'Islamophobia' and Women's Rights
August 22, 2010, 8:54 am
Prejudice against Islam is bad, but its unfair norms should be challenged whether it's in Nepal or other countries or whether it's about Islam or any other religion.
The term "Islamophobia" is used by some Muslim critics to explain attacks on the religious and cultural norms of Islam by non-Muslims, who see Islamic beliefs as "frightening" or "offensive" to moderate believers of other religions and cultures. The West, they say, is prejudiced.
It would be wrong, of course, to presume that Islamic doctrines alone influence Muslims to be terrorists and suicide bombers, just as it would be wrong to believe the entire Western world is prejudiced. Islam, they might say, is the source of terrorism. Is there any tangible evidence that Islamic values -- more than other religious values -- breed radicalism, fundamentalism or toxic biasness?
Terrorism aside, there is concern about the rights of Muslim women, and rightly so. There are many examples of how Muslim women are subjected to various kinds of repression by Muslim men, and these may or may not be influenced by Islamic doctrines.
Women are not allowed to participate in public life and thus are unable to achieve their full potential or to raise their social status. The practice of wearing the veil, or hijab, plays a role in this social discrimination, despite the claim that Islam doesn't force anyone to cover her head or face in public. And then there are the "honor killings" that occur in some Muslim societies and are an extreme violation of human rights, let alone women's rights.
Muslim women are not free to make their own choices or to pursue their own desires and plans. They can get neither a job nor an education. This isn't true for every Muslim woman, especially if she lives outside her Islamic homeland in a country that has transcended such discrimination against women. To say that every Muslim woman is subjected to radical suppression and harshly denied her rights would be overreaching. Just as it would be overreaching to say that all the norms of Islam differ radically from Western or European norms. Some aspects are just not as severe as outside observers perceive it to be.
Observing the magnitude of the repression of women's rights in Islam compared to other religions, we can see that there are aspects about Islam that embraces such discrimination against women. Sharia law, the legal framework of Islam, is widely considered an impediment to raising the position of Muslim women within Islamic society. Shari law doesn't resemble a strictly designed or standardized set of laws. It does act, however, as a system for formulating Islamic laws on political, social and sexual aspects.
As many women's rights activists suggest, Islam is not the only factor in the discrimination and repression of Muslim women. There are many social, economic, historical, educational and political factors to be considered. Deeply ingrained social and legal models in many Muslim societies have led to the imposition of unnecessary and unfair restrictions on women. Sometimes such practices even invite horrific acts of violence against women.
Such repression is a barrier to social and moral progress all over the world, an offense to humanity, not just to women. Women in Islamic societies should have the same rights as men, including freedom of plan or action, freedom of choosing what clothes to wear, freedom of traveling alone, freedom of choosing a life partner after attaining a legal age and freedom of divorce. Other rights include equal opportunities for education and employment, and freedom to fully participate in public activities like sports, politics, arts or sciences.
The unfair and inhumane practices of any religion, in deed any society, need to be questioned and the plight of those affected by it remedied. The open-minded moderates among us -- Muslim and non-Muslim alike -- must stand together to fight all discrimination, nor work at cross-purposes.
What is relevant to repeat here is that--Prejudice against Islam is bad, but its unfair norms should be challenged whether it's in Nepal or other countries or whether it's about Islam or any other religion.