Discovering Muslim Women
Women play a significant role in the growth and the development of society around the world. Women perhaps are not physically or physiologically same as men, but they are much more responsible in delivering their roles for the society. However, in Islamic societies, women seem to be bound into certain roles and responsibilities. These righteous women are perplexed with the law and legal systems in their societies, which are supposed to be Islamic (al-Hibri, 37). These confusion and restrictions somehow heighten a man’s status while degrading a woman’s position in the society. On the other hand, in the Qur’anic view of women, it states that both male and female were equal and they both have same responsibilities as well as benefits as a Muslim (al-Hibri, 46). Concisely, a Muslim women are more or less the same as the men in terms of rights in the Islamic societies. Considering these issues, this paper are to discuss about the challenges and obstacles faced by Muslim women in the west and the Muslim women in the Muslim world.
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Islam, like any other religion, had to deal with the challenges that weight the community in order to assimilate especially in the West. Not to mention about the women in the community, who always had issues within the Muslim world and also in the West. Before we go any further, it is important to understand that there are significant differences between Muslim women in the west and Muslim women in the Muslim world in terms of the obstacles and challenges they had to endure. In fact, being a Muslim women in the west is not easy as it looks. For instance, Muslim-American women’s identities has been defiled after the event of 9/11 in the United States (Karasu, 2). Therefore, Muslim-American women had to encounter the stereotypes and discrimination despite of the issues in the Islamic community itself because of the event. Different from other Muslim women, they only had issues within the community rather than being stereotyped. Above all, we still going to discuss about the challenges and obstacles facing the Muslim women in the West and the Muslim World.
One of the challenges faced by Muslim women in the Western world is the way they dress especially in wearing a Hijab (veil). Western people sees women wearing the Hijab differently as they are the minority and they are more noticeable (Ali, 2). It is easier for them to recognize these women. In addition, “Wearing the Hijab acts as a clear and visual identity marker for Muslim women adhering to Islamic standards in the United States, therefore women without the Hijab are not overtly expected to carry out the same values” (Karasu, 2). This illustration demonstrates that all Muslim women wearing a Hijab are the same. In fact, there are also Muslim women who does not wearing a Hijab which has the same value as a woman wearing a Hijab. There are reasons for them to not wearing a Hijab in the Western nation. Furthermore, they are not obligate to wear a Hijab in non-Muslim country (Karasu, 2). With all the stereotypes and discrimination towards the Islamic community, it makes it harder for the Muslim women who wear a Hijab to socialize in the western community and not to mention that they are easy to identify. Often, it’s hard for them to decide whether to wear the Hijab for the Islamic standards or not to wear it to fit in the community without being stereotyped. After all, it is a personal decision of oneself according to their beliefs in God (Ali, 3).
Furthermore, Muslim women also had issues with the Islamic community in the Western world. They had problems in showing that they are religious enough to be a Muslims whether it is outside group or inside group members. (Karasu, 2). The outside group refers to the Western community and the inside group refers to the Islamic community in the west. So basically the conflict is that these women want to fit in the Western community without being marginalized by the Islamic community. We can also say that they want to practice Islam without being discriminated by the western community. For instance, Muslim-American women who did not wear Hijab are worried about not being considered Muslim (Karasu, 3). In fact, she did that because she wants to be accepted into the western community. Therefore, it is hard for the Muslim women in the west to make choices in order to be a true Muslim. However, “not all Muslim-American women judge each other” (Kerasu, 3). This statement make sense because being a minority is a challenging enough and we shouldn’t judge others as long as we have the same faith.
Family law also one of the challenges which the Muslim women in the western world had to confront. According to Kecia Ali in her article, “Rethinking Women’s Issues in Muslim Communities”, Muslim women in the United States can choose to follow a certain doctrines in their personal dealings (4), in their marriage. With this they eventually can set up a conditions or agreements in their marriage so they can meet expectations and claim a certain rights between them (Ali, 4). Kecia Ali states that this method are beneficial but it will “alter the traditional imbalance of spousal rights in classical law” (4). Means that this will change the general rights of men or women in a marriage. For instance, like Kecia Ali said, the wife cannot put a condition to restrict the husband’s rights to reject her (4) because in general, the husband are superior in terms of status in a marriage. So, this is one of obstacles for the Muslim women in western world which they have to confront.
Muslim women in the Muslim world however has different set of issues. Some of them are the same as Muslim women in the western world but, differ in application. One of the biggest challenge for Muslim women in a Muslim world is customs and traditions. There are large deceiving customs and traditions that relate to the issues of women’s rights. For example, in Morocco, they forbid a father to force their virgin daughter into marriage (al-Hibri, 43) and also claim this tradition are from the Maliki (al-Hibri, 43). Nonetheless, if we examine closely into the Maliki interpretation, it will result in the inconsistency with the hadith which is a daughter need a permission from her father to get married (al-Hibri, 43). A father still has a power towards his daughter in terms of marriage. There are pros and cons on this issue but, women are the one who be a victim on this matter. This is the example of issue that perplexes Muslim women in the Muslim world. However, we can still retain and practice our cultural belief but, all of the customs must be consistent with the basic precept of Islam and any traditions that oppose Islamic belief must be rejected (al-Hibri, 41).
Another major challenges face by Muslim women in the Muslim world is their rights in a marriage. A general view in the Islamic law is that women status in a marriage is lower than men. This law are claim to be harsh and unfair to women (Ali, 3-4). Actually, what happened is that most of women didn’t know their actual rights in their marriage. It is a common thing to see that man are far more superior in a marriage because obviously, man are physically stronger than woman and it is the husband’s responsibilities to protect and take care for his family. It is accepted in all marriage even in non-Muslims that the husband has the power towards his wife and family. Because of this, many people thought that women has a far lower rights than men in a marriage and simply has to obey their husband. However, women actually has a “guaranteed numerous rights by Islamic law” (Ali, 4) and they have to learn how to claim their rights. Some suggestions made by Kecia Ali in her article about this matter. She said that, a wife can set a condition in her marriage contract so she can maintain her status as a woman (Ali, 4). Despite of this issue, what important the most in a marriage is respect to each other.
Next challenge and obstacle that Muslim women in the Muslim world has to deal with is the sexual harassment. The global definition of sexual harassment is that it’s a form of violence resulting in assaulting a woman through a clear behavior that is sexual in nature from a person having authority over the other, who rejects this advances which leads to limit the freedom of women (Awel El Khayt, 3:10). The harassment can be done by visual, verbal and physical means. The conflict about this issue is that, not only sexily dressed women being targeted but women who dressed modestly also being harassed. This is a big issue for the Muslim women to confront with. Furthermore, most of these harassed women are not eager complain or make a report to the police about the harassment because they are afraid, embarrass and don’t have any prove that they were being harassed (Al Jazeera, 12:14). If we didn’t prevent this issue, the Muslim women status will be degrading even more within the community.
Based on the challenges and obstacles facing Muslim women in the Western world and the Muslim world, we can conclude that being a Muslim women are indeed challenging. The challenges related to wearing a Hijab, with the community and family law is what Muslim women in the west had to confront. Not to forget about Muslim women in the Muslim world who meet obstacles related to culture and traditions, the rights in a marriage and the sexual harassment. There is nothing I can say about these issues but what I can do is respect towards all the Muslim women. For me, it doesn’t matter if one belongs to another group or not because what matters is the beliefs. In fact, most Muslims generally do not categorize themselves, yet, they prefer to call themselves simply Muslims.
Seran Karasu, “Muslim American Women in the United States: What is considered Muslim Enough?” Applied Psychology OPUS. NYU Steinhardt. Print.
Kecia Ali, “Rethinking Women’s Issues in Muslim Communities”. Taking Back Islam: American Muslims Reclaim Their Faith. M. Wolfe and Beliefnet, eds, Esmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 2002. Print.
Azizah Y. al-Hibri, “Muslim Women’s Rights in the Global Village: Challenges and Opportunities”, 15 J.L & Religion 37(2000). Print.
Awel El-Khayt, “Sexual Harassment in Egypt (English Subtitles) Awel El-Khayt Program”, e3lamakTV, Jun 18, 2013. Web. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gja05symHkk
Al-Jazeera, “Everywoman-Sexual Harassment in Egypt”, Al-Jazeera English, Oct 19, 2007.
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