Fears about the unknown are common themes in human existence. These fears lead to hate, war, suffering and death amongst many other stigmas that befall humanity. Fears stem from a misconception or misperception of things that have been over generalized.
When one’s religion is involved there are many stereotypes. One of these stereotypes could be considered how women are treated in various religions. Just because the Bible says that women should obey men doesn’t mean that’s how a marriage should work. Right before that passage it also says that men should respect their wives. The same is true of Muslim women. There are many misconceptions about how they dress, act, and live.
My son went to school for a time with a boy whose parents were from a foreign country and who happened to be Muslim. My wife and I befriended them and our son spent some of his free time with the boy and his many siblings. We were surprised at the openness and candidness with how we were treated as just another family in their community.
Here are some of the prominent misconceptions about the Islamic faith and how they treat women as it pertains to their religious faith. What you learn may surprise you.
Myth 1: Muslim Women Wear Head Scarves and Veils
The tradition of wearing a burka or hijab in the Muslim faith comes from the Middle East only according to Dr. Ibrahim B. Syed on Islam For Today. In truth, the legal basis for modest clothing in women doesn’t necessarily mean covering of the head and face.
Dr. Syed continues that the Qu’ran talks about public modesty as a means to protect females of the family and should cover their “adornments.” Being modest outside of the home was a way for desert tribesmen to protect the women of their family. In a more modern and less nomadic culture this may not be the case despite the tradition of desert Islam.
Myth 2: Women are Forced to Wear the Hijab by Men
Not all women are being suppressed by the males of the family. Many women feel liberated by wearing a hijab as it makes people know them for their personalities and not by any physical appearance. While it may not be necessary to protect one’s looks from public scrutiny any more, wearing a hijab can be one of the best ways to truly get to know someone for their soul and not looks.
If everything is covered, what’s left? That’s what some teenagers in Canada talk about. Not all of the Muslim girls at their high school wear a hijab but others are allowed to practice their religious faith even when it is difficult according to the article Why Do Muslim Women Wear the Hijab? on the website Islam For Today.
Myth 3: Muslim Women Cannot Have Jobs Outside the Home
That is simply untrue for many Muslim women in modern society. One blog on WordPress, translated from Urdu, states that the Qu’ran doesn’t say what specific jobs women can or cannot have. In the end, it is up to one’s own conscience as to what is most important.
Some modern examples include Queen Noor of Jordan who runs her own foundation. Many Muslim women work very hard and are CEOs of top companies including Dr. Nahed Taher of the Gulf One Investment Bank in Saudi Arabia.
Myth 4: Muslim Women Cannot Drive
This myth can be easily dispelled as Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia have lifted bans on female drivers. The Saudi Arabian ban stems from the 1932 establishment of the country by the royal family.
Once again there needs to be a differentiation between Arabian Islam to the rest of the world. What may work in a conservative country like Saudi Arabia or Iran may not be so for Indonesia, India, or Pakistan.
Myth 5: Honor Killings
An honor killing for a disobedient woman is from the tribal culture around which Islam was founded in the 600s. Nowhere in the Qu’ran does it say that killing another Muslim or killing anyone is a good idea.
To say that someone deserves to die for breaking a religious rule is contrary to the peace and family life advocated by the Qu’ran. One way to look at the rights of women regarding the Muslim faith can be what is actually said in the Qu’ran versus what an Imam or parental figure teaches to a student. In the end, it is up to each individual’s interpretation of the Qu’ran that has the final say as to one’s moral standing within the Islamic community.
Overcoming these misconceptions can be as easy as having an open mind when it comes to one’s religious faith. I’m sure there are many Christian practices that are not necessarily true of all Christian believers-the same is true of the Islamic faith. Much like any human being, it is probably best not to over generalize or have prejudices towards one group or another and just revel in each person’s individuality.