concept – “signified”) and instead restricted the relationship of reference to a mental concept. The implication was that language did not refer to objective reality.
The problem with this understanding is that a given object itself exists and its properties remain the same, irrespective of how the mental conceives it.
Derrida took Saussure’s idea further, however, and claimed that the mental concepts (which Derrida called “transcendental concepts”) did not even exist but rather, “only itself”, and each signifier could point to several other signifiers to give it meaning. As Derrida claimed,
“There has to be a transcendental-signified, for the difference between the signifier and signified to be somewhere absolute and irreducible”.
What replaces this authority over meaning, is Derrida’s continuous “play” of signifiers that does not stop.
“Play” is captured in his neologism “differance” – the idea that meaning of a given word is based on differences to other words and is therefore always “deferred” or postponed – it can never be truly understood.
By removing the origin/authority (transcendental signified), true meaning ultimately comes to an end. Instead, what we have is constantly shifting, potentially infinite meanings and interpretations none of which can be said to be objective, authoritative, or correct. If meaning is infinite, then binaries which, Derrida believes always privilege one over the other (good/evil and female/male), also constantly shift. Centres (like the transcendental signified) can be displaced, and following Nietzsche opposites can be reversed, giving rise to new interpretations.
In summary then,
- there are no fixed meanings and therefore there is nothing objective, or true, because…
- …meanings have no true origin around which they revolve and are dependent on something absent from itself or outside of itself (words or socio-historic context), which constantly defers.
- A member in an oppositional binary will always “oppress” the other or be privileged over the other.
- Oppositional binaries need to be inverted to deconstruct it.
The implication is that language constitutes – as opposed to represents – reality.
The problems here, if it is not apparent already, are fundamental.
Every Weltanschauung can be deconstructed and ultimately the marginal can displace the hegemonic orthodoxy, giving rise to a new orthodoxy which also can be deconstructed, and this process can repeat itself ad infinitum, all on the rather dubious positive claim (which itself can be deconstructed) that meaning is potentially infinitely relational rather than referential, and that there is no authoritative source/origin. The paradox here is that, if a given meaning is deferred then at some point the first word in this chain must have had an author/origin to eventually provide the given meaning.
Just because relational interpretations (determined wholly subjectively) may exist does not mean that a legitimate or objective understanding does not exist, or it must be perpetually “deferred”. Objects and its associated properties continue to persist irrespective of who or what makes a mental concept of it, and the same is true despite how someone deconstructs the meanings of words associated with that object.
Further, the idea that there is no ultimate truth is an objective statement in of itself, which can be deconstructed: perhaps deconstruction and Foucauldian perspectives reflect a “social construct” of insecurity built on a past which has seen French society revolt against the authority of the Catholic Church, and stood complicit in the brutality of French colonialism?
The above discussion is particularly important from an Islamic perspective; at its metaphysical core then, deconstruction rejects “a worldview in which meaning, and value are invested in the transcendent essence of an unchanging principle of divinity”.
It directly contradicts fundamental Islamic beliefs. The great Hanafi scholar Imam Nasafi opens his text on the fundamentals of belief with the following words:
“The people of truth said: The realities of things exist firmly and knowing them– contrary to what the Sophists say– is established. The reasons of knowledge for the creations are three: the sound senses; the truthful news; and the mind. The senses are the hearing, the sight, the olfaction (smell), the taste and the touch. With each of these senses one encounters that which it was created for.”
The assertion that a member in a binary is privileged at the expense of another is also problematic. Firstly, how are binary locations – and the privileged member – established in a given system? Is this binary and identification of the privileged member but a mere interpretation that itself can be displaced perpetually thereby rendering the designated binary itself illusory from the outset?
Secondly, is the mere establishment of an oppositional binary sufficient a reason enough to invert it? Thirdly, are all binaries presumed to be “oppositional”? The example often provided is that of the male and female, where it is assumed that the male is privileged over the female. Yet this “oppositional” understanding of male/female seems to be underpinned by a unique socio-historic context: Eurocentric modernity and the historic oppression of women that gave rise to various feminist movements. One can go further and argue that this oppression can be traced to the early Enlightenment philosophers whom separated value from the “brute fact” material world, which included women in the earliest period. This conception of the world is alien to Islam. Rather than demarcating male and female categories as oppositional, the Qur’anic paradigm describes husbands and wives as garments for one another, indicating mutual co-operation and consideration, whilst both are judged according to their deeds, not a material binary. As Allah says,
“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.”
There is a further conundrum here: how do those wishing to escape the hegemony apparently innate in binaries when their weltanshauung is based within its own postmodern/modern binary?
Moving on, how does one consider morality? If the hegemony of the good/evil binary is that children ought to be protected, is displacing this privileged position with evil of some sort (such as killing all children), an acceptable interpretation? If there is no true meaning, then what prevents this interpretation from being acceptable?
At what point is the oppositional binary fully inverted and become what it sets out to replace? Leftist thinker Slavoj Žižek illustrates this point when he states:
“In Gender Trouble, the enemy is somebody who can be called identarian, patriarchal or phallocentric. My point is very simple: this is not the enemy today. To put it in Marxist terms, the form of subjectivity which is produce by late capitalism is no longer patriarchal-identarian. The predominant form of ideology today is precisely that of multiple identities, non-identity and cynical distance. This includes even sexual identities. If we play this game – no male, not female, but assume all the possibilities – this is the late capitalist game.”
And finally, if it is asserted that there is no true meaning then is this an objective/truth-based claim or is this open to deconstruction and therefore a potentially infinite number of interpretations?
The purpose of outlining the philosophy underpinning transgenderism and fluid genders is to illustrate how it fundamentally sits at odds with both Islamic and, rather ironically, the modern Enlightenment epistemology. Postmodernism is a response to, and criticism of modernity and rationalism, which has two implications.
The first is that it is operates on epistemological assumptions that do not hold up when confronted with the scholastic method of Islam. Modernity is conceived on the premise of sovereign man’s domination over nature, whereas rationality in Islam is conceived through an ethical conception of the world in which man is a part of creation, and dominion belongs to Allah. The ethical foundation of knowledge in Islam renders, for instance, the Foucauldian analysis of power/knowledge inapplicable, forcing the conclusion that “Foucault’s theory is obviously not for every culture, time, or place”.
The second is that scientific facts around biological reality do not truly mean anything. Biology and the physical reality of humans, therefore, can be “displaced” for ultimately what one wants to think and believe. In terms of the impact of this, the following verse of the Qur’an is most apt:
“But if the Truth had followed their inclinations, the heavens and the earth and whoever is in them would have been ruined. Rather, We have brought them their message, but they, from their message, are turning away.” (23:71)
What the above elaboration shows is that the social engineering through education taking place is not neutral, scientific, or even liberal. It is a particular worldview which starts with the philosophies of Heidegger and Nietzsche and ends with the assertions of Foucault and Derrida.
 “O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. And fear Allah, through whom you ask one another, and the wombs. Indeed Allah is ever, over you, an Observer.” (Qur’an 4:1)
And that He creates the two mates – the male and female (Ibid., 53:45)
“And (have We not) created you in pairs” (Ibid., 78:8)
Distinguishing the male from the female:
“And the male is not like the female.” (Ibid, 3:36)
 Moffat, A., 2016, No Outsiders in Our School, London: Speechmark Publishing, p.36
 See Fn.2 p.53
 Ibid., p.71
 Ibid., p.78
 Germon J., 2009, Gender, A Genealogy of an Idea, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, p.23
 Turner W.B., 2000, A Genealogy of Queer Theory, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, p.8
 Ibid., p.5
 Firestone S., 1970, The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution New York: William Marrow, pp.11-12
 Ibid., p.226
 Ibid., p.81
 Ibid., pp.270-1
 Ibid., p.12
 Langsdorf L., Watson S.H., Smith K.A., (eds.), 1998, Reinterpreting the Political: Continental Philosophy and Political Theory, Albany: State University of New York Press, p.69
 Sedgwick E.K., 1993, Tendencies, Durham: Duke University Press, p.xiii
 Butler J., 2015, Undoing Gender, Oxon: Routledge, pp.64-5
 Butler J., 2010, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, Oxon: Routledge, p.175
 Ibid., p.28
 Ibid., p.29
 Kitab al-Irshad ila qawati’ al-adilla fi usul al-I’tiqad, p.4
 Castle G., 2007, The Blackwell Guide to Literary Criticism, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, p.182
 Derrida J., 1997, Of Grammatology, Maryland: The John Hopkins University Press, p.23
 Ibid., p.50
 Ibid., p.23
 Ibid., p.xxviii
 For a compelling elaboration of the unique European, Christian epistemology upon which the Foucauldian power problem is dependent on, see Hallaq W.B., 2018, Restating Orientalism – A Critique of Modern Knowledge, New York: Columbia University Press, pp.93-8
 See Fn.21 p.154
 Hallaq, W.B., 2013, The Impossible State, New York: Columbia University Press, p.76
 “They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them.” Qur’an, 2:187
 Ibid., 30:21
 Oborne P., (ed.) 1996, A Critical Sense: Interviews with Intellectuals, London: Routledge, p.40
 “And to Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And ever is Allah, of all things, encompassing.” Qur’an, 4:126.
 See Fn. 20, p.98