How to help Muslim Sisters

Muslim women have always been in the media spotlight here, we are always portrayed as victims that are forced to cover up. There seems to be this redundant political and societal discourse about what Muslim women are and what Muslim women “should” want!  

It is only expected that Muslim women might feel a bit confused about where and how they fit in Western societies. 

I think as Muslim women we are fed up of being told what we want, or how we fit in this world with all these stereotypes and misconceptions in regards to Muslim women. 

Muslim women are oppressed! Forced to cover up! They want to be free! We have to help them! Save them from Islam!

But if that’s kind of help you’re thinking of, you’re very mistaken. So instead of trying to save us from problems that don’t exist, here are a few ways you can actually help:

Help by providing a space for us to pray at the workplace 

We recently saw the case of Shahin Indorewala, who requested two 5 minute prayer breaks, only to be faced with racial slurs. There are many stories like Chahin’s, which unfortunately don’t see daylight because the victims feel ashamed to share them. 

Help by defending our right to choose what we wear 

Modesty and chastity are considered virtues in Islam for both men and women. For many Muslim women their dress code is inseprable from their identity. 

We have seen a rise in banning many Muslim attire around the world, from the Burqa to the Burkini (Muslim swimwear). Many countries are trying to dictate how Muslim women should be dressed in public which is considered a violation of human rights.

Help us feel safe in our own country

There have been several hate crimes amongst Muslim communities in Western countries, but attacks against women have been the most common.

As Muslim women, we carry our religion over our heads, literally, which makes us easier targets for racists. There have been record numbers of racial abuse against Muslim women since 9/11. 

Help us to speak for ourselves and stop reinforcing the stereotypes

In the late 19th century, Lord Cromer, the British Consul-General to Egypt (1883-1907) announced, “I am here to liberate Muslim women, I am here to liberate them from Islam.”

The belief that Islam is oppressive towards women is often combined with a desire to rescue Muslim women. 

What’s ironic is that this rescue mission is so rigid that Muslim women have no say in whether they wish to be rescued or not. 

Despite the fact that many women scholars, social media personalities, Muslim congresswomen, Olympic Athletes have spoken about the matter of the hijab and Muslim women issues in general, the idea that Muslim women are in need of help prevails. 

So Muslim women are in need of changing these deep-rooted ideologies. 

We don’t need to go far for examples of empowered Muslim women. There are examples from the time of the Prophet and throughout Islamic history. 

Female companions of the Prophet were allowed to initiate divorce from their husbands, they were allowed to pursue education, they even complained about domestic violence 1400 years ago!

Then not long after the Prophetﷺ passed away, a woman from the Tribe of Quraysh stood up on a Friday sermon, and corrected the Caliph at the time, none-other than Omar Ibn AL-Khattab! Upon hearing her argument, Omar rescinded, saying “The woman is right and Omar is wrong.” 

Women scholars like Aisha and Umm Salamah (both wives of the Prophet Muhammad) engaged in Qur’anic interpretation, especially on verses pertaining to justice or rights of women. 

So looking at how long ago these historic events have happened, some dating back 1400 years ago, I say these women knew their Islamic rights and weren’t afraid to fight for them. Islam came at a time where women were treated as commodoties and made them individuals who have their own voice.

There’s no denying that Muslim women, like all other women around the world, might be victims to oppression, however in the West the oppression comes in a form of a war on our identity. 

As Muslim women in the West, our identity is always up for discussion by others and at the mercy of public opinion.
So instead of saving us from Islam, why not respect our choices, move past our outer appearances and embrace our differences.