Writer: Jiya Jindal
Editor: Mikada Green
Graphic Designer: Maulina Gheananta
The Feminist movement has been progressing in Western civilizations for years, giving women an opportunity to stand equal to men in all basic notions such as education, work income, decision-making regarding pregnancy, and the true essence of guiding their own lives. In the past, women were subjected to being inferior to men in these basic rights. Further, they were suppressed from making their own choices about their own lives. The Western world has experienced dramatic changes in the status of women, from the women’s suffrage movement to equal pay acts. However, many Muslim people are still rooted in concealing women and their rights.
In the modernizing world, Muslims cannot forgo their traditional origin of secluding women (or purdah in Urdu). They advocate that women shall completely surrender to men without question and should portray their roles of obedient wives, daughters, and daughters-in-law in society. It's not entirely wrong, but the disparity comes into play when the standard archetypes of men and women are based on very different ideas. Men can enjoy liberty in dressing openly, while women are concealed behind a Burqa or a Hijab. The thinking behind this is that women should not be portrayed as sex objects in the overly sexualized societies they live in. While women have many requirements, men are not subjected to the same treatment. They can wear anything they desire. Further, they have no limitations. This orthodox thinking conveys that only women are perceived as “sex objects,” not men; this is where the discrimination begins. Shouldn’t men be seen from the same perspective Muslim society views women?
While heavy hijabs can be considered oppression of women, other women embrace them and are willing to wear hijabs. They think that wearing hijabs empowers them as Muslim women and demonstrates their culture in the eyes of the world. Although some women accept hijabs, others believe that it conceals their individuality and restricts them compared to men.
The influence of the historical past on Muslim culture can be clearly identified in modern times. During the battles, there was a type of marriage known as the ba’l marriages, which were solely based on patriarchal authority. In this marriage, women were purchased as enslaved people when one group won the battle and were often used as a reconciliation between two nations. The word “Ba’l” means lord or master, which was enough to show the supreme authority of men over women. In turn, women were considered the property of men. As this type of marriage began to gain more popularity, an era of the male-dominated generation emerged where they started to suppress girls' births, and only boys were needed and kept. Continuing into the contemporary period, women faced more suppression of rights like property inheritance, divorce, marriage, and say in the family.
Moreover, the introduction of polygamy in the culture contributed to the dead-end of women’s rights and interests. Polygamy is the right to marry more than once. Quran permitted polygamy in the past when women were widowed or oppressed by their former husbands. In the older days, kings used to marry many wives to create symbiotic relationships between two territories. The practice of polygamy continued for centuries for purposes unrelated to modern-day society. We no longer have the kingdom system, nor is anyone entitled to make alliances among kingdoms since everything is democratic. Knowing this information, why should polygamy still exist today? In addition, gender discrimination is evident in the culture because only men were given opportunities to have three or four wives. Women were prohibited from having multiple husbands, and it was considered “haram” to commit to other men.
According to a 2013 Pew Research Center study, men register more concern about keeping women into traditional roles rather than equalizing their status in the community. In terms of the workforce, men disqualify the idea that women join men in earning money and openly proclaim that they should follow the past rules of staying home and handling the family. The study also shows that only 36% of men in Bangladesh permit women to work outside, while 57% of Bangladeshi women aspire to work outside the house. The same phenomenon is weighted even lower in Pakistan, with a ratio of 24% to 41% of men encouraging women to work versus women wanting to create equality. The gender thinking gap suggests that men are still not prepared to see women as equal to men, even in more modern countries such as Lebanon or Turkey. Both groups admit that religion strongly influences their lives, which can be a possible link as to why women accept the discrepancies they have in their rights.
Lastly, the educational gap between men and women in Muslim countries testifies to the inequalities women face. Girls’ attendance is 54% lower than that of boys in schools in the Arab States. In countries such as Pakistan, Nigeria, and Ethiopia, schools have become a hotspot of violence against girls and women. The Muslim population regards culture more than education and proclaims that if girls are not allowed to wear Burqa in school, they should not attend school. This thinking is not applied to men, and as both genders grow up, women are repressed because they are less educated than men. The rule of the Taliban has also affected the rates of women going to school. As the Taliban suggests creating distinct classes for males and females, teacher shortages inhibit opportunities for girls to obtain higher education.
Overall, the Muslim prospect of viewing females as inferior to males has vastly hindered the growth of Muslim countries. In the past, Islamic culture has shackled women into subjugating their lives to men and becoming utterly dependent on them. We need to change this stereotypical thinking. After all, Muslim women have the right to enjoy all the liberties Muslim men experience.