I had never heard of the Muslim Women in Prison project until I watched Youtuber Dina’s Tokio’s “creators for change” series.
She chose to highlight amazing Muslim women around the world who were just living their lives as they saw fit and breaking barriers at the same time. One of the women she met up with is Sofia Buncy, who founded the Muslim Women in Prison project and they discussed all that could be done to help these women.
Before this, it had never even occurred to me that Muslim women might be prisoners or had ever broken the law in any way, even as a Muslim woman who has broken the law herself.
My outlook on my friends, my mother and Muslim people, in general, were that despite the stereotypes of terrorism, we were all just pious and perfect law-abiding citizens. Little did I know how dangerous this outlook was and how I was acting on another stereotype that aided in the oppression and misunderstanding of Muslim women.
Society has this idea that religious persons are perfect persons and religiosity and morality go hand in hand. We see outward signs of piety like a hijab, a nun’s habit, or an orthodox cassock and we expect the people wearing them to be morally strong, impeccable human beings. And while these garments often do remind the persons wearing them of their faith and their faith’s practices which can align with societal morals, they are anything but perfect.
Often if these persons are caught doing something unlawful or immoral they receive harsher judgments and are castigated.
This is the story of so many Muslim women in prison today. Along with the same mistreatment that all women receive in prison like abuse, rape, and denial of basic human rights, these women often face language barriers, community backlash, and stigmatization, as well as discrimination from the officers who oversee them.
The worst part of it all is that when you look at the records of these women, they usually aren’t even hardened criminals.
According to Buncy, they are frequently first-time offenders, victims of abuse, and familial circumstances, and yet they are treated like the worst of the worst. It truly seems that these women are being punished for their crimes as well as for being Muslim.
They should not be held to some higher standard to then later be dragged through the mud. When a woman puts on her hijab, it is her job is to hold herself to the standard that aligns with her religious beliefs, not anyone else’s.
We do not speak for them and we definitely do not speak for God. Our job is to treat all people equally.
It’s time we start thinking of these women. We habitually forget about women in prison but Muslim women?
We don’t think of them at all.