Muslim women speak out against, clarify stereotypes

Ana Mihajlovic

Five women spoke out against the negative stereotypes of Muslim women as oppressed, illiterate sexual objects last night in the Student Center.

The event, “Forgotten Warriors: The Women of Islam,” was hosted by the Muslim Students Association and the Women’s Resource Center and gave Muslim women a chance to correct the misconceptions and clarify stereotypes that often accompany them.

The speakers attributed misconceptions about Muslim treatment of women to an ignorance of the beliefs of Islam, largely because there are a lot of misrepresentations of the faith itself.

According to Nawwal Ammar, justice studies professor, people base their opinions regarding the lives of Muslim women on images they see in the media and read in textbooks.

“Some of the images we automatically think of are images of women walking behind men and behaving like second- class citizens,” Ammar said. “These are very dangerous and false images.”

She added that these depictions strip Muslim women of human characteristics. Julia Shearson, director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, agreed, stating the religion of Islam supports feminism and encourages women to get an education and participate in the political process.

“Throughout history, women played a very important role in political and social development,” Shearson said. “What’s interesting is that Muslim women had a right to get divorced before women in the West did. So obviously, there are major misunderstandings about Islam out there.”

One of these misunderstandings, according to Ammar, is the role of the Quran.

“The Quran displays a balance among genders,” Ammar said. She also added that prior to Islam, women had a low status, but gender-related problems were broken down with the coming of Islam.

“From the beginning, Islam has been inclusive of women,” Ammar said. “Islam can’t be faulted for how Muslim’s behave and the message media sends.”

The speakers encouraged a sense of personal responsibility in order to correct the misunderstandings and misconceptions about their faith.

Shearson noted that events such as Sept. 11, 2001, are helping clarify these issues because they have opened up the dialogue and caused a stronger desire for Americans to understand the practices of Islam.

Aman Ali, president of the Muslim Students Association and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater, agreed.

“We need to provide a positive light of what Islam is now that people are paying attention,” Ali said. “It is important to get the right information across.”

Contact international affairs reporter Ana Mihajlovic at [email protected].