Presented in partnership with SADOQ.
“Why does Islam oppress women? Why are Muslim men so controlling? Why do Muslim countries suppress women?”
These are condescending valid questions that need answers, according to bigots.
The Muslim community believes that Muslims don’t always accurately represent Islamic teachings. Similar to how America’s problems of misogyny, sexism, sexual abuse, and harassment don’t represent American values.
When some people who commit inhumane crimes claim to have been inspired by Islamic teachings, there is an uproar against Muslims around the world.
If extremists are claiming that their actions are encouraged by religion then how can that statement be challenged in any way? Muslims, after all, don’t condemn such actions because their religion preaches such barbaric teachings, right?
To recognize that the East and West have very different cultures is a start. Some of the differences stem from the difference in religious majorities. Others come from the difference in cultures. Cultures can be vibrant, entertaining, and offer a sense of identity and belonging, but if mixed with religion, cultures can be the root of a lot of evil.
Religion often takes the heat for a lot of the injustices around the world but the underlining issue is culture, not religion.
Why are all Muslims countries pigeonholed under the banner of oppressors? If you were to compare the Christian communities in Asia or the Middle East to the Christian communities in America and Canada, you would find more differences than similarities. That’s because people adopt the culture, language, the slang, the clothes, the flavor of the place they live in differently.
Let’s forget, contrasting countries; analyze the East and West coast in America and you’ll find staggering cultural differences. So it is not justified in any way now to call the oppression of Muslim women a Muslim problem or an Islamic problem the way most media outlets have done for the past 16 years.
Forced marriages, honor killings, female genital mutilation and the oppression of women are practices which all stem from deeply entrenched cultural traditions; and from the lack of education of correct religious teachings.
In most developing Muslim countries, people have misconceptions about Islam and the Quran.
Religion is misconstrued and the practices are changed. Religion is practiced, not to grow closer to God, but to look religious in the eyes of family, friends, neighbors and the community; because, religiosity is usually associated with good character and respect. Rather than using religion as a way of life, people pick and choose to follow what they desire from religion. This allows them to mix their cultural practices along the way and calling their ignorant actions the “Will of God.”
This includes corruption that is masked under the cover of religion and used as a tool to manipulate the public. Examples of this are imams or religious priests who are responsible for child marriages, domestic violence, and backward ideologies.
No religion teaches its followers to oppress, harass, abuse and rape women. No religion, makes ignorant statements claiming men are superior to women. And women must be subservient to their male counterparts.
In these cultural ideologies, women aren’t the priority. Their voices are silenced and their interests are caged over the superiority of men. Women are suppressed and dominated to the point where their basic human rights are revoked. So much so that it is assumed that if women are given the freedom to go where they like and take up a hobby that it’s going to spoil them. That whatever “it” is that worries men will get to women’s heads.
So to keep their women in control, culture is mixed with religion solely for the purpose of justifying their criminal actions against humanity.
For example, in some cultures men eat first, women aren’t allowed to drive, women can’t leave the house without asking for permission first, women are forced to cover from head to toe in burqa’s, women aren’t allowed to go to the mosque and girls aren’t allowed to attend school. To make matters permanent, women are forced to marry whom they don’t want.
And the control of the patriarchy is extended as far as dominating sexual relations until they become sexual abuse.
The subject of the rights and duties of women in Islam are often clouded by controversy, personal opinions, and sheer ignorance. There is eminent corruption in cultural practices which have no tolerance in Islam. Islam acknowledges the established medical fact that men and women have different biological compositions. Due to these differences, men and women have certain rights and responsibilities that don’t have to undergo the criteria of compare and contrast. Islam makes the statement very clear: neither gender is inferior or superior to the other; instead they complement each like the two halves of a whole.
But while the cultures led by men continue to deny women their God-given rights, here are some rights granted to women through Islam:
- In regards to equality, men and women are equal and they will both be judged, rewarded, or punished according to their individual actions.
- Mothers have three times more of a right to kindness and attention than fathers.
- “The world and all things in it are precious, and the most precious thing in the world is a virtuous woman.” (Ahmad and Muslim)
- “Whoever looks after two girls till they reach maturity, he (Prophet Muhammad) and I will enter paradise together like these two fingers (the index and middle fingers).” (Muslim and At-Tirmidhi 1)
- “Acquiring knowledge is compulsory for every Muslim.” (At-Tabarani)
- Attending prayers at the mosque is mandatory for men but because women have the role of motherhood, a role which does not end at a specific time, they have been exempted from attending the mandatory prayers at the mosque. However, if they wish to attend the mosque, no one can stop them.
- Men and women are both obligated to give charity, but a woman can choose to give charity from her husband’s income and not hers.
- A woman has the right to keep her property and wealth, whether earned or inherited. She is allowed to work but is not obligated to support her husband financially. Whatever money she earns is hers and she doesn’t owe a penny to her husband, sons, brothers, or father.
- Few societies exist in which the ordinary citizen can confront a ruler face to face and challenge their policies, and even fewer societies allow women to be so bold. Yet, the Islamic ideal has always been to allow women the freedom of expression and encourages women to enter politics, law, and business.
- Women are permitted to participate in the battlefield not just as nurses but as soldiers.
- Under no circumstance can a male force a woman against her wishes to marry whom she doesn’t want. She is free to accept or reject anyone as she is allowed to ask for a divorce.
- Under Islamic law, women are awarded custody of their children without having to prove anything to the courts.
- A daughter receives half the share of inheritance compared to her brothers because men are given the responsibility of using their inheritance to look after the women in their lives while women can spend their inheritance however they want and are not obligated to look after their families financially.
It’s easy for people to blame religion rather than their cultures because their pride and arrogance get in the way. They refuse to proclaim that their cultural customs are wrong, oppressive or have any sort of flaw in them. Cultures shape people’s identities and to raise a hand on the identity of a person will absolutely force them to get defensive. Societies always need someone to blame for the crimes and injustices that take place and men aren’t going to blame themselves.
That’s why it’s easier to blame God and religion when religion is supposed to serve as a form of peace, discipline, and spirituality.
Islam doesn’t oppress women, cultures led by sexist men oppress women. Lack of a secular and religious education oppresses women. That’s exactly why certain cultures prevent girls from going to school because religiously women have far more rights than men.
The question worth asking here is: why is it that it is never a woman stopping a little girl or another woman from going to school? Whenever a woman has been beaten or had a bullet to her head for trying to go to school, there’s always been a man and his cultural mentality holding the gun.
To propose that God made men superior to women is a man-made ideology that only sexist men would make and then blame on religion.