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This research seeks to investigate how the perception of Muslim women in the western societies is more often than not misinterpreted. How are Muslim women viewed in the eyes of women in the western societies? How do the Muslim women react to the opinions and views made by the women in the western societies? This study is vey important because, this is an issue that affects the lives of the Muslim women who live in the western world which has a different culture from theirs. There have been various research carried out by individual researchers as well as other institutions on this topic. The scholars have more or less agreed about my topic, and my paper argues for a better interpretation.
A comparative case study is the methodology, which this study has utilized. This study utilizes the benefits of using comparative case studies in the topic of discussion, which is the perception of Muslim women in the western societies as well as their reaction to these opinions. This is due to the fact that information dealing with the research topic is in abundance. By looking on previous researches and studies, this research ascertains various opinions that are made by the women in the Western societies about the Muslim women. It also establishes how the Muslim women feel about themselves and the Islamic religion in general. Do they feel oppressed? Are they comfortable with the laws they have to follow?
This research has established that, most Western societies are characterized by ideologies different from Muslim societies. They are fully faced with anti-Muslim prejudice as well as racism. Moreover, they are filled with damaging myths and misconceptions about the Islamic religion, culture as well as the Muslim women. However, Muslim fundamentalists have argued that the oppressive practices that the Muslim women go through are because of the misinterpretations of the Islamic culture and religion and not Islam in itself. They do not see anything wrong with their Islamic culture.
There are some Muslim women scholars who have put forward an argument that, the values of the past eras which oppressed the women are not worldwide. They were practiced by a Muslim group at a particular time within a particular culture. As a result, the practices should not be used as a basis for criticizing the modern Islamic culture as a whole. The women also argue that, there have been tremendous steps towards improving the rights of women in the Islamic culture. For example, they are entitled to inheritance in the Quran.
The research has also found out that there has been a lot of debate about women and Islam. The question that has been asked is whether the Islamic culture is being oppressive to their women or not. Most western cultures view the veils and traditional clothing which cover most parts of a woman's body as a denial of freedom. On the other hand, the Islamic societies might view this as a symbol of pure Islam, which was just as well as fair to both man and women.
The status of women and their rights in Islam has been an issue debated among the Western feminist arena. Writers like Ahmed have been critical of the Western perceptions on Islam. They term the practices of Islam with regards to women had always been part of the Western perception 5(Ahmed 149). They criticize the Western culture for portraying Islam as being simple as well as labeling it as being barbaric in nature. The fact that women are treated unfairly in Islam is because the Westerners view Muslims as being less civilized. Muslim scholars have argued that the fight for equality amongst the women should be based on the fact that they are allowed to fulfill the potential they possess, and not basing upon another culture or religion.
Societies are different, and not all members in them will be happy with the rules that are applied in that society. Some researches have found out that, most Muslim women would want some changes in their rules but not according to the Western culture. For example, most wanted the right to vote freely, work outside their homes, drive on their own as well as taking up leadership posts in their society. The Muslim women acknowledge that their counterparts in the West have more rights than them though they did not want their society to adopt the Western ideologies (Ahmed 149). They see the West as being immoral and full of drugs, sexual explicitness, as well as dirty music. They see sexual freedom as being degrading to the womenfolk and not a form of liberty. The Muslim women do not see the inequality in their culture as a big issue.
This research also did assert that most Muslims agree that, the different laws that have been prescribed women do not mean that men in their society are more valuable than the women. They see it as a responsibility for the man because he has paid a bride price for the woman. Most of the Islamic feminists have advocated for social justice and women rights basing on the Islamic cultural framework. The Westerners assert that the women in the Islamic culture are not given equal opportunities as the rest. They have also criticized the Muslim societies for putting up with this mistreatment. They view it as gender apartheid.
Many in the Islamic world see the West as that which is full of misconceptions and stereotypes about Islam. More often than not, Islam is seen as being full of terrorism and extremist ideas. The reports on the media about Islam are seen as being incorrect due to ignorance. Some view that most of the Muslim women are denied rights because of the cultural tradition. However, they do not advocate for associating this fact with Islam. The Western feminists always think that this is a harsh treatment that Islam requires of their women. They see that the Muslim women are not being free. However, those in the Islamic world see clothing as veils being protective of their women and make them remain in chastity. This fact has made rape cases, and H.I.V. is at the lowest level amongst the Islamic societies. The women are not forced but given for their own protection.
Most of those in Islam have criticized the Western culture as being obsessed with a specific definition of being beautiful. The women in Western cultures try the impossible to reach the impossible standards of being beautiful. The Muslim women see there being covered up will free them from being judged by their appearances. Instead, they will be judged according to their character and intelligence. The women have always believed that the veil, so long as it is not forced, promotes the true ideals of feminism. It defines a woman who is morally upright and follows her religion to the latter.
On the other hand, the Westerners view that the Muslim women cannot speak of their being oppressed due to the fear of being reprimanded or punished. However, the Muslim women view the opinions put forward by the West is just a means to attack Islam. The mistreatment of women is always seen in a form of their putting on the veil. It is notable that Muslim women do not feel they are second class or being oppressed (Ahmed 148-50). Most Muslim women do not see sexual equality as being a priority; they see it as a Westerner's concern.
The research has also established that a woman who is veiled is often seen as a hideous one. The Westerners see the veil as a forceful tactic being used by Muslim men in controlling and subjecting their women, but, the Muslims have their own views on feminism which is different from the Western one. The stereotype of Muslim women among the Westerners is that they are extremely submissive, illiterate as well as subjugated by their men. Religious groups, which encourage their women to be covered, are seen being backward and retrogressive.
The Muslim women see that the veil gives them freedom from a culture which assigns values based on a male ideal of success. Some have argued that the veil gives the women a voice to air their views as well as be heard. By putting on the veil Muslim women portray that they are committed to Islam, which hands them freedom in questioning traditional, oppressive value, and cultural practices.
From the research, it is essential to note that when looking at the women's experiences regarding the veil, they are not the same. The veiling is an individual experience which is as a result of external, as well as internal factors. In traditional Islamic societies, the veil was not a universal phenomenon. The West seems to put all the Islamic state under the same role. There are those that harshly enforce the veil while most do not. The fact that the Western feminists have insisted on the suppression of Muslim women by putting on the veil, has forced the Muslim woman to choose between fighting sexism and culture against Western outsiders. It should be noted that cultures are different, and one culture should not be judged against the other. For example, the West feminist ideas are based on the fact that women should be sexually free. On the other hand, Muslim women view the Western ideologies as morally corrupt and sexually explicit.