‘The Way People Look at Us Has Changed’: Muslim Women on Life in Europe

02Muslimvoices1-superJumboThe storm over bans on burkinis in more than 30 French beach towns has all but drowned out the voices of Muslim women, for whom the full-body swimsuits were designed. The New York Times solicited their perspective, and the responses — more than 1,000 comments from France, Belgium and beyond — went much deeper than the question of swimwear.

What emerged was a portrait of life as a Muslim woman, veiled or not, in parts of Europe where terrorism has put people on edge. One French term was used dozens of times: “un combat,” or “a struggle,” to live day to day. Many who were born and raised in France described confusion at being told to go home.

Courts have struck down some of the bans on burkinis — the one in Nice, the site of a horrific terror attack on Bastille Day, was overturned on Thursday — but the debate is far from over.

“For years, we have had to put up with dirty looks and threatening remarks,” wrote Taslima Amar, 30, a teacher in Pantin, a suburb of Paris. “I’ve been asked to go back home (even though I am home).” Now, Ms. Amar said, she and her husband were looking to leave France.

Laurie Abouzeir, 32, said she was considering starting a business caring for children in her home in Toulouse, southern France, because that would allow her to wear a head scarf, frowned upon and even banned in someworkplaces.

Many women wrote that anti-Muslim bias had intensified after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January 2015, and in Brussels, Paris and Nicemore recently. Halima Djalab Bouguerra, a 21-year-old student in Bourg-en-Bresse, France, dated the change further back, to the killings by Mohammed Merah in the southwest of the country in 2012.

“The way people look at us has changed,” Ms. Bouguerra wrote. “Tongues have loosened. No one is afraid of telling a Muslim to ‘go back home’ anymore.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

Muslim-American Women in the United States: What is Considered Muslim Enough?

AECKERT_101221_502Seren Karasu

Islamic communities within the United States are perceived as one and the same. Since the events of 9/11, comparative studies emphasize Muslim identified individuals as members of an “emerging collective identity” (Sirin et al., 2008, p. 261). However, identifying Muslims as members of a collective group ignores diversity within the Islamic religion. In light of the literature (Jeldtoft, 2011; Jensen, 2011; Sirin & Fine, 2007; Sirin et al,. 2008), institutionalized religious practices (e.g., wearing the Hijab for women and religious beard or hats for men) are viewed by non-Muslims as universal markers of a Muslim religious identity. Moreover, there are gender differences within the Islamic religion making orthodox women more identifiable by out-group or non-Muslims, via their choice to wear the Hijab (to cover their heads). The majority of research rooted in discriminatory attitudes towards women perceived, based on the Hijab, to be Muslim in the United States, focuses on an out-group (non-Muslim identifying) perspective (Elashi, Mills, & Grant, 2010; Jeldtoft, 2011; Sirin & Fine, 2007; Sirin et al., 2008). Out-group discrimination of Muslim women underscores a collective identity assuming homogeneity within the Islamic religion. There is a dearth of research focusing on how Muslim women in the United States define their faith within their own community, and how discrimination occurs within-group (Elashi et al., 2010). Viewing discrimination solely from an out-group perspective, neglects the range of subjective interpretations of being ‘Muslim enough’ in American Islamic communities. To address the literature gap, the present review will examine how female Muslim identity is constructed in the United States.

Muslim-American women face the challenge of reconciling different aspects of their identities. It is important to recognize categories of one’s identity (i.e., gender or race) are not mutually exclusive, and intersectionality underscores that multidimensional nature of identity (Crenshaw, 1989; 1991). Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989) coined the term intersectionality to encompass how the interplay between one’s race and gender changes one’s experience. Therefore, Understanding a Muslim-American woman’s identity, involves understanding the intersection of her gender, religion, and in most cases her race. Sirin and Fine (2007) discuss how a “hyphenated self” (p.152), can be used to understand how one’s identity can be “at once joined, and separated, by history, the present socio-political climate,” (p.152) etc., especially during global conflict. Muslim-American women’s identities therefore have become hyphenated in the aftermath of 9/11 in the United States. How much a Muslim woman chooses to identify with her faith is subjective. However, perceptions of Muslim women differ depending on how visibly religious they appear by both in-group and out-group members.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NYU.EDU WEBSITE 

True Islam teaches gender equity and empowerment of women

womenBy Samantha Issam

As a feminist, one reason I chose Islam as a religion is because true Islam teaches gender equity and empowerment of women.

Before I converted to Islam, I, like many Americans, believed Islam was a religion that degraded women. News stories of child brides, honor killings and punishment for rape victims make it easy to interpret Islam’s treatment of women as terrible if we solely rely on these monstrous anecdotes. Our newsfeeds are filled with stories about extremists who treat women as less than human, leaving room for critics such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali to state that Islam is “especially bigoted against women.”

In my path toward Islam, I discovered that if all Muslim men actually practiced what Prophet Muhammad taught, they would be gentle, kind and equitable toward women. Instead, extremists are the brutes who lead to the question recently featured in The New York Times: “What is the Future of Women in Islam?”

Based on my experience, the answer is best left to the women of Islam — not the critics.

Not until I interacted directly with Muslim women did I find genuine understanding of the extent to which Islam empowers women to be educated, productive members of society. I attended an all-women’s event in a mosque, where I participated in women-led workshops and seminars on Islamic knowledge.

I was impressed with the scholarly knowledge of the women but was even more surprised by the Muslim men at the event. I was struck to learn that there were dozens of men in the kitchen cooking for the hundreds of women. Since then, I’ve seen how Muslim men in my community extend themselves for the comfort of Muslim women, whom they respect. This is far from the Islam you see in the news.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL 

Islam and the Role of Women

muslim womenDespite some popular images of Muslim women as repressed and oppressed, many women today are actively affirming the rights and responsibilities that they believe the Qur’an affords to them. The Holy Book affirms that men and women are created from one soul to be partners to each other, that males and females have the same religious responsibilities, and that both genders will receive like rewards on the day of judgment.

In only a few instances are circumstances for men and women notably different in the Qur’an, and these verses are being seriously studied and interpreted by both women and men today. Passages that seem to affirm male authority over women are based on the Islamic understanding that men are responsible for the financial support of women. Some Muslims argue that they should be reinterpreted in cases where women are now the financial providers. While the Qur’an allows a Muslim man to take up to four wives, it also insists on equal treatment for all. Some Muslim women are ensuring monogamous marriage by making it part of the marriage contract, and polygamy is forbidden in states where it is against the law.

 Traditions that have circumscribed the full participation of women in society are being scrutinized and challenged as antithetical to the practices of Prophet Muhammad. Wives of the Prophet, known as the “mothers of the faithful,” serve as models for those Muslim women who want to legitimize female activity in all ranges of society. Historians differ in their explanation of why the freedoms available to the earliest Muslim women were soon denied to most of their successors. In many areas of the world through which Islam spread, and for much of its history, a general patriarchy prevailed. Although it is still the norm in many Islamic countries, in recent years there has been a great deal of discussion about the necessity of reclaiming women’s participation in the public realm.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BELIEF NET 

On the cusp of progress: Radical Changes Taking Place in Islam

muslim womenAn ‘inclusive mosque’, a woman leading prayers, a gay Imam. Even as traditionalists look on frowningly, radical changes are taking place in Islam

In 2005, surrounded by reporters, television cameras and photographers, a woman led Friday prayers in New York. In 2012, an Imam established the first “inclusive mosque” on the outskirts of Paris for gay, lesbian and transgender Muslims. And in 2013, the spotlight was on the first gay Imam in the U.S., Daayiee Abdullah, who, despite condemnation, performed funeral rites for a gay Muslim who had died of AIDS. All these examples show that winds of change are sweeping over Islam. Of course, not everybody agrees with these actions. For some these show signs of a revolution, for some it is ‘biddat’, an unapologetic innovation, and for others it is just sheer blasphemy.

The “inclusive” mosque was established by Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, an Algerian-French Imam. The mosque, Zahed says, was a project that stemmed from “a long personal journey” — he grew up tolerating many snide remarks before coming out to his parents at the age of 21. Zahed said in an article in The Guardian that he set it up so that there could be “a place of worship where people will always be welcomed as brothers and sisters, whatever their sexual orientation or ethnicity.” It all started when a Muslim transgender died and nobody was ready to lead prayers for burial. Zahed stepped in and created history, and this immediately led to the integration of the marginalised. Says Zahed: “Thanks to both the media’s interest and to academic work, we sought to organise inclusive Jumu’a prayers despite the risks. Nobody generally wants to pray for a transgender’s death or for gay weddings. Today this is no longer the case.”

Keeping Zahed company in the U.S. is Imam Daaiyee Abdullah, believed to be the only openly gay Imam in the U.S., who came out to his supportive family many years ago. Born to Christian parents, Abdullah acknowledged his sexuality before embracing Islam. His story is similar to Zahed’s: he also led the funeral prayers for a gay Muslim when other Imams refused to step in. Such has been the impact of Abdullah’s work that when I speak to Zahed, he recalls Abdullah’s words to substantiate his point. Says Abdullah: “Islam is a living religion, it must breathe.” Zahed adds, “Diversity as sacred, unified yet differentiated human nature — that is the ‘social contract’ that the Quran has offered for 14 centuries. And the Arab-Islamic civilisation, known until recently for its tolerance, was to some extent its vivid illustration.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HINDU 

Three Christian misconceptions about Muslims

Muslim-blog — March 26, 2015

In my last post, I discussed three common misconception that Muslims have about Christians. Today, I will be exposing three misconceptions that Christians often believe concerning Muslims.

When the average Westerner hears “Muslim,” a number of images come to mind—mostly negative. But most Muslims would be just as horrified as we are at the assumptions entertained about them. Here are some of the most common misconceptions that Westerners have about Muslims:

Misconception 1: Most Muslims Support Terrorism.

Christians won’t usually come out and say that they think all Muslims are terrorists. But many do assume that the majority of Muslims support terrorism, albeit quietly. Much has been written about how Islam was established “by the sword,” or how Muslims engaging in terrorist activity are simply obeying what the Qur’an tells them to do. It is certainly easy to find Muslims using the Qur’an to justify violence. Even when you give the Qur’an a charitable reading, asking “What would Muhammad do?” will lead to a very different place than “What would Jesus do?”

That said, most of the Muslims you encounter—either in Western or in Islamic countries—are not violent people. They are kind, peaceable people and they are often embarrassed by the actions of Muslims throughout the world. While there is a good chance they see world politics very differently from the average Westerner, you will most likely find them warm, hospitable, and kind.

Yes, sincere Muslims believe that Islam will one day rule the world. And we can certainly chide Muslims for not speaking out more against terrorism. But we won’t get very far with them when we assume things about them that are not true. Just as we hate to be maligned, they hate it also.

FULL ARTICLE FROM SOUTHERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY BLOG