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Women in the Western World and the Anti-Women Myth in Islam

The fact that politicians and writers like Ayaan Hirsi Ali get to have a platform to vocally critique Islam without any knowledge about Islam is dangerous and it should motivate Muslims everywhere to strive more and use education as a platform to counter any dangerous myth against Islam.

The fact that politicians and writers like Ayaan Hirsi Ali get to have a platform to vocally critique Islam without any knowledge about Islam is dangerous and it should motivate Muslims everywhere to strive more and use education as a platform to counter any dangerous myth against Islam.

Amnesty International defines women’s rights as, “We are all entitled to human rights. These include the right to live free from violence and discrimination; to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; to be educated; to own property; to vote, and to earn an equal wage” [1].

When it comes to Islam and women’s rights, unfortunately, there is hostility in the air with the myth that Islam and women’s rights do not go hand in hand. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an activist, a writer, a politician [2] , and a vocal critic of Islam [3] , has often shown her discontent for Islam viewing Islam as “fundamentally incompatible with Western democratic values, especially those upholding the rights of women” [4] . Hirsi Ali’s claim and the general notion that Islam is oppressive to women, thanks to some “Muslim countries”, is far from the truth. 

Take an example of female infanticide. Female infanticide was nothing uncommon in the pre-Islamic era. As the Quran states:

“When news is brought to one of them (of the birth of a female child) his face darkens, and he is filled with inward grief! With shame does he hide himself from his people, because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain it on (sufferance and) contempt, or bury it in the dust? Ah! what an evil (choice) they decide on.”  – (Quran 16:58- 59) [5] 

In their journal, “The Dark Figure of Infanticide in England and Wales: Complexities of Diagnosis”, Fiona Brookman and Jane Nolan note that “there were 298 cases of infanticide initially recorded between 1995 and 2002 in England and Wales, which translates to an average of 37 infant homicides per year” [6]. I do wonder what people like Hirsi Ali have to say about this. One would think that such a medieval practice would not exist among the “Western democratic values”.  

The Weaponization of the Hijab to Serve the Western Colonial Enterprise

Next, we have the topic of education. In his book, Selections of Usul al-Kafi, Muhammad Kulayni mentions The Book of The Merit of Knowledge (Kitab Fadl al-Ilm) and mentions that Aba Abdallah (AS) has said, “It is a duty to acquire knowledge” [7]. One must notice that Aba Abdallah (AS) did not end his sentence here with “males only”. This narration is a clear indication of Aba Abdallah (AS)’s stance on education being made mandatory for all males and females.

While it is true that some governments that claim to be Islamic, like the Taliban, have banned education for women [8], it would be very unwise to judge a religion based on a group that does not even follow the religion. And one has to note that the Western world certainly is not immune to the lack of education among women. Let us look at the classic example of Irish Travellers. They are a nomadic group from Ireland, often confused with Gypsies. Female illiteracy rate is high as girls are taken out from secondary school to prevent them from mingling with boys from other cultures [9]. It’s interesting to note that something that Islam is accused of doing is found in the West that not a lot of people know about.

The last point that I’d like to mention is the role of women in politics. A prime example is Lady Zahra (AS), the daughter of our Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAWW). On page 58 of his book, The Fourteen Infallibles, Dr. Sayed Ammar Nakhshawani mentions the event of Mubahila to point out Lady Zahra’s (AS) early involvement in Islamic politics as the ambassador of Islam [10]. Her (AS) involvement in the event is a clear indication that Islam does not confine women into kitchens only and that they have as much right to get involved in politics as the man.

On January 20, 2021, Kamala Harris made history for being the first female Vice President in the US [11]. I do wonder why did it take so long for the US to choose a female leader? Isn’t this something that should have been done long ago on the land of the free? 

Muslim Women On TV: Are We Invisible?

It is to be noted that while Muslim countries do not reflect the complete teachings of Islam, again, it is unwise to assume that their actions are what Islam endorses. Take an example of Saudi Arabia. Apostasy in Saudi is punishable by death [12], which is against what the Quran teaches us:

“There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion.” – (Quran 2:256) [13]

Is it Quran that represents Islam or is it Saudi Arabia that represents Islam? As mentioned above, let us look at the Taliban in Afghanistan. Ever since the Taliban came back to power, education has been banned for girls [14]. But what does Islam say about education? 

“and say, ‘My Lord, increase me in knowledge.'” – (Quran 20:114) [15]

The fact that politicians and writers like Ayaan Hirsi Ali get to have a platform to vocally critique Islam without any knowledge about Islam is dangerous and it should motivate Muslims everywhere to strive more and use education as a platform to counter any dangerous myth against Islam, not generalize their bad experiences and jump on the bandwagon of Islam being an oppressive religion towards women.


References

[1] Amnesty International (2020). Why it’s important to speak out for women’s rights. [online] www.amnesty.org. Available here.

[2] Ayaan Hirsi Ali | Biography & Facts. (2019). In: Encyclopædia Britannica. [online] Available here.

[3] The Guardian. (2011). Ayaan Hirsi Ali: “Indirectly, I was being set up for murder” | Agenda. [online] Available here. [Accessed 22 Jan. 2022].

[4] Ayaan Hirsi Ali | Biography & Facts. (2019). In: Encyclopædia Britannica. [online] Available here.

[5] www.islamawakened.com. (n.d.). an-Nahl (The Bee) at IslamAwakened.com. [online] Available here. [Accessed 22 Jan. 2022].

[6] Fiona, B. and Jane, N. (2006). Download Limit Exceeded. [online] citeseerx.ist.psu.edu. Available here. [Accessed 22 Jan. 2022].

[7] www.al-islam.org. (2013). II. The Book of The Merit of Knowledge (Kitab Fadl Al-‘Ilm). [online] Available here. [Accessed 22 Jan. 2022].

[8] O’Donnell, L. (2021). School’s Out in the Taliban’s Afghanistan. [online] Foreign Policy. Available here.

[9] Bindel, J. (2011). The big fat truth about Gypsy life. [online] the Guardian. Available here.

[10] Sayed Ammar Nakshawani (2012). The fourteen infallibles: a compilation of speeches and lectures. Sayed Ammar Press.

[11] Oliphant, J. (2021). Kamala Harris makes history as America’s first woman vice-president. [online] Global News. Available here.

[12] Staff, R. (2015). Saudi court gives death penalty to man who renounced his Muslim faith. Reuters. [online] 24 Feb. Available here.

[13] corpus.quran.com. (n.d.). The Quranic Arabic Corpus – Translation. [online] Available here.

[14] O’Donnell, L. (2021). School’s Out in the Taliban’s Afghanistan. [online] Foreign Policy. Available here.

[15] corpus.quran.com. (n.d.). The Quranic Arabic Corpus – Translation. [online] Available here. [Accessed 22 Jan. 2022].

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