Another misconception is "Muslim women have no right
in Islam". Islam gave women rights over 1400 years ago, which is still ignored
by many Muslims and non-Muslims today. Firstly, Islam has given women the basic
right to freedom of speech. In the early days of Islam, the leaders of the
Islamic state regarding legal issues consulted women. Rights that were appointed
to Muslim women since the beginning of time are only just surfacing for
non-Muslims. In Islam, a woman is free to be whom she is inside, and protected
from being portrayed as a sex symbol and lusted after. Islam praises the status
of a woman by commanding that she "enjoys equal rights to those of man in
everything, she stands on an equal footing with man" (Qur’an, Nadvi: 11) and
both share mutual rights and obligations in all aspects of life.
Many women are treated in ways far from Islamic ideals, yet in the name of
Islam. The Taliban is an example of a cultural and political name that has been
branded with Islam. There is no freedom for women if they are imprisoned in
their home in the name of the Hijab and Islam. Moreover, the veil of Islam is
not associated with the veil of oppression.
Women that are regaining their identity and role in society, are now wearing the
Hijab and are embracing its concept of liberation. They are taking their lawful
places that Islam had awarded them fourteen hundred years ago. In fact, the
western women had no rights nor did they have rights over their husband. Not
only were woman the property of their husband but so were their possessions. In
1919 women in England fought for their rights to be elected to parliament.
Because of their demands, they were imprisoned by the government and suffered
greatly. It was not until the late nineteenth and early twentieth century when
women were given these rights.
A quote from the Qur’an in Surah 2: 26 states: "And for women has rights over
men, similar to those of men over women."
The background history between Islam and the West will shed some light as to why
Muslims are portrayed so negatively in the media. Some strong contributing
factors are the medieval western conflict, the crusades, the oil crisis of the
1970’s, the Lebanese civil war, the Iranian revolution, the Gulf war, and the
explosive Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the September 11 bombings, the Bali
Massacre and the London bombings. All these events have caused Islam to be
consistently associated with violence and unresolved conflict. Furthermore, the
view of Muslims as being violent typically explains why Muslims are seen to
establish a threat to the West. One of the most effective ways the media
attempts to somehow prevent Islam being seen in a positive frame is to develop
propaganda against Muslims and Islam.
The media is able to use the Hijab as a means of exploiting Muslim women, and
degrading them. The media assumes, in some cases, that the actions of one Muslim
are representations of the general Muslim population. This is generalisation.
This sets a example for members of society to abuse and degrade them.
An image of a Muslim woman wearing the chador was labelled as "like death out
for a walk" in the Australian Magazine, 25-26 Jan. 1995 issue. The media implied
to locate the position of women in Islamic society as dominated. The image also
portrayed the difference between Muslim and Western Women in today’s society.
In current affair programs, people watching are bombarded with images of Muslims
as savage terrorists, killing innocent people with no remorse. What results from
this is the viewers of these programs, recognise and accept only the labels, and
therefore with Islam immediately associating it with negative images.
I asked a resident from Parramatta, who wished to be kept anonymous if "the
September 11th bombings altered their mind about Islam and Muslim women?" He
said "I never knew Islam and the Qur’an preached terrorism. It has made me aware
of Islam and the teachings. It increased my awareness of the complexities of
Islam and politics in the Middle East including the veiling of Muslim women".
This answer shows how influential the media is towards its viewers.
Throughout the western society, the practice of Muslim women wearing the Hijab
has resulted in extreme points of view towards their so-called "oppression" and
lack of freedom. Despite the obvious portrayal of Muslim women and myths that
surround it such as; "Muslim women are oppressed", there continues to be an
abundance of Western women reverting to Islam. What Islam uses to protect women
is the Hijab. This is ironic because the Western media often portray the Muslim
veil as a suppressive force in a woman's life.
Every Muslim woman is required to wear a scarf or some sort of head covering and
loose-fitting, modest attire. This is not a means of controlling a woman's
sexuality or suppressing her but rather, a means for protection. It implies by
dressing this way she will not be seen as a mere sex symbol but will be
appreciated for her intellect. Furthermore, it will not subject her to
harassment. It is interesting to state the head covering for women is not an
Islamic innovation but was also practiced by Judeo-Christian women centuries
earlier, and yet is laughed at by the West today.
Naima Omar, a student of University of Western Sydney says "It is funny to say
the same veil worn by catholic nuns for God is despised and presented as a
symbol of subjection and domination when it is worn by Muslim women for the
intention to protect themselves and devoting themself to God".
The term Islam means “submission to the will of Allah” and “peace”. Muslims
believe Islam is not a religion but a gift that has been awarded to them. They
believe Islam is the way of life and that is harmonious however the media
portrays the opposite.
Maria Moskovakis, 18, a Greek Orthodox says "yes of course Muslims are presented
negatively in the news. An action by one Muslim is presented with so much bias.
If one Muslim commits a crime, it is not the person but the religion presented
that goes to trial. What we hear and see is all controlled.
As El-Gharib (1996-97) noted, television, books, newspapers, and magazines are
used to present Islam as being a backward and barbaric religion. It has been
seen as oppressive and unjust; and more than this, it is seen as being most
oppressive to women. These various forms of media misrepresent Islam in
different ways, however largely achieve the same negative result – the creation
of a growing barrier of misunderstanding and hostility between Islam and it’s
followers, and the West.
Muslims have an obligation to fulfil which is to educate themselves, their
children to gain knowledge which is ordained upon them regardless of their race,
gender and marital status etc. A Hasan Hadith narrated by Ibn Majah in the
Qur’an states: "Seeking knowledge is a duty on every Muslim" and therefore
gaining knowledge is regarded as an act of worship. Stopping any Muslim
regardless of age and sex is not Islamic.
Dr Homer of Sweden was asked by the United Nations in 1975 to study the status
of Women in the Arab countries and said: "It is the Swedish woman who should
demand her freedom, as the women in the Arab countries has already reached the
peak of her freedom under Islam." From "Status Of Women In Islam" page 23.
Many have become used to believing the false information that they are spoon fed
every time they turn on the screen, listen to the radio or open a newspaper.