One question that I have been asked from everyone about Islam is regarding its message about the role of women.
In fact, it is one question I have often asked myself as a little girl. Coming from a family of three girls which was condoled at male absence by the typical South Asian inquisitors, but raised by a father who never made us feel unequal in any way, I was always dissected by clashing ideas.
I remember being lectured by an Imam how one man witness is equal to two women in the shariah law.
Why? Why? Why? I asked, from every shed of my being.
“Because women have a tendency to exaggerate, because they tell lies, because there will be more women in hell than men…..in fact men will go to hell only because of women.” I indeed got these explanations from some renowned scholars in Pakistan, and some Pakistani Imams in the UK.
Yet, the Quran I pick up and read tells me clearly that no-one is responsible for anyone’s deed. It even denies Christian notion of Eden bringing woe to all mankind. “Every man for his own deed” (and woman for that matter). It states clearly, so where has all this fabrication come in from?
While Imams tainted the message of Islam and used it for their own diverted interests, West carved it’s own picture of Muslim women.
For them, we are one of those sad creatures, whose husbands go and marry four times. Who carries her ugly existence under heavy drapes of veil and lives a life determined by men. The moment the image of veils comes, suddenly western world puts all in question in one pre-determined bracket.
But is it a true picture? But the women I know, even under the veil are not such typecasts.
My sister writes from Saudi Arab: “Have you ever wondered why all the western designers flock to Saudia? I have yet to meet a Saudi woman who does not know how to carry her Gucci or Versaci under her veil.
“An average westerner can hardly afford new designer underwear every day, but the rich Shiekh’s daughters, wives and sisters change them three times a day. Veils can be very misleading.”
In Newsweek magazine, Lorraine Ali talks about this issue in her feature.
Still, Muslim women are feeling like pawns in a political game: jihadists portray them as ignorant lambs who need to be protected from outside forces, while the United States considers them helpless victims of a backward society to be saved through military intervention. “Our empowerment is being exploited by men,” says Palestinian Muslim Rima Barakat. “It’s a policy of hiding behind the skirts of women. It’s dishonorable no matter who’s doing it.”
And these misinterpretations and misrepresentations of women are practiced every day.
What I find excruciating is plain and blatant assumption by everyone and anyone determined by the way someone dresses.
A person who forces a veil on a woman is no less evil than the one who orders her to take it off. The balance is achieved only when you give the woman the choice.
The way a blonde is not always stupid; a woman in veil is also not always an oppressed woman. I have met brilliant, smart and empowering women who do live in these veils, and I have also met some stupid ones. The problem is not in the veil, it’s in the prejudice!
Oppression does not come from what you wear; it comes from social attitudes and norms. Isn’t it time we got out of these centuries old, long obsolete attitudes?
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Filed in: Culture,Religion