written by Theresa Corbin
Originally written for and published on Al Jumuah.
“Those people are easily swayed by their emotions.” “They are illogical creatures.” “Those people can never reach the status of my people.” Imagine that you are told these things your whole life. Imagine you are told that your capacity is inferior. Now imagine that those who tell you all this also claim that they say so only because God says so.
How would you see yourself? How would you react to those passing this judgment on you? How would you view a faith that tells you that you are inferior? The quotes above are from a prominent Islamic question and answer website. I have only changed the words “women” and “men” to more ambiguous words or phrases, which could refer to various groups of people, more generally.
Women are the target of this kind of humiliation. Because of these and similar belittling remarks from scholars and lay people alike, Muslim women are experiencing a crisis of identity and faith.
Those who understand Islam and know it to be an egalitarian religion will brush these claims off as a cultural misunderstanding and distortions of Islam. And that is certainly part of the problem. But the other part of the problem is that even if these claims are brushed off, they still impact the lives, psyches, and faith of Muslim men and women.
How Did We Get to this Point?
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Written By: Elyse Keelani*
Why is a Muslim woman’s worth symbolized by a headscarf** or the lack thereof?
In Western societies, the lack of a headscarf makes a Muslim woman blend into secular society; whether or not she’s a practicing Muslim is less important. Usually, as long as she looks the part, she is accepted. A lack of a headscarf in the eyes of the West means that she is not oppressed, and that she has found freedom.
However, the West fails to see that their own society confines women also, and that women are treated simply as objects. If a woman wears a bikini on the beach, she’s fine. If a woman wears a bikini on the street, she’s deemed “loose”. If a woman of the right body-type wears a low-cut top, she is seen as sexy; If a heavy woman does the same, she is trashy. There are so many rules to follow, it’s hard to keep up.
“Do I look confident or self-absorbed?” “Do I look strong or do I look overbearing?” “Do I look sexy or do I look slutty?” The lines are drawn according to a woman’s race, body type, socio-economic status, etc. Then a woman might find that the lines are drawn differently in some Western countries, or in some areas of Western countries.
The worth of a woman is often narrowed down to fabric, but that worth was taken away long before anyone saw how she was dressed. Being “Jane” means less opportunity in life, less pay, more risk of being a victim of violence, etc.
Clothing is simply a symbol of how well a woman is fitting into the society that already oppresses her.