Local Time

Thursday, September 30, 2004

15-tips for brothers talking about "Women in Islam".

Whether it's Muslim scholars, brothers at the Muslim Students'
Association (MSA), or the average Jameel on the street, Muslim men
also have to deal with the stereotypes and misperceptions about
women in Islam.

Sadly, a number of brothers make the problem worse without realizing
it, instead of clarifying the issue. This is rarely, if ever, done
intentionally. However, what's clear is that some guidelines are
necessary for brothers when talking about the issue of women in
Islam. Here are some suggested tips:

1. Let the sisters speak
No matter how well-spoken, eloquent or intelligent a brother is, the
bottom line is this: he is not a Muslim woman.

That means no matter how much you, as a Muslim man tell a non-Muslim
woman how wonderful hijab is, it will be harder for her to accept
this because you have never worn Hijab and you are not a woman.

Whenever possible, have sisters answer questions pertaining to Islam
and women.

2. Be careful of mixing up the ideal with the reality

One non-Muslim writer once remarked how when talking to Muslims
about Islam compared to the West, Muslims take the ideal of Islam
and compare it to the reality of the West.

The fact of the matter is there are very ugly realities when it
comes to the treatment of women in many parts of the world,
including the Muslim world. Muslims must recognize the reality of
domestic violence in the community, even though Islamic ideals would
never condone such ugly behavior.

3. Don't sacrifice speaking out against injustice in the name of
protecting Islam's "image"

"Tackle the issue and the image will take care of itself," advises
Sr. Kathy Bullock, a convert to Islam based in California. Don't
fall into the tendency to ignore pressing issues for the sake of
protecting Islam's reputation.

In other words, if someone brings up the issue of honor killing in
Jordan, acknowledge the reality but make it clear that this is a sin
and a crime in Islam and as a Muslim you condemn it. This in itself
is enough. Trying to justify or make excuses for it or covering it
up is not going to score image points for Islam.

4. Don't respond to unspoken accusations

A number of times, Muslims automatically start an apologetic tirade
defending the status of women in Islam before a person has even said
a word. Let the other person initiate questions, and answer calmly
and confidently. You may be responding to an accusation that was
never even in the person's mind in the first place.

5. Ask WHY

Do this before launching an apologetic tirade against any
accusation. For instance, a man in Spain once approached a scholar,
saying he felt Islam was a man's religion. Before rebutting him, the
scholar asked him why he thought this way. The man replied that
whenever he looked at mosques, he saw only men.

By knowing why, you can develop your answer accordingly, and tackle
the issue head-on in an honest and direct way.

6. Agree with people as much as possible

Start off agreeing with a person. It will completely turn the tables
on the discussion, as many people begin discussions on women in
Islam assuming Muslims are completely against the notion of women's

7. If you don't know something SAY SO

If a person tells you they're from X country you've never heard of
and Muslim women are treated in a horrible fashion what can you say
about it?

I have never heard of that, and I don't know are simple enough.
Don't start apologizing, or denying that it happens. Tell the truth.

8. Don't be condescending

In Islam, looking down on a fellow human being is a sin, whether the
person is a male or a female. Don't think you know all there is to
know about women in Islam, and don't speak in this manner either.
Allah does not love arrogance, and only Allah has full knowledge of
all things.

9. Don't interrupt

This is a problem in a number of cultures, men interrupting women
and other men when they speak. Not only is this rude behavior, it
takes away from your message. People are less likely to listen to
you if you come across as a rude boorish individual. Don't do this
to others, especially sisters.

10. Don't assume all Muslim sisters are the same

Just because your mom, who was born and brought up in a Muslim
country, and has never had a problem with hijab does not mean that
other Muslim sisters have the same experience.

Muslim sisters are as different as brothers, as are their
experiences with issues like hijab.

11. Become more attuned to the "new Muslim woman"

Muslim sisters today are not the same as those of yesterday. Many
Muslims sisters know more, and they prefer more interactive lectures
as opposed to the passive style normally used. If you're giving a
talk, be ready to have interjections from Muslim sisters. Welcome
these, don't shun them.

12. Choose your words very carefully

If you're doing a presentation on women's issues in Islam or
responding to a basic question, make sure to choose your words
extremely carefully. Know the exact dictionary meaning, as well as
the meaning in everyday usage. Words are extremely powerful, and
they leave an imprint on the hearts and minds of people. You want
that imprint to be positive, so be careful.

13. Actions speak louder than words

You can speak beautifully about women in Islam but if throughout
the year, sisters have been denied access to the prayer room, or the
right to participate in decision-making .Make sure your personal and
organizational behavior falls in line with your words.

14. Don't stereotype all Western women

"Table dancers" or "cheerleaders" is how one Muslim sister described
the way Muslims tend to stereotype all Western women. Let's not
forget: we hate it when Muslim women are stereotyped as oppressed,
so we should not be doing the same to others.

And lest we forget, a growing number of Western women are becoming
our Muslim sisters, and very practicing ones at that.

15. Seek women's perspective on issues

You know mom, who loves you so much and makes your dinner? She's a
woman. Your sister in school? She's a woman. If you're blessed to be
surrounded by practicing Muslim sisters in your home, take advantage
of this by seeking their views on issues like hijab, domestic
violence, community participation, and media stereotypes. There's
nothing like hearing the truth presented from those who truly live

026.083 "O my Lord! bestow wisdom on me,and join me with
the righteous;
026.085 And place me among the inheritors of the Garden of
Delight, (THE HOLY QUR'AN)


English to Arabic to English Dictionary
Find word:
Exact Word / Starting Word Sub Word

Please Feel Free to Donate