Misconceptions of Muslim Women

Above: Muslim women pray at the Islamic Center of Rancho Cucamonga on March 2. Photo by Hanajun Chung.

By Kemi Ike

Every day we pass countless faces from cultures that appear diverse from America’s standard of normal. Muslim women attract the biggest and most frequent misconceptions in today’s society, due to how they are presented. The hijab or burqa wrapped around Muslim women is often negatively symbolized as a form of oppression or an act of domination by Muslim men toward women. Muslim women have been specifically subjected to targeted oppression based on appearance.

We close our eyes and remain ignorant towards a culture we have no knowledge of, due to past events by radical groups that stand against Western society. One might wonder whether a rebellion against her culture has ever once occurred due to the immense lack of liberation Islam upholds. Another misconception could be whether they are content with their rank compared to a man’s or if they feel it is unjust. All these questions are built upon our society projecting its own expectations of sorrow onto one’s beliefs, when in actuality, there is nothing for these women to be remorseful about.

These women do have a choice, and this is an idea that is ignored. The scarf they wrap around their faces, the clothes that cover every inch of bare skin is not being forced onto them as we have come to believe. Most Muslim women obtain a freedom that today’s society constantly tries to take away because of a reputation they cannot rid themselves of.

Educator Sandra Akkad attended a seminar given by Milo Yiannopoulus, former Breitbart tech editor, at the University of Mexico where she teaches. She came to the seminar eager for an open discussion, but when Yiannopoulus began to speak about “oppressed Muslim women,” Akkad stood up to disapprove his comments.

“Unfortunately, from the moment he opened his mouth,” Akkad told BuzzFeed News, “I knew where he was headed. Using a PowerPoint presentation and in a very sarcastic heckler style, his white supremacist, racist, and xenophobic comments came out loud and clear. Comments about issues such as immigration, border, the wall, the denigration of Islam and its association with terrorism, and the oppression and maligning of Muslim women, specifically Muslim women who wear hijab.”

This is a prime example of the general misconceptions Muslim women must endure in their everyday lives. Due to our predisposition, it is us stealing their freedom away, not their faith. When we see them in grocery stores shopping with their kids and spouse, we don’t immediately see a family. We look beyond that. We focus on the hijab or burqa and become angry because of the facts we see on television or hear on the radio that represents them as terrorists and radicals. We focus on the fact that they have been known to practice arranged marriages, and do not acquire a voice in their own home due to what little we have read on the internet.

Countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran are two of the strictest Muslim countries. Many would consider Saudi Arabia to be one of the countries with the most backward view on women’s rights. Women are denied the privilege to drive, to be seen with a man outside of their family, and they may only wear the appropriate garments associated with their Muslim faith. Iran has attained some of the strictest laws in the world, and agrees with certain aspects of Sharia Law, the religious doctrine that constructs part of the Islamic tradition. These two Muslim countries are where most of these misconceptions stem from and the circumstance of women living beyond these countries and their legal codes is overlooked. Not every Muslim woman is Iranian or Saudi Arabian and not every Muslim woman is restricted. She may answer to a different god or study different beliefs that are uncommon to most people in Western society, but she is still free.