As a result of last week’s blog post, I received a comment that only motivated me to continue my focus on Islam and some of the common generalizations made. When listening to people speak about Islam and Muslims, I have been able to pin-point many misconceptions and a lot of them have been directed to how women are treated.
Imagine how you would feel if you were considered a bad person just as a result of your friend, relative or peer’s actions. Often times it is part of human nature to blame a whole group of people based off individual actions but in most cases it is not applicable. In regards to this issue, it is not the case that women are mistreated under the religion of Islam as a whole.
“Yes, I’m Muslim.
No, Saudis do not represent me. Afghanis do not represent me. Pakistanis do not represent me. Osama Bin Lauden does not represent me. The bearded “scholars” that pass down decrees like they are God’s law do not represent me. Those that abuse and oppress others in the false guise of serving God do not represent me.
I cannot be represented by another human being. It is impossible for another human to ever represent me because their actions are theirs and my actions are mine alone.
Only the Qur’an can represent my beliefs because that is from where my beliefs come.”
Some of the main misconceptions related to Islam and Muslim women:
The Woman must wear the Hijab (the veil)
Although wearing the Hijab is a form of modesty and is very common, there is no explicit law in Islam that punishes one for doing otherwise. It is accustomed to wear the Hijab to show honor and dignity but it is not forced upon women. A lot of times there is a compromise between wearing makeup and covering your face or going bare and going without the veil. So, saying that this form of style is forced upon is incorrect.
Muslim women cannot have an education
The Qur’an actually encourages knowledge by all Muslims regardless of sex. Islam does not put any limit on the kind or field of education a woman can have and there are women scholars in Muslim history. If there are instances where Muslims don’t want their daughters to receive an education it is because of individual preferences and not the religion of Islam as a whole.
Muslim women cannot have jobs outside of their homes
The household is often made the first priority but like many of the other generalizations, there is no law stating that a Muslim woman cannot be in control of her own assets. Just like men, women can have their own job as well as the right to own property. This is another circumstance where the ability to have another job outside of the home is based on the individual family and not on the religion as a whole.
It was important to me to briefly cover some of these generalizations as the amount of times I have heard them steadily increases. As internationally-engaged leaders, we need to think critically and thoroughly when we talk about these types of topics. It is extremely valuable to sound knowledgeable in regards to other religions before making such hasty remarks towards them. Sadly, this takes me back to the small town that I grew up in and how common it was for me to hear other religions talked down upon. After attending Ohio University and broadening my horizons, I have been able to dive into unfamiliar cultures and explore various religions with an open mind and engaging with a new perspective. It is a beautiful feeling to immerse yourself into another culture and look past many of the biases that are contributed with it. Even if you do not follow or support a religion, it is a part of good morality to avoid any wrong doings to others; this has been my personal motivation in my life. I personally do not know when my religious journey will occur or if I will even have one but I live my life with good intent and treat others the way I would want to be treated in hopes that my peers will do the same.